A little more than a week ago, more than 1,000 spectators and athletes gathered in Oberhausen for three days and more than 500 spectators in Berlin on Saturday to celebrate two major wrestling events. Inconceivable actually, considering the measures that were taken immediately afterwards and indeed both Westside Xtreme Wrestling (wXw) and my home league, the German Wrestling Federation (GWF) were incredibly lucky that the shows could take place in the normal form.
I myself did not attend the GWF Light Heavyweight World Cup ’20 unfortunately and therefore could not witness the great success of Tarkan Aslan who won the trophy (the show can be found here). However, I was one of the countless spectators at the wXw 16 Carat Gold 2020, because for several years now we have always travelled as a group, which met each other on the internet, from Germany and Austria to perhaps the ugliest city in North Rhine-Westphalia and spend a great weekend together (the shows can be found here). But there are no further events in the near future to think about, which is why wXw and other promotions like PRO (Pro Wrestling Deutschland), cOw (Championship of Wrestling), GHW (German Hurricane Wrestling), EWP (European Wrestling Promotion), NEW (New European Championship Wrestling) and even new promotions like Sirius Sports Entertainment had to postpone their shows or even cancel them completely.
If we dare to look beyond #WrestlingDeutschalnd, the ongoing coronavirus crisis also affects the industry leader WWE, as the promotion from North America has to move its biggest show WrestleMania (comparable to the NFL Superbowl) from a huge stadium with a capacity of tens of thousands of people to a warehouse without spectators. Other sports such as football, basketball and soccer (the real football) pause completely after some players have also become infected with the virus – hardly imaginable what happens when a wrestler under WWE contract is infected.
As (among other things) Social Media Manager of the German Wrestling Federation I had to announce a few days ago that our upcoming show GWF Blockbuster 2020 has been postponed from April 12th to May 17th, 2020. We can afford this luxury to a certain extent, since we had planned not to have a summer break this year anyway and instead of the usual 10 shows in Berlin, we planned to have 12 this year. But actually we can’t afford that at all, because we plan with the monthly income and our livelihoods depend on it. But even promotions where people don’t work full-time will have to deal with the economic consequences and it would be absolutely optimistic, maybe even disillusioned to think that all promotions in the DACH region will survive this unscathed.
It is very good to see that the crisis is not only paralysing, but also moving. A big thank you to Alexander Flöter of PRO, who has launched a campaign to be able to compensate the wrestlers he had planned with appropriately. There are only a few wrestlers in Germany for whom this is actually the main job and the only source of income. Most of them will certainly fear for their professional existence in their private lives and can expect a loss of earnings. If now another dozen shows are cancelled in the next 4-8 weeks, the additional income is missing and it is great to see that the community wants to compensate at least a little bit.
Some promotions are taking the opportunity to offer free content to fans sitting at home, which they can watch on their smartphones and TVs. For example, cOw has uploaded a match between Cody Hall (the son of ex-WWE superstar Razor Ramon/Scott Hall) and Aaron Insane. NEW has made its February event “Takeoff” available for free to all fans on Vimeo.
Personally I would like to see a little more here, maybe a common platform for #WrestlingDeutschland. Rudimentary this would already work with content on YouTube and a playlist, where shows and matches from different companies are collected. If it were up to me, I could also imagine to make the GWF’s on-demand portal completely free of charge for the time of the quarantine.
And even if you get up every day, enjoy the sunshine on your balcony and breathe fresh air, even if you spend the day somehow – with home office and movie reviews, for example – we’re still in a state of shock. In a proper standstill. As of today, GWF Blockbuster 2020 will take place on May 17, 2020, but for me it’s quite difficult to massively promote the show. First of all, the number of fans who are willing to spend money on tickets at the moment will be limited, because secondly, it’s not 100% clear that we can really host again that day. What if the measures are extended? In theory, we are quite capable of postponing the show for another month, we could cancel another show in the summer. In practice, however, this uncertainty is part of every decision, because everything can change every day. We are simply not in the driver’s seat, we have no control over the current situation. And the request to stage a show completely without spectators and at least continue our stories was rejected with good reason – and would have cost us a lot of money, after all, we would only have paid and not taken a single cent.
No wrestling, no movies, no theatre, no stand-up comedy. For the artists, this is perhaps the most difficult phase we are experiencing in our time. No income indefinitely. No opportunity to use your talents or to improve on them. And above all, no breeding ground for new ideas. Jazzy “Alpha Female” Gabert wanted to go a new way with her project Sirius Sports Entertainment and combine wrestling with many other show elements. In contrast to normal wrestling shows, the whole thing would not have taken place in a ring in the middle of the hall, but in a ring on a stage – similar to a theatre play. Tickets were sold, the fans trusted and this realization that you are about to stage your first, completely own show and then not be allowed to do so is a hard blow. Especially if you don’t know exactly when it will go on.
I speak from experience, because at the moment I’m sitting with a team of absolutely capable people and I’m planning a … yes, let’s call it a platform. A platform to get to know each other, to develop, to entertain. Actually our own wrestling shows in the heart of Berlin – and the first show should’ve taken place at the end of May 2020. But how do you advertise something when you don’t even know if it’s allowed to happen? After you have developed and put so much energy and anticipation into it? Postponed is not canceled, though, and so I’m looking forward to sitting together with Cris, Aytac, Abdul and René again soon and developing what all of #WrestlingDeutschland can benefit from.
Yet the show must go on. Except when that happens, none of us know. Still, we must not lose ourselves in this standstill. You work in wrestling? Be creative and try to entertain your fans or develop ideas how you want to entertain them in the future. Keep them up to date and communicate – but don’t be scared and don’t panic. You are fans? Then support the promotions where you can and trust them. For example by buying the shows on Vimeo or by subscribing to their “Network”. The 10 Euro won’t hurt you at the moment, because you can’t spend it anyway or even get money back for tickets you bought. But these 10 Euros make a big difference for the people who try to finance their lives with wrestling – and that’s not me, because I’m doing volunteer work.
I am looking forward to seeing you all at one of the next shows. I even got a new shiny jacket! And then we can remember together what a crazy time we had together. Until then, take care of yourselves, stay healthy – and watch wrestling!