The fallout from WWE’s decision to restrict its independent contractors’ ability to engage in third-party deals with internet services like Cameo and Twitch included a condemnation from entrepreneur and former candidate for President Andrew Yang.
Yang went in-depth on a number of issues he has with how Vince McMahon does business while speaking with Chris Van Vliet last week. In a new interview with The Wrestling Inc Daily podcast, the man who hopes to be Secretary of Labor in a Joe Biden administration next year brought the argument to the AEW/WWE debate:
“I think AEW has been a leader in terms of being talent friendly, and you can see it with the fact that several wrestlers were integral to the formation of AEW. When I’ve talked to folks who work for AEW, they really like the fact that they can perform for other promotions, which obviously you know is not something that’s happening at WWE. So I do think that AEW has a very different attitude towards its talent, and AEW is an up-and-coming promotion that is doing the right thing by talent in part because they know that that’s going to be a way they can compete and be successful. The WWE is in a very different position where they are a quasi-monopoly, and they’re plugging wrestlers into a machine that they feel like they built and they feel like any wrestler is lucky to be there and they need to keep their mouths shut. It seems like a very different approach to talent because the companies are in very different places and have different cultures.”
The quote will get some knee-jerk reactions from wrestling fans who identify with one promotion or the other, but Yang makes some interesting points - especially with regard to where each company’s power in the market and how that impacts what it demands of its performers. AEW may have a different approach in the decades to come if they continue to grow and succeed, and while he’s encouraged by their handling of things now, Yang would probably agree they fall short of an ideal wrestler/management relationship.
For example, organization via the Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) seems to be Yang’s preferred remedy for wrestling’s labor issues...
“I think that’s one approach that could really work wonders, and if you were to ask professional wrestlers, ‘how many of you would like to be part of the Screen Actors Guild?’ I have a feeling you’d see every single hand go up because SAG affords tremendous protections to other actors and actresses who are on screen every day and every week. The parallels are almost 100% where if you’re a professional wrestler, you are inhabiting a character, you are given storylines and plots, in some cases you’re given actual lines, you rehearse [and] you perform in front of a televised audience. So they should be members of SAG, and that would be transformative for the industry. Wrestling has been in the dark in terms of it being included in things like SAG because of its roots, but if you look up at the reality now, I mean you’re talking about hours and hours of scripted TV programming every week, and the wrestlers are the talent. So by right, they should be considered for SAG membership and all of its protections.”
... isn’t something AEW’s leadership team has embraced in the past.
We’ll see what the future holds for oversight of Tony Khan’s contracts with talent. Talking to Wrestling Inc, Yang again made it clear what his short-term goal is:
“What I said in another conversation is that Vince has been getting away with exploitation of his performers for decades and the bill is coming due, and I plan on being one of the people that presents him that bill and get some to pay it.”