In a time when episodes of the ‘Dark Side of the Ring’ are surfacing live on VICE TV every week, a show that surrounds some of the most tragic events and sinister moments that have occurred around the professional wrestling world, it would not be surprising if a future episode covers the sad day of Wednesday 15th April 2020 – an incredibly dark time in the sport.
The world finds itself being torn apart by the recent COVID-19 pandemic, painfully taking away innocent lives, eradicating small businesses to the point of no-return, whilst its impact on the sporting landscape can definitely not be understated.
If anything ‘good’ can be taken from this unholy global crisis, it’s that as a society we get to witness the true characteristics of a company or person through how they react to the recent trials and tribulations – and to say the WWE and Vince McMahon have come off in a good light couldn’t be further away from the truth.
Wednesday 15th April 2020. The day that the phone rang of countless talented and important members of the WWE, a call that would, in turn, cause a grinding halt to their careers at the company. WWE legends such as Kurt Angle and referee Mike Chioda, who both put their blood, sweat and tears into the business for a combined 42 years, were two of many recipients that lost their jobs. None more openly emotional than that of English grappler Drake Maverick, who posted his heart-breaking and tear-jerking reaction on social media – so many people who have families and futures have been cast aside like there’s no care in the world, when it definitely could’ve been avoided.
The company and its CEO, Vincent Kennedy McMahon, have stated how these were budgeting cuts needed to be made as a reaction to this crippling pandemic. With reports alleging that the American billionaire began cashing out $80 million in stock the week before these releases were made – all this really helps to paint a picture of the WWE suffering financial burden, that these cuts were a necessity; they shouldn’t have been.
No one should be in the position to question the business acumen of the crazily talented and creative McMahon, a figure who helped construct a global empire that caters to hundreds of millions of fans across all continents. But these past few years, questionable decision after questionable decision has resulted in a product waning in quality week after week, and business decisions made that had they not have been, the company never would have had to kick so many people to the curb.
The prime example of a waste of millions of dollars is Cain Velasquez, who was one of the names that were released from the company. The two-time UFC heavyweight champion signed a bumper and lucrative multi-year deal last year, with WWE fighting off competition from rival company AEW, headed by former superstar Cody Rhodes. Despite the heavy investment into Velasquez, the 37-year-old only had one televised match, with former UFC rival Brock Lesnar in Saudi Arabia.
What’s incredibly frustrating about that is the WWE invested so much money into Velasquez and it went absolutely nowhere. The company are no better from it, if anything they are much worse off and the millions that they put into his pocket could have been better used elsewhere, especially when considering the tens of talented people who found themselves on the other end of the synonymous McMahon point and croaky shouts of ‘You’re Fired!’.
If you are still left questioning whether Vince McMahon really shows any care towards those that work for him, his questionable relationship with US President Donald Trump will help substantiate it further. In more recent times, reports have suggested that the Republican had hand-picked McMahon as a financial adviser to help him reopen the American economy due to the coronavirus pandemic – pretty ironic, isn’t it?
What’s more scandalous is that this comes shortly after official announcements that the WWE is deemed an ‘essential business’ by the government of Florida, with allegations made that maybe money had switched hands to influence this godforsaken decision.
In a world where the death toll in America is rising exponentially, McMahon is risking the lives of his superstars by forcing them to continue working during these unforeseen circumstances. With WWE women’s wrestler, Mandy Rose, highlighting that they have to film once-a-week, as per Chris Van Vliet.
The point that needs to be made is that these releases definitely could have and should have been avoided. The company were coming from a fairly successful behind-closed-doors WrestleMania in early April, with the WWE on pace to have a highly profitable year with the billion-dollar mark even being rumoured.
What shouldn’t be ignored is the fact that WWE’s mass layoffs stand in stark juxtaposition when compared to fellow smaller combat sports, who are opting to retain staff – something that the WWE can afford to do comfortably, surely? Let’s not forget that in the infancy of the pandemic, investors were reminded that the company had ensured ‘substantial financial resources, both available cash and debt capacity, which currently total more than $0.5 billion, to manage the challenge ahead.” That’s half a billion dollars. Something that the company had kept behind so that they didn’t have to send wrestlers, referees, writers, camera crew packing, yet they did so anyway.
Thurston was reporting that if the WWE never hosted another live event for the rest of 2020, it would still ‘report record-setting profits with an operating income of $121 million and total revenue of $927 million.”
Sadly, cutbacks and job losses are a reality of the world of business. None more so than during this pandemic that has been ravaging every corner of the globe. But, as previously iterated, the WWE will not come out of this with a positive image. Unlike fellow wrestling companies such as New Japan Pro Wrestling, who have set out to prioritise the health and well-being of fans and talent through their reliance on wanting professional wrestling to be the last ‘sport’ to be revived.
The reality is that the releases made by WWE sent vibrant and uncontrollable shockwaves throughout the world of professional wrestling. During a period of unparalleled uncertainty, many talented individuals find themselves left-out-to-dry, standing at the end of a long and increasing unemployment line. The genius and monumental business personality himself, Vince McMahon, has used this worldwide cataclysm as an excuse to thin down his roster.
This article was written exclusively for golear.co.uk