Last weekend’s group of releases was surprising in that it didn’t include one name: Ryback. On the surface, it would seem ridiculous to let him go, but after he was sent home following a contract dispute, suddenly all bets were off.
In a lengthy Tumblr post, Ryan Reeves – the man behind Ryback – revealed: “I was told to head home until we agree or not agree to specific terms and contrary to reports it isn’t over money or a bus that stuff was settled a while ago. It comes down to a major problem I have with not only WWE but wrestling in general…
“It blows my mind how in a sport which is pre-determined from a company standpoint winners are paid so much more than the losers. Every single person who works for WWE from top to bottom is absolutely just as valuable as the next. The winners cannot win unless the losers go out there and agree to lose to them. It blows my mind that in this day and age though we still adhere to this formula. Obviously things have always been this way, but does that make them right?”
On the surface, Reeves’ argument makes sense – the winners can’t be winners unless the losers make them look good; but should they be paid the same? That’d be like saying that James White (a fourth-choice running back for the New England Patriots) should be paid the same as Tom Brady. After all, White scored a similar number of touchdowns, from a weaker position (Brady scored three last season, whilst White scored two).
Of course, that’s never going to be the case. Tom Brady is a much bigger name, and as he’s shown throughout his career, regardless of whom he’s throwing the ball to, he’s capable of producing similar results with pretty much anyone… and as much as the Jets fan inside me is finding this hard to stomach, that’s kind of like how Ric Flair was in the 80s – able to get results with a broom.
But let’s assume that what Ryback wants is possible – something based on the XFL model, if you will. Everyone is paid a fee to show up, with all of the extra payments coming from merchandise (since WWE doesn’t currently allow sponsors, unless your name is Brock Lesnar). However, that isn’t the problem. Unlike most other sports, professional wrestling isn’t (nor will it ever, seemingly) unionised. So whilst you may get disgruntled performers such as Ryback unhappy with the level of pay, if they were to leave, there’s always going to be someone else ready and willing to fill the gap. Such is life.
There’s only ever been a handful of wrestlers whose positions have been so untouchable that they’d be exempt from this. The likes of Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, John Cena. Guys who have already gotten to the top and have a proven record… which brings us back to the chicken and the egg scenario we’re in. Only guys who are proven are able to demand the earth (within reason), but very few guys find themselves in a position where they can prove themselves, and more often than not, the guys being given a chance to prove their worth aren’t the same guys whom the fans want to see. It’s beating a dead horse, but for every Roman Reigns who is given chances to fail, there’s a Damien Sandow whose character barely remembers what a television camera looks like.
That being said, the issue of “equal pay for all” is not only pointless, it is never ever going to happen. The main reason people work is to earn money (otherwise, we’d all be volunteers!) – so to suggest that everyone is paid the same is simply not workable. Just imagine if where you worked, everyone got paid the same – that’d quickly lead to some people at the top putting in less effort, especially once it became obvious that you got the same pay, no matter how hard you worked.
Whilst WWE does have some ways to go to appease talent whose pay-per-view and DVD royalties have been cannibalised by the WWE Network, reverting to a one-size-fits-all method would do nobody any favours – certainly not the talent, especially if the company sets the bar incredibly low (which, they almost surely would to begin with, if only to maintain profitability).
It is noble to walk away from a job because you feel you and your comrades are underpaid. But there’s a difference between nobility and stupidity – and no matter how smart you’ve been with your money, ultimately, being a one-man martyr comes with a high risk of backfiring and leaving you in a worse position than you started.