Smooth’s Court is a column from Walter Yeates that will feature multiple weekly entries, including commentary from Walter on current and past events in the world of professional wrestling. This entry looks at professional wrestling in areas with major COVID-19 outbreaks. Walter Yeates is an accredited journalist with the World Health Organization. The previous column in the series can be found here.
COVID-19 (Coronavirus, 2019) is a novel viral infection that has caused the deaths of over 30,000 deaths worldwide, cost countless jobs, and has uprooted the daily lives of millions, if not billions around the world. Therefore, discussing professional wrestling during such a pandemic needs to be done with an understanding of the overall crisis.
Smooth’s Court: Professional Wrestling During COVID-19
Yet, in the same vein, independent wrestlers around the world are suffering from major losses of income as promotions in the wrestling hotbeds of Japan, Mexico, United States, and the United Kingdom have seen the scenes feature far fewer events due to World Health Organization (WHO) and national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) around the world recommend mass gatherings of more than 50 (sometimes as low as 10) not happen during the height of the outbreak in various countries.
Major wrestling cities like Tokyo have seen a spike of cases recently, and the United States now has the most cases in the world. These complications raise concerns over the safety of events being held in areas with outbreaks, a lack of widespread COVID-19 testing, and with wrestlers who have not been tested for the virus.
In recent days, Bushiroad led World Wonder Ring Stardom (Stardom) held a show at the famed Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan where they took the temperature of fans wishing to buy tickets (allegedly turning away those with a higher than normal reading) and providing face masks for every fan given entry.
However, with the recent upticks of cases in Tokyo, and being unaware if Stardom wrestlers have been tested for the virus — doing shows in Japan’s capital may not be wise. New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), also underneath the Bushiroad banner, has canceled a slew of their events since the end of February due to the outbreak. NJPW is by far the largest professional wrestling company in Japan and has applied WHO recommendations regarding mass gatherings to the letter.
Other companies in Japan are planning to go forward with events in Tokyo during April, including the historic All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) promotion on April 6th with the dawn of their prestigious Champions Carnival round-robin tournament.
In the United States, both All Elite Wrestling (AEW) and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) continue to run events without an audience. However, WWE originally planned to run Wrestlemania in Tampa, Flordia despite an uptick of COVID-19 cases in the city and the state of Florida. It’s unknown whether or not either company is testing wrestlers for the virus before events.
One of the main issues with wrestling during the outbreak comes from carriers can be asymptomatic, but contagious. For example, if a wrestler were to have the virus and were to sweat in the ring or share anything with their fellow athletes, a wrestling event could become a miniature spreading event — leading to wrestlers returning how and possibly passing the virus to others within their local community.
With COVID-19 testing remaining scarce in the United States, it would seem unlikely wrestlers are being administered the test, especially at independent events. AEW and WWE are owned by billionaires, and Tony Khan and Vince McMahon may be using their vast connections to acquire tests for the roster. If true, that would bring up further concerns on what it takes for regular middle and working-class individuals showing mild symptoms to receive appropriate testing for COVID-19.
Wrestling during the Coronavirus pandemic remains risky until the virus is under control after lengthy quarantine periods in areas affected the most.