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The Indie Corner: TNA "Impact Wrestling's" Abuse of the Term "Independent Contractor" Hurts Everyone

TNA Impact Wrestling recently barred its talent from appearing on independent shows that tape for DVD. This would be well within their rights to do if they didn't insist on calling their talent "independent contractors."

Scott Finkelstein

North Shore Professional Wrestling is a well-regarded company in Quebec City, one whose roster boasts such talent as the Super Smash Brothers, El Generico, Kevin Steen and LuFisto. They're established enough to be able to book talent like Chavo Guerrero, who was scheduled to appear at their next event, their October 6th anniversary show, to wrestle Stupefied/Player Dos. Just yesterday, Guerrero had to pull out of this appearance because it was discovered that the show would be taped for DVD release. Impact Wrestling, his main employer, recently amended their already stringent and restrictive policy for taking outside or independent dates to restrict wrestlers from also taking any dates that would be distributed on DVD.

On the surface, I *might* agree with Impact here. It's not really wise to have their employees appear for other companies, no matter how small they may be. There's no working relationship between Impact and NSPW, so why should they allow contracted talent to work there? There's only one problem. Technically, Guerrero is not an Impact employee. He's an independent contractor. That really should mean that he should be allowed to work for several clients peddling his wares, right?

Well, thanks to the dangerous precedent set by WWE, Impact Wrestling is claiming one thing and treating their workers in a totally different manner. It was bad enough when Impact would allow their wrestlers to appear on shows that weren't broadcast on iPPV for exorbitant fees with sometimes unreasonable restrictions on how their contracted wrestlers could be used. At least the option was there. The new restriction basically puts the kibosh on any further appearances elsewhere.

The bread and butter of any independent wrestling promotion's bottom line is without a doubt DVD sales. Show me a company that doesn't release DVDs, and I'll show you a company that's either just starting out or is so localized that DVD production would be a waste of money on their part. Basically, Impact has just killed any chance of their wrestlers working for anyone but that company.

It's nothing new in America, a country where employers look to play fast and loose with treatment of their workers in the name of earning a better profit margin. It's smart business, but if you ask me, it's highly unethical and detrimental to the fabric and health of the industry at large. In WWE it might not mean as much because most wrestlers, even the rarely-seen Trent Barretta, have at least high-five figure salaries (although I'm sure if given the chance to exploit his status as an independent contractor, Barretta would jump at the chance to do so and work for a company like, say, New York Wrestling Connection). In Impact Wrestling though, many contracts for lower-tiered talent are paid per appearance. It's the reason why Jesse Neal, despite working for an allegedly profitable company backed by a legitimately profitable energy outfit, could pass under the food stamp threshold without so much as a batted eyelash from the welfare office. Guys like Robbie E, Zema Ion, Kenny King and other rarely-seen-on-TV wrestlers could use the extra scratch, and now, that opportunity is being denied.

Even more importantly, the opportunity for companies to further mollify the stars who haven't made it yet is now lost. Say what you want about wins and losses and why Impact would be smart not to let their contracted talent lose, but in today's independent climate, a wrestler can be made just as much with a good match where he or she loses as they could with a victory. Guerrero can still go in the ring, so the chance for him to give a rub to Stupefied would have been huge. Instead, the opportunity is lost because Impact wants to find a way to protect their investment without affording them the same rights as a company would have to give an actual, exclusive employee.

It seems the only people who benefit from this designation are Dixie Carter, Vince McMahon and their respective underlings. Wrestlers miss out on supplemental income, while independent promotions now lose a huge chunk of available wrestlers they could utilize on their cards. Furthermore, NSPW in particular has to go back on its initial advertisements and endure Guerrero going on a Twitter rant blasting them when it wasn't their fault to begin with. That being said, they did get a fine replacement for Guerrero in Generico, who for my money is a vast improvement over the late Eddie Guerrero's nephew.

Still, that's not the point. The point is that WWE and especially Impact Wrestling need to stop abusing the term independent contractor. It remains one of the most abhorrent parts of the wrestling industry, and it hurts more people than it helps.

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