It is not very often Christmas Day trends on Twitter on the fourth of September but it happened this week. The reason was that WWE announced it would be running its flagship show Monday Night RAW live on Christmas Day this year (this year Christmas Day falls on a Monday). This will be the first time in the history of RAW – which started in 1993 – that a live episode of RAW will be broadcast on Christmas Day (on previous years when Christmas Day fell on a Monday RAW broadcast taped episodes).
Needless to say the news provoked strong responses. Most people thought that as the wrestlers work every week of the year they should at least have Christmas Day off. Others did say that the NBA in the States and the Premier League here play in the festive season so why shouldn’t WWE be live on Christmas Day? But a big difference of course is that both the NBA and the Premier League have off seasons. Of course some people will say that WWE is not a sport but scripted entertainment but that argument is not relevant because although scripted programmes like the popular UK soap operas Coronation Street and EastEnders are broadcast on Christmas Day they are not live – they are recorded so the actors get the festive season off and can watch themselves on TV!
At first – given his company’s reputation for running its wrestlers into the ground – WWE chairman Vince McMahon was blamed for the decision to have RAW live on Christmas Day. But it later emerged that it was the USA Network – the TV channel that broadcasts RAW – wanted the live festive RAW. Quite why is a mystery since the ratings for RAW go down during American holidays like the 4th of July and Labor Day and the ratings for the festive RAW are expected to be low (this is a difference between the US and the UK. Historically some of the highest UK TV ratings have been recorded over the Christmas period – for example 30 million watched the Morecambe and Wise Christmas shows in 1976 and 1977 and in 1986 the same number watched a famous Christmas Day episode of EastEnders where Den gave wife Angie divorce papers. Ouch. Even today the BBC and ITV load the festive schedule with their most popular programmes).
But whatever one thinks of a live Christmas Day RAW the story exposes a major problem with the wrestling industry. It is neither regulated or unionised. That means Vince McMahon and the USA Network can do whatever they want as there is no regulation and no protection for wrestlers whatsoever. That is why McMahon can get away with forcing his wrestlers to work 300 days a year and be classified as “independent contractors” not “employees” which means that they are denied countless benefits to which they would otherwise be entitled.
But regulation would also benefit wrestling in other ways. A governing body would surely get rid of the abomination that is intergender wrestling. Mixed professional football for example is banned by the sports governing body FIFA. A governing body for wrestling would surely do the same.
Plus regulation would allow wrestling to get rid of rotten eggs. An example of a rotten egg in wrestling is former Lucha Underground Champion Sexy Star -who ironically made her name in intergender wrestling (see above). A couple of weeks ago she legitimately injured fellow wrestler Rosemary dislocating her arm by doing an arm bar for real. This is a complete no no. Wrestlers work together to prevent injury so when a wrestler “goes into business for themselves” and turns it into a “shoot” (ie fights for real) it is serious. Sexy Star has quite rightly been heavily criticised in the wrestling industry but I suspect some immoral promotion – probably in her native Mexico – will employ her when the fuss dies down. In a regulated sport like boxing a governing body would revoke her licence for a certain amount of time – maybe forever.
In fact each wrestler having to get a licence to compete would really benefit the industry. If a wrestler had to get medically examined say every five years and had to pass a medical to retain his or her licence it could spot say concussions. If Chris Benoit had an examination every five years the state of his brain could have been spotted before the tragedy of 2007 when he killed his wife and child then killed himself. Plus it could stop wrestlers going on too long. Also to get a licence wrestlers should have to pass minimum standards so that dangerously under qualified wrestlers like Eva Marie would not be allowed in the ring where they were a danger to others.
Vince McMahon won’t like it but wrestling would benefit from being regulated by a governing body. Wrestlers would get the same benefits as other employees, they would not be forced to do a live RAW on Christmas Day, they would not have to work 300 days a year, the abomination that is intergender wrestling would be banned, trash like Sexy Star would be banned and wrestlers would not be able to compete without a licence which could protect them from long term health damage. It is time. It is time for professional wrestling to submit to regulation.