clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

When wrestling fandom feels like complicit behavior

If you’re having a moral quandary about watching WWE, you’re not alone

Yesterday’s reports of more positive COVID-19 tests in WWE were sadly inevitable. WWE, allegedly, failed to properly and comprehensively test its employees for the virus, limiting scans to forehead temperature readings, and allowing talent to come and go as they please. Only after the recent positive tests for Renee Young, Adam Pearce, and various other talent did the company move to nasal swab testing - the practice that AEW has reportedly been doing since this all started.

Hopefully, WWE is also mandating re-testing if anyone leaves the PC and wants back in. I don’t enjoy the AEW vs WWE comparisons, but when the former is being the Gallant to the latter’s Goofus, I cannot avoid the comparisons.

I explain all of this, though, to bring up the only natural feelings that many fans, myself included, are likely going through. Things like worrying about the health and well being of their favorite performers. Or being concerned that supporting Raw, SmackDown or NXT is sending the wrong message about public health to the world at large.

WWE — it tells us — is in the business of putting smiles on faces. WWE — as we engage with it today — is putting knots in our stomachs and hearts.

Playing favorites

Wrestlers aren’t like children, you’re more than allowed to have a favorite. But once you worry about one wrestler, eventually you’ll move on to cheering for them once a social media post reminds you that they’ve got a match against a legend, or that they’re on the verge of holding more gold than god. These are terrible times, but it almost feels like if our favorite wrestler(s) are going to be working, and risking their health, we should be doing our part, championing them from the sidelines. Even when the guilt seeps in.

And if your brain latches into a fear for your favorite performers’ health, and then you feel guilty for putting certain wrestler above others’, do not beat yourself up about it. We all want the world for the wrestlers we like the most, but nobody’s thinking to themselves, “oh let one of the other guys or gals get it, just not my favorite.”

A plea for transparency

And then we get to the unanswered questions about who’s off TV and why they’re missing. What really irks me about the WWE is that through the entire pandemic, they’ve been as opaque as ever. Practically never explaining anything about why they’ve made the changes they’ve made, avoiding mentioning the virus that was both the elephant in the room and as we’ve learned actually in the room itself.

Why is WWE so afraid of letting talent share if they’ve been exposed, or tested positive? Are they that ashamed of how poorly they ran their business? Can it really be about trying to make the strongest reality distortion field possible, so little kids and grown-up children can have hours when they don’t hear the word coronavirus? If the former, I get it, but that’s the bed they made and they need to clean it. If the latter? The visual image of masked performance center talent banging on plexiglass isn’t the carefree image they think it is.

WWE will never be a transparent company — but in times like this, the more honest and straightforward they can be, the more they can help repair the broken trust. Tuning into Raw, NXT and SmackDown isn’t just a chore when there aren’t any fans in the arena and storylines are sluggish. Watching WWE right now makes you wonder about the morality play taking place within the company overall, because while wrestling was deemed essential by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, he’s also made so many other mistakes with the reopening of Florida that it’s hard to think he ever makes correct decisions.

What, skip wrestling?

It’s taken the worst days of WWE for me to consider taking a week or two off. That’s half because I find even bad wrestling to be more enjoyable than whatever else is on, but that aforementioned guilt can make me feel like watching pro wrestling in mid-pandemic America feels like I’m being part of the problem.

That goes for every single promotion there is. No matter if you’re filming in COVID County, Florida or doing an indie show where fans are not social distancing at all (and sometimes even trying to touch the wrestlers).

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you feel bad about watching wrestling, know that you’re not alone. Yes, we keep coming back, but these are trying times and the TV audiences cannot be blamed nearly as much as promoters.

So when you tune into whichever Wednesday night show you pick, don’t beat yourself up over your decision. Promotions won’t stop running because ratings are bad — Raw, I’m looking at you — the most we can do is use whatever platforms we have to demand that performers’ health be a top concern.

Oh, and wear a mask when you go outside of your home.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Cageside Seats Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your pro wrestling news from Cageside Seats