TV Host Kristine Leahy Grills Bayley About Brutal WWE Travel Schedule, FS1 Deletes Clip
Alfred Konuwa Contributor
I write about men in tights and the money they make for men in suits.
Bayley WWE FS1 Fair Game
SmackDown women's champion Bayley awkwardly tried her best to defend WWE's travel schedule to FS1 host Kristine Leahy. CREDIT: WWE.COM
SmackDown women's champion Bayley, who retained her championship Sunday night at Extreme Rules, was involved in quite the interesting exchange in what was supposed to be a harmless interview on FS1's Fair Game hosted by Kristine Leahy.
As WWE prepares for its move to Fox, multiple current and former WWE Superstars such as Paige, Becky Lynch and Kelly Kelly (Barbie Blank) have appeared on the program to take part in largely lighthearted interviews.
An awkward exchange between Leahy and Bayley, however, gave viewers an early look at just how protective Fox Sports will be of WWE's oft-scrutinized employment practices, most notably its brutal travel schedule.
A transcript of the exchange can be seen below:
Kristine Leahy: You're driving yourself?
Bayley: Oh yeah, we drive ourselves.
Leahy: You don't have a driver?
Bayley: Yeah...we do it five days a week, so you can't [hire a personal driver] for 30 Superstars five days a week.
Leahy: I don't know, I think they make a lot of money off you guys.
Bayley: I think so too but, you know, they take care of us.
Leahy: Do you want me to negotiate your guys' new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement)? Do you have a CBA?
Bayley: No, but...
Leahy: Let's make one. Drivers!
Bayley was clearly uncomfortable with this particular line of questioning as she did her best to toe the company line while suddenly having to address just one of WWE's many questionable employment practices. Leahy used levity toward the end of the exchange in an attempt to steer an otherwise poignant conversation about sketchy working conditions toward more WWE-friendly subject matter.
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FS1 took the steering to a whole other level, essentially driving the car off a cliff as it deleted the clip entirely.
Leahy accidentally stumbling upon the borderline cruel day-to-day life of a WWE Superstar figures to become a theme to avoid among Fox employees and hosts when this deal is enacted in the fall. This will be an interesting caveat among on-air personalities at Fox, who are largely unfamiliar with the intricate and intentionally vague nuts and bolts of WWE. And as Fox personnel becomes more accustomed—and eventually horrified—with the sobering nuances of the multibillion-dollar promotion, they'll have to do so in silence.
FS1 swiftly removing the clip as it began to cause a stir is indicative of a network that will remain complicit in shying away from any bad press toward WWE. Though there have been countless reports of Fox's plans to treat WWE as a real sport, this will only be done when it is convenient for both sides.
When the Collective Bargaining Agreements for the NFL, NBA or Major League Baseball reach a snag, it becomes a major sports story across all media platforms, regardless of which network owns their television rights. But for Fox's, um, coverage of WWE—which inexplicably has no CBA, does not pay health insurance for wrestlers and misclassifies Superstars as independent contractors—these matters are akin to "Voldemort" as terms that shall not be named.
A similar conflict of interest arose during ESPN's softball coverage of WWE in the face of a bullying scandal implicating announcers John Bradshaw Layfield and Mauro Ranallo. As ESPN dipped its toe into the WWE waters, its sudden lack of covering real-life developments pertaining to the scandal was a point of harsh criticism among those in the know. The criticism became so prominent it was addressed by ESPN executive Dan Kaufman, who admitted ESPN executives were conflicted on the correct way to cover WWE.
For Fox, its chief concern pertaining to WWE will have little to do with the health and/or safety of WWE Superstars, but rather growing fears over the promotion's steady viewership declines. WWE's viewership is nowhere near where it was when Fox agreed to a historic billion-dollar television rights deal around this time last year. The recent hiring of Eric Bischoff and Paul Heyman as Executive Directors for SmackDown and Raw, respectively, is one of many measures WWE has taken in a transparent attempt for course correction on what has been a sinking ship.
And as WWE looks to fight its way out of the darkness headed into October and beyond, don't expect any discussion about the morality of the promotion's employment practices to come from its new television partner.