It’s hard to stand out as a shithead billionaire in these times. Whether you’re laying off employees you could easily afford to pay, or you’re influencing the government to turn a deadly crisis into a profitable opportunity, or you’re valuing the economy (i.e. your own bank account) over people’s lives, it’s a smorgasbord of evil tool-dom.
So in some, sadistic, want-to-punch-through-your-own-skull-and-his kind of way, you have to hand it to Vince McMahon, who announced he is laying off some of the biggest names in the game to take the throne of King Odious Douchebag in less than a week. Let’s review.
Last week, McMahon folded the XFL and immediately declared bankruptcy, owing millions upon millions to various interests and leaving them high and dry. It is likely those individuals will see a fraction of what they are owed. Did we mention that McMahon is advising Trump on the economy? What could possibly go wrong (cut to most disturbing scene for you favorite zombie movie)?
That would be enough there, but this was merely the gates opening for McMahon.
Last Friday, McMahon changed his mind and decided that the three WWE TV shows — Raw, Smackdown, and NXT — would start airing live again, putting the talent, production, and backstage crew all at serious health risk. It is widely believed that McMahon did this to assure he gets every penny of his TV contracts, as there would have been wiggle room for both NBC Universal and Fox to renegotiate or cancel portions of their deals had WWE continued to air pre-taped shows.
It is worth noting that both of those contracts add up to $470 million per year for the WWE. It’s hard to fathom how much that could have been lessened given both networks’ need for programming of any kind. And whatever number you imagine that to be, it certainly would have been enough to keep everyone employed and safe. But why do that when you can have every penny and fuck over everyone below you? That’s the new American Dream.
WWE was allowed to return to live shows because, in one of the more ultimate “FLORIDA MAN” moments, they were able to secure an “essential business” tag from the state government. It just so happens that this label was bestowed on the same day that a Super PAC run by Linda McMahon, wife of Vince and former Trump cabinet member, spent $18.5M on advertising in the state of Florida.
All of that would be enough to give the McMahons at least a certificate of declaring them amongst the most assholic in the world, but nothing in McMahon’s world is ever half-assed. After all, everything is about “ruthless aggression.” So balls-out, Vince went.
In a true coup-de-fuck you, in a conference call with employees on Wednesday, McMahon announced massive layoffs, furloughs, and salary reducitons. Since that call, names of wrestlers let go by the company have been leaking out in a pretty constant stream. Some nine producers have also been let go, including Fit Finlay and Lance Storm.
Some of the wrestlers who are now unemployed range from the recognizable — Karl Anderson, Luke Gallows, Erick Rowan, Rusev — to the unused in months — Heath Slater, EC3, Zack Ryder, and others.
Where these people will go is a question. Only a few would be scooped up by AEW, and it’s hard to know when that would be as that company has taped all of its shows through May with an undetermined schedule after that. The lower companies have all paused due to the pandemic, and the indie circuit is at a halt as well. Japan had one or two companies running audience-less shows, though those will almost certainly stop with COVID-19’s recent surge in that country. The biggest company in Japan, NJPW, has stopped altogether. They would have had interest in some of the male talent let go by WWE, and will whenever operations resume. But no one knows when that will be, and it’s unlikely to be anytime soon.
WWE wrestlers are certainly paid far more than their comrades in the indies, and most likely none of them will starve in the next few months. Rusev was reported to be making $800,000 just a little over a year ago, and even those on the bottom rung were making six figures. But what they make pales in comparison to McMahon, and clearly they shouldn’t be the ones going without that money.
Again, to reiterate, WWE is a company that takes in nearly $500 million in TV money alone every year. Not only did Vince McMahon put many lives at risk by reaching for every red cent of that — by making them travel weekly to Florida and/or be amongst a group of untested workers — he is now putting people out of work so he can keep even more of WWE’s enormous pie than he normally would. Days after his wife gave away nearly $19 million to buy ad time for some of the biggest jackasses and fucksticks in the world to remain in office where they can shove their foot sideways up our asses until this country is just smoldering rubble.
Oh, but McMahon did say that board members and executives would talso ake a paycut. So everything’s OK. If that cut is more than $10 a day, I’ll shit a chicken.
McMahon will almost certainly interpret the uproar over this as just “heat,” and interest in the WWE, as he hasn’t been able to distinguish between natural reactions to characters and stories, and just genuine dislike of his product for at least a decade or more. And it is unlikely the remaining WWE talent will stand in unison against McMahon, quite simply because they never have before. If anything, this probably would scare them from doing so even more, which might have been part of the point.
Still, if the guillotines ever do come out to play again, we know who should be amongst the first on the town square stage.