UPDATE: As noted earlier this evening here on eWn, WWE notified their talents on Thursday via email that all talents who are using their name and likeness in ways that are “detrimental” to WWE with “third parties” must cease doing so by Friday, October 2nd and if they fail to do so, they risk fines, suspension or even termination going forward.
The wording was very vague in the email, which led to the wrestlers being fearful and reacting negatively to WWE’s request. Many feel this was a method done to have their personal streaming channels (such as Twitch, Cameo, YouTube, etc.) shut down without written consent or authority from WWE themselves.
More is expected to be explained to the WWE Superstars at this week’s TV tapings.
A number of wrestlers have taken to streaming live on Twitch to connect with their fans and obviously, make money through Twitch’s monetization systems. Some chat with and have conversations with fans while others play video games and discuss real life topics and concerns. Other wrestlers have launched personal YouTube channels where they create and produce their own content, monetizing the videos via advertising and promoting their own personal brands and interests outside of the scope of their WWE personalities. Others have taken to delivering video messages to fans via Cameo.com, such as Roman Reigns, Alexa Bliss and Charlotte Flair, charging around $400 per video. Cameo is a service that allows fans to purchase personalized greetings as gifts from celebrities. These are done using the talents’ real names, not their WWE personas, although obviously, it’s the same person.
A particular WWE Superstar (anonymously) described using those platforms as a way to make additional revenue for themselves during the pandemic since WWE has halted their live events, touring and other things. That means no bonuses or merchandise royalties, which meant wrestlers had to go outside the box in order to make money during these trying times. AJ Styles, for example, began streaming on Twitch, coming on board the streaming service after streaming on another platform called “Mixer”.
However, wrestlers not on the level of an AJ Styles that are on the lower end of the card or enhancement talent level need to rely on these third party entities in order to survive financially and provide for their families. For that reason, as well as the belief that they have the ability to create their own content with their own time, WWE’s email has led to some grumbling from those who feel WWE is now trying to hurt their ability to make outside money during a time period where their own WWE earnings are hurt by the pandemic.
Many also feel they’re losing the freedom of expression and a means to promote themselves or their respective brands. No matter the case, many believe that all WWE Superstars would stay no matter how mad or upset they would be at this situation simply because of their passion for the industry, the fans and of course, the job itself. Of course, AEW is around now so things are a bit different.
WWE, from a company and business standpoint, sees this as a way to protect their intellectual property and brand. When a talent signs a WWE contract, they are agreeing to sign away certain rights for WWE to utilize during the length of their contract (which makes sense, just like any other valid work-related contract). If the talents were appearing outside of WWE as their characters or portraying themselves as those characters – for example Saraya Knight appearing as Paige, or Joe Anoa’i appearing as Roman Reigns, as opposed to appearing under their real names – certainly WWE would be well within their rights to object to that, just as they could if someone used their WWE ring name while appearing on an independent wrestling show.
WWE’s goal, as compared to Disney’s, would be to protect their brand and IP from being exploited by others in a way the company doesn’t approve of. There is a massive gray area here, because Disney doesn’t have to worry about Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck working on his own projects. In the case of the WWE Superstars, where does the line get drawn when those potentially exploiting WWE’s Intellectual Property would be the talents themselves? Where does the line get drawn between for Saraya Knight (Paige) or Joe Anoa’i (Roman Reigns), especially in a world where WWE has portrayed her under her real name on a reality series?
However, it is possible that WWE simply wants any such ventures to come through the company so they can be in complete control of the talents and how they are utilized and portrayed. There’s no word whether this means WWE is looking to do more beyond what they currently produce on streaming platforms or whether they want to launch their own Cameo style of service for the WWE Universe.
Over the last 24 hours, there has been a lot of talk among talents about pushing back against WWE’s edict if they are indeed being required to shut down their personal streaming channels, but whether that actually happens or not remains to be seen. As of now, talents don’t have clear clarification of what is and is not allowed going forward, and until they do, their concerns won’t be alleviated, especially when they are being told that they cannot use their own likeness, in essence, their own face, for outside projects.
No official word has been released (yet) by WWE on this topic. We will keep you updated on this story as it develops.
ORIGINAL: It looks as if the days of WWE Superstars using Twitch, Cameo, YouTube, and other third parties to earn some extra revenue are coming to an end. This comes during the COVID-19 pandemic, where many Superstars are using these platforms to earn some extra cash while WWE isn’t running live events. That obviously cuts out some of their bonuses and merchandise earnings.
According to a report from Wrestlinginc.com, Vince McMahon sent a letter to WWE talents on Thursday, telling them that they have 30 days to stop engaging with third parties. If they don’t comply, they will face fines, suspensions and even termination at WWE’s discretion.
With that being said, there is no word on what “third parties” means as of this writing. As many of you know, numerous WWE Superstars run their own Twitch, Cameo, and YouTube.com accounts. Some of those names include Roman Reigns, AJ Styles, Ric Flair, Asuka, Peyton Royce, Billie Kay, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, Charlotte Flair, Xavier Woods, Liv Morgan, and many others.
The company held a conference call with talent on Sunday, discussing the “reinvention of the product”. During that meeting, it came up that WWE owns the real names of talent in addition to their character names. As many of you know by now, many of the Superstars on YouTube.com and other platforms have been using their real names. Of course, WWE Superstars are independent contractors so there could be some legal issues here.
McMahon’s letter said, “Some of you are engaged with outside third parties using your name and likeness in ways that are detrimental to our company. It is imperative that these activities be terminated within the next 30 days (by Friday October 2). Continued violations will result in fines, suspension, or termination at WWE’s discretion.”
McMahon also claimed in the letter that the actions are “necessary” as part of WWE’s rebuilding process as they “enter the next phase of growth at WWE.”