Former WWE superstar CM Punk discussed several issues during his ‘Punk of the Union’ address on his friend’s, Colt Cabana’s podcast, “The art of WRESTLING,” which aired Thanksgiving night.
The amount of attention generated from the podcast gave new meaning to something going viral. Grumpy Cat would be proud.
His fans -- and he has many -- will support him to the end. They will agree with every single word he utters. Then you have those who despise WWE -- the WWE Boo-niverse -- and they will enjoy every negative critique toward the company. Also, you have people who just love someone speaking against the authority (the real authority). You have those who are upset he left and berate him. You have people who will just listen to one side of the story and take that at face value.
So, I felt compelled to react to some of the content. Here is one.
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Punk talked a little about unions, and how pro wrestling needs a union.
I believe a union can help workers get better pay, health/medical benefits, pension plan, improved working conditions.
Pro wrestlers are independent contractors. They pay taxes themselves. When you work for a company as an employee, a portion of each paycheck goes to the Federal Government. An independent contractor does not have to pay as much to the Federal Government per paycheck, but he or she is still responsible for paying taxes. Depending on the person and the accountant, you could earn more take home pay as an independent contractor. There are pluses and minuses.
A union does not exist for pro wrestlers.
Former WWE and WCW superstar Kevin Nash said in a summer interview with me: “People say, ‘Well, you don’t have pensions. You guys don’t have this. You don’t have that,’ and it’s true. We don’t. We don’t have a pensions like the NFL and like Major League Baseball does, but we’re also 1099s. We’re independent contractors. That’s your job to set up your finances. Though, now the company [WWE] also has people who are financial planners. If you don’t have a financial planner, and you’re one of the young guys breaking in, the company can take care of that for you.”
Things have improved for talent, past and present, in WWE. So is a union -- like Punk believes -- a good idea?
WWE Hall of Famer Bret Hart thinks it is beneficial, too. A legend who has done so much for the business and fans, Hart has been very pro-union.
Medical benefits, 401Ks, pensions, you still have to pay something per paycheck to receive those benefits, but it’s difficult to ascertain how a union would hurt wrestlers, unless the union leader is a poor negotiator, i.e. Gene Upshaw, the former leader of the National Football League Players’ Association.
One area I strongly disagree with Punk is when he mentions the NFL and how it is paying former players because of the union. He claims the NFL is now paying “out of the ass,” and that is not true.
For a clearer picture of how the NFL actually saved itself in its situation with former players, read this linked article from Forbes magazine online. Forbes knows a little more than Punk or me about business and finance and how it all works.
I think a union would help talent, but I want to make one thing perfectly clear to fans of pro wrestling, sports entertainment, TNA, ROH and WWE.
WWE Hall of Famer Arn Anderson, a Four Horseman, once said, “Be careful what you wish for.”
I’ve read Twitter, Facebook, Social Meania. Fans have been encouraging, receptive, supportive, sympathetic to Punk’s comments about unionization for pro wrestlers/sports entertainers. That’s understandable.
Any pro wrestling fans also Major League Baseball fans? How about National Basketball Association fans? National Football League? Don’t forget the National Hockey League.
What do they all have in common?
Does the word ‘strike’ mean anything to you? I don’t mean pitch or bowling terminology.
Are you familiar with the term ‘work stoppage?’ Lockout mean something.
Once a union is organized the threat of a strike, work stoppage or lockout is in place. If the union does not get what it wants or if ownership does not like the terms of the proposal, the fans are the ones who will lose.
Plain and simple, unions are not fan-friendly.
Do you enjoy the ability to go online and praise or bash your favorite Monday night pro wrestling/sports entertainment show on the USA Network?
You watch Daniel Bryan, the underdog, make his mark, as you help him achieve superstardom. You can’t believe The Rock makes a surprise return to cut one of those eyebrow raising promos. You’re happy Dolph Ziggler and The Shield reach new heights. You cheer when AJ Lee wins the WWE Divas belt. You are impressed with the emergence of Bray Wyatt. You stand at attention when Sgt. Slaughter returns. You laugh with The Miz, Damien Mizdow, Bad News Barrett. You boo and cheer John Cena.
With a union, that’s all in jeopardy folks.
Oh, it will give us something to discuss on social meania, especially when the contract is up for negotiation, but do fans really want to go there?
WWE is the only weekly episodic television show that is year round, no re-runs. It’s astonishing the company’s achieved that for fans year-in and year-out -- 22 seasons and counting. No re-runs. Remarkable.
Well, don’t you think if talent formed a union, they would negotiate for an off-season like other sports, like other TV shows.
You like watching a live Raw and a new SmackDown every week. Well, with a union, you know what that means. An off-season with re-runs or a break from programming.
How about appearances, autograph signings and good-nature fan interaction. WWE superstars and divas are appreciative of their fans, and that’s something the company endorses wholeheartedly.
With a union, it can be negotiated, like what the NBA did, where players are limited to the amount of appearances they make for the league and team, because everyone wants to meet the superstars.
I’m not anti-union. I just want fans to understand, if they are pro-union for pro wrestling.
I know. So what. Right. Until it affects you, when your favorite superstar or diva will not be attending that European Tour because of the contract negotiated by the union.
Those will occur. It’s not hyperbole. Look at MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, television writers. They’ve all been there; done that. And when that happens, no shows. That also means arena and stadium jobs are lost (ticket takers, concession workers, ushers, clean-up crew, security).
Fans will be very upset and rightfully so.
No Monday Night Raw; No SmackDown; No house shows; No PPVs; No European Tour. At least you can still get WWE Network ($9.99).
Where a union can be beneficial to those under its umbrella, it is not beneficial to the audience, the fans. It’s not meant to be.
I believe talent in any sport, television show, movie is worth whatever someone will pay. If a union helps make their lives better, good for them.
I just want fans to understand, too.
So, when you listen to CM Punk or Bret Hart or any other talent talk unionization, understand what it means to you, the fan.
If talent unionizes and strikes or ownership enforces a lockout, suspending a live Monday Night Raw, how outraged will you be?
I guess you can always watch “Dancing With the Stars.”
In the words of The Miz: “Really? Really?”
During the 1-hour 40-minute plus dissertation, Punk made light about some fans on Twitter calling him ‘a Quieter’ because they can’t spell ‘Quitter.’
Well, since his departure from WWE, he has been ‘Quiet’ about the situation until now. So maybe those fans did know what they were writing. One thing is certain. He’s not quiet anymore.
Cabana and Punk will team again for another session, which airs soon, and fans can email questions to them at:
Cabana is a talented indie wrestler who does a good job with his weekly podcast, 226 episodes spanning more than four years and counting.
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