Right off the top... I get that whatever WWE produces is designed to entertain. We can debate whether or not they’re achieving that goal, but I appreciate the effort. Now more than ever, we’re watching pro wrestling for a temporary escape from the world we live in, not be bombarded by reminders of how frightening it is.
Having said that however, WWE’s current approach to addressing the BIG SCARY THING everyone on the globe is dealing with isn’t serving anyone. “Coronoavirus”, “pandemic”, and “COVID-19” seem to be on the list of banned terms with “belt” and “hospital”. In their place is the phrase “prevailing circumstances”.
It’s an approach which could work if those circumstances weren’t so prevailing. Nobody’s tuning in for news. But everyone tuning in also knows they’re not at the Performance Center just because it makes for a “unique” Raw. Handwaving away things like why there are no fans in the seats, or why WrestleMania will (probably) take place on a closed set, actually calls more attention to how strange it all is.
They’re also missing out on an opportunity to educate and/or inspire their audience. Just a week ago, WWE was using its stars and platform for the latter. Now that it’s become clear just how critical hygiene is to public health, they’ve forgotten all about it. With some Americans still skeptical about the need for social distancing to flatten the curve of transmission, a PSA from a popular wrestler might change someone’s mind. This wouldn’t even need to happen on television - but even the company’s social media and web outlets aren’t addressing the “prevailing circumstances”.
With regards to inspiration, entertainment should seek to instill hope just as much as much as distract us from despair. It wouldn’t need to be Vince McMahon’s passionate speech from the post-9/11 SmackDown. But at the end of Mar. 16 Raw, it might have been nice to hear Stone Cold say something like, “Let me send out a ‘Hell Yeah’ to the world tonight. Times are tough, and we need to do some wild stuff to ensure our friends, neighbors, and loved ones stay healthy right now. But we’ll get through this, and that’s the bottom line...”
Just a few seconds to allow one of our favorites to let us know he’s with us. It wouldn’t replace the Stunner fun. That’s definitely needed. But so are encouraging words from public figures who’ve been constants in our lives.
Again, I’m not slamming WWE. Everyone is currently trying to navigate without a map right now. I certainly don’t want COVID-19 to turn into a catchphrase or anything.
But describing what’s going on using inoffensive jargon hasn’t made for a more entertaining pro wrestling/sports entertainment program. And it’s missing an opportunity to help all of us get through life during the coronavirus pandemic.
There’s no harm, and lots of potential benefit, in WWE acknowledging the “prevailing circumstances”.