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Knowing Your Self-Worth in Wrestling

Our workforce is undergoing a dramatic change. As the entire world is falling into a financial crisis, more people are beginning to re-evaluate their job. Most have reached the rightful conclusion that they are overworked, undervalued, and underpaid. Rail Workers are on strike, and nurses have and will be on strike up and down the country. It is a global phenomenon. Over in the UK, the Secretary-General of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, Mick Lynch, has become the most recognizable figure in the working class movement. Nurses, ambulance drivers, Amazon workers, railway workers, and Starbucks baristas have all realized that their self-worth is more valuable than their productivity. Wrestling is no different. 

2022 has seen multiple wrestlers leave companies behind because they feel undervalued. This is nothing new, people have jumped from promotion to promotion since the territories. However, there is more of a political twist this time around. In the past, these disagreements have been centered on creative control. While these factors still play a role, this time around, it feels slightly different. Maybe it’s the socialist in me. But the main focal point now has shifted towards their self-worth. The ability for people to reclaim control of their own bodies and mental well-being. 

Knowing Your Worth

Wrestling is a particularly insidious form of capitalism built on the mistreatment of people’s bodies. Wrestling is as brutal as any manual labor job. Mentally it requires constant travel, being away from family and friends, and adopting a larger-than-life persona, enough to damage even the most intune psyche. Even the most avid Disney actor doesn’t want to play Cinderella 300+ days a year.         

Whereas most other jobs come with some security post-retirement, there is no pension in wrestling. No retirement age. People become indebted to wrestling, stuck in a cycle of needing to top the previous big hoorah and make more money. 

You only have to look to wrestlings very recent past to see former talent who have struggled to pay medical bills or have seriously hurt themselves outside the ring as a consequence of wrestling. It is a system that thrives on exploitation and tying talents’ self-worth exclusively to their work.  

But wrestlers have had enough of being controlled by capitalism’s whims and have begun to take control of their self-worth. And it should be no surprise that women, some of the most marginalized people in wrestling, are leading the charge. 

Mercedes Moné/ Sasha Banks

Let us start with the most recent and most notorious departure to date. Mercedes Moné (formerly Sasha Banks) made her grand return to wrestling this week at Wrestle Kingdom 17. A moment that would not exist if not for Mercedes recognizing her self-worth.

Tired of the poor booking of WWE’s Women’s Tag Division, Mercedes Moné and her tag partner Naomi walked out and refused to perform. It’s the closest thing to a strike that wrestling has ever had. Two women recognizing that they are worth more than what their company perceives them is a decisive moment. It stands out as a significant moment in a year filled with controversy. Knowing that she had other avenues to explore, Mone made the bold move to walk away and now appears to be somewhere she feels happy and appreciated. 

Mandy Rose

After a 413-day NXT title reign, Rose parted ways from WWE following a controversy over her FanTime page. Rose, who has used the subscription platform to great success, came under fire as her FanTime content policy clashed with WWE’s PG image. Unable to reach an agreement over the content and how to proceed, Rose was released on December 14th, 2022.  

It is hard not to acknowledge the hypocrisy of WWE’s actions here. Not only is it a puritanical and ludicrous statement to make, especially considering the content in question is behind a paywall. Rose is doing exactly what she is doing in WWE, using her body, albeit in a much less hazardous way. 

The real point of contention for WWE is that Rose is making all this money without them getting a slice of the pie. Recognizing your self-worth is a business’s worst nightmare. A strong workforce unafraid to walk away is a powerful negotiating tool.     

Malakai Black 

The regaining or recognition of one’s self-worth is not just confined to women. The House of Black returned to AEW television in November after ring-leader Malakai Black had been absent from TV for two months. 

In September, Black announced that he would be stepping back from wrestling for a while. Later, he cited the mental and physical toll of wrestling and outside factors as the reason he took a step back from wrestling. In that moment of stepping away, Black recognized his self-worth and mental health as greater than anything he could achieve in the right. Yet another example of someone recognizing that their self-worth is greater than how valuable they are as an in-ring talent. 

Final Thoughts

These are just a few in a growing list of wrestlers recognizing their worth and taking back the power that their employees assert over them. The world is much more accommodating to wrestlers. Thanks to The Rock, John Cena, and Dave Bautista, wrestlers are no longer on the fringes of the acting world. They are a massive part of it. That was combined with other career ventures like comics, streaming, modeling, and podcasting. The means for wrestlers to not rely on wrestling as their sole means of income continues to expand. 

Ultimately as much as we are told otherwise, wrestlers are not superstars. They are human beings. Just like us, their self-worth should not be tied to their productivity. If anything good comes from these events, it’s that we, too, don’t have to stand for being mistreated, undervalued, and overworked. Perhaps we should all take a page from Mercedes Mone’s book and be our own boss. 

We hope you enjoyed this article. What are your thoughts on the subject? Do you think wrestlers should be free to explore other ventures? Should the companies they work for be given a percentage of that revenue? Let us know what you think. We love hearing from you.  

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