David Starr made headlines recently by stomping on the NXT UK title that was held by WALTER. However, Starr says he doesn't have any issue with WALTER but rather WWE and what they've done to the indies as he explained when he spoke to Wrestling Inc. on our WINCLY podcast.
"In character I called WALTER a sell out because I am a heel. As a heel, when I present my issues I approach it in a militant, bitter way. But when I present these same issues as a face in PROGRESS, I present them in a more diplomatic way. This is just a variation of a character," explained Starr.
"In reality, WALTER is the last thing from a sellout and I'm speaking to you right now as Max Barsky not David Starr. He's not a sellout. He did it the absolute right way as did all of the British strong style guys. They did it the right way."
Starr said he doesn't have an issue with the workers, he has an issue with WWE trying to buy out indie promotions. Some promotions have sold out to WWE and are under their umbrella now and this monopolizing has been this way since Vince Jr took over.
"I'm concerned that the indie scene has been reliant on these people that aren't going to be around. They haven't been investing in the next generation because these guys got to the main event status and WWE scooped them up," said Starr.
"We need to make sure we're looking after the next generation and try to ensure the survival of independent wrestling."
Starr then discussed what it would take to form a pro wrestling union.
"Honestly, we have to come together as a work force. There are great steps being taken as there's a women's promotion in the UK that just recognized Equity which is the entertainment trade union based in the UK that my company is working with. Basically, my company is taking portions of our proceeds from our merchandise to sponsor trade union membership for independent wrestlers and wrestlers in general," said Starr.
Starr added that they are talking to several trade unions in America as well and Equity provides public liability insurance and also legal services for contracts.
"The biggest thing, and this recently happened through our We the Independent push, Equity has negotiated with their insurers to include pro wrestlers in their disability and welfare insurance," stated Starr. "Meaning, if a wrestler is going to be hurt and miss work for two or more weeks, and they are a member of Equity, then they are able to claim money for their loss of earnings. That's up to 150 pounds a week for up to a year. That's unbelievable."
Starr said that's enough to at least cover rent and he's trying to get as many people to be as part of the union as possible. Right now they can afford seven annual memberships but they want to continue to grow and that there is no reason not to become a member of Equity if you are a wrestler.
"Any indie artist, whether you're based in the UK or not, because if you have a UK address these benefits apply globally…If I wrestle in Singapore and I get hurt, Equity has my back," revealed Starr.
"It makes sense to join both on an individual level and on a collective level. The biggest challenge is just getting everyone on board."
Equity serves UK talent but Starr was then asked about American talent getting covered.
"That's what we're looking to do right now. We've reached out to several organizations to see how we can do that," said Starr. "According to a lot of Equity employees, the US is a lot more complicated as over here [in the UK], and with almost every other civilized nation, we have the benefit of having national healthcare. We have socialized benefits."
Starr added that the biggest thing US can do is speak up, be vocal and engage the public. He says the fans will drive this message just as they've done before.
"The fans who were the ones making a fuss about WWE taking Saudi money. The fans were pushing it; it wasn't a bunch of wrestlers tweeting about it. It was fans putting it out there. So we need to utilize our fan base who want to support their favorite wrestlers and want to make sure the people they're watching are being treated fairly in their workplace," said Starr who then brought up the one pitfall in speaking about unions.
"The only thing that will truly get you blacklisted from a place like WWE is speaking about unions. It is scary, but if we all come together and speak out on these issues, we are all in the same boat."
Starr was then asked how his elders in the business feel about what he says as politics weren't really discussed during their eras.
"To be honest, most don't say that much to me about it because the things I say aren't controversial. Behind the curtain, the things I say are not controversial and we've been having these conversations for longer than I've been a part of the business. These are issues that have been presenting themselves for so long," Starr said before adding that the Rock 'N' Roll Express told him that they've been dealing with bad issues in the business forever such as profit shares and loyalty splits.
"The only one who has expressed any public or private conversation with me about these things is Sami [Callihan]. Sami got that really stupid signed talent thing that he put out there to combat my "We the Independent" thing. That was a ridiculous point of view bragging that you're signed. You should be happy that you're signed but what this movement wants to do is ensure that the guys who are signed are getting the most out of their exclusivity or the most out of their contract.
"That's what we want out of it. We wanna make sure these contracts that are given are fair and mutually beneficial. So the idea of putting out a signed talent thing as if it's the antithesis of We the Independent or this movement is ridiculous."
Starr says he's not starting a war amongst the workers, he just wants the workers united as a labor force and profit generators. The talent need a safety net so they have freedom of choice when contracts are offered and the way the business works is that all of the risk is on independent talent.
"What I wanna do is make sure that being independent is a viable option. That it's not really the choice between being starving or selling yourself to a corporate entity for a quarter of your worth. You can see it now. Look at WWE – ever since AEW started offering people, a lot of people on the main roster have gotten double their salary. That means they've always had the money there, but now all of a sudden they feel this pressure," said Starr.
"Rather than do that, they wanna give this appearance that they are actually being good to their workers by upping their salaries but still not giving them long term sustainable benefits such as pensions and healthcare. What we're trying to fight for is to say if you're signed to a corporate contract, we wanna make sure you do get the benefits you deserve. On the same note, we wanna provide a safety net to be able to stay independent if that's what you want to do."
In other words, Starr said he doesn't want talent to be "totally f***ed" if you get injured on the independents.
David Starr can be followed on Twitter @TheProductDS.
Starr's full interview with Wrestling Inc aired as part of a recent episode of our WINCLY podcast. It can be heard via the embedded audio player at the bottom of this post. In it Starr discusses pro wrestlers' rights, how to unionize pro wrestlers, his controversial ROH promo that was pulled, WWE's shows in Saudi Arabia, WALTER, WWE NXT UK and more.