There are too many things the Firefly Fun House Match during Wrestlemania nailed about WWE storytelling, specifically Vince McMahon’s view of the world. The answer to Vince, as it is with most billionaires, is that the only thing you need to get what you want is to want it bad enough and be willing to demonstrate it more than anyone else. There is no obstacle that “RUTHLESS AGGRESSION” can’t overcome. That’s the key to everything.
Unfortunately, McMahon best exemplifies this trait when directing it at his own employees.
Over the weekend, McMahon reversed his decision, seemingly to the surprise of everyone, to pre-tape all of WWE’s television programming. WWE had been filming Raw, NXT, and Smackdown in block tapings to air over a few weeks. While it certainly didn’t make anyone feel like WWE was conforming to Florida’s too-delayed shutdown, it was just close enough to make fans and most employees get into the area of cognitive dissonance. At the very least, every employee could go home for two to three weeks between tapings and quarantine themselves. It was hardly a perfect solution.
But that apparently will no longer work for McMahon, who is ordering everyone back to Orlando for live tapings every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for their respective shows. And the reason is clear. And the reason is, as you might expect…
According to Dave Melzer, WWE’s contracts with both NBC Universal and Fox only allow for a certain amount of pre-taped shows for Raw and Smackdown, respectively. Those are generally reserved for Christmas or European tours and such. With WWE already bumping up into that limit thanks to the pandemic, the fear for McMahon was that NBC and/or Fox would use it as an excuse to rejigger their contracts and/or withhold money thanks to falling ad revenue.
It’s frustrating on so many levels. The first being that one person who works on-air has already tested positive for COVID-19, though WWE claims that was long enough ago that everyone should be in the clear. But that won’t reassure anyone, and now with on-air and production personnel either having to move to Orlando or travel there at least once a week, all of their risks rise exponentially.
Second, it’s hard to know how willing NBC or Fox would be to alter their contracts, seeing as how their new content is going to dry up soon as well, given the shutdown in TV production everywhere else. Even if WWE was taping in bulk and airing it over the following few weeks, it would still be one of the very few, if any, new shows airing over the summer. That certainly has some value to the networks. Of course, going this way makes sure that McMahon gets all his money, NBC and Fox get the programming they’ve paid for (such as it is in a closed set), while everyone below the highest levels gets a boot in the ass.
You may wonder how McMahon can even get away with this, especially when UFC wasn’t allowed to do so. There’s a big difference between California and Florida, however, which is on the same level of news as tomorrow being Monday. Somehow, McMahon was able to receive an “essential business” label from the Florida government, yet another brilliant moment from a “Florida Man.”
What role the cessation of the XFL, McMahon’s non-wrestling baby, played in this is unclear, but it wouldn’t be a huge leap that it put McMahon on tilt. Then again, people sneezing puts McMahon on tilt, which gives you some idea of how he treats the coronavirus pandemic.
Of course, WWE couched the change as providing entertainment for a nation that needs it and/or other customary horseshit. The claims of having proper precautions and protections in place for everyone involved rings hollow when simply no one and nowhere, at least in this country, has near enough testing capabilities. And were we even approaching a reasonable level of testing capacity, should any of it be diverted to a wrestling company that doesn’t need to be producing weekly shows live? But then WWE’s answers to real-life questions have never been based in reality.
Once again, the wrestlers who make up the WWE roster are upset or even outraged about a decision from on high, and once again, it seems like a prime opportunity to act as one for their own benefit. Unionizing seems beyond them at the moment, but a collective action to protect their own health and safety shouldn’t be. Then again, so would have a collective health care plan.
It isn’t surprising that a close friend of our brainless, orange president would value the bottom line over the safety of those he views as beneath him (i.e. everyone else). It’s surprising how unsurprising it is.