As noted, WWE will return to airing live TV with WWE NXT, RAW and SmackDown this week, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. They will continue to air from closed sets with limited personnel at the empty WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida and the NXT Arena at Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL.
WWE returning to live TV reportedly has to do with their contracts with NBCUniversal and FOX, according to a new report from Dave Meltzer on Wrestling Observer Radio.
As noted last week, WWE had plans to tape several weeks of TV beginning on Friday. Meltzer reports that 5 weeks of each TV show was to be taped, along with 205 Live and Main Event episodes, but plans changed on Friday when WWE Chairman Vince McMahon made the call. Talents were ready to tape several episodes, go back home, and then return in early May, possibly for the May 10 Money In the Bank pay-per-view. They were then told on Friday that they would start going live this week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
It was noted that the reason for the return to live TV is the fear of being in violation of the WWE TV contracts, which state that WWE must go live for 49 of 52 weeks per year, and WWE doesn’t want any issues there. Meltzer speculated that NBCU and FOX could deny that they said anything to WWE about going live, and it’s possible that they did and the return to live TV is Vince’s reaction, but it’s also possible that Vince feels like he’s getting a step ahead before the networks ask him to return to live TV. However, the TV contracts are the reason for the return to live TV this week, according to the new report from WOR. It should be noted that there is no word on either network threatening WWE with a possible contract violation, and it seems likely they would understand that WWE is trying to operate during trying times.
It was believed by many that the workload would go down once the first positive coronavirus test came from within WWE. That positive test was confirmed last week and WWE actually increased the workload, returning to live TV. Meltzer noted that the positive test would have came on the second day of WrestleMania 36 tapings late last month, but in theory it was after the tapings, so no one working the tapings were affected. The report noted that it’s been confirmed a member of the WWE broadcast team was the one who tested positive, but it was not Corey Graves. His girlfriend Carmella has also been ruled out. As noted, WWE confirmed that the person is doing well and has already recovered.
Meltzer also noted that both AEW and WWE have violated state orders when it comes to how many people they have in the building for these closed-set tapings. Both companies have had more than 10 people present for the tapings, but AEW President Tony Khan has been the only person backstage in the “Gorilla Position” at AEW tapings. The Last Man Standing match at WrestleMania 36 between WWE Hall of Famer Edge and Randy Orton proved that WWE has had more people in the “Gorilla Position” but both companies have worked to do the best they can. Despite the efforts and the concern, people are still stunned at WWE going live this week, especially after the positive COVID-19 test. WWE Hall of Famer Jerry Lawler is returning to RAW tonight and while he does want to work, there is some added concern there because his age puts him at a greater risk when it comes to the coronavirus. The same goes for talents like Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns, because of their health, who have not been confirmed for this week’s TV like Lawler has.