California recently passed California Assembly Bill 5, which requires companies like Uber and Lyft to classify workers as employees rather than independent contractors in the state. Ryback talked about what this could potentially mean for the wrestling industry when he was joined by Wrestling Inc's Raj Giri on his Conversations with the Big Guy podcast.
"I don't know how it impacts pro wrestling, but if this is starting to come up though I think it's only a matter of time before this starts spreading possibly. I don't know though; we have to wait and see what happens. Anybody you talk to, anyone from Jesse Ventura, anyone who is really knowledgeable in that area because I am not, but nobody can understand how they have gotten away with it for this long. It's one of those things where people kind of scratch their heads and I hope for pro wrestlers' sake something comes of this at some point," said Ryback.
"I know Sports Illustrated had done a piece on it and I had done an interview with them about it. Hopefully, we are taking steps in the right direction, and WWE at some point, as well as AEW, that things are going to have to change for the betterment of pro wrestlers to have to protect them. I think you see that with any industry that things evolve and improve as time goes on, but wrestling has always been behind that sort of thing because Vince McMahon has been able to skip around the system one way or another. But I think it's a good thing and it's a very important thing that California is taking steps for those people and I think it's only a matter of time where it spills in other areas and pro wrestling specifically."
Ryback was employed by WWE for about 10 years and said that their paying process in antiquated and not befitting of a multi-billion dollar company.
"Their pay system is odd. WWE never even had direct deposit up until when I was there. We used to get checks mailed all the time," revealed Ryback. "I remember being all throughout my developmental and all throughout my time in WWE even before that direct deposit thing happened, having to go to the mail box getting my weekly checks. Sometimes, checks would be lost and you would have to go through that process. We were all kind of baffled about that where this big company didn't even have direct deposit, but as far as the shows they don't do the draws anymore where they give you cash after the shows.
"If you go to California and you wrestle, let's say at Hell in a Cell, they usually hold that pay for a certain period of time to do whatever they do with it. I've heard random stories of them having separate bank accounts where they collect interest off of it before they pay out the talent. I live in Nevada and there is no state tax over here, and sometimes WWE would divide the money where, say, you're going to make $10,000 or $20,000, they may divide a portion of that and put some of that in Nevada so that you are not paying as much on sales tax in California. But there's always been a delay on it, unless it's TV or a live event usually it's two weeks' time behind, but when it's a pay per view it's longer. I don't know if it's three months, or two months, there's a delay on the pay per views or the Network specials, at least when I was there. There are no draws anymore where they give you cash at the shows or anything of that nature."
Ryback added that when in WWE he would get pay stubs every week for the events he participated in for that respective week. It was usually five events per week - three house shows and two TV tapings - in addition to the monthly pay per view.
He then brought up Jon Moxley's comments on low pay for his Shield Network special in which he received just $500. Ryback said that what WWE pays out TV and special events doesn't make any sense.
"This goes back to the Jon Moxley thing for $500. There was no rhyme or reason for any of this. You can do nothing, go to TV and you can make $500. Then sometimes you go to TV and wrestling in the main events and working the dark main event and your checks are still $500," stated Ryback. "Television never made sense on pay, and you talk to talents there they will tell you that. Randomly, sometimes it would be decent. There are times you work live television and it wasn't sold out or you didn't feel like you did anything significant and it might have been where you ran out and did one thing almost feeling like a night off and you're paid $1,500 for that TV randomly.
"They will mainly break up pay typically based on your downside. Triple H likes to bulls**t and says that downside doesn't matter, but every f***ing wrestling talent knows your downside matters because what they do is they decide how much they are going to pay you every week based on your downside because you typically have to make your downside every week. So, they will creatively find a way to always hit that number unless you are kind of in with them then they will take care of you at times and you will make over that at times."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Conversations with the Big Guy Ryback with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.