Someone I worked with in WCW put it thusly: “The boys are the marks now.” He currently works for WWE. He’s seeing his words come to life.
Teeth get gnashed indignantly over CM Punk walking out. The Shield cuts anti-Punk promos at house shows. Michael Cole mocks Punk off-air even as fans chant Punk’s name. It’s all cowardly, ungrateful, disrespectful and unseemly.
But Punk gets the last laugh. He made his money. He doesn’t need WWE.
CM Punk isn’t a mark.
WWE will triple its TV money when its deal comes up for renewal. The WWE network may or may not hit big but, either way, lots of PPV bonuses for the boys get pulled off the table. Vince McMahon has not addressed his performers regarding how their pay gets affected by these changes. Punk walked out, in part, because of McMahon’s refusal to discuss it, either with him or the collective.
Yet WWE’s performers work blithely toward WrestleMania. If they want to know what Punk wanted to know, they’re not asking.
That’s because they’re marks. Mickety-marks, like Scott Hall says.
That’s the only explanation for performers in a big-time entertainment industry not asking hard questions when the amount of their paycheck gets threatened.
How could you not ask? How could you not DEMAND? Why would you not look out for your lifestyle? For your family? Why would you trust WWE to do the right thing? Yeah, OK…good luck with that. How often does WWE do the right thing?
The boys are the marks now. Too many have never worked in an environment where viable employment options exist. TNA isn’t. ROH isn’t. The indies aren’t.
They’re grateful to be on TV. To be recognized in airports. To get what they get. If McMahon defecated in their hat, they’d put it back on and say “thanks.”
When a network sitcom is successful and gets renewed – when ad rates go up and revenue thickens – the performers get more money. That’s how it works. The same goes for reality shows, actors in movies – cash trickles down.
If McMahon has any intention of letting any of his additional revenue trickle down – let alone giving his employees their fair share – he certainly isn’t talking about it.
If the boys had any guts, brains and organizing skills, they’d go to McMahon, as a group, on the morning of WrestleMania and say, “Either we get X, or we’re not performing.” McMahon would have to acquiesce. He’d have no choice.
But there will never be a wrestlers’ union. As one wrestler told me, “You could get every wrestler in the world in the same room, get them to agree to force [collective bargaining], and 10 minutes after the meeting ended, each guy would call the promoter behind everyone’s back, selling out to make a better deal for himself.”
It’s the island of misfit toys. Really, the boys have always been the marks.
I’ve been critical of Hulk Hogan. But when it came to money, he was no mark. Nobody better understood his worth or more doggedly pursued his fair share.
Punk gets it. The morons he left behind don’t. They settle for scraps. Punk doesn’t. They undervalue themselves. Punk doesn’t. They’re marks. Punk isn’t.
Here’s a potential punchline: Those in the know think the WWE Network will stiff, at least initially. WWE already provides six hours of free TV. That’s more than enough fake wrestling. Most WWE PPVs are not that compelling. The other programming will be dumb. “Legends’ House?” Who wants to watch that? Wrestling fans are not necessarily high-tech. Cable TV is their preferred vehicle.
Memo to the boys: McMahon isn’t going to lose money. So you will.
Follow Mark on Twitter: @MarkMaddenX.