John Oliver says he likes wrestling, but at this point, that admiration probably isn’t mutual, at least when it comes to World Wrestling Entertainment. Last Week Tonight criticized the organization last year as part of a broader segment about Saudi Arabia for holding events in the country despite human rights violations. But that was nothing compared to Sunday night’s powerslam, which saw Oliver spend more than 20 minutes talking about how the WWE has failed to take care of its wrestlers, who have an alarmingly high premature death rate. As Oliver tells it, that’s thanks in part to the WWE making them “independent contractors” who sometimes have to resort to crowdsourcing to pay medical bills.
Even Oliver acknowledged that wrestling is a somewhat surprising topic for Last Week Tonight, but the segment is as narrowly focused and in-depth as any of the ones on astroturfing or the criminal justice system. You know it’s bad when your company is being compared unfavorably to the NFL in a discussion about athlete health, and much of the anger in this segment was directed at WWE head Vince McMahon, who puts on a villainous persona in the ring. While pleading for fans to advocate for wrestlers to get decent health care and an off season to rest, Oliver peppered in plenty of clips of McMahon being beaten, smacked down, and otherwise humiliated. All in a day’s work for the newly dubbed Unfortunately Not a Guy Exploding Through a Table.
Update, April 1, 2019: The WWE has issued a response to the segment titled “John Oliver Ignores Facts.”
John Oliver is clearly a clever and humorous entertainer, however the subject matter covered in his WWE segment is no laughing matter. 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.
Support our independent journalism
Readers like you make our work possible. Help us continue to provide the reporting, commentary and criticism you won’t find anywhere else.Join Slate Plus