When you work for WWE, they try to own you. That’s part of the contract. Any wrestling fans know that whether you think it’s fair or not. Should WWE be able to call their superstars “independent contractors” when they prohibit them from doing their own thing? That’s a legal matter that fans can argue about. There’s no union and there may never be. However, there’s a new story that came out today about how WWE issued a warning of sorts to their superstars about how they can’t use their WWE superstars (or in some cases even the real names) with third parties.
It was reported by WrestlingInc that WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon issued a statement to WWE’s talent letting them know that they can’t “engage with outside third parties” anymore and they had 30 days to stop doing it.
There was apparently a letter emailed to the talent that included the following:
“Some of you are engaged with outside third parties using your name and likeness in ways that are detrimental to our company. It is imperative that these activities be terminated within the next 30 days (by Friday October 2). Continued violations will result in fines, suspension, or termination at WWE’s discretion.”
Some of the third parties that have been brought up are Twitch, which is a place where a lot of WWE superstars have video game channels or they might watch something with their fans. Another thing is Cameo, which is a service where a fan can pay a celebrity to record a message to a friend or family member. It can be a birthday greeting, congratulations or something funny. The celebrity has a fee, if you pay it and they agree to the message, then that’s how it is done. It also might affect some talent that have Youtube channels that show aspects of their life that we don’t get to see.
It’s not known if it would affect something like TikTok, which we know WWE superstar Lana is fond of and she’s had videos with millions of views, but WWE’s perspective they can say that they own the character name Lana, not CJ Perry (her real name), so it becomes a legal matter.
The email also included something from McMahon about how WWE was in the rebuilding process while they “enter the next phase at WWE.”
All of the above is from WrestlingInc, so thanks again to them for that.
In the PWInsider post about it, Mike Johnson notes that there is vague wording in the email that makes it tough for talent to figure out what’s allowed and what is not allowed. Johnson went on to say when he talked to talents about it, they mentioned it as a way to make additional revenue during the pandemic because WWE stopped doing live events, which are money makers for the superstars.It was noted by Johnson that there is a belief that WWE will explain more about it to WWE talents at TV tapings, so possibly today at Smackdown and Monday at Raw.
When this news came out, a lot of people tweeted about Xavier Woods’ popular UpUpDownDown video game channel. However, I believe WWE owns that (as well as the Bellas Youtube channel) as this article from 2015 would suggest. So if you’re worried about Xavier’s channel where he uses his real name Austin Creed, it appears to be safe.
Renee Paquette, who used to be Renee Young in WWE, had a funny tweet about this.
Sooooooo guess now would be a good time to launch my Twitch and Cameo??
— Renee Paquette (@ReneePaquette) September 4, 2020
This is likely one of those stories that could change in the weeks ahead if enough WWE superstars speak up to the bosses about it. We will update this post after Smackdown if there’s any more news about it.
TJR Thoughts: I see both sides to it, but obviously fans are going to be outraged at the WWE bosses like Vince McMahon, who is a billionaire, so why does he care if WWE superstars make more money for themselves? It’s not a bad thing if the talent wants to make more money because they are unable to make that extra money working live events. However, from WWE’s perspective, they do own the character names and likeness (even for those people using real names) because those superstars signed those contracts. If the superstars want to fight the “independent contractor” label, it would take a lot of them to get together to try to do that. There’s no union. Who knows if there will ever be. The reality is that most WWE superstars are making money well into the six figures and up. It’s easy for a fan to say “just quit” but you’re not going to make WWE money anywhere else right now. They are living a good life and without those live events, it’s not like they are working that many dates per month right now.
This obviously pissed off some wrestlers that sent copies of emails to prominent wrestling websites to get the word out. It’s not like the wrestlers want to use their name to publicly complain about it, so they did it this way. It was their best play, I guess.
If it was up to me, I would let the superstars have fun on those “third party” companies and do what they can to build their brand. I’m also not in charge of a giant corporation, so that’s up to WWE to decide.