Recently on Conversation With The Big Guy, former WWE Superstar Ryback shared his thoughts on Last Week Tonight With John Oliver's segment criticizing WWE for its misclassification of pro wrestling performers as independent contractors.
According to Ryback, Oliver's segment was "the best piece to be put out on this subject of the WWE independent contractor/employee deal" and went on to say that the video was factual, albeit funny.
"The video was hilarious at times, but it was put together in a very entertaining way, built around facts," Ryback opined. "I have found out, by the way, WWE threatened to sue him and some other things I found out from talking to people and whatnot, which, don't worry, John, they won't do anything to you. I can promise you that. But that's like their little bully tactics. And that's not being bitter [or] negative. It's true. This is what happens and I have real experience on that end of how they do act and that sort of thing. But a lot of people watched it and I think a lot of people look at it and, to me, this is the best chance for something to be done if because if everyone would just share this video, just circulate it, I feel like it would give it the best chance to for something to be done because, for whatever reason, throughout the years they've been able they're the only place to really essentially get away with this.
"There is just no rules with this, with them, and they get away with a lot. That's what the social media thing, they brought everyone and I've told this story before. They brought us all in a room. This was towards the end up there, and as far as I was aware, I was the only one that didn't sign it. They strong armed everybody into signing over their social media accounts where essentially they could delete your accounts, they could do whatever, and that way they could have full control over your account and which is very dangerous, especially considering I knew at that point that I wanted out. I didn't want them which and I've shared this, that when I left, they threatened me with legal letters."
Ryback argued that no one is looking out for the interests of the performers.
"There is nobody looking out for the wrestlers and that's the problem. And that's a very dangerous, scary situation, and the industry is screwed up as it is." Ryback added, "without wrestlers, there is no WWE. And they acknowledge that, yet the wrestlers are treated the absolute worst."
In Ryback's view, no one is speaking up because everyone is self-interested.
"The money is not good," Ryback divulged. "I know people there on very, very, very low salaries and they're on the road just as much as all the guys, the small group of people that are making a little bit more. But they asked, they go, well, the people there aren't saying anything. People under contract to WWE or independent wrestlers aren't going to say [anything negative] because they all want to go there. Right? And WWE knows this and they prey on this. And then you're dealing with the quote, unquote, portion of fans who are, "You should just be lucky you get to you're a wrestler, you get to travel the world."
Moreover, the big name players of the genre do not speak out because they are beholden to WWE Chairman Vince McMahon.
"They're like, 'well, the wrestlers shouldn't sign the contracts. The wrestlers should speak up.' The problem is, is they have created an environment of fear. What if five people spoke up there, what do you think is going to happen to those five people? They're going to get fired eventually, and they're going to get pulled off of TV, or they're going to get jobbed out really bad. Then, they'll get fired two years later when they're 'worthless'." Ryback explained, "those people aren't going to speak up. People like the John Cenas, the Stone Colds, and The Rocks, they're for whatever reason, it's this weird mentality where they have their loyalty to Vince because Vince, in this fake world, made them money. And so they're loyal and they're like, 'well, we don't need to speak up about it. We're okay.'"
Ryback talked about the segment's treatment of health insurance coverage and noted that WWE will cover talent who are injured in the ring, but not provide any protection to talent outside of that.
"A big point that they brought up was the health insurance and wrestlers are covered in the ring for injuries," Ryback began. "This is a real thing. Like, if you get hurt there or anything of that nature, they will cover you while you're there, but once you're gone, there is no health care. There is no system, there is nothing in place, and this is what they were talking about on the John Oliver piece, and you've seen they've given examples of past wrestlers dying young. Now, there is a fine line here. The wrestling industry and part of the problem is the schedule Vince put these guys on causes you to fight for your life.
"Without wrestlers, there is no WWE. And they acknowledge that, yet the wrestlers are treated the absolute worst," Ryback stated. "When I broke my ankle and leg when I was in the Nexus with WWE and they sent me they had a guy named Matt, that was fired down at Florida Championship Wrestling, making all my decisions for me, that he should not have been making, sent me to a doctor who botched the entire ankle the surgery on my ankle and leg. The guy did nerve damage all the way down my leg. I lost function of my foot and my big toe. I still don't have function of my big toe. Required three surgeries. I was out a year and a half. The doctor that fixed my leg in Birmingham like, they didn't send me to Birmingham, Alabama. They tried to save money and sent me to a doctor in Tampa. There are a lot of things that we've discussed in the past on this podcast, and there were a lot of mistakes made at a lot of different levels. When I got the metal taken out of my leg, the doctor said that three doctors told me I was never going to wrestle again. They didn't think it was going to be possible with the damage that had been done to my leg. So I see this doctor, Dr. McBride, who has been killed in a car accident since, that fixed my leg that saved my career. He goes, 'I can't promise you anything, but this will give you the best chance of hopefully being able to wrestle.'
"That day after the surgery, John Laurinaitis called me, who was in charge of talent relations at the time, and the call was being recorded and I could hear how it was being recorded because that sound you can hear it when it was there was a way to tell when they're recording you, when it was a very politically correct call, let me just say that. And I knew right then and there, I go, oh, they're going to try to fire me at some point. And sure enough, I was at the gym and they gave me the call. I was getting ready to get cleared to make an attempt to come back. I was going to be able to probably come back, but I had a lot of damage still to my leg, but I knew I had to get I was out a year and a half, and John Laurinaitis called and fired me. This is after Nexus. I was 29 years old and I was just getting ready to get cleared, I wasn't even cleared yet, fired me over the phone. Well, no. 20 minutes going off on him, "You're not firing me," blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, a bunch of ****. They sent me my firing papers on accident. I've still got the firing papers to this day.
"I had to go get attorneys. I had to then call them back, 'What the **** is going on?' He freaked out. 'No, no, no, rip those papers up. Rip those papers up.' I went and took them right to my attorneys who then started building a case against the WWE for what they had done was illegal. My intention was I never wanted to do anything against WWE. I just wanted my opportunity to go there to do what I loved and make a living wrestling and be my best."
Ryback also claimed that WWE forced him to drop his lawsuit against the doctor that botched the surgery.
"I also had a multimillion dollars lawsuit against the doctor down in Tampa at Tampa General who did the surgery. The doctor that fixed me was going to testify about all the damage that he went in and fixed that this guy had screwed up on. So the WWE, I had to kind of force them to put me back on the road. It was they tried to put me back in developmental. This kind of goes back to me and Hunter. I had to say, 'No, I'm not going back to developmental.' And I drove back to Vegas. I moved home on my own. They kept me at home for a few months, two or three months, and then they finally brought me on the road and that started my journey back to WWE as Ryback.
"But there was a lot of if I would have just gone with the flow, I would have, one, been fired, or, two, they would have just put me in developmental and let me rot down there. So fast forward, I'm now Ryback in the WWE. I'm now in the main event, and this is getting ready going into the match with CM Punk. This is shortly before I did Hell in the Cell. And people I always explain why, if you look at my career and what they did with me, it all goes back to this. Jane Geddes, that dumb ***** called me, who was working for WWE and I say dumb ***** I mean that nicely, Jane, and that is nicest way I could possibly ever say that. She was working in, I think, John Laurinaitis' position at that time. This was from the top, called and actually forced me and threatened me with my job that if I did not drop the lawsuit against the doctor for millions of dollars, which had nothing to do with WWE. Like the attorneys had been working on this now for some time and she said if I want to remain with the company or want to stay in the position that I'm being used in, I need to drop the lawsuit, which [the statute of limitations] was coming up very shortly, like I think we were down to weeks. We had to move. And the attorneys were waiting for me to give them the green light and I called them and said, 'We need to drop the lawsuit,' in which they pleaded with me to come in and speak with them, and which I did, on my day off, and they said you need to go through with this, this is not don't trust them, blah, blah, blah. I go, 'No, everything will be good. I'll be a team player. I'll be a good soldier. This is what they want.' And I dropped the lawsuit. And once the statute of limitations ended, that's when they started **** at WWE.
"So just so people can understand how personal this is for me on why I'm very passionate about this, but where I'm coming from so that this never happens to any other wrestlers, and because a big point that they brought up was the health insurance and wrestlers are covered in the ring for injuries. This is a real thing. Like, if you get hurt there or anything of that nature, they will cover you while you're there, but once you're gone, there is no health care."
Ryback suggested that people come together and mobilize over the John Oliver segment, as it is the best chance there ever has been to bring about real change in the professional wrestling industry.
"The only thing I know is this John Oliver piece struck a chord with a lot of people and it needs to keep striking a chord with more and more people because they're going to be forced to eventually have to make changes. And this isn't me looking for a handout. I don't want anything from them. My time, I left. I'm done. I'm trying to do this for the guys now that can't say anything, and for the future. It is a selfless act all the way of holding this organization responsible, and people that are angry, that are like you've got people saying, 'John Oliverů' they're judging him. 'Well, he does blah, blah, blah.' They're letting their personal opinion of the guy what you think about him is irrelevant. It's the information that was put out is all true." Ryback said, "this is what I need people to understand. This piece is the best chance this has ever had for something to come about of this. All you have to do is share this video and comment on it and just keep it circulating because it will be seen by the right people eventually."
Check out the show here. If you use any of the quotes from this article, please credit Conversation With The Big Guy with an H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Source: Conversation With The Big Guy