This week on “83 Weeks” with Eric Bischoff and Conrad Thompson, they covered the Clash of The Champions XVII show that aired on TBS in 1991. They also talked about some of the current wrestling events.
Bischoff gave his opinion of unionizing wrestlers: “There is a lot of risk. I can understand the tendency for people to get excited about this because they think it will benefit their lives, and in some ways, as a young talent, maybe it will. This is not just WWE. If this issue becomes a big issue, which I think it will, it’s going to radically change the business of the wrestling business, particularly in WWE because they’ve been around a lot longer. As a young talent or even a seasoned talent who doesn’t understand the potential ramifications, there are always unintended consequences in any big decision or change that sometimes people don’t anticipate. I can understand why it sounds great. Man, if we were union I would get this and I would get that. All those things are true in regards to health insurance. But what does it do to the revenue model to WWE or AEW or any other televised wrestling company? It’s going to dramatically change the way people are paid. It may not benefit talent as much as they think it will. There is a lot of value in being an independent contractor. There are some downsides. I’ve been an independent contractor almost my entire adult life with some brief exceptions. There is a risk when you’re an independent contractor but there are also limitations when you are an employee or if you are in a union. If I was a talent, be careful what you wish for. Do your homework. Think about how you are going to be affected if the way the WWE model pays their talent becomes altered. Right now, the strength of WWE is their core business model and the fact that their expenses, and talent being one of the largest, was so directly tied to the company’s performance from a revenue point of view. If all of a sudden unionization becomes a real thing, or even if WWE is challenged in court by the likes of Andrew Yang and has to defend their independent contract status for their talent, there is a really good chance in today’s political environment that it’s not going to come out well for WWE. I’m sure WWE has a lot of employment attorneys that specialize in these issues that maybe have a lot of information I don’t have. But, on the surface, it’s a big deal if it is challenged. If I was a talent in WWE, I would not want to become an employee and I would want to stay an independent contractor. That’s me personally.”
Conrad Thompson added: “You get paid on the house so if the crowds are up, then you are doing better. If merchandise sales are up, then you are doing better. But if we have to reshuffle the deck, at the end of the day, the person in charge of making those decisions is going to make sure that the company is still showing the same profits to Wall Street, so they are not going to make a change that is negatively going to impact their business overall. I think that is what you are trying to harp on with unintended consequences where, ok, we have new line item expenses on the left side, now we have to right size this other side over here and it could be an interesting 12 months here for WWE, AEW, Impact, Ring of Honor. This is a trickle down effect that is not just WWE. I for one am glad we are finally going to at least have the conversation.”
Conrad went on to say, “People will assume because we are both entrepreneurs that I too am anti-union. I am not. I am for it. I think it would be great for wrestling. I think it’s sad when we see some of the guys who have provided us so much entertainment and now they don’t have health care. A lot of people after wrestling, their lives are less than ideal. If there is a way somehow to take care of our own, I think that’s a good thing. You see pensions in sports leagues. I think that would be tremendous. I think if there is a way to ensure long term comfort, and I’m not saying to make everybody who has taken a bump a millionaire, but if we could give them health care, that would be tremendous. But I’m with you in understanding that this is complicated and there is not going to be a scenario where at the end of this, WWE makes less money. They are just not going to. A lot of the top performers will make less money. Guys that were making 5-6 million dollars a year will not anymore, and guys who are getting paid to sit at home will not anymore. They will be paid on a nightly deal. The numbers will come out the same, if not more advantageous to WWE because you have to know the dealer. I know everybody listening to this knows the cards, but you forget who the dealer is. The dealer is the person who is writing the contracts. At the end of the day, they are going to deliver a strong number to Wall Street and he will not make less money. Years ago, when I first got a little closer to the wrestling business, someone who I won’t name said Vince McMahon ain’t going to make a goddamn dollar less. He will fire the whole f***ing floor. He will pull the damn water coolers out of there, but at the end of the day, he is not going to make any less. I know this will upset some of our listeners, but at the end of the day, it’s his business so he is going to make some of those decisions and if he has to assimilate to a new set of rules, he will find a way to squeeze out the same or better profits. That just has always been the case and it won’t be any different here.”