Vince McMahon's edict that still has talent unsure of what it means, stating talent can no longer engage with outside third parties, led to a huge amount of criticism from former talent in the company publicly and privately among current talent.
It also included a number of tweets by former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who indicated that if Joe Biden wins the election and he's not Secretary of Labor, he's pretty confident he'll have the number of the secretary of labor to talk about the "ridiculous classification of WWE wrestlers as independent contractors while controlling their names and likeness for years, even for something as benign as Cameo."
Other talent usually loyal to WWE complained about this on Twitter, most notably Mick Foley and Kevin Nash, as did a number of former talent including Maria Kanellis Bennett, Gail Kim and Karl Anderson.
Talent does not know in specific what is and isn't allowed, when it comes to YouTube, Twitch, Cameo or other platforms as the letter was vague. Attempts by us to get the company to define what this means also were not answered.
Another thing going around that confused talent was that Mark Carrano told talent that the company owns the rights to their real names, which presumably meant that they couldn't revert to using their real names for platforms and usage that WWE would ban them using their stage names for. Saraya Bevis, better known as Paige, changed an account from Paige to Saraya of late which may have spurred that statement. Some felt that meant WWE was claiming the talent no longer owned the rights to their own names, but that would make no sense, although based on contract wording, WWE may be able to prevent the talent from marketing themselves on platforms the company doesn't want while still under a WWE deal.
Based on a statement WWE sent out today, it appears it refers to individuals making monetary deals on their own which would make it impossible for WWE on its own to market exclusivity in that platform. In many ways this is similar to when UFC would no longer allow companies to sponsor fighters individually during fight week (although they were allowed to have individual sponsors on their own, something WWE talent seemingly can't have) so UFC could market exclusivity to its own sponsors.
We were told that the key thing that brought this on were talent being on Twitch using their WWE characters and Bang Energy endorsement deals.
WWE's statement regarding the letter sent out today said "Much like Disney and Warner Bros., WWE creates, promotes and invests in its intellectual property, i.e. the stage names of performers like The Fiend Bray Wyatt, Roman Reigns, Big E and Braun Strowman. It is the control and exploitation of these characters that allows WWE to drive revenue, which in turn enables the company to compensate performers at the highest levels in the sports entertainment industry. Notwithstanding the contractual language, it is imperative for the success of our company to protect our greatest assets and establish partnerships with third parties on a companywide basis, rather than at the individual level, which as a result will provide more value for all involved.”
Talent was upset noting that with the pandemic, those without large guarantees from prior deals are earning less due to no house show pay and lower merchandise pay, and now the company, while still claiming talent as independent contractors, is taking away an outside way to make income that does not affect their WWE performances or work with other promoters. The independent contractor classification has been weird because WWE controls all bookings, interviews, when people work, their work schedule and even how they work and what they say.
The feeling is that because they now have far more time off with the cutback in arena events and travel, that they can use that time to both make money and also market themselves in other platforms as stars which also helps the company with stars being seen in different platforms.
The belief is that YouTube shows are not part of this ban, but that has not been explained in specific. One thing that has been brought up by many is WWE personnel doing podcasts where they get paid that seems to be okay, but other forms of social media where the talent gets paid seems to not be okay.