It seems like every few days this month there is news about WWE’s taping plans. They taped most of WrestleMania a week or two early depending on the match. This past Monday’s Raw was taped at the WWE Performance Center during the same period of WrestleMania. Last night’s Smackdown was live or close to live and apparently that is WWE’s plan moving forward. The ongoing health crisis that the world is dealing with has caused plans to change and none of us really know when “normal” life will return.
Just to give you an idea of how things change quickly with WWE’s plans for their current TV shows, it was just four days ago when we wrote about how the plan was for WWE to tape content through the rest of the month late this week into early this week. That way, they could tape enough content to get them to Money in the Bank on May 10 and proceed from there. However, WWE’s Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon has changed his mind. Plans change, pal! (Sorry, I can’t resist using that phrase.)
There have been multiple reports out about WWE planning to go live with Raw on Mondays, NXT on Wednesdays and Smackdown on Fridays. They also plan to keep taping new content for Main Event and 205 Live as well. The Wrestling Observer provided a lot of details about why Vince McMahon feels like WWE has to go live.
Here’s how Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer explained it.
“The decision to not do tapings all weekend as was previously scheduled came during the middle of the day (on Friday) while taping SmackDown as McMahon announced he was changing everything and that the show would be going as close to live as soon as possible.”
It was further explained by Meltzer why McMahon and likely others in WWE feel the need to go live instead of just doing taped shows.
“Contracts with both NBC Universal and Fox call for a certain number of shows per year that can be taped. For Raw, that number is three which, at the start of the year, was earmarked for one show over Christmas week and two shows during European tours. In theory, that would leave them with 49 live Raws. Fox has a similar deal.”
“While nobody will say so publicly, the fear was that by violating the contract, it would give the networks the legal ability to withhold money or find a way to change the deals. With no house shows, the company, like all sports companies, is surviving largely based on television revenue, but the networks paying that are also taking in far less revenue than they projected at this point in time due to the pandemic.”
Other reliable websites like PWInsider, Pro Wrestling Sheet and Fightful have reported similar things, so it’s true. The report from Fightful noted that several WWE workers “were given a letter in case they were questioned by law enforcement, stating that they are ‘essential media.'”
What isn’t known right now is if WWE was told by NBC Universal (they air Raw and NXT in the US) and Fox (home of Smackdown) that they wanted live shows and that’s why WWE is doing it. If it’s a case of Vince McMahon just wanting to do it to avoid controversy with the networks that are paying him over $200+ million per year.
This means that instead of doing the easy thing by taping a segment like what they did with Miz/Morrison, Usos and New Day to set up a match next week, they could have just taped the match later that same day. Instead, they are doing it next Friday when Smackdown airs. That means guys like Miz and Morrison have to fly from the Los Angeles area to Orlando (a long flight across the US) both weeks. Having them tape the segment and match on the same day (or the next day) would be a lot easier while also limiting travel as well as the chance of getting sick.
It was also announced yesterday that another Vince McMahon business venture, the XFL football league, is ending their season and it’s likely never coming back. A big reason for that is likely because Vince knows WWE is going to be hurt by not having their WrestleMania with a big crowd business and all the money that comes with running live shows with fans.
Here’s Big Show talking to TMZ about WWE keeping the performers safe.
TJR Thoughts: The first thing I thought when I heard this is that WWE was being ridiculous by doing this. The health crisis is nothing to mess with because there’s still a lot of unknowns about it. I know WWE has doctors on hand, they’re making sure nobody is sick while performing in the ring or working backstage, but the Coronavirus can be transmitted just by contact and a person may not have any problems for a week or even longer. The best thing you can do is avoid contact. The positive thing about taping shows weeks in advance was that WWE was protecting talent by not having them travel on airplanes or even driving in (a lot of WWE superstars live in Orlando where the WWE PC is). Stay home like the majority of us are, unless we are working at an essential job. Now that WWE is planning to tape live every week, there’s more risk that somebody may be infected. What happens if somebody at a WWE taping gets infected? They’ll get shut down. That’s what.
The other thing about taping live is who is really going to know if it’s live or taped anyway? There really aren’t spoilers that get leaked out since it’s just WWE employees and wrestlers in the building.
I also doubt very much that NBC Universal and Fox are going to punish WWE if they tape shows weeks in advance during a worldwide pandemic. Then again, none of us know about the clauses in the contracts. It could be something where Vince feels like he has to do this to protect the five year contracts that started in October 2019.
I really hope the people that work behind the scenes and the wrestlers in the ring stay healthy. That’s what matters more than anything.