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  • Writer's pictureMikey Cash

Wrestling with Being Bothered: Why WWE's New Social Media Ban Bothers Me

On Saturday, September 5th WWE issued a statement banning wrestlers using third party social media apps-notably Cameo and TikTok. Wrestlers have 30-days to comply with this new policy. In the statement, as reported on f4wonline (link at the bottom) one line reads “It is the control and exploitation of these characters that allows WWE to drive revenue, which in turn enables the company to compensate performers at the highest levels in the sports entertainment industry.” As of September 8, news from f4wonline also reports the ban does not apply to YouTube or Twitch, but wrestlers must change their handles and record under their legal names. It is not yet known if the ban will also include wrestlers using their legal names on Cameo/TikTok. This news has bothered me since it broke last week. I’m not a wrestler. I don’t use Cameo or TikTok. Yet, this bothers me. It bothers me because I interpret this as inherently selfish and controlling on the part of a promotion that, while passing a policy where superstars are only able to monetize themselves exclusively through WWE, they simultaneously claim they are “independent contractors”. I have a problem with it because creating a system where wrestlers signed to contract can only work there…makes them employees not contractors. They get treated like an employee in all ways except benefits-which I personally find to be a more egregious abuse of their control and power but that’s an argument for another day. It bothers me that these athletes offer their bodies for entertainment of us-the fans and with that sacrifice they are now not only on the hook to provide themselves and their families insurance, they now are limited in how they can make said money to do so. I can see how WWE may plan to market their own version of Cameo/TikTok as they’ve been testing out virtual meet and greets with superstars with starting range between $125-150. Now, I know that offering any opinion on business matters is coming from a guy with little to no experience in running a business but hear me out. With apps like Cameo and Tiktok for example, wrestlers are taking home a bigger portion, if not all of the profits. Over my years of watching the wrestling product, and paying attention to the moves this family has made out of the ring I feel I’ve come to know the McMahons patterns long enough to safely assume that the wrestlers’ “profit” from a WWE Cameo-like system will not be favorable. The company is limiting their income while also telling them they have no other course of action besides quitting-which then initiates a 90 day no compete clause, thus limiting their income even further. Under normal economic circumstances this may be something a wrestler could plan for and work through. However, with the backdrop of a pandemic limiting income across the globe, this policy comes off as particularly cold, calculated and devoid of anything resembling humanity. I’m being dramatic, I know. Another consideration comes from a recent article from WhatCulture (link at the bottom) which gives a breakdown of the revenue sharing of WWE compared to NFL, NBA and UFC. If you guessed that WWE is at the bottom of this, you are correct-they clock in at 8% going towards talent compensation as opposed to 48% and 50% with NFL and NBA respectively, and 20% for UFC. I am fully aware of the issues of comparing revenue sharing of major sports organizations with an entertainment entity, but the number is still troublesome. It bothers me most of all that WWE is essentially creating their own “bubble” where wrestlers can’t leave, but also don’t get adequate opportunity to develop relationships with fans. In wrestling: relationships with the fans + investment from said fans and more reason to tune in = ratings, which is something driving a good portion of WWE TV decisions. I know some of you may be reading this and say “well in that WWE video system fans can still interact with superstars, so what’s the big deal?” I’ll be happy to answer this. As it stands with wrestlers before the ban goes into effect, they have complete creative control over each video they produce for fans. With this comes a level of earnestness and sincerity that is often lost when let’s say, a publicly traded company now takes the reigns of what and how such content gets produced and presented. When a fan has an authentic interaction with a wrestler the likelihood is much higher that there’s legitimate investment in the wrestler and therefore more reason to watch the weekly show to see said wrestler. What we then could end up with in a new WWE videochat system is one where the genuine voices of the wrestlers get muted, fan interactions become cookie cutter, and overly produced much like the majority of their TV programming. I could be wrong about this, and part of me hopes I am, but the history of these people-The McMahons, does not instill confidence that they’ll suddenly change course and give wrestlers more voice and control over how they’re presented. In closing, this bothers me because it becomes another example of wrestlers or “sports entertainers” being confined to the narrow, myopic, dated view that Vince McMahon holds of how the product is presented. This time the mechanism he chooses to exert his control with is directly going to cost wrestlers chances to achieve financial security in a business/sport that has chronically chewed up and spit out talent with little to show for it financially. McMahon historically has shown that he does not like to be without control over all aspects of WWE. He saw what was happening with Cameo/TikTok and wrestlers, saw an area where he didn’t have control and has now created the environment for him to have his hand in all aspects of it; In essence “control and exploitation”. Links to sources mentioned in this article:

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