Proposed Governmental Ban on Non-Compete Clauses Affects Pro Wrestling

Joe Biden wants to scrap non-compete clauses
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Joe Biden, Non-Compete Clauses, and WWE

US President Joe Biden announced last week his intention to issue an executive order limiting, and in some cases banning, non-compete clauses.  The move could potentially alter the way WWE and other wrestling promotions do business. 

Currently, a standard WWE contract contains a 90 day non-compete clause. That means that any performer who is released by the company must wait for 90 days before they can work for another wrestling company. 

If WWE lost the ability to enforce a 90 day non-compete clause, it would mean that recently-released wrestlers could sign with other promotions more quickly, without having to wait for 90 days in order to do so.

Wrestlers “In Jail”

Performers continue to be paid their downside guarantee during the 90 day non-compete period. However, some wrestlers have made it clear that they don’t enjoy having to wait. 

Braun Stowman recently tweeted, “How many more days do I have till in (sic) out of jail???”, likely a reference to his non-compete clause. (He was released in May.) Malakai Black, formerly Tommy End/Aleister Black, also released in May, was able to appear in AEW after 30 days only because WWE forgot to update his contract when he moved from NXT to Raw

The flip side to the 90 day rule is that it only applies to performers who have been released by WWE, not those who quit. Renee Paquette, for example, who left WWE after SummerSlam in 2020, stated that she had about a year left on her non-compete, meaning that she couldn’t work for another wrestling company before that time was up. 

Brock Lesnar signed a non-compete clause as a way to get a release from his contract when he left WWE in 2004. WWE then claimed that Lesnar was unable to work for any other wrestling company or MMA promotion through 2010, which was the duration of the non-compete. Lesnar challenged the non-compete in court while simultaneously working for New Japan Pro Wrestling and UFC. He and WWE eventually came to a settlement that saw him return to the company in 2012. 

Biden’s Changes to Labor Laws

Although Joe Biden’s executive order doesn’t target WWE directly, it does signal a continuing shift by the administration away from the kind of labor laws that WWE has benefited greatly from for decades. Biden campaigned in part of strengthening workers’ rights.

Biden reversed a Trump-era law in March that would have made it easier to classify workers as independent contractors instead of employees. Wrestling companies typically classify wrestlers as independent contractors. That rule makes wrestlers responsible for their own travel, meal, and hotel costs.

Andrew Yang, the former US presidential and New York mayoral candidate, has repeatedly slammed WWE’s labor practices. During an interview on the Talk Is Jericho podcast last fall, Yang stated that he would consider bringing a suit against WWE before the National Labor Relations Board for mis-classifying their employees. “The damages here would be really significant,” Yang said.

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