WOO: Helping Wrestlers Forced into a Corner
The average professional wrestler works 300+ days a year.
Waking up early for training, while maintaining late hours for matches, wrestlers objectively have the longest hours in entertainment. Three or more days of the week are spent on the road, with many pulling closer to 350 days each year. This is the only way to make it.
It is a hard and fast life that combines two skills: mastering one's body, and a sharp mind capable of improv. Wrestlers are some of the best actors and stunt people in the world, their rigorous schedules perfecting rare skills. They are hard workers, who put on a show with their very flesh!
If you are from North America, you may remember watching WCW, ECW, or WWF from a young age. For me, wrestling was the coolest thing on TV as a kid! The plot arcs, costumes, and fantastic moves entranced me. I clearly wasn't alone, the stadiums in the background were always packed! To this day, they still are. This is the bread and butter of the industry.
I learned something shocking while listening to Booker speak about WOO the other day. How does the WWE bear the cost of the extensive travel to ensure this success? These days they must be taking some heat with inflation... No, they don't have to worry about stuff like that. They offset the costs of business onto the performers, wrestlers are independent contractors.
Hotels, gas, costumes, these costs are the responsibility of the contractor. With this structure, WWE saves far larger chunks of money, however. Wrestlers are not entitled to benefits of any sort, including healthcare. In fact, if you're offered a health plan by WWE, you know you are incredibly famous. There is a ton of history behind this harsh reality.
Of course, not all wrestlers are abused by Vince McMahon's WWE and their often-toxic promoters. There has to be a dream to keep people working hard, and a select few obtain that. I will go into more depth on this in my next segment, as the politics behind the sport deserve their own post.
To summarize the situation, McMahon has created a hermetically sealed hellhole, one where wrestlers have no way to establish better conditions for themselves. Efforts to unionize, or expose unsafe requests, have been met with legal actions of a catastrophic proportion. Some of the more famous wrestlers are fully aware, they are in on it even.
Performers without Protections
In 2007, the mental health impact of wrestling was spotlighted. You may know about the tragedy of Chris Benoit's murder-suicide, which took the lives of his wife and young son. At first, the news cycle reported the event as an attack on the household. The WWF was flooded with tributes to Benoit, which were rapidly back peddled by Vince McMahon when the true details came to light.
There was more to the situation than the company wanting to distance themselves from such a terrible crime, many feel the evidence points to culpability. As the investigation developed, Chris Benoit's steroid use was given visibility. Could extensive steroid use have driven him mad?
The short answer is, yes, especially when combined with other stressors. Steroid use and Vince McMahon wanting to monopolize wrestling are the cornerstones of the brand, yet it is filled out with many other wrongs. Chris Benoit had "The brain of an elderly man with Alzheimer's." according to a Dr. in a news blip at the time. His brain was riddled with untreated concussions.
As the focus shifted to the steroid use in the industry, which would ultimately amount to very little, more shocking details received far less airtime. Chris had left a diary behind, stuffed into the trash before his death. A series of increasingly vulnerable letters were found within, mostly addressed to his friend and fellow wrestler Eddie Guerrero. One of the most influential wrestlers of his time, Eddie had passed away earlier that year at 38 of heart complications.
Looking over the portions of this diary that have been made public, a very real and heartbreaking image is painted. Chris Benoit didn't have time to take care of himself, he was stretched so thin. 300 or more days a year, the big names do it too. As we read about the depression that road life fills Chris with, we also become aware of how much physical pain he is in.
"I'll be with you soon." Benoit writes, some say as a cryptic foreshadowing of his actions. Others fairly argue that it might just be that Chris watched so many of his peers die young. We will never know now, but perhaps with his deteriorating state he felt that it was inevitable.
There is a pattern of wrestlers dying young.
It is hard to find conclusive raw data backed by a widely respected source, however, there are folks who are dedicated to compiling the information. One such group runs this site, which has a touching page of extensive tributes to stars gone before 50. From my analysis, the numbers here are sourced and organized in a factual manner. The statistics do not need to be exaggerated to be alarming!
Here, we are given some data on what is causing these men and women to pass away so young. Heart related complications are the leading cause of death in the US, in the wrestling world though, the rates are far higher. Similarly, the rates of suicide and stroke are significantly steeper than the general population for wrestlers.
Behind these glaring numbers, are all the injuries that could never be fully documented. The plethora of hardworking and talented wrestlers who are backed into a corner get even less media attention. There are no call-offs in wrestling, you work until you can't. The executives throughout time have been fully aware of the damage incurred, yet they aren't inspired to do anything about it.
There is no court that has ruled that they need to. In my next write up covering the need for WOO, I will outline how this ridiculous structure came to be. How wrestlers are forced to work in unsafe conditions, and then cast aside. The history of union resistance and gross negligence are like rungs in the ladder for the WWE. You don't capture the market without there being a story to tell, and this one is particularly nasty! In the meantime...
How can WOO help?
If learning more about the world of wrestling has left you feeling as motivated as it has left me, there is a way to help on Hive! WOO is a throwback to pre-wrestling boom days, reigniting the thrill of territory wrestling in a way that gives back! You can learn more about the upcoming land sale here, which will take place February 14th. With 10% of the proceeds going into the hands of wrestlers who have been burned by the industry, this is more than just another blockchain game!
With an established track record of allocating funds to this endeavor already, I'm excited to see what WOO will accomplish moving forward! This last link is not only a show of integrity, but also of the bond this project has forged! I personally loved seeing how WOO has touched Perry Saturn's life, helping him out of a dire financial situation.
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No unions? No healthcare? Threats of legal action? Disgusting! And I doubt wrestling is the only
sportprofession where it happens. :(
For sure! The US entertainment industry has been under a lot of scrutiny in the last few years for a variety of awful situations performers are cast into, and it's probably only the surface. I do wish there was more media outrage for wrestlers, as we address these wrongs I believe that we make a better world! !LUV !PIZZA
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I was a big fan of WWF (now E) and WCW when I was younger. Later I watched the great film The Wrestler and it was an eye-opener to the real lives of Wrestlers compared to what I watched when younger. This is a great initiative if 10% of the Land Sale proceeds can help wrestlers burned by the industry.
I have picked this post on behalf of the @OurPick project which will be highlighted in the next post!
I remember thinking these guys must have the coolest lives ever! It made my heart hurt to learn how challenging their circumstances are in reality. Definitely a kick in the childhood! Thank you very much for adding me to the OurPick curation post, and for sharing your fond memories of WWF back in the day 😁 !PIZZA
I gifted $PIZZA slices here:
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I remember watching WWF back in the day. Andre had already surrendered the lead role and become a heel and Hulk was the new top star. They were still claiming it was all real then, and us kids ate it up. Great memories.
I'm with you on how disgusting conditions are. Seems to be the norm for many sports unfortunately. The NFL is still sweeping all their bad conditions under the rug even after the scandals erupted nationwide a few years ago.
I love that WOO is seeking to help this situation a little.
For sure, the NFL is a mess as well. Sharks gonna shark I guess :/...
Surprisingly, I've noticed that a lot of guys are burned by one and go to the other! Usually leaving football to go to wrestling.
Seems like a grass is greener on the other side situation, where talented people get screwed over in insidious ways. Different problems in each business 😞. It really gets to me that some of the guys I idealized as a kid can't afford to live, woo makes me excited to be a Hive investor!
Thanks again for the blast for my post, and also for the awesome comment 😁 !PIZZA
I agree, it's a sad situation. When even the guys who do climb to the very top end up having money problems, you know something is wrong. No wonder the Rock got out as soon as he could.
What a great article! A lot of these issues go under the radar. It's good seeing this issues being discussed more.
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