You've heard the stories. Pro wrestlers who have fallen on hard times and/or are in need of help due to the medical issues they are facing. Thanks to crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe, kind-hearted people have been able to help in these instances. But what if there was a way to assist workers in the business before it gets to this point.
Enter WrestleConnex, a new organization looking to be a destination for those who have been or are in the industry to attain group health, dental and vision insurance for them and their families, as well as life and final expenses insurance. Beyond this important aspect of providing plan options, WrestleConnex has also partnered with vendors for members to receive discounts on things that might come in handy when you travel for work like hotels and rental cars, as well as open up resources for financial planning and legal advice.
Gloria Lovell, WrestleConnex president, recalls the idea really forming out of conversations with fellow board members Howard Brody (vice president), David Buckler (secretary) and Scott Hosey (treasurer). After decades of working in the Cauliflower Alley Club, they've witnessed the need for an organization like this for a long time. For Lovell, the new group is a labor of love.
"We've been friends over the years. It felt like there was something missing and there was more we could do for the industry," she said. "Realizing this is an area that has been neglected, offering benefits to the workers we met some vendors and put some ideas together. We came up with WrestleConnex to help those in the industry better themselves and their families...We all love this industry and saw an area that was lacking. This is what we came up with."
WrestleConnex has also assembled a team of ambassadors to create awareness and lend a hand with their vast knowledge. Those include James J. Dillon, Sgt. Slaughter, David Marquez, "Cheerleader" Melissa Anderson and Rockin' Robin Smith.
"She is someone who after her wrestling career has been so successful in business," Lovell said of Smith. "Her experience to help someone think about [their future beyond wrestling]. That this is not going to be forever, and they do need to think about what they're going to do when they are not in the wrestling business anymore. She is an excellent resource for advice to younger people because she has been so successful."
Another positive tool for members will be the chance to create electronic press kits. By uploading photos and match clips, they are able to have a place for promoters to take a look at their work. Lovell says WrestleConnex organizers are planning a free preview seminar in December for people interested in what they're doing. Then in 2021, they'll really hit the ground running with monthly seminars featuring ambassadors and fellowship meetings across the country to help workers grow their careers and build bonds.
"We're definitely not a union. We're strictly an organization that is providing benefits," Lovell stresses. "We don't want to be confused with any union activity out there because we're not that. That question has come up several times. Just to be clear that we are not a union.
"...It has been difficult for those in the business not having these options from everywhere from medical benefits to financial planning. That just hasn't been available to them. It just has never been part of the landscape. From all of my years go back into the 1960s, it just has not been part of the landscape. Our goal is to be able to have organizations like WWE letting their people know this is out there for them. It's not something that may not be provided to them, but there is an option out there for them. There are lots of organizations now we are starting to talk to now and hoping to get them on board."
Membership costs $49.95 a year, and there is an application process. However, Lovell says this is to ensure WrestleConnex is keeping their services offered to workers only. She couldn't be happier with the response thus far. And given the challenging climate caused by the pandemic, there is no better time to launch such an organization.
"I became a fan in the early 1960s when my grandfather started taking me to the matches. He knew a lot of the guys, so I grew up around them," she recalled "My time with WWE was in the mid 1990s [in marketing]. The love for the business has always been there from a very young age. I became real good friends over the years with Lord Alfred Hayes, Nick Bockwinkel and Red Bastien, who were very involved in the Cauliflower Alley Club. This was a way to stay involved in the business on the side of helping people. Nearly 20 years on the board of the Cauliflower Alley Club. This was the next step for us."
For more information on WrestleConnex, visit the organization website. Lovell's full interview aired as part of a recent episode of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it's released Monday - Friday afternoon by clicking here.