Troubled Production: Professional Wrestling
- WWE has a lot of problems with Monday Night Raw considering it's a weekly three hour live show that is in a different city each week. It has been reported that the script is sometimes being rewritten as the show is going on. Here are a handful of stories of how disjointed and convoluted things backstage can be.
- Kamala repeatedly complained about being underpaid. After a match at SummerSlam 1992, he said he received $13,000 and heard his opponent, The Undertaker, had received $500,000. Partly due to no one covering his hospital bills despite being a fairly popular WWE veteran, he ended up losing both of his legs to diabetes.
- Krissy Vaine was brought up to debut on an episode of WWE Smackdown. She showed up at the arena for the tapings and none of the agents she asked had a clue what she was doing that evening. It wasn't until Victoria witnessed her talking to an agent that she went to get Stephanie McMahon and asked her to direct her on what was happening. Krissy also wore an absolutely hideous wrestling outfit (she herself has described it as "looking like a frigging Christmas Clown") for her segment, only to be told afterwards by producers that they wanted her in street clothes. She had walked around backstage for an hour wearing her wrestling gear and nobody had said anything to her.
- Mike "The Miz" Mizanin faced frequent hazing from veterans backstage. He was reportedly kicked out of the locker room for getting chicken crumbs on JBL's gym bag. Many employees resented that he had come from a reality TV show and attempted to bully him out of the company. He once had to change in a stadium's public bathroom amid fans wearing his merchandise.
- Gail Kim claimed in an interview after leaving the company that she and her fellow Divas often faced restrictions placed on them by management. They were frequently told to make their matches more girly and forbidden from punching one week and kicking the next. Melina and Michelle McCool were reportedly told off for doing a spot that was "too high risk". Gail claimed that she frequently had to sneak spots past the agents into her matches.
- Two words: Wrestlers' Court. One wrestler does something that a locker room leader doesn't approve of. They are brought in front of the entire locker room(!) and put on trial:
- Mick Foley and Al Snow were taken to court for standing up to backstage bully Bob Holly; they were punished by having to pay his road expenses for a week.
- The Hardy Boyz were taken for unknowingly sitting in two seats that had previously been reserved for veterans.
- Melina was taken for being shy (really, not genuflecting to the champs backstage) and not talking to anyone except her boyfriend.
- Simon Dean was taken to wrestler's court for insulting Roddy Piper, even though Piper never felt insulted and did not even know about the court case. Dean's punishment started with his belongings being destroyed in a shower and ended with him being taken out of an onscreen role entirely. Traditional wrestler's court judge The Undertaker later asked exactly what Simon had done to Piper to get "the jury" so against Dean and Piper still had no idea anything was even going on.
- Muhammad Hassan got taken to wrestler's court for refusing to sell for Sergeant Slaughter, even though that instruction came from Vince McMahon. He was taken again for telling Eddie Guerrero not to use the camel clutch, the move Eddie's father had created and he briefly used in tribute of. Hassan was punished by having to pay everyone's bar tab, which ran up to $4000. Once again, Muhammad was only following Vince's orders. Remember, Wrestler's Court was established because apparently just taking the problem to Vince got even worse results. Imagine that. This, combined with the UPN London Bombing farce ended Hassan's career.
- Another wrestler who suffered this was "network representative" Palmer Canon (played by Brian Black). Rumors have circulated that WWE planned to set up a feud between him and the recently debuted Miz, but after suffering some hazing from JBL on a foreign tour, he was so angry that he left WWE, and eventually, wrestling in general.
- Developmental Divas faced vicious bullying from trainers Ivory and Jacqueline. Former developmental Diva Bobbi Billard claims that she and another woman were called to the front of the class by Ivory who announced "sluts like you all fuck your way to the top", while Jacqueline went so hard on them in training that many girls were injured and then later released. Kristal Marshall told a similar story on how she felt that her trainers resented that she came from a modelling career on The Price Is Right. Despite her wanting to learn how to wrestle, she claims she felt they didn't want her to get good.
- When accused of abusing trainees in Deep South Wrestling, which turned out to be a failure farm league for WWE, Bill DeMott produced evidence that every wrong doing that he could be proved of doing was done on the order of head of talent relations John Laurinaitis. Laurinaitis also ended up running off Ohio Valley Wrestling, who had been WWE's most self sufficient and successful farm league, and American Combat Wrestling, who provided much of the material that made WWE's version of Florida Championship Wrestling a practical venture. OVW and ACW had been and remained successful local promotions without WWE's "help" but DSW closed down very quickly.
- Speaking of DeMott, in early 2015 several complaints from former WWE developmental talent note were brought forth about several abuses that DeMott had done as head trainer of NXT, including making the trainees do dangerous training, bullying/assaulting them, using racial & homophobic slurs, and generally encouraging sexual harassment, and that several trainees had complained to WWE management about this during their tenure with the company. WWE claims they investigated the accusations and found "no evidence of wrongdoing," and DeMott denied all of it, but resigned to save the company negative press, with Jason "I used to be Tensai" Albert replacing him as new head trainer.
- Ashley Massaro won the 2005 Diva Search and was immediately placed on TV with no wrestling training beyond how to do a monkey flip. She later revealed in an interview that she had only been trained on a per-match basis (if one looks at her matches, that explains a lot). This resulted in frequent injuries for her. She was even placed on a WrestleMania card purely because of her Playboy cover and had to compete with a broken foot. She and Melina also claimed that they spent most of the night in gorilla position not knowing if the match was going to happen.
- The Ashley Massaro case is notable because several developmental Divas still get called up to the main roster before they are ready. While not as bad as it used to be (every Diva has to train in NXT first) Eva Marie had about a month's worth of training and was put on the road as part of the Total Divas cast. She was also eventually put into the ring despite it being obvious that she was far too green. Cameron was also called up after only a few months in developmental (albeit as part of a valet role) but essentially had to train on her days off. It got to the point where she had to take time off TV just to train in NXT for about a month - but again had to return to the road quickly in fear of losing her spot on television. Other Total Divas cast member JoJo was a similar case but a rumour about why she was cut from the Season 2 cast is that she willingly had herself Put on a Bus to focus exclusively on her training.
- WWE generally takes care of medical expenses, which is good, but are not above cutting the contracts of talent who have not made a full recovery, even if they require more medical attention for injuries received on the job. The most infamous case of this was Test but Russian kick boxer, Anna Bogomazova, who at first was still praising WWE even after release, later changed her tune when she realized she wasn't going to get the necessary compensation for her arm after it was injured in NXT. (She didn't know about the Test case)
- While WWE generally takes care of medical expenses, the wrestlers and other on screen talents don't get benefits, insurance, much less health insurance, a 401 k or any benefits, due to being independent contractors. Why this matters is that the people running twitter who don't go on the road but just stay in an office 9 to 5 do get all those things.
- CM Punk revealed in a 2014 shoot interview that he suffered a concussion and passed the test by one of the WWE doctors - yet was still told to go and run the ropes in the ring just to make surenote - and was still expected to work that night on Raw. He later found out he'd had a staph infection in his shoulders for three months after leaving - and was told he could have died.
- Another Gail Kim story: one night she accompanied Daniel Bryan down to the ring for his match against Sheamus. As soon as she got down to the ring, she was told go to the back as she was not meant to be there for the match. She had been backstage in gorilla position right beside Vince McMahon for ten minutes, and was not told she was not to go out.
- When DSW closed down Angelina Love was assured that she would not be fired. She relocated to Louisville and got a year's lease on a new apartment. She made her debut for OVW and was then released two days later.
- Financial abuse is sadly incredibly common in TNA, a company which is backed by an (unaccountable) heiress to a million dollar Texas energy company and has a weekly TV deal.
- Because TNA's heydey (such as it was) happened in the mid-to-late Aughts, it naturally became a font of memes and snarky internet criticism, mostly from the Observer podcasts, 420chan's /wooo/, and Wrestle! Wrestle! By 2010, even the jaded blogger demo had moved on to better things, primarily because 1) all the jokes had been told, and 2) we'd already seen this story play out, scene-by-scene, in WCW ten years earlier. Right down to the company flushing its own collateral just to elevate some old guys.
- Jesse Neal caused an uproar when he tweeted that he had qualified for food stamps.
- There was a stink around Shawn Hernandez after he had to pay his own hospital neck operation. Then Homicide suffered a groin pull and attempted to rehab it because TNA would not pay for the necessary surgery. According to reports, many wrestlers don't get injuries checked out because the TNA office refuses to pay for them. The procedure is to front the wrestler the necessary money and then take it out of their paycheck. For reference, previous "national promotions", WCW, WWE, even perpetually broke ECW, paid for injuries suffered on the job outright.
- Jesse Sorensen suffered a broken neck at Against All Odds 2012 from Zema Ion. Sorensen could not even walk and his family had to sell their restaurant after medical bills TNA neglected to help with drove them into bankruptcy, despite assurance from the company president that expenses would be handled. Handled turned out to mean Jesse working them off "backstage" after managing to walk again against all odds. This setup saw him to take two other jobs to make ends meet, then TNA released Sorensen to save money. Surprisingly, he would keep beating odds and return to the ring. Unsurprisingly, it was not a TNA ring (he had also been wrestling for NWA FUW and had since wrestled for Ring Of Honor and U Know Pro)
- The Knockouts fared no better: Daffney took one too many injuries thanks to TNA's half-baked booking — most infamously, getting butt-dropped by the quarter-ton Rosie Lottalove — which put a quick end to her career revival. Hope the gag was worth it! (Adding insult to injury, her super-tasteless bumps did not even get picked up properly by TNA’s less than stellar camera crew). Daffney was also told that the bills would be taken care of. After a few weeks, TNA then turned around and told her to pay them herself. She suffered a concussion but was told to work a match anyway - and when she refused, she was dropped from scheduled photoshoots for 'refusing' to work.
- When Gail Kim's contract was up, she was forced to leave TNA and return to WWE because she could not afford to stay. Despite being a proven ratings draw and one of the company's top stars, TNA offered her a ridiculously low amount to re-sign. She had to be talked into signing with WWE because she didn't want to leave TNA.
- Taylor Wilde revealed in an interview that while she was the reigning Knockouts' Champion, she was also working a minimum wage job at Sunglass Hut. She resigned immediatelynote once she was recognised by a fan. Likewise ODB was working a second job as a bartender because she couldn't make ends meet on her paltry TNA salary.
- Awesome Kong claimed in her 2013 shoot interview that TNA once stiffed her for a bill. She also said she heard that Dixie Carter reportedly said in a business meeting "well, let them go home and starve". Kong also claimed that she was denied a minor pay rise at the same time TNA went mad with the hiring in 2010 (see below). Bear in mind that Kong wanted the pay rise so that she could afford a car - she was already a 2-time Knockouts Champion and at the time was one of the reigning Knockouts Tag Team Champions. (she wasn't even considered under card)
- TNA argues for the low under card pay with the fact they are on a television show pulling a million viewers on a low day, which should increase draw on the indies. The problem here is that TNA banned its workers from appearing for indie promotions that are being taped for DVD or internet PPV and charges promotions to use "its" talent (which it claims are independent contractors rather than employees). If a TNA talent isn't being used on television, then they're not likely to get many bookings elsewhere as promoters won't be able to justify the cost of bringing them in with DVD or PPV sales. SHIMMER's Allison Danger has speculated they paid more for TNA talent than TNA actually paid the talent they charged them for. Former jobber Delirious found he had made more money on the indies prior to TNA and went back.
- In 2010 a huge sum of money was spent on hiring former WWE and WCW talents. These included Jeff Hardy (who was facing drug trafficking charges), Scott Hall (battling alcoholism and depression) and numerous others well past their prime. Hulk Hogan was also brought in on a ridiculously high salary ($10,000 per appearance reportedly) while many of the TNA talent who had never worked for WWE or were lower on the card were being paid only three figures per appearance (when they were being used at all). Generation Me (or The Young Bucks for those familiar with them on the indies) were rumoured to only be making $200 per appearance. Additionally, reality TV "stars" such as Johnny Fairplay (who got health insurance despite making very few appearances) and J-Woww were brought in for considerable amounts of money; the latter was especially funny when you consider Jersey Shore aired opposite Impact. This is actually Author Appeal on the part of Dixie Carter, a self-admitted reality TV addict.
- Knockouts' Champion Madison Rayne had to miss a series of house shows in 2010 and it was rumoured it was because she couldn't afford the travel costs. At the time she was rumoured to be one of the lowest paid people in the company (she claimed she only sat out the shows to allow some lingering injuries to heal, but nobody believed her and felt she was covering for the company. As one person put it, "what was she supposed to say, I'm their champion and still broke.")
- Wrestlers (particularly among the X division) who attempt to tone down highspots for a safer style have been sanctioned by the company's road agents. In addition, wrestlers suffering from concussions were placed under considerable pressure to get back into the ring (one, Shannon "Daffney" Spruill, was pulled from publicity appearances after refusing to wrestle in such a state). This was during the same time that the company used a concussion suffered by Ken Anderson (who received the legitimate injury from a mistimed chairshot by a fucked-up Jeff Hardy) as a TV storyline.
- Dixie Carter, the principle owner of the company, was not even aware of Christopher Daniels's release when he asked her about it.
- On the topic of Daniels, TNA is known for making other companies who want to book its contracted talent go through its front office (fair enough, except the whole "independent contractor" thing means this is unnecessary) and also insisting on the direction booking must go in even after the talent has been secured. Their priorities seem questionable at times, as TNA insisted The Murder City Machine Guns could not job to Ring Of Honor's Tag Team Champions The Kings Of Wrestling but allowed Pro Wrestling Guerilla to make their own X Division Champion Christopher Daniels to job Chris Hero, one half of those very same Kings Of Wrestling.
- According to Bully Ray, TNA's biggest problem is promotion, or lack there of, for shows. Wrestlers have tried to help with this, such as Frankie Kazarian setting up a deal to get wraps for the TNA production trucks so people would know when they were in town but was rejected when he tried to get "management" themselves to go through with it. Tara apparently spent six thousand dollars promoting a show in Chicago she thought enough word wasn't getting out about and since she had a pizza place there, threw a party for the other wrestlers while she was at it. Wrestlers who were then given the directive to promote a competing pizzeria!
- TNA lost its television deal with Spike TV after publicly firing Vince Russo and then rehiring him in secret (a poorly-kept secret). This also put their deal with The Great Muta's Wrestle1 in jeopardy but they managed to work that out, leading most to assume the Spike TV deal would be salvaged too. It wasn't and as a result, TNA went dormant for the rest of the year, it's new TV deal starting in 2015.
- Ring of Honor, has a loyal fan base for its wrestling but a history of production trouble, especially after losing their starting distributor, RF Video, as owner of the video company and ROH co-founder Rob Feinstein, was caught on camera trying to have sex with a fourteen year old boy. Despite dropping their main method of getting their product out, TNA still pulled all the wrestlers they had under contract out of ROH including ROH Pure Wrestling Champion AJ Styles, which as CM Punk pointed out, was a breach of contract on TNA's part, wrestlers signing on the deal they could work anywhere else not on pay per view or owned by WWE. A few efforts to rekindle a working relationship between the two companies would be made but always fell through.
- Since losing RF, ROH ended up selling the merchandise of other companies on their site to make ends meet.
- Later, ROH's other co-founder and head booker, Gabe Sapolsky, would be fired by Cary Silkin for putting together a less than tasteful and widely mocked angle involving simulated rape by Larry Sweeney using Bobby Dempsey and Allison Danger. While this one angle was bad, consensus among fans and critics is that ROH's booking as a whole has suffered a drop in quality since Sapolsky's departure that it has yet to recover from. This also lead to an end of ROH's working relationship with Full Impact Pro and likely hasn't done them any favors with Dragon Gate, who they've also seemingly broken up with. Dragon Gate USA went on to become part of the WWN with FIP, EVOLVE and SHINE after ROH pulled out.
- It was thought ROH's production troubles may turn around in 2011 when they got a deal with the Sinclair Broadcast group. Before things got better production slid further down hill for the next two years. First of all, despite getting a deal with a television company, Ring Of Honor did not have one broadcast worthy camera to its name for the entirety of 2011. Often the ring crew and agents had to construct production equipment with little notice. But worse, they just as often had to quickly find, rent and or purchase equipment locally that they could only hope would work. The first supposedly broadcast worthy camera they were given ended up falling apart during the first shoot with it.
- Part of the deal was a new facility to shoot its main shows in which never came to be. There was also supposed to be a building for their new wrestling school, which was delayed until they finally got a warehouse which was not the "state of the art facility" ROH had believed they would receive based on the proposal Sinclair had purchased them on to start with.
- The Ring Of Honor website was supposed to be upgraded to stream its own pay per views but instead ended up relying on a string of third parties. There was a string because they kept getting replaced. They kept getting replaced because on these third party hosted shows, sound was inconsistent, sometimes not playing at all or other times out of sync with the action. The action itself blanked out entirely three pay per views in a row during 2012, two of which were the highly anticipated and critically acclaimed by live viewers at ring side Boarder Wars and Best In The World. Show Down In The Sun in particular was reproduced better on youtube.
- Over two years they lost at least two ring crews who were overworked due to poor scheduling suggested by Sinclair, who also raised ticket and merchandise pricing higher than the established Ring Of Honor staff suggested. ROH's debut in Charleston West Virginia cost more than Smackdown, for instance, while ROH second row or sometimes even ringside used to be equal to Smackdown's admission general prices in the HD Net era, even when attendance ended up in the thousands.
- Adam Pearce was kept out of Ring Of Honor, be it in a wrestling, booking or commentary role, because Ross Abrams on the merchandise team did not like him. Not a booker, owner, other wrestler or even someone in charge of talent relations but a guy who sells stuff somehow had enough sway to keep out a guy whose stuff he should have been selling. (They were a hand breath from losing Pearce to TNA, who honestly would not have been to blame for once if they decided to pick him up, all because of a guy who wasn't even that good at his job)
- ROH gave up a national television deal in Canada on the Fight Network for the sake of pleasing a local station in Buffalo New York. This one was especially baffling since Toronto has traditionally been ROH's most profitable venue. No one in Buffalo even complained, the deal was put off on the assumption someone in Buffalo would complain. TNA ended up getting the Fight Network deal instead.
- A good deal of that local fan base ended up jumping over to other promotions (Dragon Gate USA was held up as a healthy alternative, unsurprisingly). For one example, the Bell Vornon Rostraver Ice Garden was deemed cheaper than the ECW Arena in Pittsburgh. Incidentally, poor planning once lead to an Ice Garden show with no heat, where the ring was literally on frozen ground, leading to the memorable visual of Davey Richards and Michael Elgin giving off steam as they wrestled, memorable to the 300 in attendance as what fans not turned off just on principle after the change of venue ended up turned off by prospect of freezing.
- On November 3rd 2012, Steve Corino suffered an injury at a house show and not one of Ring Of Honor's officials had the means to take him to be evaluated by a doctor. This incident lead to Jim Cornette not only leaving the company, but wrestling in general! (Fan demand would lead him to make some one off appearances at various shows, though ROH did not benefit from it)
- The now defunct WCW is defunct for a reason. There are far too many reasons to detail on just this page but it sums up in the following:
- Horribly amateur booking and an overemphasis on "comedy" sketches and gimmick matches.
Brandon Stroud: It’s brutally obvious that nobody in the match knows what they’re supposed to be doing. They don’t even tag, they just come in and out of the ring and interfere as they please and Nick Patrick makes these vague “okay YOU’RE in” gestures. At one point Rick Steiner comes in and starts punching everybody and Patrick’s like, “hey, you aren’t the legal man.” Steiner ignores him, so Patrick claps his hands and points at the Steiners’ corner. Heenan desperately tries to explain the rules to the audience at home by asking how the tags and pinfalls work, but Bischoff confidently yells “There ARE no rules!!” A few minutes later, he explains the rules. I AM HAVING A NIGHTMARE.
- Backstage politics. The veteran stable hired by Eric Bischoff, unsurprisingly, couldn't put on good matches and didn't want to lose face on live television, so they buried the up-and-coming talent through various, and often convoluted means. (See the "Fingerpoke of Doom" below.) Hulk Hogan and Kevin Nash booked their own matches, put themselves over, then held up Turner Entertainment for even more money. In the end, the "Monday Night War" was a war between the past and the future of WCW, and management always picked the past.
DDT: Hogan v. his, Yawn, weekly babble:
· Hogan is getting booed heavier than Vince does
· Hogan is accompanied by Bischoff, Brian Adams, Vincent, and Ed Harrison Leslie.
· I don't want to see these guys...what's on RAW?
· Oh no, Hogan is making a sequel to Assault on Devil's Island
· Hogan is claiming that he provided Hall and Nash the direction that they needed.
· Gee, Hogan's the person to accuse someone of having no talent.
· Now Hogan is saying that other people are old and gray-haired.
- Randy Savage, Scott Hall, and Scott Steiner were so juiced-up and blitzed that they couldn't see straight. Steiner in particular was notorious for threatening his co-workers' lives (he very nearly clawed out DDP's eyes in a brawl), for which he was not punished.
- Endless Ratings Stunts. The worst of these was David Arquette winning the WCW World Heavyweight Title to help promote the movie Ready To Rumble. Arquette, a long-time wrestling fan, was queasy at the prospect of beating legitimate contenders for the title. He knew that he wasn't qualified to hold the title and that fan response would be overwhelmingly negative. (He ended up donating all of the money he earned to the families of deceased wrestlers and to Darren Drozdov, a wrestler who had suffered permanent paralysis after a move gone wrong.)
- Having Vince Russo in charge meant that anything could happen at any time. It would take a 300-page book to discuss the oeuvre of Mr. Russo, but his article is a good place to start.
- Promotion tactics bordering on the completely awful; matches often weren't booked for Nitro until the last minute, and at least one pay-per-view was aired without any matches booked ahead of time.
- The Fingerpoke Of Doom - a title changed hands because one guy was literally knocked down by a finger poke to the chest. The top title, in the center of what should have been a hot feud, pitted directly against a high caliber main event!
- WCW had 240 wrestlers on its roster, half of which it had no intention of using and simply bought out so the WWF couldn't use them either. Theoretically this questionable business practice would not lead to production trouble — but WCW still paid for plane tickets and road expenses for workers they had no intention of using! The number ballooned to 265 when wrestlers such as Honky Tonk Man realized WCW was a good place to get paid for doing nothing. People call TNA WCW's spiritual successor for this very reason: the sheer waste on display is phenomenal.
- WCW decided the sell the merchandise of its wrestlers at a loss, particularly Hulk Hogan's. It was rumored that Hogan got revenge by fixing it so the residuals belonging to Sting dolls, Goldberg dolls etc. were diverted to him.
- Horribly amateur booking and an overemphasis on "comedy" sketches and gimmick matches.
- If you're willing to go back a bit further into the past, Dallas' World Class promotion went from red hot territory to out of business in a matter of a few years thanks to the fact that top stars kept going through major tragedies. David Von Erich died in 1984, brother Mike was put in his place, Kerry has a motorcycle accident where he loses a foot, Gino Hernandez dies, Fritz Von Erich fakes a heart attack, Mike and Chris Von Erich die, the whole Lance Von Erich nonsense. Not only the tragedies, but because so many members of the talent were unreliable drug addicts, shows had to be frequently changed around. World Class' failure was quick and extremely painful for all involved, and WCW never fully recovered.
- Despite being the primary branch of the International Wrestling Association, IWA Puerto Rico ended up being outlasted by its off shore branch IWA Japan. There were a few reasons for this.
- While the Olympic games eat into the ratings of everything, they were particularly bitter sweet for IWA Puerto Rico, as Telemundo provided them no television coverage whatsoever when the games were going, including flag show Impacto Total.
- After NBC purchased Telemundo, all promotion for IWA Puerto was done away with, causing them to attempt to make deals with the Liberty and Choice cable companies.
- The company was gifted a new facility from Mario Savoldi to base their central offices in during 2007. He proceeded to steal all the company's assets in an attempt to put them out of business so he could start his own promotion, including a ring, several computers, trucks and their entire video library.
- Savoldi also ran off budding top draws Los Aereos Hiram Tua and Sensacional Carltios on the promise of a deal with the National Wrestling Alliance in Las Vegas, causing a rift between them and company owner Savio Vega, who didn't want them leaving, and then leaving them out of work when the deal ended up being a farce.
- Despite lasting longer, IWA Japan was usually the more troubled production after 1996 when Victor Quinones left. Most of the talent, and fans, decided to follow him to FMW and IWA Japan largely stayed afloat due to the funding of a restaurant owner named Tatsukuni Asano. IWA Puerto Rico would draw around 10,000 on a good day, IWA Japan once drew a crowd of 28,000! After Quinones departed, IWA Japan was reduced to drawing 225 on a good day.