There might be a few interesting chants and signs in the crowd during WrestleMania 35 this weekend in New Jersey.
On Sunday night, HBO’s Emmy Award winning news and comedy series ‘Last Week Tonight’ spent the majority of the show dismantling the WWE and their business practices including the treatment of wrestlers, the lack of long-term care for the athletes and taking shots at WWE CEO Vince McMahon for his boorish behavior over the years.
When it came to McMahon, Oliver showed the kind of power he wields over the WWE universe including final say on everything from matchups to the scripts used during live television — and then he aired a clip from several years ago where he actually used the N-word live on television in a poor attempt at comedy.
“While the character Vince is an a–hole, it’s important to know that the real Vince is also an a–hole,” Oliver said. “Many fans legitimately hate him because while the WWE has made him a billionaire, many wrestlers say he’s treated him terribly.”
The biggest part of the segment was spent on the way WWE treats its athletes, particularly while calling them independent contractors rather than employees.
The reason behind that distinction is that WWE is then allowed to deny the athletes basic health care, pensions, and paid leave yet the wrestlers are held under long-term, exclusive contracts that prevent them from working for any other organization.
“Maybe when wrestlers might work years ago for multiple, different [wrestling] organizations, it made sense to call them contractors,” Oliver said. “But now that WWE has a choke hold on this industry, it makes just as much sense to call them that as it does to call Jimmy Carter a ‘panty-dropping f–k machine.’ It’s just clearly not true, anymore.”
Oliver also focused on numerous wrestlers who have died young while pointing out that there is no off season for WWE performers where they are allowed to let their bodies rest and recover.
He pointed directly towards the large number of athlete deaths amongst past WWE superstars including stats that show professional wrestlers die much younger than even past football players from the NFL.
Oliver also noted that many past performers from WWE have almost become destitute after leaving the organization because wrestlers don’t have any sort of pension benefits and many of them have been forced to turn to fans to help them pay for expensive medical procedures like a fund that was set up to help Jake “The Snake” Roberts get surgery a few years ago.
Oliver closed the piece by pointing out that WWE had attempted to make some changes to their health and wellness program over the years but ultimately the promotion was far behind every other major sports organization out there when it came to the treatment of their athletes — even worse than the NFL.
“Even the NFL, for all its massive faults, now offers players health reimbursement accounts and have established a legacy fund for older players who may be dealing with health issues,” Oliver stated “And when you have lost the moral high ground to the f–king NFL, you are morally subterranean.”
As he finished the story, Oliver mentioned how much power fans have over the WWE and he suggested that perhaps the people attending WrestleMania 35 this weekend could come up with a few new chants or perhaps some interesting signs to carry into the stadium with them this weekend.
WWE has not made any public statement regarding the piece since it aired on Sunday night.