World Wrestling Entertainment, despite various efforts over the years, has never been a unionized shop, and questions have been raised occasionally over the company’s working conditions, starting with a large percentage of wrestlers being independent contractors rather than full-time employees.
This issue came up this past week in a television interview, and was later deleted from social media by a TV network that will soon partner with WWE.
It all started, per reporter David Bixenspan on Twitter, when female WWE wrestler Bayley appeared on Fair Game, an FS1 talk show hosted by television personality and former American Ninja Warrior co-host Kristine Leahy.
On the show, per a video clip posted by Bixenspan, Leahy asked Bayley what would suprise people about “life on the road” for WWE. Bayley answered that “the hardest part is the drives afterward,” with the wrestlers needing to drive themselves from city to city in rental cars, at their own expense.
While Bayley stated that WWE couldn’t possibly ferry 30 “superstars” around the country five days a week, Leahy noted that “I think they make a lot of money off you guys,” and offered to negotiate the wrestlers’ next CBA [Collective Bargaining Agreement]. Bayley answered that the wrestlers do not have a CBA. Bayley concluded the clip by saying that “it’s fun and you get to connect with who you travel with.”
Bixenspan, who covers the world of pro wrestling for the popular sports website Deadspin, tweeted that FS1’s Twitter account had tweeted that actual clip, but later deleted it. It’s not clear whether the clip has been excised from the interview on the show itself.
Fox is scheduled to begin airing a WWE show, SmackDown Live, later this fall, marking the first time that a weekly WWE show has aired on a major broadcast network. SmackDown! originally debuted on UPN in 1999, and the company ran shows called Saturday Night’s Main Event on NBC in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The Fox deal with WWE would explain why they would have a WWE talent on a Fox interview show, and also why they wouldn’t seek to promote something that makes WWE look bad.
Jesse Ventura, the wrestler-turned-actor, who was later elected governor of Minnesota in 1998, has said in interviews over the years, including with 411 Mania in 2016, that he attempted to establish a WWE union in the 1980s, but failed to do so.
At WWE’s Extreme Rules on Sunday night, Bayley retained the SmackDown Women’s title.