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Shocking Story on TNA Wrestling Working Conditions

Shocking allegations about TNA Wrestling Working ConditionsCagesideSeats.com has a fascinating look at the inner workings of TNA Wrestling. This well documented report exposes TNA Wrestling as anything but the family friendly company that you would expect being run by a 46 year old mother of two.

Camel Clutch Blog contributor Brett Clendaniel alerted me of a very interesting article that has popped up online about TNA Wrestling and its working conditions. Ironically Tom just recently wrote a piece about TNA’s questionable working conditions here for Camel Clutch Blog. S. Bruce over at Cage Side Seats goes further, documenting a nine year history of working conditions that would make Kathie Lee Gifford proud.

I don’t want to re-write the entire article, but I do want to touch on a few major points of the piece. The piece documents numerous discrepancies between TNA’s policy in paying for their wrestler’s medical expenses and not. The article also documents the incredible differences in pay between men and women in the company and the hypocrisy of the company when it comes to working conditions. It is a heck of a piece and well worth going out of your way to read.

A few of the highlights that Mr. Bruce uncovers is for one, the settlement in the Konnan lawsuit. Former TNA star Konnan sued TNA Wrestling a few years back for racial discrimination and refusing to pay his medical bills. According to this article TNA actually settled with Konnan for a rumored $1 million (hope he paid back some of those donations) because of initial findings that the company did not want to get out.

Another big topic of the piece is the safety of the pro wrestlers in TNA Wrestling. According to the piece, Alex Shelley and Brian Kendrick were encouraged to perform a more high risk style, even though the company refuses to pay for most wrestlers’ medical bills. The company paid for Ron Killings’ surgery for an injury he received through a TNA booking and then demanded their money back, while the company reportedly paid for Scott Steiner’s surgery on the house. Dixie Carter allowed Eric Bischoff to pressure Rob Terry into taking an unprotected chair shot to the head, even though there is plenty of medical evidence pointing to chair shots to the head causing concussions. Angelina Love who is one of the biggest stars of the company says she worked a few days after receiving a concussion on a TNA show because she couldn’t afford time off. OSCHA, I think we have a problem.

The subject of pay is also brought up and whether the girls who wrestle in TNA are the victims of discrimination. The article points out that while the girls are consistently the highest ratings draw in the company, they are also some of the least paid girls on the roster. According to the piece, Awesome Kong was being paid $400 a match while Survivor star Johnny Fairplay made $300,000 for 40 minutes of work and Sting was being paid $10,000 per appearance. As unfair as that may sound, I don’t think the girls would have a case because I can almost bet Mickie James is making a nice nickel and Christy Hemme reportedly signed a $150,000 year contract a few years back. Sorry ladies.

One of the most humorous anecdotes and I am still laughing at this one goes back to the Voodoo Kin Mafia’s DX challenge a few years ago. To refresh your memories because if you are like me you barely remember what happened on TNA Impact last week, Brian Armstrong and Kip James issued a $1 million challenge to Triple H and Shawn Michaels to come to TNA and “fight them.” The kicker is that Dixie Carter allegedly set $1 million aside and was surprised that Degeneration X never showed up. Ah, to be a fly on the wall in Hogan and Bischoff’s office after a Dixie Carter booking meeting.

There is also a real interesting story regarding Ric Flair’s shenanigans a few weeks ago when he missed the bus on the European tour. According to the story, Flair told a friend that the company pressured Kurt Angle to stay on the tour after Kurt found out that his pregnant girlfriend went into labor and both she and the unborn baby were in serious danger. While Angle made it home in time, the company allegedly held him up from leaving which forced Kurt to arrive home much later than expected.

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Hey, it’s a horrible story but it was just last week that Kurt Angle announced on Twitter that he is re-signing with TNA Wrestling and that he loves Dixie Carter. If it doesn’t bother Kurt I guess it shouldn’t bother anyone, but the Nature Boy wasn’t very happy to say the least.

The article goes on and on and chronicles other issues like reported drug use within the company, harassment, drug testing, the road schedule, and a lot more. It is certainly a scathing piece and one of the most comprehensive looks at the inner workings of TNA Wrestling over the last nine years.

I will conclude by saying this. While I think a lot of what is reported in the story is terrible, nobody is holding a gun to anyone’s head to work there (although Vince Russo must have pictures on someone). At the end of the day everyone in TNA Wrestling knows what they are getting into when they step into the TNA rings and if they want to work under those conditions, I really don’t sympathize too much with them. I can’t imagine anyone in TNA Wrestling being surprised the next time they get injured and receive a medical bill or shocked that Sting makes more than them.

There are other options out there. What did Gail Kim, Ron Killings, and Awesome Kong do? They left the company. Only Kim had a deal in place when she left, as the other two just had enough. I guess the thought of losing $400 a week wasn’t too terrifying for Kong. Point being, that there are other options out there for pro wrestlers besides TNA. Even if the WWE isn’t an option, there are international and independent options. And believe it or not, there are other options other than being a pro wrestler. It may not be fair, but again you know what you are getting into when you join TNA.

The medical bills issue has been a point of contention for some time in TNA. The WWE does pay the medical bills of injured WWE superstars. However, I never understood why none of the professional wrestlers from either company went ahead and pursued insurance through AFTRA. Heck, you have the WWE now calling themselves entertainment television and TNA wrestlers are performing on television every week. There are people that make a living doing television extra work sitting in the background that get AFTRA insurance so why can’t a professional wrestler who puts in hours of television time per week?

The author of the piece sent TNA Wrestling a few emails for comments. He got a very quick response from Terry Taylor but nothing more. I think it would be to TNA Wrestling’s benefit to either a) respond to the story or b) acknowledge it and improve their working conditions. Keep in mind that this is not your average independent pro wrestling company here. This is a company funded by Panda Energy, a multi-million or even billion dollar energy company. Heck, they found $1 million to pay two WWE wrestlers that don’t even wrestle there!

If you don’t believe any of this and while the writer backs up all of his claims with citations, just check out what Hulk Hogan wrote last week after Edge retired. Keep in mind that Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff probably work closer with Dixie Carter than anyone else in the company. When he signed with the company, Dixie Carter referred to him as a partner.

WWE superstar Edge retired last week because he was told that if he wrestled again, he could be paralyzed. Like Edge or not, that is pretty serious stuff and it was enough for Edge to hang them up. This is how “Dixie’s assistant” Hulk Hogan responded to the news on Twitter.

if any of the guys like me,Flair,Hardy,Andre,AA,Blanchard,orndoff,Henning would have listened to doctors we would have quit15yrsago – @hulkhogan4real

I don’t know Edges working environment because they are a media company not a wrestling company. HH wrestlers work hurt! – @hulkhogan4real

What about Foley! I bet EDGE still wants to keep wrestling,he’s one of the boys big time!!! – @hulkhogan4real

Think there is any pressure in TNA to work hurt? “Wrestlers work hurt!” This coming from the guy who now has to walk around with rods in his back while Edge is planning on climbing Mount Everest.

Will any of these issues change? I think it will take more than a $1 million lawsuit by Konnan or an article online to do it. It is going to take a serious and I mean serious lawsuit from a current or former TNA star, an expose’ by a major news organization, public pressure on Panda Energy, a tragedy, or an outright revolt by the roster. Unless any of the above happens, as fans and viewers there isn’t much you can do. If you disagree with it, don’t watch and make your statement through your lack of business. If you do watch, enjoy it and remember that these guys and girls aren’t forced to be there.

I would also like readers to keep in mind that I am only commenting on what is in Cageside Seats’ article. I’d recommend heading over to their site and leaving a comment if you have any issue with specifics from their article. In other words, don’t kill the messenger.

Read the full article at Cageside Seats for citations and more fun about the wonderful world of TNA Wrestling.

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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