The Big Guy (formerly known as Ryback, real name Ryan Reeves) wasn’t exactly shy about the circumstances which lead to him sitting out the end of his WWE contract.
But now that he’s free and clear of that deal, he’s fully explaining his side of the story on his new podcast, Conversations with The Big Guy.
We’ll have a few posts of quotes and discussions from Reeves’ debut episode, because it features some big claims about his dealings with WWE and interesting revelations about what life is like as an independent contractor for the biggest wrestling company in history.
Reeves talks specifics of the offer the company made before he left, detailing a conversation with Executive Vice-President Paul “Triple H” Levesque about the deal:
It was not about a money issue. Just so everybody knows, I walked away from the WWE. The contract offer that I walked away from was a 3-year, $1.5 million contract. I told Hunter, me and Hunter had many conversations that last year and they were quite heated at times, and I would tell him it's not about the money. And he goes “it sounds like it's completely about the money.”
No. And he finally understood when we were finally done (with) our last talk it was about creative and it was about limiting me as a brand, because I am responsible for my brand, the Ryback brand, the Feed Me More brand that I believe so strongly in.
When I am told I have to go out there and lose in two minutes or not have any build up for a pay-per-view match, which happened time and time again, when I'm not given opportunities to do promos or be myself that's what truly bothers me. When I'm not allowed to sell merchandise or when they tell me 'your merchandise is over on a ship for three years waiting to come over' when I can get it done in two weeks on my own.
It's little things like that that I wanted a commitment from on a much deeper end. The money is just one part of it. I was very happy with the money offer that me and Vince came to an agreement on. It was so many other things outside of that.
Of course, building and promoting a brand is, at its core, a money issue, but this jives with his complaints about WWE’s lack of commitment to him.
As the Big Guy continued, he explained how even the impressive sounding figure of $1.5 million can still leave a wrestler with money issues:
I talked about the hotels and the rental cars, and I'll get into that too, I had that added into the contract at the end because I had already... in my mind I wanted out. They 100-percent should cover... if all these independent promotions can cover your hotel and rental car... But you know what I mean. ... It's mind blowing that this is 2016 and this is still going on. I think that they're 30 years behind everything else.
For people when you first get on the road usually out of developmental, they kind of take care of those expenses for the first two, three, or four months. I think that's to kind of ease you into that transition of coming up. Because what a lot of people don't realize, I sit there and I say $1.5 million over three years -- you take $600,000 out of that for taxes, 40-percent is usually what we're going to be taxed, the tax rate for the amount of money that we're making. Then you put in travel expenses and it depends. I travel alone, so my expenses are higher than when traveling with three or four guys who are trying to save money. My travel expenses are $150,000 a year, easy.
It's not as much money as you think after you start taking away some of those expenses. For what you're putting your body through and what you're doing and the amount of work you're doing and the amount of money you're earning the company, it's just one of those things I think needs to be looked into.
A lot of people, like I said already - don't live in fear. It's not right so it's not fucking right, do something about it. Don't just... people come in there and we're all fans of the business and I feel like they've always preyed upon that, guys who have a love for the business because well, where else are you going to go?
$150K a year, which is where that contract minus just those expense would get Ryback by his math (but doesn’t include insurance, gear and other things wrestlers pay for out of their own pockets) is a nice chunk of change for many people. But he raises good points about what these men and women are doing for their bodies to earn that money, and the things WWE retains control of - like merchandise and promotion - while leaving other, expensive things, in the worker’s hands.
It’s a lot to digest, Cagesiders. What’s your take?