On November 13th, Zelina Vega was released from WWE. The reason for the release was described by WWE as "breaching her contract". Ten minutes before she was released, Vega tweeted that she supported unionization, though this was apparently not the reason she was let go by the company.
Former presidential candidate and wrestling fan Andrew Yang has also been outspoken about WWE and Vince McMahon, saying he hasn't forgotten about him and has been strongly critical since WWE mandated that all superstars must cease all activities with third party platforms. Yang also recently said in an interview with The Wrestling Inc. Daily podcast that a Joe Biden victory could put him "in a position to help these [WWE] performers get what's been owed to them for years."
During the 83 Weeks Podcast, Eric Bischoff talked about the firing of Zelina Vega and issues associated with the formation of a union in the wrestling business. Bischoff talked about the advantages and disadvantages of being an independent contractor, siding with the current model rather than being unionized.
"There is so much at risk," Bischoff said. "This is not just WWE, if this issue becomes a big issue, which I think it will, it will radically change the business of the wrestling business. I can understand why it sounds great, but what does it do to the revenue model of WWE, or AEW, or any other televised wrestling company that's going to have to deal with this issue? It's going to dramatically change the way people are paid, and it may not benefit talent as much as they think it will.
"There's a lot of value in being an independent contractor, there are some downsides. There is a risk, no doubt, but there's also limitations when you're an employee or you're in a union. I posted this the other day - be careful what you wish for. Do your homework. Think about it, think about the unintended consequences if the WWE talent model is dramatically altered. I would not want to become an employee, and I would want to stay an independent contractor."
Bischoff also talked about the possibility of back taxes if WWE were to become unionized. He said that's a whole entire can of worms that talent would not want opened because WWE could have to go back 20+ years into the past, and it may cost them tons of money.
"There is no statute of limitations on back taxes," Bischoff said. "Can you imagine the fines and the penalties that could possibly exist if the independent contractor status of WWE is challenged and WWE has to go back the last 20-30 years based on the amount of talent fees that they've paid out? And then comes the civil litigation.
"So yeah, unionization sounds so great; it's this silver bullet that kills all evils, but it's really not. It can create a lot of evils that can ultimately come back and put talent at a much greater disadvantage."
Bischoff continued to mention how much of an issue back taxes could be for WWE. He said that given the current climate, companies like the WWE who have been around for decades would be in major trouble.
"That opens a can of worms that no wrestling company in today's environment, with everything else that is going on, can afford to deal with," Bischoff said. "I'm sure WWE is in a strong position financially and they could probably survive this thing better than most. Fortunately for Tony Khan and AEW, they've only been around for a year, so they don't have 30 years of potential back taxes and fines staring them in the face. I'm fearful for WWE and AEW because I'm not sure how this will all shake out."
Bischoff also mentioned that even though he'd rather be an independent contractor, WWE has to loosen their grip on that status. He said WWE has gotten away with restricting their talent too much and should allow more ways of freedom, and he says he understands this is where the issue lies.
"There's a lot of freedom and flexibility that should exist in WWE that doesn't," Bischoff said. "I understand the conflict. I was an independent contractor working for WWE as a talent and I was told how I had to dress on an airplane. I think the WWE has probably been guilty of overreaching with the amount of control they want to exert."
If WWE talent was given the ability to test their independent contractor status, Bischoff said the results could be devastating. He said there would be an avenue where talent worked a weekly schedule and only were signed to weekly contracts.
"What if WWE says we're going to maintain the independent contractor status? And yes, we will adjust the way we conduct our business with relation to those independent contractors as needed," Bischoff mentioned. "What that means is anybody in WWE will be able to go work with AEW for a weekend."
Bischoff also mentioned how Andrew Yang being involved in the situation is a dicey one for WWE to handle. He said that Yang has the ammunition and power to force WWE to unionize.
"Here's a guy in some circles being suggested, as in [Joe] Biden's cabinet, in regards to being a Labor Secretary," Bischoff said. "Could you imagine now if Andrew Yang fills that post as the secretary of labor and has already come out publicly and set his sights on WWE?
"What a better way to get a ton of television time, because politicians are no different than hookers and pimps. They want to get as much attention on whatever street corner they can park themselves on. And the bigger the street corner, the bigger advantage they have."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit 83 Weeks with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.