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As the war between WWE and former WWE women’s tag team champions Sasha Banks and Naomi rages on, it was recently revealed that the polarizing duo will not be paid during their suspension.
“The suspension is without pay,” wrote Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
“In addition, the company pulled all of their merchandise from its website, meaning they would not get any new merchandise revenue. There was merchandise for both women available at the live shows over the weekend because that stuff is prepared ahead of time.”
“Based on WWE contracts, the company also has the right to freeze the contract if suspending someone with the idea that they refused to work,” the report continued.
“In the case of Fatu (Naomi), that is notable because it was believed her deal expired in around two months. It is known that her deal was coming due and she was in negotiations for a new deal. Most WWE new deals have been for significantly more money than the old deals because the competition in wrestling has raised the salary structure. It is not known when Varnado’s (Sasha Banks) contract was due.”
Banks also reportedly has two months left on her contract according to former WWE writer Kazeem Famuyide. It’s unknown whether Sasha and Nami’s contracts are currently frozen, but WWE’s ability to freeze contracts could be a powerful leverage tool in a rift where both sides will have considerable leverage.
Assuming both Banks and Naomi have a few months left on their contract, the threat of leaving WWE for AEW is far more real, though the pair may have to return to work briefly to finish out their deals before doing so. Though tensions remain high between Banks, Naomi and WWE, the last thing WWE wants is two of its top stars leaving for AEW within the coming months. With Black women continuing to take over the pro wrestling business—much to the chagrin of its toxic hardcore fanbase—Sasha Banks and Naomi could help AEW appeal to three demographics it has alienated in its young history: Black viewers, women and casual fans.
WWE has no shortage of precedents for freezing contracts, including Bryan Danielson, whose three-year contract was frozen for seven years after his abrupt retirement from in-ring competition in 2015.
WWE’s ability to freeze contracts is one of many questionable employment tactics that has received much-needed attention throughout the Sasha and Naomi saga, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to WWE contracts. In 2020, presidential candidate Andrew Yang called out WWE over its misclassification of WWE Superstars as independent contractors and he was vocal about WWE banning its Superstars from independently profiting from third-party deals.
“If I’m not the Secretary of Labor I’m pretty confident I’ll have his or her number to talk about the ridiculous classification of WWE wrestlers as independent contractors while controlling their name and likeness for years, even for something as benign as Cameo,” tweeted Yang.
President Biden went on to appoint former union official Marty Walsh as Secretary of Labor. Two years into Biden’s presidency, the issue of pro wrestler contracts remains off the agenda.
Sasha Banks and Naomi’s strife with WWE continues a recent pattern of high-profile stars walking out on the company—and their contracts—in some form or fashion. Toni Storm abruptly left WWE toward the end of last year following a feud with Charlotte Flair. Following her release, Storm quickly took advantage of her contractual freedom by launching an OnlyFans account, which she could never do in WWE for an assortment of reasons. Just a few weeks earlier, Jeff Hardy was released by WWE after bizarrely leaving through the crowd during the main event of house show from Corpus Christi, Texas.
With both WWE and Sasha Banks/Naomi sticking to their guns through WWE’s latest contract dispute, this saga has no end in sight but remains intriguing due to its wide range of outcomes.