Alex Riley doesn’t have the whole thing figured out, but he does know unionization in pro wrestling would be a good thing for the performers you see on television.
Riley (real name Kevin Kiley) recently appeared on Booker T’s Hall Of Fame podcast and spoke about wanting to see a professional wrestler’s union. He says WWE management has been so successful that they are comparable to the NFL or NBA, but those leagues also have unions. He explained that his thoughts aren’t a response to anything negative, but rather a way to make sure pro wrestling and sports entertainment can prosper in the future.
“I really believe that the art of sports entertainment is one of the most beautiful artistic platforms of expression that we have. I believe it is going to be, if it isn’t already, the future of American programming. It’s lasted longer than anything, we have AEW, we have WWE… And then you said yesterday when we spoke about WCW and somebody had to go. I don’t want anybody to go. I want sports entertainment to be a pinnacle structure of programming for the United States forever. Why would it not be? Why does one company, and I know they were battling for business and that was part of that generation. One of them had to go. But if it can be in a way where we’re all working together, and we’re all evolving through television together, I think that’s the best way to utilize that business. I’m talking about when it comes to, well first of all, the sports entertainers having a voice, the talent having a voice….When I can’t watch a program without checking my phone, that’s a problem, in my opinion.
“When we accepted a 1.0 rating, that’s a problem. Sports entertainment is a 5.0 rating. 6, I don’t know how high we can get it. But I don’t know when in the business we started accepting 1.0 ratings. It’s been 5. It’s been 5.3. I don’t know the exact numbers but I was a part of the business for 10 years, I traveled the world, I know the influence that it has. Not just this country, the world. And how many people it brings together, and how many countries it unites over stories. And all credit to Vince McMahon. I believe he’s a genius. I really do. I believe he’s a living genius because he has created a worldwide platform that unites people. So all I’m saying through unification, and I’m not saying anybody’s doing a bad job, that’s not what I’m here to say. This is a very positive, I’m a very positive voice and I’m a very positive message, and I want to remain that way. I say this only with the idea and the hope we can maximize the television, the storylines, the characters and get the rating back up.”
The former WWE star then explained that unionization would give talent a stronger voice and keep things balanced, where the stars can still prosper but the talent starting out can provide for themselves and their families.
“So this is just what I believe from working there, okay. First of all, [unionization] would give the talent a stronger voice. That’s number one. That just goes without saying. Things would be more balanced. I’m not trying to negate the fact that the person drawing the money at the gate gets the money. That’s not what I’m here to say. You give the star the money. But the people that are supporting, the people that are trying to climb and replace the star, give them feet to stand on. Give them something to push off of.
“Give them a pay structure, give them a belief system that allows them to stand on two feet and go after the main guy. New stars, people that can stand on two feet, have a family. There needs to be a platform for the people that are not the stars to stand grounded on two feet, know that their job is secure, and reach as high as they can for the brass ring. I believe that there is space in there to unionize, to allow for a more grounded, more opportunistic playing field to aim to replace the star in a fair, equal way. If you’re working for AEW, you’re working for Reality of Wrestling, if you’re working for WWE, you should go there knowing that you can be the next guy. It’s been talked about for a long time in sports entertainment so we’re not doing anything that hasn’t been done or at least spoken about.”
The full interview is available here: