POLLOCK’S NEWS UPDATE: Decisions loom for WWE, AEW & UFC

A look at the many angles surrounding the major companies have been holding events, important info for independent contractors, report on AEW tapings & more

POST IT NOTES

**I wanted to thank everyone that tuned into the Café Grande Hangout on Thursday and was blown away by the money we were able to raise for the Sunnybrook Foundation and the New York Community Trust. We will have the final tally on Monday as the limited-edition POST Wrestling t-shirt is available throughout the weekend with all proceeds going to those two organizations. Of all the things we have done at this site since 2017, it is the community we have fostered that I am most proud of. Whether you could donate, tuned in live, or listened to any portion of the show, I’m deeply grateful. Of the shows we have done, I am extremely proud of this one and contributions from so many people for two causes like this.

**A new edition of the British Wrestling Experience is posted with Martin Bushby, Benno & Jamesie assessing the current state of things, WrestleMania going ahead this weekend, Jimmy Havoc in AEW, and a big retro review of the March 2005 ‘International Showdown’ card that The Wrestling Channel produced. Plus, Andrew Ogden returns with his ‘Going Undergraps’ segment.

**Wai Ting and I will have Rewind-A-SmackDown out tonight for members of the POST Wrestling Café. We will review both Friday Night SmackDown and ‘The Life and Crimes of New Jack’ from this week’s episode of Dark Side of the Ring. Plus, we will take your feedback and questions at the end.

**On Saturday night, we will go live immediately after the first night of WrestleMania with a complete rundown of the show and take your calls. All members of the POST Wrestling Café can listen live and call into the show. On Sunday night, it’s our regular pay-per-view format with live access for Double Double, Iced Capp & Espresso Patrons.

**Due to our coverage of the WrestleMania shows on Saturday and Sunday night, we will be releasing Thunderstruck on Saturday morning. This week’s show features John Carroll of the Wrestling Omakase podcast speaking with WH Park about the July 2003 tag match with Jushin Thunder Liger & Takehiro Murahama taking on KENTA & Naomichi Marufuji for Pro Wrestling NOAH. There are three editions of Thunderstruck remaining with the series finale on April 19th.

WRESTLING NEWS

**The next moves from WWE, AEW, and UFC are going to be telling. Each has its own set of circumstances for pushing ahead or not with shows, but it has passed the point of debate whether these shows should occur. To do so at this point fails to understand the weight of the ongoing pandemic and would directly fly against orders being implemented to protect the public. WWE running in Florida and/or AEW in the state of Georgia would seem nearly impossible given the stay-at-home orders in those respective states but neither company has issued any statement regarding how those orders affect them. Beyond that, any attempt to circumvent these orders would miss the point of why such extreme measures are there in the first place. The reaction should not be ‘how do we get around this?’ but ‘are we part of the problem or will we be part of the solution?’.

WWE will have to make a decision regarding next week’s SmackDown, which would be the next show they have to produce with the coming week’s editions of Raw and NXT covered. For AEW, we know they have taped a lot of content over the past two weeks they can rely on with Wade Keller reporting that they have taped the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the TNT title tournament and have the ability to fill two-hours of programming ‘for weeks if not months’ if necessary mixing matches they have taped recently with content shot remotely from talent at home. The UFC is in a different boat and staging fights seems much too complicated given the nature of fighters needing to travel, the numbers needed to hold a card.

POST Wrestling has reached out for statements from WWE and AEW regarding this week’s stay-at-home measures in Florida and Georgia and how it will affect them moving forward and will update if we receive a response.

Given the taping schedule, there would appear to be no reason for AEW to have to stage any type of event for the foreseeable future with what they have banked. It could certainly be argued if WWE had opted to use last week’s tapings exclusively for television and scrapped WrestleMania, they would have a better cushion and not face a pressing decision over what to do after next Wednesday.

The message has been clear throughout the United States that even states that were lagging in their response, are catching up. All the stock lines of ‘the show must go on’, ‘smiles on faces’, ‘escapist entertainment’ are simply mitigating the largest worldwide crisis of our lifetime. The line for me is personal risk versus community risk and this pandemic stretches over to the latter. If this were a case where performers where putting themselves solely at risk, you may disagree with it but it’s ultimately a risk they assume independently. This is placing countless others at risk that these people may come into contact with, it must be nerve-racking for many privately as they stomach these concerns while also having it engrained to push forward at all cost.

On a macro level, crisis situations are where leaders are defined with their primary action – to lead. It’s a case of sometimes making unpopular decisions for the greater good. This can be applied to states looking for guidance from the presidency and citizens and businesses seeking answers from their state or provincial leaders. In the bubble of pro wrestling, we are speaking about many lifelong athletes that possess a mentality of ignoring pain and believing themselves to be invincible. For that reason, there must be those levels of leadership in place to protect athletes from themselves. There is a reason a player suffering a concussion is the first quarter of a game isn’t met with ‘do you feel like continuing?’, instead that decision is made for them. Left to their devices, performers will move forward, and the decision needs to be taken away. It’s time to dictate with healthy and safety as the top priority – because whatever you want to believe, you cannot say that is the number one priority right now regardless of precautions in place, temperatures being taken, control of numbers, and doctors on site. The healthiest and safest measure is being at home.

That brings into question the ‘why?’ regarding the shows moving forward. Everyone is asking how sports leagues are going to be affected by game and event cancellations when television rights fees are at a premium and no content is being delivered. From John Ourand at Sports Business Journal, he believes there is no clear answer and leagues with the largest leverage would theoretically be the higher priority to maintain a strong relationship. We don’t know definitively what happens if WWE and AEW revert to taped programming from their archives or cannot produce live content as part of the show. No television contract was written with the belief a pandemic would shut the world down for an undetermined time.

Should the pandemic last months, it does Fox, USA Network, and TNT no good to fracture relations with two key partners or in the case of TNT, put AEW into financial disarray when they have a commitment for years to come. If both companies eventually go dark, there is the idea of a middle ground being reached. Of the rights fees paid, a prorated amount could be reached that take unnecessary production costs out of the equation that is not required during a dark period, a compromise of deferred payment with the promotions made whole by a future date, or at least providing enough for a company like AEW to make their payroll where revenue isn’t coming in but the expenses going out are covered. Not ideal, but you must be creative. That said, there is also the possibility that the rights fees are considered guaranteed and they are paid – in this CNBC article, it noted past examples of strike-shortened seasons where rights fees were not refunded by the leagues.

DAZN has become the first to withhold payment for events and games that are not being delivered. The next item to watch is whether Americans double down on television usage during this period or if money is tight, cut their cable and networks see a drop off in cable subscribers. Already, these networks must be concerned about advertising revenue in the short-term and long-term as so many outlets will be crippled from this crisis and ad spending would be one area to cut dramatically. Hence, why television ratings tell the story of the audience’s engagement in the product but their ultimate purpose of being a metric for potential advertisers is greatly reduced right now.

WWE is best equipped to bite down and take a financial hit as they have enormous cash reserves, but no company is taking great solace in that. I don’t think it makes the networks look particularly great when they are going to the extreme of having their talk shows filmed remotely from hosts’ homes and yet, the independent contractors are out on the road wrestling. But, the real world is not concerned about pro wrestling and MMA right now, they have significantly larger problems so this is not a large issue.

From an image standpoint, UFC has come off the worst with Dana White doing near daily diatribes downplaying the severity of the coronavirus, blaming the media, and sprinting around regulation to find a way to host his shows. WWE has put Paul Levesque out as the public face of the company in promoting WrestleMania and is probably the best choice to do so. Levesque is very good at understanding the audience he is addressing and being personable in one-on-one settings, whereas Vince McMahon would be very combative if you added media appearances to his plate right now coupled with the stress of running two companies affected by this in WWE and the XFL. AEW has not had much of a public profile as Tony Khan has not spoken about the promotion’s decision to continue with shows the past few weeks. It would have been much tougher if this pandemic had occurred in the fall, forcing the NFL to shut down and have the conflict of the Khan family running the Jacksonville Jaguars and being in lockstep with the NFL’s public stance while maintaining AEW’s schedule in the face of the pandemic.

**Michele Evermore of the National Employment Law Project was a guest on The Luke Thomas Show this week and it’s an essential interview for professional wrestlers and mixed martial artists based in the United States. Evermore goes into detail about the relief package for those seeking unemployment relief, which extends to independent contractors and those that are self-employed. It does vary from state-to-state but the new relief package kicks in an additional $600 to whatever else you are entitled to. Under normal circumstances, unemployment insurance is designed to replace 45% of your income but in these extenuating circumstances, it is significantly more. Evermore noted that you need documentation for what you have earned along with proof you cannot work and I don’t know how complicated that may be for independent wrestlers to produce documentation of pay but it would be best to inquire. The $600 benefit lasts until July 31st, but the pandemic unemployment base benefit can last for up to 39 weeks. The interview is at the beginning of the show.

**Tonight’s episode of Friday Night SmackDown should address the change to the Universal title match at WrestleMania. The company has continued promoting Bill Goldberg vs. Roman Reigns for the past eight days when it’s not only been reported but confirmed by Reigns that he is off the show. They are advertising John Cena regarding the challenge for a ‘Firefly Fun House’ match with Bray Wyatt and Miz TV with guests New Day and The Usos. The triple threat tag title ladder match also needs to be adjusted from what is being advertised and I would assume all the loose ends will be tied up tonight.

**In his reporting, Wade Keller of the Pro Wrestling Torch noted AEW plans to be mixing taped matches from last week in Jacksonville and this week’s taping in Norcross, Georgia in the coming weeks along with new interviews and other content the talent can film at home. Keller added that Chris Jericho was in Georgia this week to provide commentary in some fashion, although he didn’t appear inside the arena on Wednesday’s broadcast but did have a taped feature with Vanguard 1.

Keller added that a state official in Georgia did stop by at the tapings to ensure that the company abided by the rules and regulations towards social distancing and controlling numbers. It’s was noted that AEW had filed paperwork and local officials were aware ahead of time regarding the precautions they were taking.

**WWE is also advertising KUSHIDA vs. Danny Burch and Jack Gallagher vs. Tyler Breeze for 205 Live at 10 pm Eastern tonight on the WWE Network.

**The season premiere of Total Bellas did 563,000 viewers on Thursday night on E! The move from Sundays to Thursdays paid off for the first week as the season premiere beat out every episode from the last season of Total Bellas. The entire last season averaged 433,000 viewers.

**Marc Raimondi spoke with numerous people reflecting on their experiences with Brock Lesnar. The feature on ESPN includes comments from Paul Heyman, Daniel Cormier, University of Minnesota wrestling coach J Robinson, Jim Ross, Cole Konrad, Kurt Angle, Danny Davis, Rip Rogers and several others including this comment from CM Punk:

I don’t want to ruin his image. I think he’s a f—ckin’ sweetheart. This is a guy, when I got into MMA and I left wrestling, he was texting me, “Hey, if you need any help.” I’m always kind of a standoffish guy. It’s hard to open up and trust people in the pro-wrestling world. But he was never anything but a real sweetheart. It was a pleasure to work with him. He’s just a great guy, I think.

I think Brock has got a big heart, and that’s something a lot of people don’t talk about. They’ll talk about the freak strength and the crazy athletic things he’s done in his career, the accomplishments. But they don’t talk about the fact that he loves his wife, his kids, lives on a farm and just kind of wants to be left alone. All the fame and the money and everything is really just a side effect of being successful at what he wants to do. And he does what he wants, when he wants. That’s the beauty of Brock Lesnar.

**David Bixenspan has done some exhaustive research for Mel Magazine regarding recent host cities of WrestleMania and the money earmarked to secure and stage the events associated. Through public record requests, Bixenspan was able to piece together a degree of the finances associated with WrestleMania 29 in New Jersey (with the Hall of Fame staged in New York), WrestleMania 32 in Arlington, Texas in 2016, and WrestleMania 33 in Orlando in 2017.

For WrestleMania 32 in Texas, it appeared to be the most transparent of the host cities he sought information from with the following notes:
-The city spent a total of $3,151,190 from their Event Trust Fund on WrestleMania and the accompanying shows that come with the tentpole show
-This included a $1.5 million stadium event fee that gave WWE access to AT&T Stadium from March 18th until April 7th (the show took place on April 3rd)
-There was also a $400,000 expense for the usage of the American Airlines Center that hosted the Hall of Fame ceremony and Monday’s Raw
-The contract with the city included the development and management of a brand awareness campaign that was outsourced to Cowboys Stadium LP for $100,000 (they did go over budget and the city did not cover the excess cost of $43,390.14) and the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau for $102,663.18
-A ‘sanction fee’ of $350,000 is included along with $250,000 for WWE’s installation of temporary risers in the stadium
-There was also $40,000 in legal fees and the usage of a firm to determine the economic impact of the show. This part is very intriguing when it comes to these studies and similar ones conducted for the Super Bowl have been accused of greatly exaggerating the impact. In the article, it’s pointed out that a study on the Super Bowl in Phoenix reported an economic impact of $500 million but another study believes the real figure was in the range of $30-130 million. To my knowledge, no one has disputed any commissioned studies for WrestleMania but it’s interesting to see that larger-scale events like the Super Bowl have had contradictory reports put out.

It’s a very in-depth look at the breakdown of WrestleMania related business for the host cities with documents provided in the article.

**Jonathan Snowden at Bleacher Report has a big feature on Edge’s return and spoke with both Edge and Beth Phoenix for the story. It goes into detail about the circumstances behind the comeback, taking a bump at Tom Prichard’s school in Knoxville a few years back, and also spoke about whether they went too far in the era of the TLC matches contrasting it to today’s talent trying to stand out like they did at in the early 2000s.

**Edge also spoke with Nick Schwartz at USA Today and this was an interesting aspect regarding the pandemic and if it had impacted his training and diet going into WrestleMania:

For me, no, because I use a company called Nutrition Solutions that has continued and they have their protocols. I’ve still been continuing to get my meals – a matter of fact, the CEO of the company has been really hands-on with me to dial me in. I almost feel more prepared than I ever have for a match ever, even within all of this. This is the most strict that I’ve ever dieted…. When everything happened, it kind of cut our [training] plan in half of what we had planned. We were planning for six weeks out, well now we’ve got three. OK, so we adjust accordingly. I’ve kind of built a compound where we have a gym, I have my own gym and was just able to keep training and keep doing my thing.

**Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs has stated his issues with the stay-at-home executive order in Tennessee, although the county will comply. Jacobs was quoted in a Facebook Live address stating that:

I applaud the governor for following through with his convictions and fulfilling his duty to protect the people of Tennessee according to his best judgement. However, I cannot applaud any government monitoring the movements of its people and mandating virtually everything we are allowed to do.

I understand this is a crisis, but an economic crisis also looms with millions of people out of work and no way to earn a living, many of them due to mandated government shutdowns,” he continued. “We also have a looming mental health crisis as individuals struggle with depression and feelings of hopelessness and isolation, exacerbated by job loss — some have already taken their own lives.

**Paul Levesque spoke to TV Guide promoting WrestleMania and this was his answer on his opinion of long-terms changes he expects both in the larger sense worldwide but also within their company:

People keep saying “once everything gets back to normal” — I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think the world has changed. I think that it will get back to some normalcy, but the new normal will be what is normal. It’s not going to be what it was before. How people do business, how people interact with each other… I think all of that will change. And for us, in some ways, the opportunity of doing these shows without fans and doing WrestleMania [with] these off-site shoots will open our eyes to different ways of doing things that we maybe didn’t see before and will change the product probably for the better in the long run.

**Kevin Kelly is hosting a live watch-along of ‘My Dad is a Heel Wrestler’ on New Japan World on Saturday night at 7 pm Eastern.

**IWTV is presenting an Independent Wrestling Marathon all day Sunday beginning at 5:30 am Eastern. The schedule is as follows:
*5:30 am: IWTV’s Family Reunion
*8:00 am: GCW Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport
*10:00 am: AIW Slumber Party Massacre
*12:15 pm: Journey into the Junkyard
*3:00 pm: IWA Mid-South ‘We’re no Joke’ 2006 (feat. Kevin Steen vs. Ian Rotten, El Generico vs. Delirious, Low Ki vs. Necro Butcher, and Chris Hero vs. Milano Collection AT)
*6:45 pm: Locker Room Detectives Episode 21
*7:00 pm: Beyond Wrestling’s Americanrana 2019

**ECW Press is releasing an updated edition of Irvin Muchnick’s book on the murder-suicide case involving Chris Benoit. The book, ‘Chris and Nancy: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death’ was first released in 2009

**The Joshi Pod has an interview this week with Bull Nakano, which they traveled to Japan to conduct. The 90-minute interview includes English translation and can be heard on all their various platforms.

**Steve Muehlhausen at the Sporting News spoke with Drew McIntyre about his match with Brock Lesnar.

**The WWE Network has released a new edition of ‘WWE Untold’ covering the match between Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle from WrestleMania 21 that took place on this date in 2005 at the Staples Center. Along with the two principles, Michael Cole and Johnny Gargano were also interviewed.

**WWE Network News reports that the next guest on Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Sessions will be Ric Flair and will premiere on Sunday, April 12th.

**Here are the matches for MLW Fusion Saturday night at 9 pm Eastern airing on beIN Sports:
*Mance Warner vs. MJF in a ‘Loser Leaves MLW, Empty Arena’ match
*Douglas James vs. Septimo Dragon

**Progress Wrestling has re-scheduled several cards for later this year. They were scheduled to run at the O2 Ritz in Manchester on May 9th and has moved to July 11th, the May 10th show in Leeds at the O2 Academy to July 10th, and the Super Strong Style weekend from May 23-25 has been moved to August 29-31 at Alexandra Palace in London.

**The GRAPPL app has released date on the top-rated WrestleMania matches from their user data. Of a possible rating of five, the top ten are Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin from WM 13 (4.87), Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker from WM 25 (4.86), the TLC match from WM X-7 (4.80), Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels from WM 21 (4.76), Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart from WM 10 (4.75), Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon from WM 10 (4.73), Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker from WM 26 (4.72), Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit from WM 20 (4.70), Edge & Christian vs. The Dudleys vs. The Hardys from WM 2000 (4.62), and Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat from WM 3 (4.55).

**The Bet Online service has put out odds for the matches at WrestleMania this weekend. Shayna Baszler is a -180 favorite to beat Becky Lynch, Drew McIntyre is listed at -350 over Brock Lesnar, Rhea Ripley at -180 over Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks is the favorite to win the five-way elimination match, Sami Zayn at -200 over Daniel Bryan, Edge at -500 over Randy Orton, Kevin Owens at -220 over Seth Rollins, The Fiend is -500 against John Cena, The Undertaker is -400 against AJ Styles, Aleister Black is a big favorite at -700 over Bobby Lashley, Elias and King Corbin are even, and Otis is a -170 favorite over Dolph Ziggler.

Of note, they have taken the Bill Goldberg vs. Roman Reigns match off the board until the replacement is announced and also removed the Raw tag title match with The Street Profits against Angel Garza & Andrade, although I’m not sure why the tag title match is off the board. They should be removing the SmackDown tag title match, which was listed in the odds, but that match will change.

**WWE producer Lance Storm (Lance Evers) is 51 today.

**WWE has put out an installment of ‘Making WWE’ featuring long-time company photographer Rich Freeda, who has worked there since 1994. It included interviews from Steve Austin, Roman Reigns, Kofi Kingston, and Shawn Michaels discussing Freeda’s work and some of their favorite photos he has taken documenting their careers.

MMA NEWS

**UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov isn’t shutting the door completely on fighting April 18th. In a new interview with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, Nurmagomedov stated that he never said he was out of UFC 249 but that he would not fly anywhere when he has no location and added it is not as easy as people think to leave Russia right now. Nurmagomedov will not fight during the period of Ramadan that lasts from April 23rd until May 23rd but said if he doesn’t fight April 18th, he could fight Tony Ferguson as early as August. He stated he has heard UFC wants to plan a card in San Francisco in August and alternatively, they could fight in Abu Dhabi in September.

**The California State Athletic Commission has canceled all combat sports events within the state through the end of May. There was one UFC show scheduled for California with a Fight Night card on May 16th in San Diego headlined by Dustin Poirier and Dan Hooker. Bellator had been set to hold shows in San Jose and Temecula next month but announced on their own that their events in May were off.

**RIZIN has canceled its April 19th card at the Yokohama Arena in Japan.

*****
BWE Retro Edition: TWC International Showdown (2005)

Martin, Benno & Jamesie take a look back at The Wrestling Channel’s International Showdown 2005, one of the biggest wrestling events to take place in the UK during the 2000s featuring CM Punk, Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, AJ Styles and Mitsuharu Misawa.
https://www.postwrestling.com/2020/04/02/bwe-retro-edition-twc-international-showdown-2005/
*****
Café GRANDE Hangout: Live Charity Q&A with Special Guests

John Pollock and Wai Ting couldn’t do their live show in Tampa this year, but that won’t stop them from bringing it to your homes with the first-ever Café Grande Hangout.
https://www.postwrestling.com/2020/04/02/cafe-grande-hangout-live-charity-qa-with-special-guests-free-stream-at-2pm-et/
*****
upNXT 4/1/20: Hostage Situation

Braden Herrington and Davie Portman review the April 1st edition of WWE NXT featuring Damian Priest vs. Dominik Dijakovic vs. Keith Lee for the North American Championship.
https://www.postwrestling.com/2020/04/02/upnxt-4-1-20-hostage-situation/
*****
REWIND-A-DYNAMITE 4/1/20: Release the Hounds

John Pollock and Wai Ting review AEW Dynamite from an undisclosed location. Featuring Cody & Darby Allin taking on Sammy Guevara & Shawn Spears ahead of next week’s TNT Championship tournament.
https://www.postwrestling.com/2020/04/02/rewind-a-dynamite-4-1-20-release-the-hounds/
*****
REWIND-A-WAI #58: WCW World War 3 (1995)

John Pollock and Wai Ting review WCW World War 3 (1995) featuring a 60-Man Battle Royal for the vacant WCW Heavyweight Championship.
https://www.postwrestling.com/2020/03/31/rewind-a-wai-58-wcw-world-war-3-1995/
*****

REWIND-A-RAW 3/30/20: The God Damned Go-Home Show, Bitch!

John Pollock and Wai Ting review the final episode of WWE Raw before WrestleMania 36 this weekend featuring a number of excellent promos from The Undertaker, Edge, Paul Heyman, and Becky Lynch.
https://www.postwrestling.com/2020/03/31/review-a-raw-3-30-20-the-god-damned-go-home-show-bitch/
*****
POST ROUNDTABLE: Dr. Alex Patel, Brandon Thurston & Marcus Vanderberg
John Pollock and Wai Ting present a bonus POST Roundtable featuring Dr. Alex Patel, Brandon Thurston and Marcus Vanderberg discussing the latest updates on COVID-19’s effects on professional wrestling and the world.
https://www.postwrestling.com/2020/03/29/post-roundtable-dr-alex-patel-brandon-thurston-marcus-vanderberg/
*****

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About John Pollock 5568 Articles
Born on a Friday, John Pollock is a reporter, editor & podcaster at POST Wrestling. He runs and owns POST Wrestling alongside Wai Ting.