On Monday Night Raw this week, a United States Championship #1 Contender Battle Royal took place. Prior to a commercial break, a giant photo was shown of the entire field participating in the match. The Big Guy, Ryback, was among them. The match came and went, but Ryback was no where to be seen. Shortly before Raw went off air, reports hit social media that Ryback was asked to go home and stay off television until a deal could be reached with his contract.
Immediately we all thought he was bitching about his paycheck. Turns out, it went much deeper than that. Earlier today, Ryback, real name Ryan Reeves, put a post up on his Tumblr account about the entire incident. You can read the full text HERE but the gist of his gripes with WWE is that the lowcard losers on the roster ultimately make less over their career than the guys who win more matches. He makes several valid arguments and he’s not wrong on his view points. However, it’s hard to get behind him when we all have a pretty good idea what these guys make in a year.
Even the so-called “jobbers” make more than probably 99% of their viewing audience. They get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to appear on TV every week, be characters in video games, and sell their faces and catchphrases on t-shirts. Granted, professional wrestlers make significantly less than other sports athletes. And unless your name is Brock Lesnar, you aren’t getting a whole lot of big name endorsements. Even so, they are considered well-paid entertainers. According to Total Sportek analysis, even a guy like Eric Rowan makes $80,145. That’s a sum that even a lot of people with college degrees don’t get.
Ryback is justified in his comments, albeit going about trying to create change in a backwards way. WWE doesn’t have unions (to my knowledge no wrestling promotion does) and signed wrestlers just have to eat shit and take their contract, quit and go elsewhere, or become an undeniable cash cow that has leverage to negotiate a mega-contract. Wrestlers are considered “independent contractors” and most promoters consider that a carte-blanche to pay out whatever they deem appropriate.
At the end of the day, nobody sympathizes with a professional athlete demanding more money. Especially a guy like Ryback who was just in a title match at the last two pay-per-views. Whether the NFL, MLB, NBA, or WWE, they are all outrageously overpaid, with the majority making more than the President. Every guy coming up wants a bigger contract than the guy he replaced. So it has been, so it will probably always be. A greedy self-image for the big stars in a sport leaves little left but crumbs for the lower guys. And that’s the real issue here. Not that they all get paid too much (they do) or that they think they are entitled to more (they aren’t) but that equivalent athletes on the same playing field aren’t being treated in an equal way. If the same two guys wrestle ten times, and the same wrestler wins each match in a predetermined outcome, shouldn’t both wrestlers get paid the same?
It makes sense, but there are better ways to promoting change. Storming off, or quitting the company, does very little to alleviate problems. Just ask CM Punk. According to Ryback, this has been an ongoing issue since he was working the Intercontinental Championship. What Ryback should really do is get the locker room together and corner the chairman. Vince McMahon isn’t going to respond to someone bailing on him. Change comes when someone stands up and fights the good fight, and Ryback can’t do that from home on his couch. We’re not saying anything new here. Anybody who has ever had qualms about wrestling for McMahon has heard this song and dance before. Nobody seems to learn from other superstars mistakes. Frustration leads to anger which leads to hate, and that hatred ultimately sends them all packing. Change doesn’t come, and then we’re left right back where we started from.
Questioning the companies pay structure while at the same time asking for a bump in salary, makes Ryback come across as a little self-centered. He cushioned his rant by declaring he wanted to look out for the losers, but his actions point more towards a selfishness that has an unquenchable appetite. This article is coming from a guy who’s avatar picture is him holding a CM Punk sign while wearing a Triple H t-shirt. So trust me, I know all about inflated ego.
Article by Jamie Curtis Baker