For many years, WWE’s hectic travel schedule was one of the aspects that made the job of WWE Superstar, for better or worse, unique. On the one hand, working so many house shows in addition to televised events, combined with the travel, could put WWE superstars on the road for more than 300 days a year, leaving little time for practically anything else. On the other hand, working all of those events means making more money under WWE Superstars’ status as independent contractors.
WWE contracts usually have a “downside guarantee,” meaning a minimum amount of money wrestlers are guaranteed to make even if they don’t wrestle any events. Per-event payments count against and can exceed that minimum, and in addition, wrestlers may have deals in their contracts for things like cuts of merchandise. The coronavirus pandemic threw a giant monkey wrench into that whole system because WWE stopped running house shows, instead only airing weekly television shows and, on some weeks, PPV specials.
As it turns out, that’s worked out great for WWE, as the company has been raking in record profits without the cost of running so many house shows thanks to their lucrative TV deals. It’s been, perhaps, less lucrative for some wrestlers, according to reports surrounding the controversial decision by WWE to force wrestlers to give up their Twitch accounts and instead stream on behalf of WWE for a portion of the profits that counts against their downside guarantees.
Well, like it or not, that may be the new status quo for the foreseeable future, regardless of whether the coronavirus pandemic ends. In the latest edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Dave Meltzer reports that WWE talent has been told, “the old way of touring is not coming back, even if and when the country bounces back from COVID.” Meltzer points out that the house show business was starting to tank in terms of attendance and profits even before the pandemic, and that WWE has seen things like online merch sales increase to make up for anything they might have been losing without the house shows. Additionally, Meltzer notes that working fewer events can be a positive thing for the health and careers of WWE Superstars.
Meltzer claims these discussions are happening during contract negotiations, so it will be interesting to see if WWE’s pay structure also changes to reflect the new status quo. Wrestlers certainly won’t be happy if the company is making more money than ever before while they’re making less, so one would assume that a new paradigm will form, but then again, WWE has never been known for a strong stance in favor of worker’s rights.