At the end of the day, professional wrestling is a business. It all depends on how you apply yourself in the business. Do you want to seek out the opportunities? Do you want them to seek you out? What are you willing to sacrifice to get what you want? It’s not exactly the easiest of things to go through. You hear a lot of stories about guys only making next to peanuts for their initial paychecks, or a little more than that. There are also the two biggest drains on one’s budget: travel expenses and health concerns. The life of the wrestler is not very glamorous, but it’s a passion for a select set of people in this world. But, there is always the question of what happens to the wrestler that gets the “golden egg”. What if your exploits in independent wrestling gets you noticed? What if there’s a contract waiting for you for more stable work? The answers to these questions used to be easy to answer, one way or another. However, as time has passed, the black and white of success in wrestling has grayed just a bit.
Everyone and their mother would tell you over the years that ultimately, the main goal was to make it to the big time. Once the WWE established themselves as the biggest game in town, you had to make it there for at least a cup of coffee or two. They had all the cards for general success. In the WWE, you get television exposure, PPV matches, better pay, and even merchandise if you were lucky. Suffice to say; when the wrestling wars of the last century came to fruition, if it wasn’t WWE, it was WCW. In WCW, the pay might not have been as good as that of the WWE, but it was still better than your average independent organization. Also, in WCW, a guaranteed contract was an ultimate blessing. How awesome would it be to get paid 5 to 6 figures by salary for an extended amount of time, whether you wrestle or not? However, what few may tell you was what you had to sacrifice to get to these places.
Sure, the pay was great for the WWE. However, there was always a political pecking order you had to follow. There were cliques, locker room politicians, and the like. If you did anything to upset these people, like make more money, or show a modicum of potential to threaten their spot, you could find yourself on the receiving end of a lot of grief and punishment. Also, we have your wrestling persona to consider. Say you were a big fish in a small pond like ECW or an ocean like WCW. Vince McMahon didn’t want to hear how big you were there. Once in the WWE, the slate was clean, and you had to prove yourself. Step out of line in any way, and you were a target for any type of problems coming your way backstage. Your character could be buried in a heartbeat, losing every match you are in. Heck, there are times where you don’t step out of line at all, and your still a target of all that is problematic. WCW was rather similar in many ways. The lower guys who worked well weren’t paid as much, but it was better than most. However, other issues would come into play. Day by day, more wrestlers came out about business backstage in WCW. You have complaints about how Eric Bischoff would treat workers very harshly. This wasn’t even limited to lower card guys, as valued stars like The Giant and Ric Flair would feel his wrath one way or another. Wrestlers with higher political status would maintain power on a tremendous scale, causing locker room unrest. But, hey, the pay is good. Today, places like TNA and ROH have taken their step as the major promotions in the world of wrestling, but I already made references to them before (see “The Revolving Door of Releases” for more info).
But, let’s say you don’t make the jump to the big leagues and remain on the indy scene. Sure, you’re free to do what you want, where you want and how you want it. Seems like paradise, until those bills pile up. Sometimes, air fare isn’t covered. Also, those medical bills are hard to pay at times on what you make. You can find yourself starving and struggling to make ends meet, hustling day to day to get bookings. But, your true fans who know you will support you, unlike the fans of the bigger guys who don’t even know you or want to. To leave your true fans can earn their eternal respect or ultimate disdain.
At the end of the day, pro wrestling is a business. How you conduct yourself and what you do all lies with you. There are many great wrestlers who may never see in the big leagues. There are also a slew of wrestlers that can be seen as undeserving of these big opportunities. But, such is the way of the world. Your dreams as a wrestler should never be shattered no matter what the case may be. If it’s your craft and your passion, see it through to the end and take your successes well. Those who truly support you will do just that. Those who don’t will hate until you hate back. Just remember: anything is possible, no matter how long it takes. Right, Bryan Danielson?