John Oliver used part of his show on Sunday to slam WWE and its impresario, Vince McMahon, as being unconcerned about the health and well-being of his wrestlers. According to an article from The Hollywood Reporter, Oliver took to the airwaves of HBO’s Last Week Tonight With John Oliver to berate McMahon and the organization for what he characterized as the alarming lack of concern about the long-term health and safety of McMahon’s employees.
In a montage segment showing a number of WWE wrestlers who have died at a relatively young age, Oliver pointed out that they die young at a higher rate than even NFL football players, who have a notoriously brutal job that results in frequent health problems later in life, as well as a high mortality rate. Those deceased wrestlers included in the segment were Eddie Guerrero, who died at age 38, Chyna (46), Randy “Macho Man” Savage (58), and King Kong Bundy (61).
Oliver pointed out that while the WWE raked in nearly $1 billion in revenue last year alone, and is ranked as the sixth most valuable sports brand in the world, outshining even the World Series, McMahon has continually “shielded himself from responsibility for his wrestlers’ welfare” by classifying them as independent contractors, which excludes them from receiving any paid leave, health insurance benefits, or pension. At the same time, McMahon forces wrestlers who want to work for him – with the WWE being essentially the only game in town – to sign exclusive, long-term contracts that forbid them from making any money on the side working for other organizations.
“While the character Vince is an a**hole, it’s important to know that the real Vince is also an a**hole.”
“Many fans legitimately hate him because while the WWE has made him a billionaire, many wrestlers say he’s treated them terribly,” Oliver said.
Oliver added that in a previous era, when wrestlers had the option to go work for different wrestling organizations, those types of contracts might have made sense, but that their time has now passed. He also pointed out that without an offseason in which to recover physically, and with no program in place to help retired wrestlers with their healthcare, many of McMahon’s former employees struggle to pay for procedures they desperately need, having spent their careers ruining their bodies without a break or proper care.
“Even the NFL, for all its massive faults, now offers players health reimbursement accounts and have established a legacy fund for older players who may be dealing with health issues,” Oliver said. “And when you have lost the moral high ground to the f**king NFL, you are morally subterranean.”