Hustle Is Posting Right Now - The Most Important Impending Decision You Might Not Know About
Mar 7, 2013 - 11:53:40 PM
"On the verge of something big.."
Most of you reading these words right now don't realize it, but we could very well be on the verge of some huge news in the world of professional wrestling. Let me get you caught up on things, thanks to a report from Ringbelles Online..
Shannon Spruill, better known as Daffney by wrestling fans, filed a Worker's Compensation lawsuit against TNA after parting ways with the company in 2011. Among her list of injuries in TNA were three concussions in a six-month span, to go along with a bruised sternum and a stinger. According to some of the lawsuit's documents, the medical bill for the first concussion alone was $26,000. Of that amount, Daffney claims that TNA paid $600. She said that the company told her they would take care of the rest of the bill, but later reneged on the agreement, claiming that she was an "independent contractor". ("Independent contractor" is a term that might be familiar with some of you, as we've seen WWE use it to describe their wrestlers in previous lawsuits, most notably one filed by Raven, Chris Kanyon and Mike Sanders in 2008.) As the story goes, TNA would eventually go on to pay $8,000 of the bill, but because they delayed the payment for so long, Daffney would be approached by creditors who were looking to get their money.
As Ringbelles reports, the reason that Daffney filed a Worker's Comp lawsuit, and not a personal injury lawsuit, is because she wanted to challenge the entire "independent contractor" label. If wrestlers aren't "independent contractors", the promotion employing them under contract would be responsible for the medical insurance and fees that come along with the hazards in the business. The aforementioned lawsuit filed by Raven, Kanyon and Sanders was dismissed after the court revealed the statute of limitations (the rule in law that sets the maximum time after a particular event that legal proceedings based on said event may begin) had expired for the men.
Daffney is set to meet with TNA very soon, where TNA will try to settle the situation out of court. If a settlement is reached, Daffney will receive a certain amount of money, and the sides will then go in their different directions. If a settlement is not reached, however, that's when things could be set in motion to change the wrestling business forever. If the case goes to court, it then goes to a judge, who will determine the validity of the "independent contractor" label, and whether or not wrestlers should be classified as employees. To quote Ringbelles, wrestlers are "under a contract, booked to appear at places on certain dates", are "told to execute a planned outcome", and do "not have the freedom to accept booking elsewhere". I don't know about you, but when I look at those descriptions at face value, I don't see a single thing that makes me think of wrestlers as "independent contractors".
This really could change everything, ladies and gentlemen. We could see a situation where promotions like WWE and TNA would be forced to label their wrestlers as employees, which means insurance and benefits for everyone. That means higher costs. That means money spent in other areas would have to be pulled back or eliminated altogether. TNA has had a relatively lengthy history when it comes to arguing with wrestlers over medical bills, with names like Ron Killings, Jesse Neal and Konnan included in the list of those who had beef with the company in the past. WWE, on the other hand, is usually well-known for going above and beyond to take care of their wrestlers when they get injured. While they might not pay for every cent in every bill with every wrestler, they do try and work with people to keep them as happy as possible. Hell, even with things that go beyond the average medical bill, like drug and alcohol rehab, WWE has continuously reached out to past and present wrestlers to cover the costs, in an attempt to help save careers and/or lives.
Now, you have to look at this situation from both sides of the fence..
If you're TNA, you want to do everything you possibly can to make sure this doesn't reach the courts. If you look at the amount of money that TNA spends on their product in a calendar year, a scenario where their costs become exponentially higher across the board isn't exactly ideal. This is where the "TNA is broke" or "TNA will be forced to go out of business" talk would normally come into play, but I don't buy into that line of thinking. TNA Owner Bob Carter is like Scrooge McDuck, just swimming in money. Reports are all over the internet that his company, Panda Energy, is worth billions. TNA goes out of business when Bob Carter wants it to, for the most part. As long as the man is willing to bankroll his daughter's company, TNA can be successful in their own lane. It's just a matter of if he would actually want to pump that much more money into TNA, should this lawsuit "change the game", so to speak. He would need to sit down, perhaps with Dixie, and figure out if TNA is worth all of that extra money or not.
If you're Daffney, you're in an interesting situation. On one hand, she has the opportunity to go down in wrestling history. If this lawsuit heads to court, and if the "independent contractor" term is eliminated, she will be remembered for the rest of time as the person who turned the mainstream wrestling business on its ear. On the other hand, what if she doesn't take a settlement, sees the lawsuit through to court, only to have a judge essentially rule in the favor of "wrestling"? Then she's in even worse shape, financially, than she was to begin with, because now she has legal fees to pay for. I won't even pretend to know Daffney personally, so I can't sit here and talk about how much money she may or may not have in the bank, or how much assets she has, but the injuries that started all of this to begin with ended her in-ring career, so it's not like she can keep wrestling to earn those pay checks. She currently works as the "hostess" of the SHINE promotion, handling the ring announcing duties and making appearances on behalf of the company, but that can't be too high-paying. She has to look at the risk and reward of this entire situation. Obviously, she knows how badly she needs the money. Maybe she can't afford to pass on any sort of financial settlement, and will take whatever TNA offers her. Maybe she can afford it and wants to push forward, helping her friends that are in the business and wouldn't have been able to handle medical bills otherwise.
Either way, we're on the verge of a potentially historic decision taking place, which could change everything. Think about it. Wrestlers in these major promotions could have full medical benefits soon. Bob Carter could decide that the extra dough he'd be forced to spend wouldn't be worth the time and effort, meaning that he would put TNA up for sale. WWE could drastically alter the amount of people they keep on their roster, not wanting to spend the extra money on that many people. WWE and TNA could decide not to hire or call as many names up to their main rosters, meaning the top names on the independent wrestling scene would stay on the independent wrestling scene for much longer, with the companies being forced to become a lot pickier as far as who they want to sign. The style of wrestling you see in companies like WWE and TNA could change, with the people in charge wanting to tone things down in an attempt to "control" the amount of injuries that pile up, and in turn, the amount of money that would need to be spent to cover those injuries. Can you imagine the entire WWE product being like Saturday Morning Slam, with matches laid out to protect the wrestlers as much as possible, without having to use big bumps? Hell In A Cell? Money In The Bank? Matches along those lines might become extinct. Would you want your wrestlers competing in matches that ramp up the danger level if you were going to be responsible in paying all of their medical expenses? I don't think I would. Yes, wrestling at its very core carries a level of danger, with even the smallest mistake being capable of bringing on paralysis and even death, but how smart of an idea would it be to increase the dangers, especially in a match like Money In The Bank, with several people competing all at once?
Place yourself in Daffney's shoes. You might have an opportunity to put this mess behind you and pay some/most/all of your bills that have accumulated. You might have an opportunity to put yourself into an even worse financial situation than you were already in. You might have an opportunity to go down in the proverbial wrestling history book as the person who changed things forever. Do you roll the dice on taking this to court, or do you "play it safe" and take whatever settlement is offered to you?
If it were me, I think I would roll the dice. As long as I'm not currently being forced to dig through the trash for scraps to eat, I think I would want to do what I can to potentially help out the friends I've made through my years of being in the business. Daffney has an opportunity to become a martyr here, for better or for worse, but in the overall scheme of things, I would see the sacrifices as being worth it if my "brothers and sisters" could benefit forever. Let us not forget that pro wrestling is often looked at as a big fraternity/sorority. Think about it.. when wrestlers are injured and don't necessarily have the funds to cover the costs of those injuries, sometimes they find other ways to help fight through. That's when you start hitting that slippery slope in wrestling where drug and alcohol dependency comes into play (of course, that's a different story for a different day). In that overall picture, Daffney might have the opportunity to literally be a life saver, and there isn't a price tag in the world for that, in my opinion.
Keep your eyes peeled for updates on this story, folks. This could be huge for everyone and everything involved, directly or indirectly.
All credit goes to RingbellesOnline.com's Lee Burton for the initial article, which can be found at the following link:
"Daffney/TNA situation could change wrestling"
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