“Wrestling just isn’t what it use to be.” I’ve heard this quote so many times I anticipate it now whenever the subject of pro wrestling comes up. In these days of COVID-19 it couldn’t be more true as the shows are now taped in empty training facilities. To be very blunt about it, the products are mediocre to just plain sucking. The juggernaut that is WWE and the latest rival to the throne in All Elite Wrestling (AEW) are trying to provide something for us sports fans but itis lacking that extra emotion. If you haven’t tried to watch it, you should so you can appreciate how lame the NBA, NFL, NHL, or MLB would be in an empty arena.
AEW has tried to provide something like a fan setting having wrestlers surround the ringside area with extra talent “social distance” apart. They stay in character portraying a face/technico (good guy) or heel/rudo (bad guy) and cheering, booing or helping the appropriate character to cheat where possible. They’ve used cinematic promos filmed off location to make things different and try to let us escape the real world for a couple hours every week. I appreciate this Matches have been solid for the most part but you can tell the reward that the performer’s really seek is that crowd reaction and interaction that some wrestler’s character depend on. Without this, the product truly falls flat. Whenever someone hits a flip off the top rope to the outside to nothing, it seems like a wasted risk of injury. Why pull out the big stuff for no pay off?
AEW have taken the employee and wrestlers health and welfare into consideration by having taped months’ worth of content in a few days to make sure people can be home and safe with their families. They haven’t laid anybody off either! WWE can’t say the same but more on that later.
WWE on the other hand have flip flopped from going taped to live back to taped. They had been shooting their programs live from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando where they’ve been deemed an “essential” business. I don’t know much about government and how much palm greasing had to be done to make this happen but I can guess it was the value of more than I make in 100 years! They’ve filmed everything in a completely empty space with just the camera crew and a table with the announcers. Originally when the world began shutting down, WWE was taping a week or two of programming at a time.
The WWE was so determined to have things stay “business as usual” they even filmed their biggest show of the year Wrestlmania in front of no one as opposed to the 80,000 plus they would normally attract to such a show. Thankfully though instead of the 7-8 hour marathons the last couple years have been, this year was just so “big” it was two 3 hour and change shows over two nights. Much easier to digest especially under the empty arena circumstances. I believe this was done to make it appear that they had more viewers than ever because you can add up both nights together counting the same viewers twice. This would done to make investors feel more at ease even though the stock has plummeted from $100 in January to $44.79 as of this writing.
This switched to needing to go live because of television contracts. The WWE has a clause stating only 3 to 4 shows a year would be taped or the big money contracts with the likes of Fox and USA could withhold funds. Having promised investors a set return on their investment, that money is absolutely necessary. Thankfully the networks have reportedly said they want first run programming right now, not necessarily live under the circumstances. With locker room morale reportedly being low having to go live Monday for Raw at 3 hours, Wednesday 2 hours for NXT and 1 hour for 205 Live, then Smackdown 2 hours Friday it was a continual fear of contracting the disease while traveling from their homes to Orlando, this was a great relief to know things would be taped in consecutive days. I’m getting a bit ahead of myself though as a couple big things happened before this brief nugget of good news was dropped by Vince McMahon to his employees.
In the midst of all this the XFL essentially ceased to exist again losing millions. It was originally said that the WWE was going to separate from the XFL and have no funds invested into it which was a lie. I don’t think anyone believed that there was no WWE investment into the XFL anyway. On top of this, it was reported that by Bleacher Report that
“World Wrestling Entertainment issued a press release this morning, announcing a 10 percent reduction of its workforce across all areas of its global operations
The layoffs will give the company an annual savings of around $8 million while they will also incur an approximate $3 million one-time restructuring charge in the first quarter of 2009. The goal is to reduce all costs by $20 million this year while increasing earnings and margins.”
The WWE announced on Wednesday April 15 that it had come to terms on the release of wrestlers Kurt Angle, Drake Maverick, Curt Hawkins, Karl Anderson, Luke Gallows, Heath Slater, Eric Young, EC3, Aiden English, Lio Rush, Sarah Logan, Erick Rowan, Primo, Epico, Mike Kanellis, Maria Kanellis, Zack Ryder, No Way Jose and, in perhaps the biggest surprise on the list, Rusev. Also released was longtime referee Mike Chioda.
Never mind the fact that these wrestlers are putting their lives at risk for Vince McMahon’s WWE during a pandemic, they have the gall to say that wresting is “woven into the fabric of American society”. Now I’m not American but I’d have to say baseball or football come WAY ahead of pro wrestling if anything is “woven” into society and I don’t see them hitting the panic button to save profits. Perhaps looking after one another in time of need should be more “woven” into the fabric of American society than greed and capaitalism!