This week’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver got a little bit old-school, at least when it comes to taking on an important subject that maybe not enough people take seriously. While the health benefits of professional wrestlers is an issue that impacts only a small group of people, at the same time you have to remember this — these are people who you watch and admire, and they are putting their bodies on the line day after day for years on end, often without the same sort of health benefits that you would expect.
Last night’s Oliver laid into the WWE for a number of different reasons, from the actions and words of boss Vince McMahon to the lack of real, consistent care for many of his wrestlers — so many have died early in life and while you may or may not want to draw a direct correlation, there is still an appalling trend of famous wrestlers dying early. Contractually, they’re treated differently than most other athletes, and while you can argue as to whether or not pro wrestling is technically a sport, they put their bodies on the line like it is one. Also, with the WWE holding such a significant monopoly in the industry, it’s not like a pro wrestler can shrug their shoulders at the WWE and go off somewhere else for the same salary.
Oliver’s words were funny at times (see his whole segment about nothing being more entertaining than watching a body explode through a table), but also damning at other moments. It should be noted that the company responded to the segment with a statement to The Hollywood Reporter:
“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. 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.”
Does anyone else think that this is actually going to happen? It’s hard to imagine it. Instead, what feels more likely is that you’ll see Oliver just move on to the next subject — though we should note that this is far from the first time he has taken on the WWE. Previously, he did so within the context of them deciding to continue to host an event in Saudi Arabia following the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. We don’t think there’s been any love lost between the two over the past few months. Oliver notes that he is a wrestling fan, but he’s right that the wrestlers should be properly cared for — some are, but unless you’re one of the big names, it’s hard to be able to continue to find yourself thriving later on in your life after multiple surgeries and without a contract that fully protects you.
You can watch the full segment all about the WWE over here. Meanwhile, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments not only about the segment, but Oliver’s response to it. (Photo: HBO.)