The state of healthcare for pro wrestlers became a hot topic recently when John Oliver did a segment about WWE’s business practices last month. Since then, a WWE wrestler joked on Twitter about this and an indie wrestler revealed it was why he chose not to work with the company. But even before the mainstream exposure of this issue, people wondered if All Elite Wrestling, the new wrestling company with “change the world” as its slogan, would provide healthcare benefits for its performers, especially since one of their Executive Vice Presidents had publicly supported this in the past.
While AEW vows to be different from WWE, the Young Bucks and company president Tony Khan didn’t describe a benefits plan all that different from that of the industry giant when asked about it back in January, saying a “healthcare package… could be available” in the future, but at that time, this was only provided for executives.
In an extremely favorable article on Bleacher Report – which is, like AEW’s TV home, TNT, owned by Warner Media, and on whose streaming service, B/R Live, Double or Nothing will be available to purchase as a PPV – some AEW representatives gave more detailed statements about benefits for their workers.
In the case of Cody, he first clarified his views on organized labor in general. He said that when he said “a union in wrestling would destroy wrestling” he was only referring to small independent promotions, and that he and Matt Jackson are trying “to push to a place where there is some sort of governing body that helps protect the current generation but also older veterans that will soon be retiring,” which sure sounds like a union or a guild.
Cody also stated that it won’t only be the wrestlers who are also AEW executives getting benefits, saying, “There are several wrestlers outside the EVP element that are going to receive benefits and health care. That’s a first for wrestling, and these are slow and steady steps and I’m super proud. But it can’t happen overnight. That’s what I should have said all along.” Cody didn’t specify who these other wrestlers are or what criteria they meet to be eligible for benefits.
While Cody repeated his statement from the first AEW rally that the company will cover injuries sustained in their ring (punctuated by “You know me. You’ve seen my smile. I am above board.”), Khan likewise repeated that a major way AEW plans to take care of its wrestlers is with a lighter work schedule, though the company will not have an offseason. In Khan’s words:
I’m not planning on doing hundreds of non-televised events on tour, because I don’t think that would represent a large enough revenue stream for us and profitable enough business sector for us to risk the health and well-being of all these wrestlers. I’m not gonna have an offseason, but there will be a lighter schedule and we’ll work people in and out.
The Bleacher Report article says that all this boils down to “AEW fans… entering into a social contract of sorts: fewer house shows at your local county center and less likelihood that all of your favorite fighters will be on every card, in exchange for the comfort of knowing your ticket purchase isn’t hastening their untimely death.”
Let’s be real though, wrestling fans: Stone Cold Steve Austin broke his neck when a piledriver went wrong. Takayama became paralyzed doing a sunset flip. Pro wrestling is dangerous and any wrestler could suffer an untimely death in any match. However, it looks like AEW is experimenting with its own way of making sure its talent have longer and less grueling careers.