The two big stories that came out of WWE over the weekend don’t go together very well. One was that an on-air employee tested positive for COVID-19, and the other is that they’re resuming live broadcasts of Raw, NXT, and Smackdown. That’s three shows a week that much of their talent will have to either travel back and forth to, or isolate themselves locally, away from their families. Neither solution is great, and at a time when only essential businesses are supposed to be going to work, WWE’s justification for going live again is a bit questionable, to say the least.
Naturally, the statement they made to ESPN made it all about the fans:
We believe it is now more important than ever to provide people with a diversion from these hard times. 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.
But meanwhile, Dave Meltzer at WON is saying that the real issue is that WWE’s contracts with USA and Fox limit how many pre-taped shows they’re supposed to air per year, apparently to just 3, which are usually used for Christmas and the UK tour. Apparently the fear is that if they don’t go live, even during this pandemic, the networks will have justification to renegotiate other parts of the contracts.
So yes, if you were confused, it sounds like WWE’s decision to put its talent at risk by running three live weekly TV shows a week during a global pandemic is all about money. I don’t think this will surprise anyone.
WWE keeps stressing how many precautions they’re taking at these shows, but personally I can’t even bring myself to call that doing the bare minimum for their workers’ safety. In this crisis, as most of us know well, the bare minimum, unless you’re selling food or providing healthcare, should be keeping your workers home.