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Timely reminders not all wrestling companies have handled the pandemic like WWE has

New Japan’s website

WWE’s made some moves over the past week that are very difficult from some people to stomach.

Moves like returning to running three live shows every week, even though it means may of their independent contractors will have to travel to Florida, increasing their risk of coming down with COVID-19. They’ll then have to quarantine away from their loved ones in order to ensure they don’t transmit anything they picked up during their commute to them. And that doesn’t even cover the increased likelihood an asymptomatic wrestler could give the coronavirus to another WWE employee, or any number of other people they might encounter while not staying at home like the government suggests.

We won’t even get into the circumstantial-yet-curious connection between a Linda McMahon-run political action committee’s commitment to spending money in Florida and that state’s decision to include sports and entertainment like WWE as an essential business exempt from their stay-at-home order.

Capping things off is today’s release/lay-off/furloughing of numerous wrestlers, producers, writers, and other WWE employees. Those actions will have real impact on those people and their families, but weren’t taken to ensure Vince McMahon’s company doesn’t lose money for the remainder of the year in a pandemic-damaged economy. By the company’s own admission, they have $500 million in cash reserves and lines of credit. Instead, costs were cut to ensure WWE’s profits are as large as they promised to their shareholders.

All of which is done in service of delivering on promises to those shareholders and maximizing their investment - something they are legally-bound to try and do. We’re not here to tell you if that’s good or bad, right or wrong.

We’re here to tell you that at least a couple other wrestling companies out there that have handled things differently.

Take MLW, run by former WWE creative team member Court Bauer. Bauer was already blunt with a fan about his approach to asking wrestlers to wrestle when public health experts are telling people to stay six feet away from others:

He was even more blunt when Entrepreneur asked him what he thought about other companies holding empty arena shows - which take fans out of the equation but still require people to gather, and wrestlers to do a lot more than that:

“I’ll say this succinctly: That my competitors are putting on events in empty arenas and exposing their talent, crews, staffs and families to the potential [of] contracting the coronavirus I think is, frankly, grotesque.”

Bauer doesn’t address wrestlers who may have been counting on some of MLW’s cancelled shows for a pay day. There aren’t perfect solutions to the unprecedented situation the world finds itself in. But Vince’s way isn’t the only way.

Another example comes from Japan. The country’s biggest wrestling company, New Japan, has been shut down since the beginning of March. And while WWE’s CEO and Chairman has been working with President Donald Trump to “re-open America”, the Japanese wrestling business sent people from seven different companies to meet with their national government to talk about taking care of performers health and finances during the pandemic.

Representatives from NJPW, Stardom, AJPW, DDT, Pro Wrestling NOAH, Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling, and World Women’s Wrestling Diana - including Takaaki Kidani, the director of NJPW & Stardom parent company Bushiroad, New Japan’s 1/100 Ace, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Stardom standout Mayu Iwatani - met with Japan’s Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, Hiroshi Hase (who also happens to be a former pro wrestler).

The group presented Hase with a formal proposal which had two main requests:

1. Testing kits

While we understand that top priority for medical supplies must go to those in centers on the front lines of battling this disease, if at all possible, we request that kits may be supplied to test and protect wrestlers and staff within the industry.

2. Compensation for contracted wrestlers

Not only the wrestlers under contract in our group of companies, but those in the industry at large are designated as contractors whose livelihood is therefore threatened by not being able to perform in the current climate. We ask that contracted wrestlers be met with benefits and protections befitting of full time employees.

Pros and cons exist for the Japanese approach to the problem, too. The request for compensation from public coffers may not sit well with some, and it could be argued that companies like Stardom running empty arena shows (and DDT Pro putting on shows in front of fans) have negatively impacted their countries coronavirus situation.

But it just goes to show there are approaches other than the one WWE’s taken. If you’re upset by Vince’s plan, maybe check some of these other companies out. They have archives of old material you can watch now, and you’ll be all caught up by the time they return to producing new shows.

Just a thought...

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