John Oliver, the host of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, made it a point to question the World Wrestling Entertainment’s morality. In what was a highly thought-provoking, twenty minute delve into the history of WWE’s contract situations, and treatment of wrestlers, Oliver left nothing to the imagination. He began in a light-hearted way by poking fun at wrestling attires, telling babies around the world to step it up. He then prefaced the rest of his take by saying that he likes wrestling, and enjoys the over-the-top antics.
Oliver continued on, and made sure to target Vince McMahon, the individual that currently steers the corporate ship that is the WWE. Oliver stated that McMahon oversees everything that happens in the WWE, and then referenced a backstage segment where McMahon used a racial slur towards John Cena, brushing past Booker T and his wife Sharmell afterwards. Moving forward, it seemed as though with every negative that Oliver mentioned, he threw in a light-hearted clip from McMahon’s on-screen career.
Things then got a lot darker, as Oliver went into what became a hot topic on social media by many: the health care that wrestlers both past and present receive. Various clips of Bret Hart, Jesse Ventura, CM Punk, Roddy Piper, and Jake Roberts played throughout, involving both audio and video. Piper stated in his video, that he won’t live to make 65, and sadly, his word was true. Although I agree that the WWE should be held responsible for most deaths; not all deaths should be put on them. As we all know, life throws various curve balls to everyone, and you never know what will happen on any given day.
When it comes to WWE making sure that their wrestlers are taken care of, although they have a history of what seems to be negligence towards certain situations, they have stepped things up in recent years to ensure that wrestlers are safe. Now, is it to the point as to where all wrestlers, even those that leave are taken care of? Probably not, but progress is still progress. The comparisons will continue to happen, but look at All Elite Wrestling for example. One of their missions from the start was to ensure that every single wrestler is taken care of, no matter what the circumstance may be. While things can change as AEW has not had it’s first official show quite yet, it is reassuring knowing that some of the top talents around the world will be kept in a safe working environment.
The health topic tied into the contract situation at WWE. In the Ventura clip, it was stated that WWE employees are known as “independent contractors,” which in many cases voids the idea of wrestlers not being able to wrestle for anyone else. The term independent contractor is used for working a few times such as a plumber, rather than year after year, almost every single day. The contract even stated that the WWE will not be held responsible for any deaths that may happen. Tied to that, a clip of an interview from “Real Sports” in 2003 involving McMahon was shown, where he stated that he accepts no responsibility for any untimely deaths. Admittedly, watching the way McMahon reacted was very eerie, but once again, that was sixteen years ago, and we do not necessarily know if his mentality has changed towards accepting this responsibility.
At the end of the day, WWE has a massive following that cannot be matched, and various rosters for each show filled with hard-working individuals that many of us love to hate, and also adore. These individuals have families back home that they do not get to see too often. They miss holidays, birthdays, and significant family moments that cannot be recreated. With that said, there will always be individuals that say, “well, that’s the life they chose.” Which to that point, someone would be absolutely correct, but they’re all human. Putting their bodies on the line to entertain hundreds of millions of fans night after night can take a toll, and without proper precautions from their employer, many wrestlers sacrifice everything for nothing by the time that they head into retirement.
We can only hope that the WWE looks into this, and things change for the better. I would also say that once the foundation has been placed, they branch out, and look for individuals that can assist with mental health. Enduring what they do not only takes a toll on someone physically, but now with the way the world is, mental health is just as important. If this does not change right now, let us hope that it does in the future for the betterment of everyone.