Last week Killer Kross and Timothy Thatcher officially signed with WWE, putting an end to several months of speculation as to where they’d end up. Kross in particular has been a hot name ever since word got out about his beefs with management at Impact Wrestling; coupled with his girlfriend Scarlett Bordeaux getting her release from there. I got to say I was somewhat surprised by both.
Thatcher is one of those ‘great wrestler but so what?‘ guys; and Kross struck me as the type who’d want to be able to work in a bunch of different places and not be tied into any exclusive deal. But sign with WWE they did, and in doing so unleashed a stampede of ‘they’re going to be ruined!‘ and ‘why?‘ tweets; in addition to the usual ‘hoarding talent!‘ takes which while somewhat true don’t capture what’s really going on here.
In both cases we have guys who were very well known on the indie circuit; who worked for smaller companies, and are highly regarded by people who’ve seen them work and have dealt with them. These guys had options, from WWE to AEW to New Japan. They weren’t midcarders in ROH or Impact who maybe caught HHH’s eye but; weren’t particularly in demand. Both have undoubtedly heard the good, the bad, and the ugly about being in the WWE system from friends and contacts; so neither of them is very naive about what they’re getting into.
They had choices, and both chose to sign with WWE. For all the talk about WWE hoarding talent (they do); what never seems to get discussed is that these guys and gals are not being kidnapped and forced to sign but are choosing to go work there. After a year in which Jon Moxley straight up walked away from WWE, and opened fire on the creative process; seemingly giving a free pass to everyone who wanted to unload on the company. There was even an entire new company built under the mantra that they were going to be more for the boys.
How are we still at a point where two highly coveted free agents chose to go there?
The fact they are still considered the best option by people who actually work in the business; speaks volumes to what people in the know, who don’t have an agenda, think of not just WWE but AEW, and other companies as well. Everyone knows that signing there can result in a one way trip to catering; and yet they’re still doing it anyway. For all the internet chatter about creative freedom, and the very real and perceived loss of such, when signing there; that isn’t stopping people from coming in.
Now I know a lot of you guys and gals flat out don’t want to see your favorite people working there; and you’d rather see them just about anywhere else. Well if you don’t want your favorite wrestlers to accept an offer from the so called evil empire; there’s only one real way to prevent that from happening, and that’s to get them paid more. If you want those people to never have to make the call to work for a company you’d rather them avoid; life has to get better outside.
One of the dirty truths about the business is that there is a near permanent underclass that gets paid chump change by all the people they work for. In case you forgot, ROH was paying their Women’s Champion Kelly Klein 20,000 a year in 2019. ‘You get to work other dates!‘ is often code for ‘I don’t have to pay you very much‘, and while that’s understandable for some local indies; the companies that are backed by big money (ROH, Impact, New Japan, and AEW) can absolutely afford to pay people more.
Want an example?
Tommaso Ciampa was making the same 20,000 in 2016 that Klein was making last year (there’s something to be said for a male midcarder in 2016 getting the same money as the women’s champion in 2019, by the way); and by his own words wanted to stay in ROH but was rebuffed from getting any kind of raise. so off he went. You don’t have to pay everyone millions of dollars (WWE doesn’t pay everyone like that either); and you don’t even have to pay them all main roster WWE money. But when people are willing to leave in droves for $60,000 NXT contracts you’re telling me you can’t make up the difference for someone who wants to stay in your company?
For that matter, why as fans do we scream, ‘WWE is stealing everyone!‘ instead of ‘ROH doesn’t pay people worth a damn?‘ This is one of those times where I have to ask, do you really care about these folks as much as you say you do? Because if you do, you should want them to have better options.
There should be a lot more real estate between the grind of the WWE schedule; and the low rent vagabond existence that often exists elsewhere. It shouldn’t be WWE money with a WWE schedule; or having to hustle between a dozen different operations to piece together enough checks to live. There should be more opportunities than there currently are to work fewer dates and still make enough in one spot to live. Now some of that is on the wrestlers to demand (a union would probably be some help on this front); but some of that burden lies on us as well.
The glorification of the starving artist needs to end; you should want all of these folks to get paid enough to live; without having to scour the globe chasing checks if they don’t want to work for WWE. Otherwise, don’t get mad if they chose what they find to be a more reliable if not more lucrative gig.