WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon recently spoke with Sports Illustrated to explain how WWE has been working to keep their crews safe and healthy while taping content at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando during the coronavirus pandemic.
“In terms of safety measures and protocols, first and foremost, every performance is voluntary for our performers and crew,” McMahon said. “That is a really important note to highlight. Also, the Performance Center itself is a closed set. We’re shooting in waves. No one person, regardless of who they are, is allowed to enter if they have a temperature of over 100.4, or if they have been out of the country or been in touch with someone who has been out of the country.
“We also do pandemic-level cleaning, which includes fogging and ultraviolet light, in the facility every single night. That could be overkill, quite frankly, but we really are trying to put in the best safety practices that we possibly can given the circumstances. Those are some of the measures we are taking, and it is as comprehensive as it can possibly be. We also changed some of the format for WrestleMania. We’re not holding the men’s or women’s battle royal—that’s just too many people in the ring at one time.”
It’s been reported that WWE and AEW officials have told talent that they do not have to perform if they don’t feel comfortable doing so during the COVID-19 outbreak, and that their decisions will not be held against them in the future. Roman Reigns then backed out of his WrestleMania 36 match with WWE Universal Champion Bill Goldberg due to concerns he had over his health because of his battles with leukemia. Stephanie was asked if Reigns’ decision was the result of a series of talks between he and WWE officials, and their medical team, and if there is support toward Reigns for his decision.
“With all of our superstars, it really is a voluntary basis,” Stephanie said. “It’s not my place to give his personal situation, but we support our superstars. We support their personal opinions and concerns, and again, this is all voluntary. Especially when you have a talent or a performer with pre-existing conditions, or whatever the reason might be. If someone is uncomfortable, we will absolutely honor that.
“We want our talent to perform at WrestleMania, but only if they’re comfortable. Regardless of their reasons, they have to be comfortable. It has to be something they want to do. We absolutely support all of our superstars and their decision of whether or not to perform, especially at this time.”
WWE ended up pulling WrestleMania 36 off last week, taping matches that will air over two nights this coming weekend. Stephanie confirmed to SI that the fate of WrestleMania 36 was in doubt at one point.
“It was, actually, because this is an unprecedented time,” she said. “We all have been day-to-day really looking at all of this. Ultimately, as brands and leagues and companies are reinventing themselves, it’s important to stay true to your mission. And our mission is to put smiles on people’s faces. We’re a fan-first company, we always want to provide an experience that is worthy of our fans’ passion. We’re constantly looking at what other leagues are doing, what other providers are doing, assessing the landscape–can we make it as safe as possible? Where can we shoot the content? All of these different factors have come into play. We’re working with local, regional, and global agencies, we’re putting in the best possible testing measures that we can [and] all of the safety precautions that we’re taking to take this very seriously.
“This is not something where we’re just being bullheaded and moving forward. This is a concerted, very thought-through effort to entertain our fans with our biggest show of the year. It won’t feel and look like our biggest show of the year, but certainly from a content standpoint and a match standpoint, we’re trying to deliver.”
Stephanie also confirmed that she had to miss WrestleMania for the first time ever this year as she was not considered to be essential personnel to the show.