For wrestling fans around the world, it’s basically Super Bowl week. The year-long wrestling “season” comes to a close on Sunday, with the WWE’s annual epic show of WrestleMania. Coming live from MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, somewhere around 85,000 fans will witness it live and millions more will be tuning in from their living rooms to watch the pinnacle of professional wrestling theater.
However, if you know anything at all about the strange world of professional wrestling, and the WWE specifically, you’ll know it’s an industry filled with shadiness, scumbag promoters, exploitation, and a long and sordid history of many types of substance abuse. On the latest episode of Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver took the WWE to task over something that many fans are either ignorant of, or willingly ignore.
All of the WWE performers are technically labeled as independent contractors. That means that the WWE, a company worth billions of dollars, doesn’t have to give them the same kind of employment benefits they normally would a regular, salaried employee. That includes health insurance, which seems like a big deal when your job description includes putting your body through brutal physical punishment over 250 days a year. Yes, the wins and losses are predetermined, but the physical toll of being a pro wrestler is very real.
Oliver sheds some more light on the topic, and also suggests that fans in attendance at WrestleMania try out a new chant, aimed at WWE CEO Vince McMahon.
(This video isn’t available in every country, but it’s worth seeking out elsewhere if you’re geoblocked.)