WWE officials reportedly addressed the controversial Lars Sullivan comments internally at least a year ago, according to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
WWE officials knew about the comments for at least a year and when they made the decision to bring him to the main roster with a push, it was also known that there was a very good chance that the comments would resurface in a much bigger way than they did last year. The idea was to “ride out the storm” like they did when the comments were previously going around social media. Lars issued his public apology last Friday and that may have made things worse for him, by making him a target. As noted, Titus O’Neil revealed this week that Lars also made private apologies to co-workers individually. WWE officials didn’t ask Lars to apologize last year when they dealt with the comments internally, and the story ran its course online. The Observer points to how Lars’ public apology last week brought more unwanted attention to the matter. WWE sponsors then got involved after a fan copied the comments to the Mars candy company, who responded and said they had reached out to WWE to see how they were going to handle the matter. It was reported that at least one other sponsor reached out to WWE over the comments.
We noted earlier this year how WWE had plans to bring Sullivan to RAW for a feud with John Cena, which would have ended at WrestleMania 35. Lars reportedly suffered serious anxiety issues backstage before being sent out in front of a RAW crowd, and that led to him taking some time off to deal with what was going on. While the general feeling was that Lars was dealing with “stage fright” and was maybe afraid of performing in front of large crowds, The Observer reports that his fear actually had to do with the controversial comments resurfacing and potential repercussions on himself, those close to him, and the company.
Regarding the $100,000 fine and sensitivity training that WWE announced for Lars this week, the hope is that the size of the fine will make it clear that WWE punished Lars severely, and that it will take the heat away from people who want him fired. The fine is legit and will likely have to be deducted from Lars’ future earnings. Lars hasn’t been on the main roster long and likely is not able to pay such a steep fine at this point.
WWE contracts do allow for a fine like this to be handed down. WWE is allowed to take action against a talent, even if the incident took place before they were signed. As we’ve noted, most of the comments were made on an online message board years ago, but some were made after Lars signed with WWE. Standard WWE contracts include clauses that read like this:
“Wrestler shall act at all times with due regard to public morals and conventions during the term of this agreement. If wrestler shall have committed or shall commit any act or do anything that is or shall be an offense or violation involving moral turpitude under federal, state or local laws, or which brings wrestler into public disrepute, contempt, scandal or ridicule, or which insults or offends the community or any employee, agent or affiliate of promoter or which injures wrestlers’ reputation in promoter’s sole judgment, or diminishes the value of wrestler’s professional wrestling services to the public or promoter, then at the time of any such act, or any time after promoter learns of any such act, promoter shall have the right to fine wrestler in an amount to be determined by promoter; and promoter shall have the right to immediately suspend wrestler and/or terminate this agreement pursuant to Section 12.”
The Observer noted that WWE’s original plan was to bring Lars to the main roster to try and create an updated version of Brock Lesnar, due to his look, which is caused by acromegaly. This is the same disease that causes an over secretion of Growth Hormone, due to a tumor on the pituitary gland. Lars was diagnosed with the issue early in his WWE career and then had surgery to remove the tumor because those with the tumor usually don’t live past their mid-40s, like WWE Hall of Famer Andre the Giant. Because of Lars’ unique look, WWE officials saw him as a future top star from the beginning, but his journey to the main roster was delayed for several reasons – the tumor surgery, reconstructive knee surgery, and no previous in-ring training.
There’s no word yet on what the situation means for Lars’ future and planned push, but he did appear on Tuesday’s SmackDown, just hours after the fine was announced. He did not appear in front of the crowd but he did appear in a brief backstage segment with Kayla Braxton. Lars has been running wild on the main roster since being called up, taking out various Superstars, including several veterans. A match with R-Truth or a Handicap Match against Truth and Matt Hardy has been rumored.