While Vince McMahon, and by extension WWE, demurred about canceling or postponing their biggest event of the year in the face of a global pandemic, the independent wrestling world braced for impact. Why? Because WrestleMania weekend is not just WWE’s biggest event of the year, it is the rest of the wrestling world’s, too. And, now that WrestleMania is officially moving to a no-fan event in the WWE Performance Center, independent wrestling’s entire year will change unequivocally.
— WWE (@WWE) March 16, 2020
You don’t need to look further than the likes of WrestleCon, The Collective, and Absolute Intense Wrestling’s Thunder In Paradise — all scheduled in Florida, alongside Mania in Tampa and now cancelled or postponed — to see why. The independent wrestling scene, arguably more exciting than the overproduced and safe WWE, piggybacks off of the massive success of WrestleMania unilaterally across promotions, individual performers, and other staff to bring in fans, revenue, and new energy that last not just for ‘Mania weekend, but much further.
Without massive brand deals like Snickers and Jumanji, let alone having $500 million cash-on-hand like WWE has to sustain themselves, independent wrestling is looking down the barrel of hundreds of thousands of lost dollars in ticket revenue, booking opportunities, and merchandise sales. What will they do? What can you do? It’s complicated.
WWE’s statement to investors on the potential impact of COVID-19 to the company.
— Ryan Satin (@ryansatin) March 12, 2020
First and foremost, some promotions like Black Label Pro are pivoting in the same way WWE is: no-attendance events with the same, or similar card that was originally advertised. It also helps that the indies are slightly less lawsuit prone and can lean into fun themes like the Full House inspired Empty House taking place March 28th on Independent Wrestling TV’s streaming platform.
**NEW SHOW ALERT**
BLP Presents "Empty House"
A live empty arena event airing to raise as much money possible to give back to the wrestlers that do so much to entertain us.
Donate At https://t.co/C54nKZyRLU
— Black Label Pro (@BLabelPro) March 16, 2020
Others will see alums and current wrestlers who have made it to major promotions like AEW and WWE donate what they’re able to cover independent wrestler’s wages and necessary event promotion costs as available. Mustafa Ali has committed to do so publicly, and it looks like Jon Moxley is doing so privately.
Scary times only exist when you feel like you’re on your own.
I’ll be donating to cover all of the performers pay for the 1st event. I encourage anyone that is in the position to do so, please donate and allow these incredible artists to perform for you. @FreelanceWres is home. https://t.co/GC6RuNtFkJ
— Mustafa Ali / Adeel Alam (@AliWWE) March 17, 2020
And on top of that, which will not replace the lost revenue or good times of a botched Mania but will lift spirits, some promotions are combining efforts and promotions to bring wrestling, and an opportunity to directly support wrestlers to the fans like Pro Wrestling Tees and Freelance Wrestling’s Warehouse Wars.
AEW in particular is also looking to spread what funding and support they can through shirt sales at Pro Wrestling Tees that directly support WHO’s COVID-19 response. From the likes of Cody and Chris Jericho, they’re nice shirts that will also likely be weird time-capsule-like merchandise in the near future. “Remember when Chris Jericho told me to shut my ass about Coronavirus? Weird times”
Which leaves you and me. What can we, the fans do? While it would take a massive, coordinated, and unquantifiable effort to re-coup all of the lost profits and struggles the important, resilient, but fleet independent wrestling scene will lose in the coming month(s) – there are some simple things you can do.
Subscribe to subscription services: Independentwrestling.tv, Dragon Gate, Chikara and plenty of other wrestling promotions local and national offer these at extremely reasonable rates. Guys like Darby Allin came up in scenes like Defy Wrestling’s Seattle tour, and your support not only helps them continue to batter their bodies for your enjoyment, but comes with the added benefit of letting you watch some damn good wrestling, too.
Purchase direct: When and where you can, purchase directly from wrestlers and promotions through whatever store front they offer. Pro Wrestling Tees in particular has wrestler-owned stores that are great for this. Supporting the scene in this way comes with the added bonus of some cool merch headed your way.
Keep tuning in: Don’t wait to watch wrestling. Even if it’s the relatively secure AEW and WWE, tune in when you can, when promotions are putting shows on, and make sure your support is seen and heard. Wrestling is a reaction-based industry, and your support means more than can be quantified through good times and bad. This one comes with the added benefit that you might catch something you’ve never seen or heard of before but come to love.
These are all little, but valuable things. It follows the logic of Patreon and Kofi that in isolation, one person’s $1 donation isn’t much, but within a community of hundreds of thousands of people supporting something, it adds up. Wrestlers risk their health every day for our entertainment pandemics notwithstanding and that’s worth supporting. Now, it’s more important than ever.
Stay safe, stay healthy, stay the hell away from public events (can you think of a better vector for infection than an audience of a thousand screaming and drinking people?) and we’ll all get through it together.
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