Hello everyone. Today, we are looking at a few business practices which may have exposed the wrestling industry, painting it in a negative light during a time of global emergency. This is not about asking what they can do from here, but highlighting some of the more questionable decisions made by government and management. It is about figuring out whether wrestling should continue on during a pandemic.
While the world goes in to lockdown with the majority of sporting events having been cancelled, wrestling is different. Why? Because in some US states, it has been deemed an “essential” service. It doesn’t take much to see how this is a double standard. How is WWE and AEW allowed to air forms of entertainment while others cannot? Well, it’s to do with Donald Trump and his close ties to the McMahon’s and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. When the most important thing should be suppressing the disease via social distancing, they have decided wrestling continues.
It has nothing to do with the mental welfare of fans sitting at home. There is no one suffering because they can’t see their wrestling. If anything, ratings have plummeted since empty arena shows began, despite little other original content airing. While All Elite wrestling is still producing episodes of Dynamite & Dark, it was coming up with measures to stop. It had already taped several episodes in advance. The way it’s been perceived is, if WWE can keep going then why can’t they? But the fact is, people are suffering and they are more concerned about keeping finances in check.
It’s the same for everyone. Look at football, soccer, motor racing, and literally any other form of sport or TV show on other networks. They have volunteered or been forced to put events & episodes on hold. All have ceased operation while wrestling soldiers on with the false purpose of doing this “for the fans”. No… don’t insult me please. We know that money is the only motivator here. Yes, they have obligations to TV networks… but these networks are never going to cancel them if they decided to do the right thing. After all, wrestling is too valuable to them.
Addressing The Situation
While I commend AEW for regularly making it known they are testing their talent before each episode, WWE isn’t doing this. And since empty arena shows began, it feels like wrestling lives in its own little bubble. We know they want to serve as a form of escapism, but I’m sure many would like to know how the talents are dealing with the pandemic. Why are they being ignored?
There has to be some animosity between those who are isolating, and others who can’t; because they don’t care or will lose out if they do. We have seen superstars cry when they get injured because they know their spot (unless they’re established) will be taken by someone else. They work so hard to scratch and claw their way up the ladder that they can’t afford to sit on the bench. Choosing to watch from afar isn’t in their nature, they don’t have it in them to voluntarily give up their place.
This is why it’s rarely mentioned, because airing this inner conflict would counteract their message of treating talent fairly. I’d like to believe they hold no ill will towards those who stay at home, but other statements tell me otherwise. Chris Jericho for example, stated that they have the opportunity to make history here. By not being apart of that, are those who choose to isolate not contributing? Other companies have done the right thing, by cancelling events so the wrestlers don’t have to make these tough decisions.
Impact Wrestling however, has occasionally touched on the subject while airing shows from the less hit country of Canada. They have involved some who are stuck in the United States on their product; like Tessa Blanchard and Eddie Edwards apologizing for not being able to make it to Rebellion.
Dynamite’s Close Quarters
One of the biggest double standards I have seen while watching wrestling lately, is the fact that Dynamite chooses to have wrestlers standing at ringside in close quarters. It makes sense to do this if you want a better atmosphere, if you want the viewers at home to feel like there’s a crowd enjoying the show. However, aside from one exception, every other episode has had wrestlers sitting or standing less than 6 feet or 2 metres from each other. Commentary claim they are “adhering to social distancing”, yet it’s very clear this isn’t the case. Go look at any gathering of people or shopping queues… there is no way they are far enough apart.
It seemed to get worse during the golf kart segment. We could clearly see many wrestlers and others gathering together in close proximity to cheer on Matt Hardy & Kenny Omega against the Inner Circle. On this week’s episode of Dynamite, AEW finally had their ringside wrestler crowd adopt face masks. They still need to be farther apart though, and not mixing up the participants in the ring with those who are watching. Yes, they are testing the talent when they get there… but they aren’t setting a good enough example for those watching at home. Kids will watch and ask their parents: Why is this perfectly acceptable?
PPV & Face Mask Merchandising
There are people struggling to make ends meet as they have lost their jobs and have no idea if they’ll get them back. Others have or will be forced in to homelessness in the coming months. All the while, wrestling companies are charging fans the full price for PPVs. As a two-night event, unless subscribed to the WWE Network, WrestleMania 36 set you back $60. AEW Double Or Nothing will take another $50-60. Luckily if you get it on Fite TV, it’s only $20.
I understand that business is going on as usual, but is this not a bit much considering the declining ratings? They have been struggling to maintain their audience, so to charge people the full whack for a (perhaps) slightly better product? I don’t know. Undoubtedly, we know the loyalists will tune in no matter what. But in this state of emergency, would it not have been appealing to lower the prices a little just to encourage a spike of new viewers? Who then may decide to keep on watching the TV episodes?
Not only that, but as it becomes common practice to wear face masks in close proximity, WWE has began selling wrestler themed face masks. Now, I have to give kudos to them for stating that 100% of the proceeds are going to the “Americares Foundation, Inc. who are delivering critically needed medical supplies to health care workers.” However, when I go on to Euroshop… we see that one of the biggest reasons for doing this is because they want to plug other merchandise sales with BIG LETTERING like the following — 50% OFF SELECT T-SHIRTS | 25% OFF SELECT TITLES” — By masking itself as a good thing, it’s clear that it has been done as a marketing scheme to get more fans to buy other merchandise.
It’s tough while working with a wrestling website, but I have to be honest and say that from the beginning I have always wanted it to go on a break. Even if it hurts the business in the short term, I believe that saving lives is more important. I look at companies like Ring Of Honor, New Japan, and independent wrestling promotions around the world, who have had to take measures to preserve their business amidst cancelled events during the pandemic.
Some won’t survive, and it’s a real shame. I feel sorry for those who don’t have any support. They don’t have fat pockets to reach in to so they can make it through this difficult period. Although it would’ve been easy and understandable, AEW & Impact Wrestling have done really well by not releasing any of their talent at this time. Instead of letting them go, management are actively supporting those who are unable to work.
While I continue watching with a great deal of reluctance (so I can keep updated), I’m most looking forward to seeing those who are sitting at home making their long-awaited returns. We should be supporting these promotions and talents for doing the right thing, however possible.
For the entire wrestling industry will need us more than ever, as we head towards a bleak unknown in the latter half of 2020. I would like to know though, if you believe the wrestling business has been exposed in recent months? Was it the right choice to continue airing empty arena shows? Would they have benefited more from going on hiatus? Or not? Please let us know in the comments. Stay safe and look out for your loved ones. Thank you for reading.