John Oliver’s ‘Last Week Tonight’ has tackled pro wrestling and the WWE before — most notably for its relationship with Saudi Arabia, in not one but two segments — but Sunday night’s episode made the company its top story, dealing with issues that are familiar to fans but probably shocking to most. You know, stuff like how the wrestlers are “independent contractors” instead of employees, the fact that so many professional wrestlers die young, and the humor of watching a crazy old man get hit in the head with a bedpan.
If you’re the type who frequents wrestling blogs looking for news and jokes about the sport — hello, literally anyone reading this — you’ll be familiar with this tone.
“Let me say this … I like wrestling. And you might be surprised to hear that, but I’d argue it’s objectively entertaining. And the WWE has over the years delivered numerous ludicrous and genuinely incredible moments, from when Jake The Snake Roberts set a live cobra on Macho Man Randy Savage, to the time Braun Strowman suplexed the Big Show off the turnbuckle and broke the entire ring, to when Stone Cold Steve Austin drove a beer truck into the arena and sprayed The Corporation with a beer hose, not to be mistaken with the time Kurt Angle drove a milk truck into the arena and sprayed Stone Cold Steve Austin with a milk hose …”
Listening to a live HBO show taping audience react to this kind of stuff is great. It’s a little less great to hear them gasp at graphs of wrestler deaths and footage of Vince McMahon losing his cool during interviews, but I think this is the kind of moral ambiguity we live with as fans every day. You can watch the segment below, and decide for yourself.
With less than a week now before WrestleMania it’ll be interesting to see if mainstream coverage of some of wrestling’s most longstanding and questionable talking points will make any difference in the industry, but if Oliver thinks fans are going to chant about it during WrestleMania, he’s probably severely underestimating how much they wanna yell “burn it down.”