As we read our way through the beginning stages of American professional wrestling, I cannot help but notice the strange relationship that has always existed between the wrestlers and promotions. For the guys on the top of the card, it makes sense to stay until the money dries up. But what makes wrestlers who are not getting a major push stay with a promotion?
One of the first large scale wrestling promotions was the "Gold Dust Trio", made up of Ed "Strangler" Lewis, "Toots" Mondt, and Billy Sandow. In Fall Guys, by Marcus Griffen, it is claimed that the trio had over 500 wrestlers under contract. If even half that many wrestlers worked for the three, it is clear that not all could be pushed to fame.
The wrestlers may have thought about taking their skills to a different market, with hopes of higher paydays, but there was nowhere else to go. The trio controlled the wrestlers by controlling the wrestling clubs. The trio had a monopoly on wrestling in America, until other organizations later rose up from the stranglehold the trio had on wrestling.
For other organizations, like the NWA in the 1950s, a wrestler emerged who could carry the organization, and the NWA World Heavyweight Title, for almost a decade. Lou Thesz held the title for seven years straight, in a relationship that was obviously beneficial for both parties. The NWA had a credible champion, one that could withstand most double-crosses, and Thesz was a national wrestling icon. As long as the two stayed together, the money continued to flow.
But how much allegiance does a wrestler owe his promotion? This is a question that the TNA is trying to answer now. They recently issued a memo that all wrestlers under contract must get approval before doing any public interviews, and also warned against making any statements criticizing the promotion.