Disclaimer: This is an opinion piece, and solely expresses the opinions of Mike Hogan. These opinions are my own and not the views of Rajah News. Some opinions expressed may seem radical, and many of you will disagree with my opinions--and that's fine. Since so many of you loved my first column, I'm going to go ahead and include this Trigger Warning: Covid-19, Politics, Masks, Mike Hogan.
Hello, Rajahmaniacs, and welcome to the next installment of Listen Up, Slapnuts. After a week off, I’m back but with a slight change in topic. The next article was to cover the topic of unionizing professional wrestling, namely the WWE. In light of recent events, I’m going to write about a different topic today. I’ll get to the unionization next time.
Tonight, let’s address the masks/crowds situation.
Listen Up, Slapnuts: We Must Put WWE/AEW To Sleep
As a guy who’s being forced to watch the WWE product after an extended break, I’ve tell you, brother, I’m really enjoying the WWE/NXT product right now. On paper, the feuds may sound tired or the matches may not be written in a manner that reflects some of the growth we’ve seen from the talent, and their willingness to go all-out in front of an often-empty arena. Many at WWE—HHH, Vince, others--have attributed this to a desire to provide entertainment to the fans during a time when we need a distraction. I’ve seen better matches in the last month than the half decade. The Great American Bash, Night One, for example was an incredible spectacle put on by performers I usually consider “bathroom break bodyslammers” and the marquee names alike. I’m very excited to see what night two will look like tonight.
But, despite the full-on, nothing-held-back style that both AEW and WWE may present to us right now, we need to put both organizations to sleep.
The Crowd Situation
Currently, the WWE is using Performance Center trainees (and possibly some undercard NXT talent) to form a crowd at ringside. From my understanding, AEW is actually allowing in a limited number of fans to attend their matches.
I get it—the empty arena was a bit cringeworthy. Seeing the stars play to a crowd that wasn’t there was very awkward two months ago. But the performers adjusted, and hearing them talk smack to each other during a match due to the lack of a crowd that would normally drown that out, has been pretty good. In my opinion, hearing Sasha Banks and Bayley yell trash at their opponents is helping put them over even more as heels. Well, as much as Bayley can—she’s doing her best but it’s not for everyone.
Early on, WWE simply had PC trainees form a crowd. But there’s been a noticeable shift over the last three weeks of airing, which I’ve noted in my live results. At first, we noticed a PC trainee or two with a mask. Two weeks ago, we saw a spattering of brand-specific masks. This last week, however, has seen a noticeable shift to PC trainees being spaced out and no longer clustering, as well as almost complete mask compliance. We here at Rajah News have reported on this often in the last week alone, including listing many names absent from tapings due to Covid-19positive tests or worries. The mere fact that the crowd are now social distancing and wearing masks--something they should have done from the start--is just a symptom of the overlying problem:
So why not just run empty arena shows?
It is not safe for the athletes, officials, or anyone else involved in the recording and broadcasting of wrestling programming, to continue doing their profession. Even if AEW and WWE, and other promotions who may still be running, return to a no-crowd format, it’s still unsafe. Let’s look at a simple two-person match. Let’s picture Alexa Bliss taking on Zelina Vega. That’s two persons. The ref makes a third. The announcer makes a fourth, and the bell/time keeper makes a fifth. There is always a three-man camera crew, recording the match, and a ring-side photographer for stills. That puts us up to nine persons who will at various times, if not multiple times, come within close proximity of each other. And that’s just for a match—it doesn’t include any backstage interviews or other talent who will be present during the tapings, nor does it include catering, sanitation crews, maintenance crews, producers, and any present writers or management staff.
But the masks, durrrrr
A fun fact about masks that a lot of people, surprisingly, do not realize: wearing a mask won’t protect you. They’re to protect others from you. The most common mask being worn covers the mouth and nose, and is designed to prevent your germs from riding microscopic droplets in the air to others’ respiratory systems. Masks are not airproof. So a high-risk individual, such as myself, can wear a mask—or a dozen, it doesn’t matter—and it does us no good. If someone has Covid-19, their wearing a mask will help, along with social distancing and the decontamination of communal surfaces, can help prevent the spread of Covid-19. But unless you’ve got a military-grade, private-sector filtration mask setup, wearing a mask won’t protect you. This is why we must all wear masks--so that we protect each other.
Pfft, I feel fine, brother
You may very well have Covid-19 and feel fine! Heck, you may never even develop symptoms or get sick. Pper the World Health Organization, 80% of those infected experience either incredibly mild symptoms or none at all. That means you could very well have Covid-19 and spread it and never know. According to recent research by the Harvard Medical School those who do develop symptoms often don’t for five to six days after exposure, up to two weeks, and reports are that the virus is spreading during this period. Also addressed in the report linked above is the fact that many persons infected will have no symptoms; and the symptoms can be so mild and unexpected that the infected would never assume it’s Covid-19 related.
You’re babbling again, brother—tie it all together
While I am absolutely loving the product that I’m seeing—performers giving it all despite the depressive, near-empty state of the arena they fight in—I feel it’s not worth the safety risk. AEW and WWE must both shut down. Give the performers time to rest and heal at home, in safety. Give the writers and execs time to plan to build up for a relaunch, or a huge “season premiere.” There is no match worth risking a wrestler’s life for—or anyone else’s life. While it’s admirable that both companies are allowing wrestlers who are high risk, such as Roman Reigns, to opt out and stay home is commendable. But it’s not enough.
While I’d already been planning this piece, I can’t help but admit it’s a bit jaded by the events of yesterday. I was notified by the hospice care home facility that my surviving parent is in, a place that locked down months before the nation did, a care facility that’s not allowed myself or anyone in who wasn’t apart of their own in-house staff, has had an outbreak of Covid-19. My parent, who was already in final stages of Alzheimer’s after a rapid onset of the disease within 18 months, has contracted the virus. I’ve spent this morning working on contacting necessary family, the VA regarding a burial with honors, and I’m about to post this article and go research more info as I’ve never planned a funeral.
The outbreak happened because, despite the wonderful staff using all the PPE they’re supposed to, the general population here do not wear masks outside. Our governor, in all his eternal wisdom, has given the general public the impression that it’s not necessary. This caused an employee to contract the virus. They were asymptomatic for a week, and infected ten other employees in the office area—a space thought to be virus-free. A frontline worker swung by said office, wearing her PPE, but still managed to catch it and it’s spread to three dozen residents.
My point is this: wearing a mask won’t protect you. It protects others from you. Those of us at high risk are faced with a daily choice to either shelter in place—as I have since March 10th, and will be forced to do until a vaccine is created—or risk our lives just to run into the store, because masks are not mandatory.
Whether you believe it’s your patriotic right to not wear a mask, or feel masks should be mandatory, I implore you to look at the science and make your own minds up. Be a superhero—save lives by wearing a mask.
Perks of the return after time away
A "season premiere" after a significant break could expect massive ratings, akin to professional sports, who often return to massive ratings as fans are glad to see a beloved product, team or player return. Yes, they would lose some ad revenue and network revenue during the time that they're away and, to keep the weekly programming going, I would put forth the idea of rerunning certain PPV's, repackaged shows highlighting legendary feuds and WWE Network original material, such as the brilliant Monday Night Wars series, to fill the time blocks. While AEW doesn't have the wealth of a massive library to tap into, they could easily fill time with indie footage that they can acquire. I also feel it would not be as harmful to AEW to take a season off and let TNT fill their slot with Rizzoli & Isles reruns. Irregardless, a return after months away would lead to higher ratings initially, and could help offset the revenue lost for the corporations.
We will all miss WWE and AEW if they were to go on hiatus for six months or so. But it’s in the best interest for their employees, even if both the independently contracted employees and corporations themselves hurt a bit monetary wise. We’re all feeling that pinch to our wallet. But it’s better to be alive and struggle than not.
Thanks for tuning in. Feel free to leave your hate below, I’ll read every comment as always and even join you down below! You can email me at Mike@Rajah.com or reach me on Twitter @MikeHulkHogan. Stay safe out there and see y’all tonight for NXT Great American Bash, Night 2!