On the surface being a WWE Superstar can seem like a glamorous life. Millions of adoring fans, getting to travel the globe and being blessed to perform at some of the largest stadiums in the world isn’t a bad way to make a living. Many aspire to be the next big thing in the WWE, but few can say they’ve reached that dream. If you’re both dedicated and lucky enough to do so, in order to have this lifestyle, there are certain rules you have to follow and certain elements you’ll need to accept.
In the past, wrestlers used to travel from town to town leaving bars and ladies in their wake. While out drinking, partying with fans and causing trouble, it used to be commonplace for a WWE Superstar to have local establishments that they called a second home. When the WWE stars came to town, it was a big deal.
Wrestlers also used to have to live, eat, sleep and breathe the business and their characters. Always working kayfabe (staying in constant character), there was no socializing with the “enemy”, there was no telling the world the wrestling was “fake” and there was no letting those outside the business in. Wrestling was a secret society that only a select few were allowed to venture into. You had to be accepted to be in.
Wrestlers were free to be themselves (for the most part), they didn’t have to worry about social media, the road was their lives and live events were the bread and butter of the business.
While many things have changed, a lot hasn’t. The WWE is now a publicly traded company. They run huge arena shows, tape live television events multiple times per week, host more than a dozen pay-per-views a month and the WWE Network has become the company’s main source of revenue. Because talent often has trouble getting out of their own way and the WWE has to, in effect, babysit their talent, there are much tighter rules than there has ever been. Wrestlers have to let the fans in, but not too much.
Here are the 15 Shockingly Dark Rules About The WWE Way Of Life.
15. How Much Do You Like Your Name?
Recently Batista told a story about how when he debuted in the WWE, they changed his name from Bautista to Batista. He asked why and they told him it was so people could more easily pronounce it. That made sense to him until another wrestler told him not to be a fool and wake up. They only changed it so they could own it.
The WWE owned the spelling of his name so when Bautista went to make his mark in movies, he had to go back to the original spelling. He wasn’t pleased. There have been other instances of this sort of thing with other talents. The basic rule is, if you go by your own name, it’s yours to keep. Anything else, you can’t take it with you when you leave. As you can guess, the WWE doesn’t let many people go by their own names.
14. You Dress How You’re Told to Dress
Wrestlers, who almost never wear suits in their main job, are forced to wear suits constantly outside of the ring. How much is not crystal clear, but there were often fines handed down to wrestlers who traveled in less than professional attire or showed up in outfits that were not becoming of a professional.
Every team in every sport nowadays has a dress code, but to ask wrestlers to wear suits and formal attire seems a bit out of character. Perhaps, it’s more a matter of having to go all the way, because, without a more strict policy, wrestlers would be wearing all sorts of crazy and outlandish outfits. It then makes sense that a wrestler like John Cena will buy 50 suits at a time. He’s constantly making appearances and can’t show up in jorts and a t-shirt.
13. Live Events Are A Different Animal
If you’re working live events (and most of the talent does), you are expected to follow stricter rules than many of the other talents do when on television or a pay-per-view. For example, you are not to climb the ropes during your entrances, use the referees in the finish, stall in any way, deliver an unscripted or unapproved promo, acknowledge verbally how a crowd is responding to you, get all use of weapons approved, and certain moves are off limits.
This really stifles a lot of the creativity of talent who want to have some fun and really experiment with their material at live events. This used to be how guys like The Rock, Triple H and Mick Foley would find out some of their craziest ideas worked. That sort of thing is frowned upon now unless first approved.
12. Follow the Social Media Guidelines
Social media is huge now. It’s unavoidable if you’re in the public eye and WWE Superstars are among the most followed celebs in social media history. As such, when something gets said by a wrestler or talent in relation to themselves, the company, or the industry, WWE has a close eye on things and the backlash can be swift and painful.
Baron Corbin got in hot water for a social media feud he lost with Mojo Rawley. Enzo Amore is going through all sorts of pain right now in the WWE because he can’t seem to navigate the line between the right and wrong time to say something. Just recently, Roman Reigns and John Cena dropped an epic promo on Raw thanks to a post that was started on social media. If you don’t learn how to use it properly, it could end your career.
11. Protect Those Selfies
Instagram is a huge aspect of WWE life, especially for the women of the company. But, in the last year, leaked photos have hit the Internet of some of the WWE’s biggest stars (both current and former). For some reason, many of today’s biggest named wrestlers can’t help but take selfies of themselves in the buff and if they’re going to be that reckless, the WWE at least expects them to protect their photos.
It’s press for the WWE (potentially both good and bad) when these photos are leaked and while the wrestlers aren’t punished for someone breaking the law and stealing their private material, it’s happened enough now that the company had to hold a closed-door meeting with the talent to address these issues. If you’re going to take selfies, learn how to store them or these types of situations will keep occurring.
10. Accept The Double Standard
It’s an unwritten rule, but if you’re going to be an employed talent in the WWE, you need to learn to accept the double standard that exists. Whether it be wrestlers upset that they weren’t allowed to finish a match based on an injury or that they’ll have to take a backseat to a part-timer, it is what it is and for the sake of your continued employment, you plug along and don’t complain.
Women are not given the same time on television as men. Certain wrestlers are allowed to say what they want and others are not. Some talent can seek outside ventures and others are told not to. There are many ways in which the company allows for some things and not for others and it all depends on who you are.
9. Your Travel Time Is WWE Time
Travelling the world is pretty awesome. But, there are some things about doing so that aren’t so glamorous. For example, the long flights, the airport security, the constant customs and commuting to and from buildings and hotels. It would only be worse if you weren’t allowed to make your own plans.
For many wrestlers, that’s how it works. If you’re a WWE Superstar and you think that the ticket the WWE purchased for you is a ticket you have free reign over, you’re dead wrong. Don’t dare change your flights or rework a scheduled travel plan the WWE set up unless you’re a big deal. They don’t take too kindly to it. You can get into serious hot water with the brass if you’re not where they think you are supposed to be.
8. The Money Isn’t Equal
It may surprise you to learn that not every WWE superstar makes a lot of money. While the top stars are doing well, those that are roaming around the mid-card, or heaven forbid, are on shows like WWE Superstars instead of Raw or SmackDown Live don’t do nearly as well. If you don’t have merchandise, you’re also lucky enough to take home what the big guys do.
Now that the WWE has moved most of its revenue drawing shows to the WWE Network, compensation and bonuses on revenue sharing have dropped as well. It’s a take it or leave it type situation for talent. The women don’t make as much as the men do, the guys travelling often don’t see the type of money the part-timers do and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
7. The Brass Ring Doesn’t Exist For Some
Vince McMahon likes to talk about the “brass ring” like it’s that magical thing that once you’ve grabbed it in the WWE, you’re destined to be a star. He’s even gone so far as to suggest that even if the writers or management didn’t want you to be a big star, the fans have spoken and thus the inevitable becomes true. That’s a load of dog $h!&.
For many wrestlers, opportunities simply aren’t given and when they are, even if they make the most of them, the WWE has ulterior motives and plans that may or may not include said talent. Guys like Cesaro, Bray Wyatt and The Miz continually kill it on the WWE programming week after week but the WWE chooses not to push them. Eventually, someone might break through (like The Miz seems to be doing), but it took years for that to happen and he likely deserved it long before the credit he’s getting now.
6. You’re Going To Get Bullied
It definitely doesn’t exist like it used to, and with JBL announcing that he was leaving SmackDown Live, the idea of bullying is probably leaving the WWE in a major way as well. But to fool yourself into believing that bullying is gone from the WWE or the industry, in general, is simply naive.
Whether it’s coming from Vince himself, Triple H with his ability to promote or hold back talents, the politics of taking opportunities or the simple competitive nature of making it to the upper echelon of the WWE hierarchy, you’re going to run into your fair share of obstacles as a WWE employee. It’s like this in every industry really, but when you consider how much rides on your career success by getting over, guys like John Cena will always have a reputation of holding people back. Fantastic in-ring promos or not, he’s the guy and he’ll bury or bully you if it’s necessary.
5. Say What You’re Told To Say
Some who watched one of the more recent episodes of Raw will have noticed that Roman Reigns got absolutely steam-rolled by John Cena in a promo that was meant to build toward their matchup at No Mercy. Many believed this was a shoot promo that Cena dished out and meant to knock Reigns down a peg in the WWE pecking order. This has been proven not to be true.
Nearly every word of that segment was scripted and if it made Reigns look bad, it was either intended or a gamble that didn’t pan out for the WWE. They say most wrestlers are best when they are themselves with the volume turned up, but as Reigns learned, you only get to do that if you say what they want you to say first. It might make you look bad, but you have no choice.
4. Certain Words Are Banned
As a wrestler, an on-air commentator, or interviewer there are certain words you can say and certain words you can’t. In the WWE, announcers are not even permitted to refer to the talent as wrestlers. They must be called WWE Superstars. The reason? McMahon doesn’t want to be known as a wrestling company. He wants to be known as an entertainment giant.
Words like DQ, belt, faction, fans, feud, international, house show, backstage are also among the many banned words from WWE programming. Some are for legitimate reasons, others are simply because Vince has this idea in his head that associating his product to such words somehow diminishes it. In many ways, banning the use of such words has really affected what the industry has become. Do you think when talent goes through customs and they’re asked why they are in a new country, do they avoid saying they are a wrestler?
3.Don’t Use That Move
How do you know when a certain move is allowed in the WWE or not? Some make sense. For example, the PileDriver has been banned due to its extreme ability to permanently injure a wrestler. Rappelling down from the rafters is no longer allowed after Owen Hart tragically passed away. But, not all reasons make sense.
It can be argued that two wrestlers using the same finisher can take away from the impact of one wrestler to get that move over, but to outlaw certain moves like the Curb Stomp or the Styles Clash seem like an interesting choice. The Curb Stomp got banned because Vince didn’t like the way it sounded (it was too devastating). The Styles Clash is only back thanks to Chris Jericho, but the WWE almost didn’t allow it for reasons still a bit of a mystery.
2. Take A Backseat to Pop Culture
For those wrestlers busting their butts on weekly programming and at live events, they’d better understand that some of the less talented but farther reaching entertainers will always get the leg up and bump you from your spot.
Whether it’s at WrestleMania with prime time being given to musical acts or idiots like Lavar Ball appearing on Raw in a segment that is absolutely meaningless to the storylines currently being played out in the company, it draws media, ratings and attention (or at least WWE believes it does). At the end of the day, talent takes a back seat to eyeballs and if pop culture reaches more eyeballs, it gets the prime spots on the biggest shows. The same argument can be made for talents like Enzo, who clearly aren’t gifted in the ring, but can talk a playboy into trading the penthouse for the outhouse.
1. If You’re Not a WWE Product, You’re Always Proving Yourself
Everyone is partial to their own homegrown talent. When you’re the coach of a team, the tendency is to play your own kid more, even if you don’t necessarily mean to. But in the WWE, while wrestlers who made their names elsewhere are finally starting to get some recognition (A.J. Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, etc…) they’ll be forever asked to prove themselves over talent the WWE helped create and market. When they err, they’ll be held to a higher set of consequences.
There are far too many examples of wrestlers or talent that are not equipped to carry the jockstrap of wrestlers like Styles or Nakamura yet they’ve been getting the best spots, most matches and are overhyped. There are also examples of talent who were huge stars overseas and getting shafted on WWE programming. The likes of Gallows and Anderson or independent darlings like Samoa Joe seem to be brought to the forefront for a short while, then sent back down the line. Those who make it after having made it somewhere else are few and far between.
In the WWE, it’s about money and control. The rest comes in at a distant second place.
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