UPDATED: This piece has been updated with a response from WWE on bullying implications of its talent. While questions about their official statement remain, the company expressed great concern over some of the accusations aimed at them in the original piece as well as some of the negative comments that have appeared online concerning their controversial story angle with Paige, Charlotte, and Charlotte’s deceased brother.
Inquisitr thanks WWE for responding promptly to this story. Here is the company’s official statement. Original story follows.
“The notion that WWE would bully its talent into using a sensitive subject of this nature is reprehensible. Subject matter this personal is only approved as a result of the strong advocacy of the talent themselves. Notwithstanding that, WWE is ultimately responsible for what airs in its programming.”
The WWE Bullying Campaign has done much to call attention to the problem of bullying in schools and workplaces across America, but the company itself doesn’t seem to be taking a lesson from its own cause.
By now, wrestling fans have likely heard about the controversial angle that played out on the last episode of Raw.
From seemingly out of nowhere, heel character Paige brought in the real life horror of her face opponent Charlotte’s family tragedy.
On March 29, 2013, Reid Fliehr (aka Reid Flair) succumbed to an accidental overdose. Autopsy results revealed that heroin and the prescription drugs clonazepam and alprazolam were involved.
It’s an issue the family has been coming to terms with ever since, but to WWE’s bullying writers (aka Vince McMahon), it was great material for a cheap-heat angle that involved Paige making fun of Reid’s death.
Making matters worse, Cageside Seats reports, Reid and Charlotte’s mom and dad had no idea their son’s death would be exploited.
Ric Flair, a legend of the ring, said on his podcast that he was “afraid to voice” his opinion for fear of the fallout that it would have on his daughter.
The 16-time World Heavyweight Champion speculated that his daughter didn’t feel “comfortable enough to say ‘no’ to anything yet” — really, who knows a daughter better than her dad — and that even though “she’s the champion doesn’t mean she goes ‘hey, this is what I want to do and what I’m not going to do.'”
“I think if they asked her to do something, that’s pretty much the way things operate up there,” Flair added.
Since the shocking news broke of WWE’s exploitation of Reid’s death, there has been a bit of damage control from the company with some sources indicating that Charlotte was on board with it.
Ric’s comments — as well as those of Reid and Charlotte’s mom on Twitter — indicate that Charlotte wasn’t in a position where she had a choice.
— Ring-Rap.com (@RingRap) November 19, 2015
With her career still new and budding — and Vince McMahon notoriously adamant that “anything goes” in story angles — she was likely in a scenario where she had to say yes to anything or risk the consequences.
More of Ric’s commentary indicates that this is a case of WWE bullying their talent.
“I never heard a word about it,” Flair said. “I started crying while I was watching it.”
“It seems like a daughter would warn her father about something like this, but Ric continued, noting that if WWE asks you to do something, “what is she going to say, ‘no, I quit’?… They’ve written down stuff for me that I wasn’t comfortable with and I can go ask and they’ll change it. It’s nothing sensitive like that but they’ve brought stuff to me and I’ve said to Hunter ‘this doesn’t make sense’ and Hunter goes ‘well, write something down that does’ or ‘go talk to the writer’ and I will. But it’s never anything of that level of sensitivity…. I do know that she would never be comfortable rocking the boat right now.”
Since news has broken of this story, the WWE Bullying campaign has faced greater scrutiny from fans who’ve poised the question of how a company can possibly stand for anti-bullying causes when it seemingly fosters an environment of fear and intimidation with its talent.
It’s a good point that the WWE will have to answer for.
The Inquisitr has submitted a request for comment to a WWE representative and will update as more information becomes available. In the meantime, check out how the angle plays out this Sunday (November 22) at Survivor Series.
Do you think WWE is bullying its talent, and did the angle go too far? Sound off in the comments section.
[Image via WWE]