Since the Coronavirus hit the United States live sports in the country have all but stopped. All the leagues and sport organization have stopped play and have shutdown their facilities, all except that of the WWE. In the mists of a global public health crisis, when everyone is told to stay at home, schools and businesses have shut down the WWE sees it fit to continue to produce it’s three live shows a week. Now the wrestling promotion have made some changes to how they operate such as having all of their shows at the WWE performance center in Tampa, FL with no fans instead of traveling from city to city. The promotion sees this as alternative that allows them to maintain their weekly production schedule without putting their talent risk of the virus.
The WWE took to these measures in mid-March as the virus was spreading in America and all other sports were cancelling their seasons. At that point the virus had not spread to the magnitude that it has currently. The spread of the virus came on lead up to the WWE’s biggest show of the year, WrestleMania 36. WrestleMania 36 was supposed to take place on April 5th at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, FL. After a couple weeks of the Florida Sports Commission wrestling with the owner and chairman of WWE Vince McMahon, WrestleMania would take place at Raymond James Stadium. This decision was a huge blow to not only the WWE, but independent wrestling promotions and the city of Tampa. Each year WrestleMania brings in tens of thousands of people from all over the world for not only the multitude of WWE’s events including the big show but also a bunch of other wrestling event from different promotions. With the spread of COVID-19 all of these events were cancelled, so it makes you wonder why WWE decided to go through with the show.
When Florida shut down the big stadium show, WWE decided to make WrestleMania a two-night event from the Performance Center. This seemed like a poor move as the last three months of build up for the big show was wasted on what turned out to be a glorified TV taping. Now that WrestleMania has past WWE continues to do their three live shows a week. Not only is the product is unbearable to watch with the empty arenas but viewership is dropping drastically. On April 13th Monday Night Raw drew its lowest ratings ever with around 1.5 million viewers and the last few weeks have numbers have not been much higher. With the dropping viewership and the virus starting to peak it makes little sense why Mr. McMahon does not put his company on hold until the virus claims down. The WWE performance center is in Tampa which has had a high number of COVID-19 cases, so with having the talent travel back and froth to the PC it puts them at greater risk of contracting the virus. For the little reward the risk just does not seem worth it.
For a second it seemed that Mr. McMahon was coming to his senses as reports come out last week the WWE was going to prerecord the next few months of RAW, NXT, and Smackdown shows as Florida did not see WWE as an essential business. These reports came with joy from fans, backstage workers and the in-ring talent alike as the WWE would take one or two days to film all the matches they need for next few months. This would give the WWE product to put out and would allow all whom work for the company to stay home and be safe. All that changed over Easter weekend when it was brought to Mr. McMahon’s attention that the WWE’s TV contracts with both Fox and the USA network only allow for three pre-taped shows a year. Realizing this, all pre-taped plans were scrapped as if the terms of the contracts were violated Fox and USA could restructure the contract cause WWE to loss money. This is an important bit as WWE gets a majority of their revenue from their TV contracts.
Now this is where the story gets really crazy, on April 12th McMahon decides to stick with the live production schedule. Then on April 14th the state of Florida reverses their decision and announces that WWE is considered an essential business, this allows WWE to continue their live broadcasting. This is interesting, as this decision comes off the heels of a SuperPAC supporting President Trump’s reelection run by Linda McMahon donates over $18 million dollars to the Florida Governor. Moving to Wednesday April 15th Vince McMahon has a video call with all WWE employees, in this call the chairman announces that there will mass releases and furloughs on both the talent and backstage side of the company. The like of Kurt Angle, Rusev (Miroslav Barnyashev), Drake Maverick (James Curtin), Zack Ryder (Matthew Cardona), Curt Hawkins (Brian Myers), Karl Anderson (Chad Allegra), Luke Gallows (Drew Hankinson), Heath Slater (Heath Miller), Eric Young (Jeremy Fritz), Rowan (Joseph Ruud), Sarah Logan (Sarah Rowe), No Way Jose (Levis Valenzuela), Mike Chioda, Mike Kanellis (Mike Bennett), Maria Kanellis, EC3 (Michael Hutter), Aiden English (Matthew Rehwoldt), Lio Rush (Lionel Green), Primo (Edwin Colon) and Epico (Orlando Colon Nieves) were released from the company between the 15th and now. There have also been hundreds of writers, producers, and office employees that have been let go or put on leave. It was also announced that all WWE ecuxtives will take pay cuts and that the company will put a hold on moving the company headquarters from Titan tower to a different building in Stamford. All of these actions were deemed as cost cutting measures in these uncertain times.
Though we are in uncertain times it is crazy to see the WWE make such a massive talent release. Especially considering the company spent the last two year trying to sign as much talent as they could to prevent them from going to the new competition AEW. Now a lot of these wrestler not been doing a lot on any of the show and most of them are jobbers. There are some surprising names such as Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows as the tag team was not even a year into their new five-year contract. Regardless of the star power of these names, it is surprise and down right a dick move by the WWE as these people are now left without a steady income in these dire times. Now on the surface the situation seems normal in these times as many companies have been forced to lay people off during the spread of COVID-19. If you take a deeper look in to what’s going on you’ll see that the driving force behind these decisions is the greedy, stubborn 74-year-old billionaire chairman of the broad. Though WWE is not getting the revenue from ticket sales for the live events, the company still has a $500 million dollar cash reserve. Yet the company gets rid of a couple hundred employees while still produce live weekly Television. Coming up in the next few week is company’s quarterly investor call, which the WWE changed the subject of the call from the dropping stock prices to how all these layoffs will help the bottom line in 2020. As this came out it is becoming evident that the WWE took to these measures simply so the company can make a profit in 2020.
As the situation develops further it will be interesting to see how the perception of the company changes from both inside and outside. Will talent want to leave for greener grass? Will the light of political corruption and dirty business practices push talent from coming to WWE in the future? How will the current talent stand by the company? These are interesting times as myself and plenty wrestling fan are asking what the hell is wrong with the WWE?