With thousands of non-essential businesses across America closing their doors, the workforce has been stripped down to its bare bones — doctors, nurses, food service workers, and professional wrestlers, obviously.
Mayor Jerry Demings of Orange County, Florida, revealed in a press conference on Monday that the WWE was labeled an “essential business” to the economy of Florida and would be allowed to continue taping at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando after a private discussion with the governor’s office. The news comes weeks after virtually all local businesses were closed, with the notable exception of the Performance Center, which was confirmed to still be taping episodes of RAW during the pandemic.
“Initially, there was a review that was done and they were not initially deemed an essential business,” Demings said. “[But] with some conversation with the Governor’s office regarding the Governor’s order, they were deemed an essential business. And so, therefore, they were allowed to remain open.”
The news is made even more controversial by the fact that a WWE employee who was present on their closed set recently tested positive for the coronavirus. WWE justified the decision to continue shooting by claiming the individual in question contracted the disease from a medical worker and posed no threat to ongoing shooting after being cleared of the virus.
“We are producing content on a closed set with only essential personnel in attendance following appropriate guidelines while taking additional precautions to ensure the health and wellness of our performers and staff. As a brand that has been woven into the fabric of society, WWE and its Superstars bring families together and deliver a sense of hope, determination and perseverance,” the WWE said in an official statement.
That’s right, since the WWE is “woven into the fabric of society,” they will be allowed to continue shooting for however long social distancing mandates are in effect in Florida. It is our nation’s most essential and protected form of entertainment.
Unfortunately, Vince McMahon isn’t entirely insulated from coronavirus-related losses — in the same week as the WWE announced their intention to continue taping, McMahon’s football league, the XFL, filed for bankruptcy. After being forced to cancel the entire premiere season of the XFL’s relaunch, the company was operating with millions of dollars of losses and chose to file for bankruptcy.
Obviously, football is a very different game from wrestling, one that typically involves thousands of fans clustered together in less-than-hygienic conditions, to put it mildly. But wrestling is also a contact sport, and McMahon’s decision to continue with WWE in a televised format (with no audience) while not even attempting the same for football is interesting. Arguably, a game of football played in an empty arena is safer in terms of person-to-person spread than a closed indoor set where all workers are breathing the same air and touching the same surfaces. The coronavirus has forced all of us to make difficult decisions — clearly, McMahon was willing to make Sophie’s choice and save his favorite child.