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A Look at the Jesse Neal/TNA Food Stamps Debacle

Let's make one thing clear: Jesse Neal wants you to know he is not, and has never been, on food stamps. Nope. Not at all. Nothing to see here. Move along wrestling fans, and get back to enjoying the quality programming that Impact Wrestling churns out. Despite being happy that he could "eat now" after finding out him and girlfriend qualified for food stamps on Twitter, then confirming it as true when a fan asked if he was serious, and acknowledging to Stevie Richards (and the world) a day later that he was  too honest about the matter, Jesse has deleted the original comments and now wants us to believe it was never true in the first place. 

"Just to clairify there will be NO food stamps coming to me!"

"I'm only gonna say this once, I never said that I myself recieves food stamps, so wrestling fans get back to being a fan and stay out of our personal lives. If u r gonna follow then read it carefully and get it right. I have never received food stamps. Ok that's it."

 What has happened here? Well, as World Wrestling Insanity's James Guttman noted on his forum, Neal obviously realized what a bad idea tweeting about his situation  was, especially when his comments became wildly publicized and made their way around the internet.

The pure stupidity of it all gets to me. I mean, you're an independent contractor. Why would you tarnish your own brand for no reason? When you're in the public eye, Twitter should mostly be a PR tool to interact with fans. Think about it rationally. Who would want to pay money to buy a wrestling show featuring someone they know qualifies for food stamps? So much for "larger than life".

Even dumber is that I would imagine his goal is to get to WWE, right? He just made that negotiation ten times easier for them if or when it happens.

We got this guy Jessie Neal. He looks good, Vince. We want to set him up in FCW for a while.

Good. Are we offering him the standard contract?

Well, he's on food stamps.

Yeah? Pay him four dollars a week! HAHAHAHA! Whatamaneuver!

Forget, of course, that this will probably affect his current position in TNA too. Just not a smart career move on ten different levels.

 Ah, yes. While Jesse probably has severely damaged his "brand" on the independent scene, there's also the matter of how his current employers TNA will feel about his the matter. As Dave Meltzer noted in the most recent issue of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter: "How bad does it make TNA look when one of its wrestlers, a regular on television, makes so little he qualifies for food stamps and needs to in order to eat?" PWTorch editor Wade Keller also noted on a recent podcast that the situation was "very embarrassing for TNA" For some fans, it was the final straw, with one European fan claiming they were now refusing to buy a ticket to go see TNA when the company visited their country  because it wasn't like any of the money was going to the wrestlers and, "l just can’t support this company; anymore and in any way."

The remarks were trouble for Jesse mainly because, as anyone who has followed TNA backstage going's on for a decent amount of time will know, despite TNA's image of being more relaxed and casual than WWE, and wrestlers having more freedom to say what they want, people in management are extremely sensitive to criticism, possibly more so than Vince McMahon and company. In 2010 Dave Meltzer noted the huge mistake ODB had made in being mildly critical on Facebook of the direction of the Knockouts division ("What is happening to our division?" she had posted), and Dave went on to call the booking team in TNA "extremely vindictive." After her comments, ODB was quickly dropped from a planned program with then-champion Madison Rayne and released from her contract shortly after. Upon arriving at one of the Impact tapings, then -TNA wrestler Homicide was marched into the TNA offices and angrily confronted by most of management after he told the Busten Open radio show it was often difficult to know who was in charge in TNA and he lacked faith in Hogan/Bischoff product. When Homicide claimed his remarks were blown out of proportion, Terry Taylor demanded he track down a tape of the interview and play it to them.

Following on from this, one current employee recently informed me:  "TNA wrestlers are contracted not to speak ill of the company. They know if they do they will be seriously punished and no one can afford to be taken off the road as dates are already limited."  Another person close to the situation insisted in an email to me that Jesse had indeed gotten "a lot of heat" for his remarks, with people in management unhappy that the extent to how truly broke most TNA wrestlers are had gotten out. Randy Ricci suggested on the Nawf blog that his trainer Bubba, who has a fearsome repuation in TNA, had "put the fear of God into him," hence Neals' loud denials about the story, just days after freely admitting it to the world. Ricci also suggested that his student's remarks may have damaged Bubba politically too (Bubba has been angling for more power backstage for a while now and his trainee embarrassing the company in such a manner likely hasnt helped him at all).

Frankly, Neal hasn't helped himself either. Telling fans to "mind their own business" and, like everyone else in TNA, blaming "the dirtsheets" for his problems. ( are "the dirtsheets" to blame for something he said himself?) That Neal can now make these absurd denials and honestly expect fans to believe him also suggests he has at least some of the self-delusion that people in management do too.  Or he just thinks his fans are idiots.

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