If you love the pro wrestling business, chances are you aspired to become a pro wrestler when you were little, dreaming of winning the World Championship at WrestleMania.
For some, that dream and lifelong visualization turns out to be a real-life nightmare. Making it to the WWE is certainly an accomplishment, but when you get older, other things come into play like money, term and status within the company. For countless wrestlers in the past, things turned sour pertaining to those three factors. Look at someone like Bill Goldberg who left on terrible terms because of card status. Or a guy like Ryback who left because of pay inequalities.
At the end of the day, there is a lot that goes into working for the WWE and, with that in mind, many have opted to make a living outside of the company and have thrived. WWE Champion AJ Styles did just that and his buddies are still doing it, with the likes the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega ripping it up in Japan. You don’t need the WWE to survive.
Today, we specifically highlight the blemishes that come with working for the major company. These are the 15 downfalls to working for the WWE, enjoy!
15 Backstage Politics
Becoming a pro wrestler is certainly a unique profession that's vastly different from other jobs out there. A big concern that most people don't face when applying for a job is thinking about what is being said behind the scenes. In wrestling, this ultimately can make or break you, no matter how good you really are.
Former WWE wrestler Santino Marella said , during a shoot interview, that you must form some type of bond with Vince McMahon or your success will be limited in the company. Santino’s statement was quite significant because it seems to be true judging by past history. Take Rob Van Dam for example, as he was arguably the most talented wrestler on the WWE roster at the time of his peak, but yet failed to be “the guy”. Former wrestlers blame this on his lack of relationship with Vince. If not for that, Rob could have been the face of the company.
Other examples certainly come to mind, but we really don’t have time to list them all or we’d be here for hours. Just to mention a couple of names; Goldberg, CM Punk and Mr. Kennedy are just a short list of names that failed to thrive because of the politics that went on behind the curtain. Whether you like it or not, this is one of the darker sides to becoming a pro wrestler.
14 Lack of Creative Control
Understandably, the WWE has strong views when it comes to how much creative control a wrestler has (it didn't work out too well for WCW). Although times have changed and wrestlers have a far greater input than they once did, the WWE still has the final say when choosing a wrestler's gimmick.
This has caused several performers to leave the company and the most recent situation saw Cody Rhodes depart from the WWE after his ideas were constantly being turned down by creative. This wasn’t the first time such allegations were made by a performer, as Val Venis had said that if an idea isn't coming from a creative writer, then chances are that it will go in one ear and out the other.
If you’re a creative soul, chances are you’ll despise the WWE.
13 No Control Over Match Structure
Once again, unless you’re the face that runs the place like John Cena, chances are you have zero input on what goes on in one of your matches. WWE match structures need to follow some rules, as you can’t go out there and perform a standing 450 splash just because you feel like it.
The WWE bases a match formula on three main principles: the back story to the match which will assess how aggressive the bout is, the wrestlers involved in the match and, most importantly, where the match is on the card. If your competing on Monday Night Raw at 10:15, chances are the match will be booked pretty poorly considering the main event is right after. Card booking is pretty huge.
The WWE also employs several road agents who are assigned matches. The likes of Dean Malenko and Arn Anderson help with what exactly goes into a fight, like move combinations and storytelling. So, if you’re new to the business, you’ll have little input in and out of the ring.
12 Promo Work
The days of going out to the ring and speaking your mind seem to be long gone and, today, the art of the brilliant promo is lost. Other promotions like ROH still give wrestlers some flexibility when it comes to shooting a promo and, when you aspire to be a pro wrestler, this all you can really ask for; just an opportunity to be yourself on a microphone.
Well, when joining the WWE, that won’t be the case. The company has a boat load of writers behind the scenes that work for specific Superstars and they write full fledged script for the wrestlers. The hypnotizing Bray Wyatt promo that you’ve seen time and time again is all written by a team of professionals beforehand. Even where they look while they speak is scripted, as the WWE demands the Superstars to look into the hard camera while they speak at all times. Just ask Stone Cold how he feels about that, as he was the master of walking around the ring while he spoke, which is what made his promos so unique and captivating.
Whether it eventually changes or not remains to be seen, but as of now the WWE is training their wrestlers like actors in terms of their promo work, starting with their development down in NXT. Bayley admitted to taking acting classes because the WWE suggested it after her lackluster promo skills initially. If you have limited experience on the microphone, chances are you’ll either fail or need to take acting classes in today's WWE climate
11 Public Image Outside the Ring is Huge
Since going PG, the WWE has changed its company policies quite a bit internally. Today, the WWE demands a high level of employee professionalism behind the scenes at work. On top of that, employees are also required to act appropriately and professionally outside of the ring today, more so than any other time frame. With the WWE constantly looking to up their public image for more sponsorships, wrestlers are required to demonstrate proper conduct at all times. It's even more important today, as almost everything seems to be documented and caught on tape by the public. Just ask Bo Dallas about his recent airport adventures.
If you’re going into the WWE with a rock star attitude, chances are your stint with the company will be short. Imagine telling that to a wrestler back in the 90s...
10 Make Your Own Attire
Surprisingly, wrestlers are responsible for creating their own gear. Now at the very least, the WWE does hire costume makers, so if you have a malfunction they are on hand to help you out. Who can forget Batista’s Royal Rumble blunder when his shorts tore prior to making his return. Literally five entrants before him, he was still watching the Rumble from a private room while the staff still worked on his attire and Batista made his way to the gorilla position only seconds before his music hit.
In the case of Daniel Bryan and his attire, you must fully design exactly what you want. Daniel actually asked a tailor working for the WWE to make his gear which came out great ultimately. If you require any entrance prop or something of the sort, that is also all on you. When it comes to image, you’re pretty much the creator while WWE helps if needed.
9 WWE Does Not Pay For Food Or Gym Training
Free training sessions and five star meals were never a thing for pro wrestlers. However, today, if you would like to get in a free training session you can... but you need to drive or fly to the WWE’s Performance Center in Orlando.
Contrary to popular belief, wrestlers are required to pay for their own food following a show and, while travelling, they do not give out extra money. Though it is worth mentioning that the company does cater food before every event, so they at least get a free meal while at work.
Training wise, Superstars are also required to exercise on their own time and it must come out of their pockets as well. It's hard to believe that wrestlers have to pay for their own training while touring the world, as you’d figure the company would help out seeing as how important being physically fit is in such an occupation.
8 Travel & Lodging
If you thought wrestlers paying for their own food and training was bad, get ready for this one. Unless your Brock Lesnar and get your very own free private jet, wrestlers are deemed responsible for their own ground travel and lodging. The only thing the company does pay for, and bool, is a Superstar's flight.
Once they land, wrestlers are on their own, as a wrestler must book their hotel in advance, rent a car (if needed) and pay for all of these things out of their own pockets and not the WWE’s.
With a brand split in place, most performers can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Just imagine how awful it was to perform Monday night and then immediately drive to the next destination, get five hours of sleep (max) before waking up, eat, train and head to the SmackDown tapings. Thankfully, this has been changed, but the road travels are still quite rigorous when you consider the live events and appearances. On average, wrestlers are working three days a week in three different cities.
7 You Do Not Get Paid For Media Work Outside of the WWE
Somehow, wrestlers do not get paid for media appearances, which is written into their WWE contract when signing a deal. It just pretty much comes with the gig and WWE basically owns a wrestler's rights after they sign a deal, so they appear wherever they want.
Wrestlers like John Cena make a ton of cash for a reason, as he’s not only the face of the WWE, but he’s pretty much a brand ambassador. No wrestler comes close to the work of Cena outside of the ring, as he's appeared on several daytime and nighttime talk shows, not to mention his countless Make-A-Wish fulfillments and the various other media work he does. Again, he’s not paid extra for it, he’s just following what his contract states.
This factor can make or break a career, just ask Brock Lesnar. Brock left the company back in March of 2004 for this very reason, as he was fed up of all the travelling and living out of a suitcase. The same goes for several Superstars, as even Kurt Angle opted to leave for TNA because of the taxing effect flying and travelling had on his body.
Younger Superstars don’t feel it as much, though eventually the fatigue builds up. When you think about it, you’re pretty much on the road five days a week, with one televised event and two live events (and the occasional PPV). This is excluding appearances and other WWE arrangements of course. On some weeks, you might only be home once, especially during WrestleMania season where the company works its performers to the bone. The travel aspect may appear cool, but after awhile it becomes quite taxing.
5 Can Still Make Money Off You Once You Leave
Nothing aggravates a wrestler more than when a company they previously worked for is still profiting off their work. News flash, the WWE clearly writes in a contract that they have 90 days to sell your stuff upon a release. So, legally, their allowed.
The WWE usually puts the items on sale for a cheap price and some low-end performers that were released have seen their merchandise be sold for as low as $4.99. Just recently, the Bull Fit t-shirts (that the company probably made a lot of) sold for $9.99.
However, the company has gotten into hot water when using the footage of a released wrestler without their consent on the WWE Network. Rene Dupree recently took the WWE to court demanding royalties for his content being shown on the Network. The situation is ongoing at this point, but it seems like the WWE will once again prevail as they pretty much own you and your content.
4 Earning Your Stripes
No matter how great you are in the ring, experience is everything when it comes to the WWE’s payment system. The loyal guys make the big dough no matter how little they contribute, while the young studs on the block, that are worked the hardest, basically make peanuts.
The numbers don’t lie and we strongly recommend you take a deep breath before reading these pays. According to the rumoured 2016 numbers, Big Show is set to make $1.2 million along with a personal bus, Sheamus is set to make $1.3 million along with travel accommodations and Mark Henry is to make $887,000. Now for the others, Rollins is in line to make $310,500, Cesaro is in the final year of a horrendous $80,000 deal and Xavier Woods is making a starting package salary (estimated to be worth $75K). Not much else needs to be said...
3 Experience Doesn’t Matter
Only today is the WWE finally respecting the indie performer more so than ever before, but, in general, a polished background does not really ensure you a good spot on the card. As a matter of fact, a wrestler with no experience whatsoever can potentially be chosen instead.
This is what makes the world of pro wrestling so bittersweet, as a former athlete with a marketable look can simply come in and take the job of a performer that’s been doing it their entire life. Finally, the WWE is turning a corner and hiring those journeymen, but it won’t stop them from choosing an outside source anytime soon.
Take a look at the main roster. The likes of Roman Reigns, Chad Gable, Baron Corbin, Charlotte, Enzo Amore, Dolph Ziggler, Bray Wyatt and Brock Lesnar all pretty much came out of nowhere and were homegrown by the WWE. While the likes of AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Daniel Bryan, Cesaro and Finn Balor waited years before finally getting the call. It’s a cruel business when you look at it that way.
2 Payment Structure
Whether you agreed with him or not, we applaud Ryback for finally having the guts to speak about an issue that was generally never mentioned in the past; a problem with the WWE's pay system.
Ryback indicated that it was simply not reasonable to give a certain wrestler more money in a sport that is pre-determined. With its pre-determined nature, wins and losses should not come into account and all wrestlers should make the same as a unit. His long term plan was to look at the company as a team, more so than individuals.
He made a great point and one that Jesse Ventura visited decades ago when he attempted to set up a union, giving wrestlers equal pay, among other things. For obvious reasons, the WWE will likely never accept such a request.
1 The Independent Contractor Clause
This is one of the biggest downfalls of being employed by the company. This clause, which sees WWE Superstars employed as independent contractors, ensures that a wrestler's benefits are limited when working for the company, as opposed to what other professional jobs offer as an insurance package.
This specific label has been a part of the company for numerous years. As we discussed earlier, wrestlers like Jesse Ventura have attempted to change it by setting up a union for the Superstars, which would include various employee benefits, only to be turned down and released.
A union would work wonders in aiding the wrestlers with several insurances put into place, but the WWE still fails to oblige and looks at the performers as contractors, not employees to this day - even if it seems pretty obvious that they are employees and receive benefits that would indicate so.