World Wrestling Entertainment, the largest pro wrestling company in the United States, filed a cease and desist order against brothers Matt and Nick Massie on Tuesday, who wrestle under the ring names Matt and Nick Jackson as the popular Young Bucks.
The story has outraged many fans on social media, who see the company beating up on the little guy.
According to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer, WWE was furious after the Bucks parodied a skit WWE had performed 20 years ago against then World Championship Wrestling, when it’s D-X faction ‘invaded’ WCW’s Monday Nitro show as a storyline, sending wrestlers to an arena dressed in camo to invade their rival broadcast.
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The longtime wrestling promotion filed the order the next day against the tag team for using what it says are WWE copyrighted
The Young Bucks streamed their fake invasion of WWE’s arena on their “Being The Elite” YouTube channel as WWE was airing its Monday Night Raw program inside the building. The parody included a reference to the original invasion at the beginning, and one wrestler giving an anticipated speech, only to recite Bill Pullman’s rallying speech from the movie “Independence Day,” talking about aliens.
“I find it ironic,” Meltzer said. “If you’re a fan who knows the story (about the original WWE invasion of WCW), which WWE and D-X member Triple H have told over and over for years on WWE DVDs and specials as something funny and goofy, and these other guys do a spoof, and the first thing they did was file a cease and desist.”
Dozens of fans joined the group of wrestlers in the parking lot, which included former WWE wrestler and Ring of Honor champion Cody Runnels, top British wrestler Marty Scurll, and Steve Woltz, who wrestles as Adam “Hangman” Page.
The cease and desist order follows a trend many WWE critics have noted of the company being predatory against any level of competition.
Wrestlers working outside WWE are basically their own small business, having to control their own marketing, merchandising, schedules and contracts. If you weren’t a former WWE star, making big money was impossible. But the Bucks have used social media, YouTube and their on-screen personnas to market themselves and revolutionize the way wrestlers can stay in the business without having to be under WWE contract. This business model has meant success for many local independent promotions that have gathered international followings thanks to streaming shows, or wrestlers who have used social media and other online methods to build fanbases across the country. Wrestlers design their own merchandise and t-shirts and sell them on prowrestlingtees.com, where the Young Bucks made most of their money until signing bigger contracts with promotions Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling this past year.
WWE head Vince McMahon has a long history of predatory tactics toward other wrestling promotions. In a Sports Illustrated interview in the late 1980s McMahon took glee in putting what he said was nearly two dozen small wrestling promotions out of business. His wife, Linda McMahon, ironically, sits on the White House cabinet as the head of the Small Business Administration.
WWE has courted the Young Bucks for years, along with other Bullet Club members and was rumored to have approached New Japan Pro Wrestling for the stable’s name and trademark. They’ve signed former members in the past and even sell a Balor Club t-shirt, with a design based off the Bullet Club’s t-shirt and assigned former members the company has signed to a stable called “The Club.”
Meltzer said he thought WWE would take the skit as a laugh, as they did with their original skit. He also said the only line of contention he saw during the streaming video could have been when one of the wrestlers asked a fan how much they paid for tickets, and he said he got his for free, which led to the wrestler suggesting they were “papering” (giving away free tickets) to have a larger crowd.
WWE has been the dominant pro wrestling company in the world for 20 years after the closing of WCW in 2001, which WWE bought. But with social media, sites such as prowrestlingtees.com and YouTube, independent wrestlers are now more able to control their own schedules, build their own fan bases and control all their marketing. It’s making it harder for WWE to sign talent at the low rates they want to pay. The Young Bucks have never been under WWE contract, but have built enough of a following online and with Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling to be the most popular tag team in the United States.
In Britian, streaming services and social media led to a wrestling boom in the country, enough to the point WWE established its own promotion in the UK.
Another point of contention for WWE is the popular Bullet Club t-shirt. Hot Topic recently began selling the shirts, 100,000 over less than three months according to the Young Bucks on Twitter. According to WWE storyline general manager Daniel Bryan, Hot Topic execs visited Wrestlemania in Orlando this year, looking for potential t-shirts to market and sell and saw the number of Bullet Club shirts, which were worn by a major portion of the crowd. WWE had to awkwardly tell Hot Topic it wasn’t their shirt.
“Hot Topic said we need those shirts, they’re everywhere,” Meltzer said. “(WWE) had to tell them they didn’t have them, so they had to hunt down who did. They got them and shocked everyone with the sales, they couldn’t keep them in stock.
“I’m sure all their t-shirts being all over the camera at every WWE venue and show every single week doesn’t make the company happy. In the old days you could make people take them off if they were from a rival company or give them one to put over it. With social media you can’t do that now.”
Meltzer said he doesn’t think WWE’s cease and desist claim would stand up in court, but despite a healthy income, the Young Bucks don’t have the lawyers or money to go up against a billion dollar corporation.
Meltzer said he doesn’t think the Massie’s will have any dramatic issues from the cease and desist order.
“For WWE I don’t know if it’s smart or dumb either way,” Meltzer said. “My gut tells me it will probably give the Young Bucks more notoriety. In that sense it’s a backfire, but it’s not a giant backfire. I dont’t think it will hurt the Bucks, it might help them. People will interpret it different ways.”
The Massies, along with other Bullet Club members, grew up on the prime days of WWE in the late 1990s and saw the company as their main goal. Meltzer said as of now, if their merchandise sales hold out, they won’t go anywhere. As for the cease and desist and controversy, it will make WWE just want them more.
“In the long haul, if anything it will make WWE want them more,” Meltzer said. “That’s how they operate and that’s Vince’s mentality. From (the Bucks) perspective, I wouldn’t go there because of this, but things change when contracts are up or your t-shirt is no longer popular. Remember how many people were wearing Tapout and Affliction shirts 10 years ago.”