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The moral responsibility of being a wrestling fan during COVID-19

Watching wrestling increasingly requires putting your morals on the back burner, but is the COVID situation a bridge too far?

Wrestling is extremely frustrating to watch right now. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like it’s unwatchable — in fact, I still enjoy sitting down at 8 PM on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays every week for wrestling. In fact, that is part of the frustration I feel, that I still am watching wrestling despite everything that has been going on in the wrestling world. 

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One of those things which has made wrestling a moral quandary to watch is COVID-19. The way that promotions have handled the situation has been extremely uncomfortable and honestly dangerous to say the least. With the recent revelations out of WWE we have discovered that workers, in and out of the ring, tested positive for COVID have just exemplified how horrible the promotion is in terms of its operations and disregard for their workers’ health.

As I’ve said in the past, WWE is such a large corporation that when it does something wrong it feels very abstract and distant, sort of like how we all know Apple uses child labor but it’s hard to see ourselves as doing something bad when we buy an iPhone. Or when we buy Cheerios even though Nestle had its infamous baby formula scandal.

Past scandals with WWE have felt too big or out of the way to really feel connected to things. Vince is once again doing his Saudia Arabia show for millions of dollars in blood money? It simply feels like some sort of large diplomatic foreign policy that I myself cannot have a direct impact on. Vince McMahon ignored the results of drug tests? Just feels like something we learned after the fact — unfortunate but in the past.

In much the same way as Apple or any other large company, it just feels like another instance of a big corporation doing something a big corporation would do. Is that a fair way of looking at things? Probably not — we can always be better in our support of good business practices. But at the same time, doing so to a fault reeks of being the “yet you participate in society” guy. So it’s easy to feel like your measly 10 dollars a month isn’t actually really supporting much.

The moral responsibility of being a wrestling fan during COVID-19
You know, the ‘yet you participate in society’ guy. This one from the web series The Nib

But for me, the entire COVID debacle is perhaps a step too far, a line which I feel may have been crossed. No, it doesn’t make sense in a utilitarian sense; that is, if we were to add up all the things bad about the current scandal and all the things bad about other issues (like being used as propaganda for Saudi Arabia) the COVID issue would most likely come out pretty low on a scale of badness. 

Obviously, the reason this one particular scandal strikes a bigger chord with me (and I’m sure a lot of other people) is because I can relate more so with this one. I can relate with the backstage workers put in harm’s way, just your average Joes like me, being asked to work with no protection. I can relate to the onscreen talent who I have come to really enjoy and want the best for them. I can relate because this is a situation that all of us are close to — all our lives have been upended by COVID in many ways. In short, it’s a more personal, relatable, visceral issue.

It’s hard to pinpoint it exactly, but the past couple weeks I’ve felt slightly guilty being someone who watches wrestling. Just another pair of eyeballs that helps contribute to wrestling still being on the air during COVID. I’m still financially supporting WWE, no matter how little it is, and in even the smallest way helping continuing putting wrestlers’ health at risk.

Of course, what would happen to the wrestlers if many of us were to stop watching WWE, and that did have an impact? There would most likely be another round of layoffs. Wrestlers would lose their jobs. It’s a weird catch-22 to be in — protest the disregard for workers’ safety, or keep watching and help wrestlers not be fired. All the while realizing that it probably doesn’t matter whatsoever.

AEW has been better and has made me feel less morally responsible for watching. They have allowed people who wish to stay home to stay home, they test all their staff (although tests are not 100% reliable) and seem to have some of the basics checked. However there are still issues: the crowd in the arena are not socially distancing whatsoever. The wrestlers and others ringside who are tested do not wear masks. 

The moral responsibility of being a wrestling fan during COVID-19
There are zero masks and there are so many empty seats! Why are they not spread out????

Although they do things that make me feel more comfortable with watching their show, there are still times, like Orange Cassidy and Jericho brawling in the audience, that make me just ask “why?” Why do something that would be such a risk, especially when it’s so unneeded? It’s frustrating.

To top all of this off, both companies are filming in Florida, which has become the epicenter of the most recent influx of COVID cases. All together it looks like the need to halt wrestling is becoming more and more urgent. I admit, I’m rather greedy. I will most likely continue to watch wrestling as long as it is on, but will be more than fine if events and shows are postponed.

Does that make me a hypocrite, and should I just stop watching? I don’t know. It’s a hard moral question — how much impact do I have on wrestling staying on the air, and what I should be doing? I honestly don’t know what to do. Especially when it comes to AEW; I know WWE will be able to survive after all this, but will AEW? I’m worried they won’t. But does that mean we should support them and have them continue wrestling in the midst of all this as long as they are all consenting and not forced to?

I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. If this article feels different from my past articles, it’s because I usually like to have a decisive point in my articles — I like to make a firm stance on something. This time though, I just feel completely and utterly lost. I just needed to rant, put my thoughts out there and express my frustration surrounding the whole thing. I hope that all promotions can make a reasonable plan soon with regards to COVID.

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