Exactly one week before WrestleMania 35, HBO host John Oliver spent 23 minutes on his show taking WWE to task for how it treats its performers.
The focus of Oliver’s criticism was the alarming rate of early deaths among wrestlers, but he also lashed out at WWE for categorizing performers as independent contractors, the company’s poor healthcare services and even for swallowing up the old territory system to create a virtual monopoly.
“Wrestlers dying early is a troubling trend. FiveThirtyEight tracked the rate of deaths among WWE wrestlers and the findings were startling,” Oliver said before showing a graph that showed premature wrestler death rates far outpacing the general public and former NFL players.
Oliver relied mainly on clips of former WWE wrestlers to make his points, including Jesse Ventura, Roddy Piper, Bret Hart and CM Punk, all of whom described being worked to the bone by the company.
The comedian ended his segment by suggesting fans at next weekend’s WrestleMania make their voices heard on the issue by chanting during the show.
The segment particularly resonated with former WWE employees and non-WWE wrestlers, who commended Oliver for his presentation of the facts.
“John Oliver is clearly a clever and humorous entertainer, however the subject matter covered in his WWE segment is no laughing matter,” WWE said in a statement.
“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.”