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Alexa Bliss’ answer to an independent contractor question shows the uphill battle a WWE union faces

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This Alexa Bliss quote, from the Nov. 8 episode of the Allison Rosen Is Your New Best Friend podcast, made the rounds a couple weeks ago.

Posed with the fan-submitted question, “WWE has come under fire in recent years for its stance on its wrestlers as independent contractors. Is this still the case? Do you ever feel like there’s pressure to be in the ring even if you are hurt or feeling ill?” Bliss responded:

“WWE takes care of us 100%. We all are in a contract, and anything that happens inside the ring WWE takes care of. Our health is 100% priority - our health and safety is 100% priority in the company.

“And, you know, unfortunately, we’re living in the middle of a cancel culture, where people try to start rumors, and, you know, make their assumptions of things. And, you know, there has never been a time where I’ve ever felt uncomfortable about being in the ring, or ever felt forced of being in the ring. Even when I was injured, I had concussions, and Vince said ‘Alright, we’re gonna send you to the best specialists there are.’ And he did, and I saw a concussion specialist, and they went above and beyond taking care of me. And I know everyone feels that way.”

At the time, I didn’t have much to say about it. Twitter was taking Bliss to task for toeing the company line/bootlicking, which didn’t seem entirely fair to me given the nature of the question she was asked and the forum in which she was asked it.

She’s asked to comment on something that mistakes the independent contractor issue as being strictly about in-ring risk, which allows her to focus her statement on something WWE is pretty good at (or at least has gotten a lot better at over the course of the past twenty years). And, no offense to Ms. Rosen, but this is about the most softball way to bring this topic up with a talent. There’s no context or follow-up to the question, so Bliss doesn’t get to expand on her statement in ways that would make it easier to discern where she really stands.

But in light of everything that’s gone on since Zelina Vega was released last Friday - especially the hopes of the WWE roster organizing to better their negotiating position with Vince McMahon on issues like the Twitch ban - I do think it’s useful to examine Alexa’s answer.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t give me much optimism that any work done by Andrew Yang, the Screen Actor’s Guild, Paige, or Vega will get very far.

Dismissing criticisms of how WWE classifies wrestlers as “cancel culture” strikes me as the kind of answer a public relations department would give people to use to shut down an entire line of questioning. No one has been “cancelled” over their stance in this debate. If it was hurting anyone, it would be Vince - and Monday’s ratings don’t point to the Chairman or his company being in danger of cancellation as a result of blowback from letting Zelina go.

If my guess is right, it would mean wrestlers doing publicity for WWE are receptive to taking pointers from the company on how to shut down the contractor/employee discussion during appearances. Which means they see management as their ally in this, which makes convincing them to stand up to management that much harder.

Bliss saying “everyone feels this way” makes it sound like there’s a significant portion of the roster who take a similar approach to answering the question. So someone looking to organize the locker room will have to be ready to work - and be very persuasive.

Hopefully, stars like Alexa can be educated on how collective action isn’t just “wokeness” or “virtue signaling” and can actually be beneficial to wrestlers now and in the future.

But it’s gonna take more than just a few weeks of anger over a new policy & a firing, and more than a politician interview or a labor leader’s tweet, for us to get there.