To the outside world it may appear that being a WWE superstar is all glitz and glamour. After all, they make tons of money and appear on television in front of a global audience. But recent events have shown that behind the bright lights and fancy cameras, there are a growing number of guys voicing their displeasure with the company.
Backstage at Raw last Monday JTG, one half of former WWE tag team Cryme Tyme, tweeted the following remarks: “The camel’s back just BROKE ! I had enough of this … As a pro athlete, Im tired of me and my lockerroom brothers being taken advantage of. Fans have no idea what we go through.#itsanillusion … Yea I said it … Nobody wants to speak up, everybody’s afraid of losing their job or getting taken off TV.”
Former partner Shad Gaspard tweeted, “Bravery is being the only one who knows you’re afraid, but still fighting for what’s right. I Stand With @Jtg1284. How about You? RT if U do.”
While a wrestler’s use of social media to vent their frustrations is nothing new, JTG’s rant was noteworthy for the fact he is currently employed by WWE and did it while at a live event. The truth is there are likely scores of others that feel the same way he does. Historically, pro wrestling has always been a backstabbing and highly political business. Those who speak up for themselves and refuse to tout the company line are usually the ones who see their careers come to a grinding halt. On the flipside, there are talented guys who are over with the audience, yet fail to break through to the next level due to not being favourites of those in power.
Former WWE star Matt Hardy elaborated on this viewpoint in a recent interview with WrestlingInc.com, when he was asked if wrestlers are punished for getting themselves over as a way for management to prove the fans wrong.
“You know what? I wish I could disagree with you and say you are off base, but I think you’re right on the money, man. A lot of times, if a guy goes off on his own and really gets over, really establishes himself with something that was his idea, sometimes they don’t accept it as their own idea. That’s just the way things are… Zack Ryder is a perfect idea. He did it. He started using real smart, insider terminology and he got himself over. Right now, he is one of the most over guys on the roster, no doubts about it. But if you watch him, and he was off Raw for 5 or 6 weeks, but the way the fans love him and respond to him doesn’t equate to the way he’s being used on television,” he said.
Things came to a head this weekend when Brian Jossie, better known as Abraham Washington, was released.
Two weeks ago on Raw, A.W. was at ringside managing the tag team of Darren Young and Titus O’neal. His outspoken style of commentary was patterned after legendary wrestling manager Jim Cornette. A.W. said a joke comparing O’Neal’s dominance of his opponent to Kobe Bryant in a Colorado hotel room. The joke was in reference to the 2004 sexual harassment charge filed against Kobe for allegedly raping a young woman.
There was immediate disciplinary action taken against A.W. and he later issued a sincere apology. Then he was fired.
Was his joke a stupid thing to say? Yes. Did he deserve to be reprimanded or fined? Yes. However, he did not deserve to be fired. Here are a few of the comments he recently tweeted on the situation:
“Let this be a lesson to up and coming talent in the WWE don’t try and be great like the Rock or Stone Cold. WWE isn’t the same.”
“Thank you WWE for creating me and then killing me because I only portrayed what I grew up watching.”
“I love entertaining people and the standup stage is what is next for me. If you think that Kobe joke was bad wait till you hear my Vince jokes.”
People who knew A.W. from Florida noted that he said far worse there than the remark on Kobe Bryant, but when you’re in FCW, nobody sees you and you can get away with anything. In WWE, you’re under the magnifying glass. However, A.W. had been told that he was “saying nothing” at ringside and they wanted him to be the FCW A.W. whose verbal ability people were so impressed with.
I agree that the line about Kobe wasn’t the smartest thing to say, but far more offensive things have happened in WWE over the past decade. Let’s see: necrophilia, HHH’s racist promo on Booker T, constant stereotyping of minorities, the year-long exploitation of Eddie Guerrero’s death and the perpetual humiliation of Jim Ross. It was only a few weeks ago on Raw that Vince McMahon (the owner of WWE) mocked Ross’s bell’s palsy. And these are just the instances I could list off the top of my head.
A.W. made one bad joke and his career is over. Call me crazy, but that doesn’t seem fair.
Getting back to JTG’s comments, it seems like this an era unlike any other in the modern history of WWE. There was a time where guys would literally wrestle and sacrifice until their bodies broke down and they were forced to hang up their boots. Today, the money is better than it’s ever been and many wrestlers have found it beneficial to leave WWE and explore other opportunities. If you’re working for a company that doesn’t appreciate your hard work and you have enough money in the bank to live a comfortable life, it makes sense to at least do something for a living that makes you happy. There is a growing trend over the last few years of people leaving or taking sabbaticals from WWE at the peak of their careers.
In 2010, Matt Hardy actively sought ways to get himself released from his contract. That same year, Batista voluntarily left the day after headlining a pay-per-view match against John Cena. More recently, John Morrison and Maxine both asked for and received their releases.
It seems like there really is life after WWE for those unwilling to drink their Kool-Aid.