Yesterday, headlines hit social media that multiple people, including in-ring talent, tested positive for the corona virus at the WWE Performance Center, where the company has filmed television for the past few months because of the restrictions for live crowds for sports. Located in Orlando, where cases have spiked as the state of Florida became one of the epicenters in the country for new cases, the WWE facility shut down production for a day last week after a developmental talent tested positive for the virus. Surprisingly, despite the fact that it’s a publicly traded billion dollar company, the WWE hadn’t previously tested for the virus prior to its tapings, opting instead for temperature checks, a measure that can’t identify asymptomatic individuals.
When the pandemic began to shut down the world with cases reported around the globe a few months ago, Tampa, the city that was set to host Wrestlemania 36 for a stadium show, became the subject of criticism because of the potential hazardous nature of the event with fans that travel from several different countries to attend the show. Eventually, after travel restrictions would’ve prevented fans from outside of the United States from getting the chance to attend, and even Disney World was closed for similar precautions, the Wrestlemania stadium event was cancelled. Still, even a global pandemic wouldn’t deny Vince McMahon the chance to present his signature event, as the baron of sports entertainment moved the broadcast to the previously mentioned Performance Center, where a two-night event was held without an audience.
As with nearly everything in the age of social media, somehow a medical situation was subject to a political spin by the orange villain and the return of sports has been touted for months during press conferences that are about as coherent as a Sid Vicious promo. I could write several paragraphs with the intensity of a New Jack run-in during his heyday in ECW about how selfish it is for certain people to attempt to claim the pandemic is over simply because they are tired of the restrictions, but I digress. We’re all tired of the restrictions and regardless of how serious someone views the virus or not is a matter of opinion. Either way, new cases are still being reported so the fact is the pandemic is still a problem, especially for professional wrestling or any other sports league that wants to attempt to return to their usual schedule.
While Vince, even at 74, will probably prevent the virus with supplements from his stash of Icopro bars from 1993, the reality is that an outbreak among the WWE roster would be absolutely catastrophic, both from a PR and stock price perspective. Keep in mind, the talent ultimately fuels the WWE machine, and without it, fans will be subjected to Mojo vs. Murphy on the main event segment of Raw. As of this writing, Renee Young, Kayla Braxton, and Adam Pierce were confirmed to test positive for the virus, but The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer reports that there could be as many as two dozen people that worked in the Performance Center with the virus. Add this to the fact that players from the NBA,MLB, and NFL have also tested positive in the early stages of an attempt to return to sports and it’s clear that the virus is still going to be a major hurdle for any organization.
I know this isn’t what any fan wants to hear, but considering the possible domino effect of how contagious the virus is, it’s time for pro wrestling to tap out to Covid and shut down until the virus is eliminated from the population. The concept of a contact sport such as pro wrestling was a roll of the dice to begin with, but it’s officially toppled sports entertainment. The quality of the shows have been hit or miss because of the lack of an actual crowd so is running mediocre television really worth the risk of a further spread of the virus? Obviously, the performers’ safety is a concern, but you must also consider those that they would be in contract with that might be more vulnerable to the more dangerous aspects of the virus. Quite simply, professional wrestling isn’t important enough to further risk anyone’s health in the middle of a global pandemic.
Again, what would fans really be missing if the sport took a hiatus? Raw has been unwatchable recently, and AEW has it’s moments, but there are even flat points for the show that usually focuses on the in-ring action. The WWE has literally hundreds of thousands of hours of classic footage they could run in place of the usual TV schedule, which would give fans some decent nostalgic programming. AEW doesn’t have nearly that amount of footage in the vault, but they have months of AEW Dark footage that hasn’t been seen on TV yet.
The bottom line is, how can either company truly say that it’s still a responsible decision to continue to produce television when there’s now proof that the virus has infected members of the roster? Sure, the argument could be made previously that the shows were run on a closed set to isolate the staff from the possible infection from the public, but the test results show that the “wrestling bubble” wasn’t enough to prevent the spread of the pandemic.
Listen, I’m completely frustrated and totally exhausted from the hassle and stress of the past few months of the constant pandemic restrictions, but at some point, the safety of the athletes from all sports should take priority. With as much as fans respect and admire names like Jim Ross and Ric Flair, is a weekly TV broadcast really worth either of them or any other staff member risking their health? Again, it’s not as though the current environment of no fans allows for compelling television so aside from continuing to run shows just to say that they did, what’s the upside of WWE or AEW continuing to produce live TV during the pandemic? This might sound cliche and it’s a harsh reality, but the scripted world of professional wrestling just isn’t worth the real-life risk associated with the corona virus in the country.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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