After a period of tension with the Floridian government bodies, WWE has finally made a change to WrestleMania 36. Mania broadcasting from the Performance Center with no audience doesn’t just mean it will be a bizarre viewing experience for fans at home, but that American independent wrestling, already heavily impacted by event restrictions across the country, will be financially devastated.
I know the big spotlight is on Tampa but I had 2 shows booked this month as well, while I take all of this seriously and get all the risks involved the only way you could probably relate to my situation is if you went in your backyard and lit about $20,000 on fire right now.
— John Thorne (@JohnThorneAIW) March 13, 2020
While WWE says they have over 500 million dollars available “to manage the challenges ahead,” most businesses obviously don’t. Even before the blow to WrestleMania weekend, indie wrestling was facing serious challenges. AIW’s John Thorne, who had to cancel two shows in March, compared the situation to “if you went in your backyard and lit about $20,000 on fire right now.”
Some WrestleMania weekend shows like ChallengeMania and Uncanny Attractions were already canceled by their promotors after the CDC began to recommend against gatherings over 50 people (a recommendation that has since been changed to gatherings larger than 10 people.) But other, larger events like WrestleCon and its affiliated shows had to wait for moves by WWE and the government to determine their future.
WrestleCon posted shortly after WWE’s announcement that “Mania canceling before the city or state actually puts us in a bad situation with our venues” along with a screenshot of an email from the Marriot Westshore showing just how bad. The email said that because “it is neither illegal nor impossible for ‘WrestleCon 2020’ to occur as previously agreed” and WrestleCon was “a special event booked over heavy demand dates,” WrestleCon management will have to pay over 114,000 dollars in damages.
Didn't have a draft for this one.
— TheCollective2020 (@collective2020) March 17, 2020
Game Changer Wrestling has done a huge amount of its reputation-building for itself over the past few years at WrestleMania weekend with shows like Joey Janela’s Spring Break, Bloodsport, and more. GCW and its affiliated promotions, aka The Collective, say their events will take place at a later date, with tickets for the WrestleMania weekend versions of those events honored at that time. The Collective will grant refunds to those who want them but have requested that fans who don’t need refunds not to ask for them, saying, “We are not asking to keep your money for nothing. We are asking you to invest in the future of Independent wrestling.”
**NEW SHOW ALERT**
BLP Presents "Empty House"
A live empty arena event airing to raise as much money possible to give back to the wrestlers that do so much to entertain us.
Donate At https://t.co/C54nKZyRLU
— Black Label Pro (@BLabelPro) March 16, 2020
Scary times only exist when you feel like you’re on your own.
I’ll be donating to cover all of the performers pay for the 1st event. I encourage anyone that is in the position to do so, please donate and allow these incredible artists to perform for you. @FreelanceWres is home. https://t.co/GC6RuNtFkJ
— Mustafa Ali / Adeel Alam (@AliWWE) March 17, 2020
For many wrestlers and promotions, Mania weekend can’t be replaced (Black Lapel Pro promoter Michael Blanton told VICE losing it is like “a nine-to-fiver being cut from 40 hours to five”), but some promotions have already organized no-audience events to generate income for indie wrestlers during this time.
On March 28, Black Label Pro will broadcast Empty House on IWTV, and money is being raised to pay the performers through this Indiegogo campaign. Starting on March 21, the Freelance Wrestling Academy in Chicago will stream a weekly In Our Warehouse empty-arena event on IWTV. Fans will be able to donate to specific performers during the show and while some will probably end up making more than others, all the wrestlers will be paid at no expense to the Freelance because WWE’s Mustafa Ali just announced he’ll cover all the performers for the first show.