Update: WWE responds to John Oliver
The WWE has responded since John Oliver tore the corporation, and its CEO Vince McMahon, to shred on Sunday night’s episode of Last Week Tonight. In a statement to Deadline, WWE reps wrote, “John Oliver is clearly a clever and humorous entertainer, however the subject matter covered in his WWE segment is no laughing matter. Prior to airing, WWE responded to his producers refuting every point in his one-sided presentation.” The statement continued, “John Oliver simply ignored the facts. The health and wellness of our performers is the single most important aspect of our business, and we have a comprehensive, longstanding Talent Wellness program. We invite John Oliver to attend WrestleMania this Sunday to learn more about our company.”
John Oliver called out World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) CEO Vince McMahon in a scathing episode of HBO’s Last Week Tonight. The British comic used his platform to call for better treatment of professional wrestlers. He devoted the Sunday episode of his show to an exposé of the billionaire’s treatment of the wrestlers and his apparent disregard for their welfare. A week out from Sunday’s upcoming WrestleMania 35, the late night host covered a wide-ranging list of issues with McMahon.
Oliver’s biggest concern seemed to be the early death of many wrestlers and McMahon’s seeming lack of concern over their deaths. He showed clips of wrestlers from “Rowdy” Roddy Piper to Randy “Macho Man” Savage to Chyna and more. He also showed an older clip of McMahon exclaiming, “I would accept no responsibility whatsoever for their untimely deaths, none whatsoever.”
Oliver explained that McMahon improperly classifies wrestlers as independent contractors without benefits, instead of employees, and makes them sign contracts that release the WWE of responsibility in the case of injury or death. Ironically, stand-up comedians are also typically classified as independent contractors without access to benefits, perhaps leading to a further feeling of camaraderie between the two types of live entertainers. Perhaps it is another reason why Oliver is taking up the wrestlers’ cause.
WWE fans encouraged to shame Vince McMahon at WrestleMania 35
Wrestling is a sport beloved by countless comedians and one of the most lucrative sports in the country. Oliver clearly showed his true love of the comedic and theatrical performances by these over-the-top athletes who risk their bodies to provide entertainment to millions of fans—without receiving healthcare from the WWE. The HBO host even stated that the WWE has “lost the moral high ground to the fucking NFL” who at least takes some steps to care for its athletes.
Oliver leaned heavily on fans at the upcoming April 7 event to chant and create signs to convince, or at least shame, the powerful executive into providing employee classification and benefits to the wrestlers. He did not comment on the fact that Saturday Night Live’s Michael Che and Colin Jost will actually “wrestle” in the ring at the event. Will Jost and Che take up Oliver’s call to action? Will the comics also use their voice to support the wrestlers? We will find out on Sunday.
Vince McMahon and the WWE have not responded via social media at this time to Oliver’s show.