If you don’t know about the issues that pro wrestling has been going through for years then it’s possible that you’ve never watched it or even followed the news that the show produces from time to time. Otherwise articles like the one by Nick Schager of Cheat Sheet shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise since most fans have heard about the many controversies that have gone on in this kind of program for a long time now. The issue of art imitating life imitating art has been one that has plagued a lot of wrestlers throughout the years and has managed to tear relationships apart in the process. Randy Macho Man Savage and Miss Elizabeth are a prime example of this since their relationship outside the ring mirrored that which they’d cultivated inside the ring as well, in every detail unfortunately. His legendary feud with Hulk Hogan wasn’t a thing of just fantasy after a while and the two would spend a lot of Savage’s remaining years firing back at one another over one issue or another.
But that’s tame compared to some of the other things that have gone on in pro wrestling for decades now, and thanks to the new documentary series Dark Side of the Ring more and more people are finally going to find out another layer of the business that some wouldn’t want you to see. Tony Maglio of The Wrap goes into further detail about the show and what you can expect to see, but if you’ve been paying attention to pro wrestling for even just a few years you’ll have noticed that there are some real problems within the ring and outside of it that are hardly ever addressed. Wrestling is mostly fake, most of us know this and accept it despite the fact that we still cheer for our favorite wrestlers and go ape when certain story lines are unveiled. While most of the hits are part of the script and only a few of the injuries are ever real, the fallout from some of the back alley deals that take place off camera and away from the ring are very real. Wrestlers tend to have a very hard time if they don’t go along to get along, even if that means sacrificing their bodies, their health, both physical and mental, and even their pride and dignity to give everything for a company that treats them like stars but still classifies them as independent contractors.
You know what an independent contractor is right? It’s an individual who decides to work for a company but can move along at any time they wish. They don’t tend to build up a retirement plan, they get no benefits on the average, and yet they’re free to go where they please in order to work. A lot of wrestlers, those that work for the WWE in particular, are labeled as independent contractors in their contracts, but are treated as WWE property in terms of where they can go and what they can do. For some this isn’t a big deal aside from the ever-important medical, dental, and retirement benefits. But considering the money that some wrestlers make during their career it seems fair to say that they can afford medical insurance. There are those however that don’t make as much but still get gouged just the same and therefore aren’t quite as well off. Being a wrestler that’s labeled as an independent contractor still tends to mean, as Tyler Treese from Wrestle Zone has observed, that they’re treated like employees that don’t get the proper benefits.
Again, this is just one of the many facets that the Dark Side of the Ring will bring to light, as the use of illicit substances, illegal and highly suspect activities, and other ills have been known to go on in the wrestling world for decades now. Night after night, week after week, and year after year these people are putting their bodies on the line for something that they love to do. They’re showmen, all of them, but they’re also taking their lives into their hands both in and out of the ring since in the ring the stunts they pull are well-rehearsed and only ever go wrong when an unforeseen circumstance tends to happen that they can’t avoid. Outside the ring however many wrestlers have been a mess since the old practices that used to be in place and have since been abolished or changed have done some good. But the idea of not offering healthcare or even a retirement plan to these folks is something that makes the company look rather poor in terms of morality. You could argue that each wrestler knows that the next time they walk into the ring could be their last, but that’s usually why an employer is there to have their back along with a good healthcare plan and possible retirement fund.
If you find no other reason to watch the show, do so just to show some interest in the lives of those that live to entertain others.