Outside of some buzz about Chris Jericho & PAC, the focus coming out of All Elite Wrestling’s launch rally yesterday (Jan. 8) in Jacksonville, Florida has been on wrestler pay & benefits.
It likely would have been the case even if Cody Rhodes hadn’t said the new company would “change the wrestling economy” during the rally, or if Matt Jackson of the Young Bucks hadn’t told reporters after the event that “the big thing about All Elite is that we want to take care of the boys [wrestlers]”, or Brandi Rhodes hadn’t made the claim “we care about our women, they are top talent, so they will be paid equally.”
It’s especially the case considering the Bucks’ Nick Jackson has in the past stated a belief wrestlers should get health insurance through the company’s they perform for, and Cody has sounded pro-union.
So what did AEW executives like the Rhodes, the Jacksons and President Tony Khan actually say about topics like equal pay and health insurance?
Here’s what we heard in the post-rally question & answer sessions that have been covered by Pro Wrestling Sheet and Wrestling Inc:
What Khan told Inc’s Nick Hausman sounds like management will be getting insurance, and they hope to make it easier for wrestlers to also work in management at AEW. He also mentioned some plans which might result in fewer injuries:
“Different people, depending on their level of responsibility within the company, will have different deals. And I think that there’s a great opportunity for people to gain full-time employment in this company, not just as a wrestler, but also in the front office. And I think that there were already a lot of people that were very integral in the production today, and getting all these people here, and putting on, what I think, was an exciting first night for us.
We already have a lot of people involved and we’ll definitely be taking really good care of our employees, and also favorable schedule - I don’t want to run down guys with too many dates and too much time on the road. I feel really positive about what we’re doing in taking care of the guys and we have great management. And the guys that are focused on it, Cody and the Bucks, they are very very hands on with the talent and I’m sure that, you know, for us the kind of people we’re bringing in, they’re gonna contribute to the company in a number of ways, so yeah, I think there is a package - a compensation package and a healthcare package - that can be available.”
Overall that lines up with what Matt Jackson said, too:
“The executives are going to have benefits and stuff, and they’re going to get taken care of. We’re at the day one process of that and we’re working on it, but yeah, that’s definitely a plan... never say never [to talent getting health insurance “one day”]. We’re early on, so we’re creaking open that door barely - hopefully, we one day we can swing it wide open.”
Cody confirmed AEW will pay for treatment for any injuries wrestlers sustain while performing for the company (the same as WWE), and went on to say:
“Getting back to the case-by-case element, the first thing we want to do in raising the profile is raise pay. And we’re a start-up, so that’s kind of backwards, but that’s okay, that’s our goal. I meant what I said - the wrestling economy, happier wrestlers means happier fans. Wrestlers who have choices - you can’t pay someone minimum wage to just go to a wrestling school and expect them to be excited about that. We’re not doing that. And I don’t mean to knock anyone who is, I’m just saying we’re not doing that. But yeah, as of now, insurance in the ring, that’s all covered and we’re gonna move forward, hopefully after Double or Nothing we can tighten up the infrastructure even more.
My goal, some people know this, I’d like to see wrestling just like the television industry that I’ve done a few bit roles here and there, but that treatment and that care you get for your time on screen. You have a comparable influence as a pro wrestler, you’re just as recognizable and you should be just as taken care of.
I pointed him out to you, Chris Harrington [of the excellent Wrestlenomics team]... he’s the master with the money and he’s the one who’s helping us go slow enough that we can take care of the people we want to care of.”
On the issue of wage equality, some online took AEW to task by saying Britt Baker, the company’s first female wrestler signed, obviously isn’t getting the same check Jericho is. The Chief Brand Officer responded with some clarification:
Equal pay means equal opportunity regardless of sex. It does not mean that everyone will be paid the exact same salary regardless of their position. It means the gender pay gap does not apply. An entry level woman won’t make less than an entry level man because of her gender.— Brandi Rhodes (@TheBrandiRhodes) January 9, 2019
Long story short - the AEW team is saying the right things, but even in areas where they have concrete proposals like a lighter schedule, we won’t know how that plays out in the real world until the promotion is more than a list of names.