Part Three “Contracts”
By TIAR’A LITERARY & ILLUSTRATION
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Aspirations of becoming a professional wrestler are common but were perhaps more prevalent thirty years ago.
The late 1980’s and early 1990’s – many will say, was the height of modern pop culture. Let’s face it, those were the days the world witnessed an explosion of creativity on every platform of entertainment that has not been duplicated since, nor before.
Many of us “young pups” at the time attempted to tame the daunting task of rising above the mount of twisted rubble and steel that is the tumultuous, broken, and rocky road of many a professional wrestler’s journey – the road into and to the top of the business.
The so-called “top”, as high, and illusive as it is true to those that believe it, remains undoubtably the “brass ring” that a professional wrestle seeks to claim. That brass ring’s physical incarnation within the world that hosts the “squared circle” manifests as a company’s [world champion]. However, one may argue that the “top” of a wrestling company may also be manifested by a professional wrestling contract. After all, in business, he who has the gold… survives. Professional wrestling championship belts cannot pay a mortgage or car payment, nor any other debt for that matter. Money from a multi-year contract can and does. On that note, what then truly is wrestling’s “brass ring”?
While discussing the topic of contracts we would be remiss in sharing that Frankie “The Future” Kazarian has some great news to share with the world of his professional wrestling fans.
The AEW [All Elite Wrestling] company was birthed in early 2019 – some four years ago. At the time its owner, Tony Khan, was untested in the world of professional wrestling and so any performer choosing to sign a contract with ‘ol “TK” most assuredly took a big risk.
Frankie was one of nine professional wrestlers, including one of his friends, former WWE/WCW veteran wrestler, Chris Jericho. Subsequently, Frankie and the other original nine (sounds like Knights are the round table) would assist Tony Khan in taking his novice wrestling company AEW and make it a beacon of hope for professional wrestling on international broadcasting platforms. As we mentioned prior, AEW is featured on TNT and TBS weekly (worldwide). In 2019, AEW was WWE’s only true comp
Since 2019, Frankie’s contributions to AEW went far and beyond. He, along with tag team partner, Scorpio Sky, became the first-ever, we say it again – “first-ever” AEW world tag team champions. We do realize that we are contradicting what we mentioned prior regarding professional wrestling championship belts not being able to pay bills – but being one-half of the “first-ever” AEW world tag team champions is a distinction that Frankie “The Future” Kazarian can claim into his retirement. Which leads us back to professional wrestling contracts.
It is appropriate at this time to allow the world to know that professional wrestlers are universally hired as “independent contractors”. That’s right. No matter who you are – Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, or Frankie “The Future” Kazarian, you are not immune to the dubious reality that despite being paid a comfortable salary (for a physically uncomfortable profession) your medical bills, and any other employment perks and such will not be covered by the company that hires you. It is unfortunate and perhaps unscrupulous that today – almost forty years removed since Jesse “The Body” Ventura (former Governor of Minnesota), attempted to unionize professional wrestlers that they are continually receiving the proverbial short end of the employment stick.
Frankie’s AEW contract renewal was a topic of conjecture last month (January of the year of our Lord, 2023). Although Tony Khan “TK” and AEW made Frankie a healthy financial offer to remain a member of the AEW roster, this was the year that “The Future” decided to “bet on himself”, return, and sign a multi-year contract with an opposing wrestling company that he once helped dominate alongside the likes of “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair – IMPACT WRESTLING.
Understandably, the Impact Wrestling company that Frankie finds himself within today does not resemble the Impact Wrestling that hosted his talents over a decade ago. That Impact Wrestling is unequivocally deceased. The “new” Impact Wrestling is here and the sky is not its limit.
In recent weeks, Impact Wrestling’s roster has been filled with talents, like Frankie, who have decided to focus on a company that allows its performers greater creative freedom over the direction of their characters and gets back to the basics of what professional wrestling entertainment is all about.
During Frankie’s formative years, contracts and guarantees were as unfamiliar to him as the surface of the moon is to mankind [but that’s another article]. Despite having been trained by the legendary Killer Kowalski, upon returning to California, Frankie did not “land” a multi-year, six figure contract with a professional wrestling company. This was substantially due to the fact that in the early 2000’s there was but one high-paying wrestling company in the world, and it was WWE [World Wrestling Entertainment]. WWE had purchased its competition WCW [World Championship Wrestling] in March of 2001.
As you may imagine, the young Frankie was a little less than enthused to be back home and having to work filler jobs with the hope his talents might be observed upon the independent twenty dollars per match circuit. Most matches Frankie wrestled took place in Orange County, San Diego, and Los Angeles. So, consider a tank of gas from Palm Springs to those areas for twenty dollars per match. Frankie’s wrestling passion was costing him money and time, rather than making his “future”.
“Things were pretty bad man. I remember one time for days and days being in my room and crying myself to sleep at night”, Frankie tells me. “There was this one time when I had a match … I had to drive on the freeway, obviously. Anyways, I literally get into a car accident along the way. The damage to my car was bad. Cost a pretty penny. So, there I am thinking … no contract. Scratching to make ends meet, car accident … am I being told by God to leave this wrestling dream behind?”. At this juncture I took the opportunity to ask Frankie, “If you hadn’t become a professional wrestler, what would you have done?” His response was, “I honestly don’t know. Wrestling was all I ever really wanted to do. I had a friend who went to college. He ended up in marketing. I probably would have done something similar. Something creative”.
SIDE NOTE: Professional wrestling is a highly creative industry. Think about it. Costumes characters, entrance themes, storylines, commentary, and so on.
“So, TNA Impact Wrestling gets formed in… I think ’02. Somewhere around there. Jeff Jarrett (current AEW performer) was running TNA at the time. He and some of his guys in Florida, which was where they were filming their weekly show, caught a glimpse of my matches on the indie circuit, and they liked me. Long-story-short, they flew me to Florida and used me sporadically here and there on TV for a while. There I was thinking, great! They’re gonna sign me to a deal. They were signing a lot of new guys to deals back then. I’m thinking, I’m in. But then they suddenly stopped flying me out and using me on TV. So, I’m back home again. At this point, I’m already almost a decade into my wrestling career in earnest. I’m like, man … I was depressed and tired man … thinking, seriously, I may never make it in professional wrestling”.
More next month…
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