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Monday, May 25, 2020

What pandemic? WWE and Wrestlemania roll on despite the coronavirus

How the WWE has kept scheduled events on-air when television shows and sporting events have been derailed by the coronavirus.

Written by Rahul Sadhu | Updated: March 29, 2020 9:28:04 pm
WWE is going the extra mile to tape weekly episodes of Raw and Smackdown from an empty WWE Performance Center. (Source: WWE)

Sporting events across the world ground to a halt as nations deal with the spread of the coronavirus, but for fans of WWE little has changed with Wrestlemania and other events being aired as scheduled. On March 16, the WWE announced that it would move the flagship event WrestleMania to a closed facility, and despite other television shows going off-air, the WWE’s RAW and Smackdown events have been aired every week.

The noisy fans are now missing and the bouts are now conducted in silence, without the chants for the favourite wrestler in the background. While fans of the wrestling league aren’t complaining too much, organising the events that physical contact between the wrestlers hasn’t been easy.

WWE’s chief brand officer Stepanie McMahon in a recent interview to Variety said they were taking every possible measure to protect all talent and production crew.

“There’s extensive testing and screening when you first come in the facility regardless of whether you’re a talent, a crew member, or anyone else. Working with our doctors, you have your temperature taken. If you have a temperature over 100.4 degrees, you are automatically asked to leave,” she said.

McMahon also said that they had a lot of talent that lived in the Florida area who had been to remain in Orlando and not travel. WWE has also barred its employees who have travelled abroad from entering its facility or coming in contact with working employees.

WWE benefits from having predetermined outcomes and in the case of WrestleMania, the event is being taped in “multiple locations” ahead of its telecast of April 4 and 5. Wrestlers participating in WrestleMania 36 have been kept in one hotel to avoid any changes to this week’s taping.

However, mere thermal screening isn’t an effective tool to detect carriers of the coronavirus who are not displaying any symptoms like fever or cough. Critics have also said that the organisation’s adherence to local and national rules to prevent the spread of the virus may not be adequate to ensure employees don’t contract it.

One of the star wrestlers Roman Reigns recently pulled out of a match against Goldberg at Wrestlemania due to compromised immunity from battling leukemia. Two other performers (who were a part of Wrestlemania) – Rey Mysterio and Dana Brooke were asked to quarantine. Becky, who worked for Wrestlemania taping, is now isolating herself for a few weeks.

The list of WWE Superstars who had to miss WrestleMania for one reason or another has grown substantially in the past 48 hours. Rey Mysterio, Dana Brooke, Murphy, Roman Reigns, and The Miz had to miss the tapings for issues surrounding this current situation.

With stars dropping out due to illness or fear of contracting it, many have questioned the need to keep the show going despite the pandemic. In the interview, McMahon justified keeping the show going on the grounds that they were focussed on putting the “fan first”.

“We are all about providing content for our fans, providing an experience for them that is worthy of their passion. They come first. Everything we do, we do through a lens of ‘How can we best serve our fans?” she said.

But given the rapid spread of the virus in the US, it may soon become a question of how much longer WWE can continue to keep the show going.

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