Originally published at https://www.postwrestling.com/2020/04/10/pollocks-news-update-xfl-suspends-operations-future-in-doubt/
POST IT NOTES
**Wai Ting and I are back with Rewind-A-SmackDown tonight for members of the POST Wrestling Café. We will go through another big day of news with a rundown of the UFC postponing all its upcoming events, The Revival’s release, the XFL suspending operations, and more.
**On Sunday, WH Park will be joined by Wai Ting for the penultimate edition of Thunderstruck. This week’s match is from October 2005 between Jushin Thunder Liger and Samoa Joe at TNA’s Bound for Glory event. The final episode of the limited series will be released on Sunday, April 19th.
**XFL president Jeffrey Pollack held a short conference call with employees on Friday to announce the league is suspending operations with most of the staff laid off. The news first reported by ESPN’s Field Yates.
While not stated outright, this would appear to be the end of the league. Last month, when they suspended their season amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, they stated they would be back in 2021 but today’s news would suggest otherwise.
They completed five weeks of play when the season was halted due to the crisis that was set to wrap up with the championship game this month.
Broadcasters of the revived league included ABC and ESPN, as well as Fox and FS1. In Week 1, the numbers were encouraging with the network games drawing 3.2. and 3.3 million viewers. ABC saw a decrease of 35% viewership and Fox dropped 20% in Week 2 but were still healthy numbers for the league. By Week 5, the ABC game did 1,547,000 viewers and Fox was at 1,497,000.
**WWE is embarking on another big set of television tapings with SmackDown taping today and Saturday. They will be taping episodes of NXT and Raw in the coming days as well. It is expected that they will tape all their shows leading into Money in the Bank, which would include five episodes of SmackDown and four of Raw. Additionally, they are set to tape a lot of NXT in the coming days.
**Tonight’s episode of SmackDown will feature an appearance by Braun Strowman as the new Universal champion and a WrestleMania rematch with Nikki Cross & Alexa Bliss defending the women’s tag titles against Asuka & Kairi Sane. Because of the taping schedule, it’s unknown if tonight’s show will be live.
**205 Live has announced Jack Gallagher vs. Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch vs. Tony Nese for tonight’s episode on the WWE Network.
**Earlier this week, I discussed some of the options that independent contractors could be eligible for that are unable to work during the pandemic. Obviously, most professional wrestlers and mixed martial artists would be classified as such and all should be at least looking into this for some relief.
For those in the United States, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) specifically note that independent contractors are eligible, although it does vary from state to state. The specific program is the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program.
In Canada, there is a similar program in place called the Canada Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB).
The Bloody Elbow site has an extensive rundown of the options available.
The CARES Act can provide an additional $600 per week for those that qualify through the end of July. You will also still be eligible for state-specific benefits. There is caution with systems so backed up with the growing unemployment rate.
For CERB in Canada, it does not apply if you are already on EI or receiving sickness benefits. If you qualify, it pays $2,000 per month for up to four months and is retroactive to March 15th. Here is a link that contains a Q&A regarding the Canadian program.
**CM Punk was a guest on the No Sports Report with former WWE writer Jensen Karp and discussed WWE’s decision to keep running and moving ahead with WrestleMania last weekend. He noted he is back in Chicago as Roufusport has shut down during the pandemic and he’s training at home.
On watching pro wrestling without a crowd:
I would be able to watch hockey or UFC, Bellator, any type of mixed martial arts fight where there’s no people in the crowd because it’s a sport, right? With pro wrestling, I find it completely impossible to watch with no crowd.
The audience is the 100% driving force behind what wrestlers do in the ring. When I wrestled, that was my boss. You know a lot of people have their favorite wrestlers and or can debate who’s on the Mount Rushmore and who’s the greatest wrestler blah, blah. The thing that separates the greatest wrestlers from the ‘okay guys’ is that when they’re in the ring, they’re the boss but the truth to that is the audience is in charge. The audience cheers and boos who they want. They tell you if they like the moves, if they’re emotionally invested in the match that tells you where to take it.
It lends credence, in my opinion, to everyone who argues that wrestling is just fake fights, it’s a simulation, it’s pre-determined, acrobatic. Without the audience, without the emotion and the adrenaline. I feel like I’m watching a video game.
He also shared his thoughts on the WWE moving forward and the risk factor as they continue to run events:
I think it’s completely strange. I hear all the rumors of who’s sick and then you’ve got all these guys that are, whether the culture has changed or not, are job scared, so then they are going to show up and then they get somebody else sick and obviously, that’s how the virus works.
I know a lot of people think I’m just shitting on it but I also feel we’re the only ones talking about. Everyone else wants to put the positive spin on it, ‘we put smiles on people’s faces’ and ‘Oh, I can’t wait, I don’t care if there’s no crowd, I can’t wait to go out there’. If we were all honest and we could all have a conversation about it, this is just a different point of view. So, anybody that is going to get mad at me saying this, look I feel you have bigger fish to fry and you should maybe worry about that stuff.
**On Friday morning, WWE announced that The Revival of Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder had received their release effective immediately. Ryan Satin of Pro Wrestling Sheet adds that neither has a no-compete clause and are free to work immediately.
**Mike Johnson reported that Impact Wrestling was finishing their Nashville tapings on Friday. The number of episodes shot will be determined in postproduction, but they are hopeful of 5-7 weeks of shows. Johnson added that there was a Rebellion-themed episode taped that will air in the future on AXS TV.
**Earlier this week, Japan declared a state of emergency with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issuing a stay-at-home order for Tokyo and six other prefectures. On Friday, it was reported that the country has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases with 500 new cases.
**Pro Wrestling NOAH is still holding matches without spectators inside an empty studio. They did a show this past Tuesday and another today with each show featuring two matches from the Global Tag League and airing on DDT Universe.
**Jerry Lawler has stated he will be returning to Raw this Monday after being left off the broadcasts for the past few weeks. Lawler, 70, is in a higher risk category due to his age and after one empty arena show, they deemed it best not to bring him to the recent tapings but appears to be returning for this set. In AEW, they have taken similar precautions with those at higher risk including Jim Ross, Jake Roberts, Arn Anderson, and Tully Blanchard not attending recent tapings.
**In an interview with MLW.com, company CEO Court Bauer revealed that their relationship with Pro Wrestling NOAH will continue. In February, they had announced a new strategic partnership with Dragon Gate and at the time, it was to replace the NOAH deal. Shortly after the news came out, NOAH and MLW re-connected and sorted out the issues that were outstanding and MLW plans to move forward working with both Japanese companies.
**WWE Studios and Netflix released ‘The Main Event’ today that features numerous WWE performers in the movie. It was filmed in Vancouver with Paul Lazenby featured as the character Lord Copperhead and worked with Ace Steel putting all the wrestling scenes together and tested all the stunts. The cast includes The Miz, Beth Phoenix, Sheamus, Babatunde, Kofi Kingston, Keith Lee, and Corey Graves.
**For the past two weeks, the WWE Network linear channel in Canada has not been airing the current week’s episode of NXT the day after. Because NXT doesn’t air live in Canada, it had been airing on a 24-hour delay on the linear channel. The new episodes are still available to Canadians on the streaming version, but we have reached out to WWE for clarification if this is a permanent move. Sportsnet 360, which carries WWE programming in the country does air a one-hour edited version of NXT on Friday nights as a lead-in to SmackDown.
**Here are the matches for MLW Fusion on Saturday night at a special start time of 10 pm Eastern on BeIN Sports from the last set of tapings in Tijuana, Mexico:
*Alex Hammerstone vs. Laredo Kid for the MLW National Openweight title
*Mance Warner & Savio Vega vs. Pagano & Pagan in a Street Fight
**WWE stock was up more than 3% on Friday and closed at $37.42.
**WWE has announced a deal with SBT in Brazil to begin airing a one-hour Portuguese version of Raw on Saturdays at 7 pm beginning this weekend. SBT is an over-the-air broadcaster.
**Johnny Gargano was interviewed by Steven Muehlhausen on The Walkway to Fight Club podcast. Gargano discussed his feud with Tommaso Ciampa and their chemistry together:
See, I think a lot of people talk about Triple H and Shawn Michaels when they talk about me and Tommaso, which is the ultimate compliment for both of us. It’s two guys who are just made to wrestle each other. I think we need to either team, wrestle, or just be paired together because we’re just so polar opposite and so different in certain ways. We also have the same mind and the same way of going about things. It’s almost like we’re a perfect match for one another both in the ring and out. I cannot say this enough — we are completely opposite human beings. You look at us, and we look like opposite human beings. But as people too, we are opposite human beings. But we have the same wrestling mind. I think that really is the perfect combination there, where we bring out the best in one another whether we’re teaming in the ring, telling a story, or a promo. We bring out the best in each other. The vibe is just different. It’s a different atmosphere when we’re in the room together. We did a live event in Michigan recently and the atmosphere in the room changed when we were in the ring together. It’s just a weird feeling. You can feel the mood in the building change whenever we’re in the same room together. It’s pretty cool.
**Thursday’s news that the UFC would not proceed with UFC 249 came after political pressure that Disney and ESPN faced from California Governor Gavin Newsom.
Kevin Draper and Oskar Garcia of the New York Times reported that Newsom made the request to Disney, and shortly afterward, Dana White announced the news when speaking to Brett Okamoto of ESPN. White stated he was asked to ‘stand-down’ and the request came from the higher level at Disney and ESPN with UFC 249 postponed and all subsequent events postponed indefinitely.
White was adamant he would have been able to run on April 18th and the only reason he isn’t is that he is respecting ESPN’s request and it was out of his hands. He even added the option of running the card on Fight Pass but noted ESPN didn’t want him to do it. At the end of the day, White looked down and the had no more bullets in the chamber. The card was off.
White has said that fights on the private island will happen and that the infrastructure will be in place in the next month. He is still going forward with the idea of hitting their mark of 42 events this year, which tells you how important it is to him hit that magic number because ~u will need weeks with multiple cards within it. On top, there is no timetable when it will be safe to run and when UFC will receive the go-ahead. ESPN had not displayed any aversion to the UFC’s game plan nor Dana White’s public messaging during this whole scenario. Ultimately, the green light will be decided upon by Disney when they feel it’s politically prudent to move forward. White insisted many times on Thursday that they would be the first sport back when it’s safe to do so.
Additionally, White said there would be no layoffs at the UFC and told fighters not to worry and they would get their fights in and would not have to worry financially.
How this applies to WWE is an interesting question because it does raise the issue of what responsibility lays at the feet of the broadcaster when it comes to running these events. By its nature, professional wrestling is going to skirt criticism that others would be raked over the coals for and UFC was in a much larger spotlight. One of the smartest strategies by WWE during this time has been keeping a low public profile and sending Paul Levesque and Stephanie McMahon out as the public faces of the company. Had this pandemic been occurring in 2001 with Vince McMahon front and center, it would be an unmitigated public relations nightmare.
WWE can fly under the radar but can Fox and NBC Universal? There will only be a change if either network feels that pressure with the precedent being set by ESPN that has now drawn a public line in the sand regarding their stance towards live events in an empty arena setting. More pressing is that there is a state-at-home order in the state of Florida that has either been relaxed for WWE or they have been outright exempt from following. It does send a contradictory message when these networks have PSAs and recommendations to stay at home while broadcasting programming of a company that isn’t complying and would not be deemed an essential service.
**A statement was issued by Brian Butler-Au on behalf of Rose Namajunas stating that the reason she was had to remove herself from the now postponed UFC 249 event was due to two deaths in her family related to the coronavirus. Namajunas had been scheduled to fight Jessica Andrade on the show in a rematch from May 2019 with news of her removal reported earlier this week. The statement was issued by her management to Ariel Helwani of ESPN:
Rose withdrew from UFC 249 due to 2 deaths in the family related to the Coronavirus. Her hopes are to return to the Octagon as soon as possible but for now we ask for people to respect their privacy during this time.
**UFC lightweight contender Tony Ferguson found out about the UFC 249 news while in the middle of an interview where the reporter revealed the news to him. Brian Martin of the OC Register was speaking with Ferguson and nineteen minutes into the interview saw the news on his phone and relayed it to Ferguson, who was in shock. You try and understand how crazy of a day it must have been for the UFC and that this all went down in quick fashion but this is hardly the first time where a fighter is learning about the status of their fight at the same time the rest of the world is. You can argue that the UFC can’t reach every fighter or manager on the card but at the least, alert the main event fighters especially Ferguson who has had to go through all the headaches of the past month and remained on board to fight. The story that always comes to mind was when Miesha Tate had already begun her camp to fight Ronda Rousey for the third time in 2015 and then was alerted that on Good Morning America, they had announced Holly Holm was getting the title fight instead.
**While Disney has been battered like many companies throughout the pandemic, they did announce on Thursday that the Disney+ streaming service now boasts 50 million subscribers worldwide after launching last November. Disney also offers a bundle where you can get ESPN+ and Hulu along with Disney+, so there is a trickle-down effect for ESPN’s service. The growth for Disney+ is astronomical as the last number reported on February 3rd was 28.6 million subscribers and up 75% in two months. They recently launched in India along with eight European countries with plans to add the service in Japan and Latin America this year.
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