Forbes’ Alfred Konuwa recently took the time to speak with Wrestling Inc.’s Managing Editor, Nick Hausman, on the Wrestling Inc. Daily podcast. During his appearance he spoke about the Twitch edict sent down by Vince McMahon to WWE talent. A few weeks ago, Wrestling Inc. broke the news that McMahon sent out an edict giving talent until Oct. 2 to shut down their monetization through third party affiliates and platforms, while threatening punishment for those that didn’t comply.
Wrestling Inc. also reported that McMahon has sent out emails to talent this week that stated WWE will take control of the talent’s Twitch accounts in four weeks. WWE will then own the accounts and the talent will get a percentage of the revenue, which will count against their downside guarantees in their respective contracts. Konuwa weighed in on the subject and said he feels that it’s a terrible deal while offering up his support of Andrew Yang, who recently went mainstream with his criticism of WWE’s treatment of their independent contractors.
“It’s a terrible deal and it’s one of these things where it’s tough,” Konuwa said. “It’s WWE; it’s a dream job. It’s the top of the top in terms of professional wrestling. I get why people would want to sign there. I’m going to do everything I can to get this information and put this out there. I’m pro, pro wrestler, if that makes sense. I want them to get fair deals and be classified as such. I like that Andrew Yang, who’s in a position to do something theoretically, if the thing breaks right in terms of the election.”
“At some point, pro wrestling is going to need a martyr,” Konuwa added. “They’re going to need somebody like Curt Flood – once upon a time in pro baseball, you couldn’t be a free agent; you had to be traded from one team to another. It just took one guy to stand up and say, ‘I’m not going to that team’ and obviously he got blackballed and had a sad end to his life, but that lead to the free agency system that we see today where people can negotiate where they go.”
Konuwa continued on saying that it’s just going to take one person to stand up for their rights to be treated better and not adhere to certain things. He mentioned that most likely, it wouldn’t be good for that person, but it could lead to a change.
“Somebody in wrestling is just going to have to say, ‘I’m not going to adhere to that. It’s not right and I want my healthcare’,” Konuwa said. “It’s not going to be good on them and I’m not demanding that wrestling gets a martyr because that’s a lot to ask of somebody. Given the situation and how stubborn WWE is and stuck in their ways that this works for them financially, wrestling just needs one of these guys that is a current wrestler – and not on the Jericho podcast – a current wrestler to step up and say, ‘I’m not standing for this.’
Konuwa continued on saying that it’s not just WWE that needs to change; he also said it should be uniform across all promotions and AEW should set the precedent now before they take off and continue growing.
“WWE is the example because they’re the biggest company and they’re the ones exploiting this the most,” Konuwa said. “AEW isn’t prone to not doing this. As AEW grows, this is going to be something that they’re going to have to deal with in terms of classifying their wrestlers and what decisions they make. There needs to be a precedent set – hopefully before AEW explodes – in that wrestlers need to be classified correctly as employees if WWE is going to be controlling them the way they are.”
Konuwa referred back to the Attitude Era and said guys in the locker room all those years ago may have had the clout to stand up to Vince, but doesn’t think there’s a superstar now that could.
“Vince McMahon, to a lot of this generation of wrestlers, is just this lionized figure,” Konuwa said. “He’s like Mr. McMahon from the Attitude Era and he’s not as much as their peer as he was to Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker and Triple H, who I think would stand up to him if they tried this in the Attitude Era and there was social media in that era. I think guys like that would be in power to stand up to Vince and speak out against what’s happening.”
He went on to say that there’s really no precedent to compare this to and that it’s hard to form a union when so many people are fighting to be on top. He mentioned that it would take a “unique personality” to stand up to Vince and possibly an outsider like Andrew Yang to fix a problem of this magnitude.
“There really is no precedent and wrestlers are not in a position to have a union and benefit from it because wrestling is so ‘Me first’ and a cut-throat industry,” Konuwa said. “Everyone is trying to fight to get to the top of the industry and a union would have to take a top, top star to make sure everyone behind him gets the help and that’s not going to benefit them and it’s never happened. WWE chooses who they want to be at the top and the people they choose are the ones that are not likely to raise that type of hell and it’s going to take a unique personality to do that.”
“There is no precedent for it,” Konuwa added. “I don’t know if it’s ever going to happen. It’s either going to be that or somebody coming from the outside coming into power, like an Andrew Yang, to bring that outside pressure. It’s wrong, but it’s not going to change anytime soon. In terms of being a martyr, if I’ve struck a chord and someone says, ‘Yeah! I need to be that guy!’ Let’s just wait for a month when the election is over and if Joe Biden wins and Andrew Yang gets that power. He’s been banging the drum on this and really laid out what he needs to do to fix this.”
The conversation then turned to why WWE feels the need to take control of accounts and cut off third party endeavors, especially after blowing away their projected $12 million in revenue for Q2 and bringing in $55 million. Konuwa says it’s a matter of “complete effing greed”.
“To quote Andrew Yang, ‘It’s complete effing greed’,” Konuwa said. “That’s what it is. These businesses want to make money, but to us it’s like, ‘You’re already making billions of dollars’. In terms of them and pleasing the stock market and shareholders, it’s all about how you can get your next million dollars and keep making profits. Remember, once upon a time, WWE’s stock was $100, it’s gone down to the $30-40 range, so they’re still trying to make up that lost ground on what they think they can get back to.”
“Moves like this are only going to ring true to people like the investors,” Konuwa added. “The whole thing about them firing people because of COVID, it’s all heartbreaking and something I don’t agree with and I don’t agree with this Twitch account thing, but strictly from a business standpoint, this is something that’s going to be very attractive to investors.”
Konuwa then went on to weigh in on if he sees WWE backtracking on this edict like they did with the last one. He mentioned he thinks “technically” the talents will be able to have accounts under their real names, but there will be “repercussions”.
“Maybe they’ll have that out there,” Konuwa said. “Maybe there will be a technicality – like technically they can do it, but it’s going to be frowned upon. It will be the Zack Ryder thing all over again. Like, ‘Yeah, you can start a YouTube channel and get over; it’s not illegal’ but then you might be in a body cast a month from now, you know what I mean? Anybody who does do that, if it’s legal, then legally they’d be allowed to do it, but then again maybe they’ll have an erectile dysfunction story by this time next month.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit The Wrestling Inc. Daily with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
You can follow Alfred on Twitter @ThisIsNasty. Konuwa’s full interview aired as part of today’s episode of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it’s released Monday – Friday afternoon by clicking here.