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How is the WWE running events when the UFC can’t?

Let’s take a look at how the WWE has kept the lights on while UFC has been forced to shut down because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

One of the regular refrains I keep hearing from people complaining about UFC’s Coronavirus stoppage is, “But Vince McMahon is still holding WWE events safely!” And while I could spend the next couple of hours breaking down the differences between mixed martial arts (MMA) and professional wrestling and how Vince shouldn’t be allowed to do what he’s doing, I thought it would be more interesting to examine why he’s allowed to do what he wants.

Long story short: Florida.

You don’t need me to tell you the big swanging dick side of America is much looser than the tight ass side of California. There’s been barely enough political will to announce a statewide emergency, let alone broadly enforce a stay at home order. For this reason, Florida was rumored to be a top contender for UFC 249’s location (details). Plenty of venues on Native land in Florida have long histories of running MMA events, and plenty of MMA promoters have used Native land to get around commission regulation.

WWE didn’t need commission approval, but even then they didn’t just try to operate on the sly and hope people wouldn’t call them on it. They went a step further and declared themselves “Essential.” They provided employees and wrestlers with paperwork claiming their operation fell under a designation used to keep the news from being shuttered during emergencies.

It’s still pretty shocking that WWE has been able to get away with taping shows, given how so much of the rest of the entertainment landscape has shut down. But when you’ve got a crazed billionaire running the show, nearly anything is possible. Including the return of live events.

That’s right: after recording batches of shows all at once since the Coronavirus pandemic hit, Vince McMahon has decided it’s time for shows to return to their regular live format. Why would anyone decide to make that decision when it increases the amount of labor and time and risk for the wrestlers and staff involved? According the Dave Meltzer, WWE’s contract with its broadcasters limits the number of taped shows they can provide.

As with UFC’s rabid push to continue holding events, there’s a chance this latest move by McMahon is just part of a kabuki dance being put on to satisfy contractual obligations. Vince says he’s bringing back live shows. NBC and FOX say, ‘Hey, maybe don’t.’ Now there’s less room to wiggle out of playing WWE their full contracted amount.

Even though it’s clearly cynical and gross to move your employees and independent contractors around a quarantined country like pawns in a chess game, you almost hope that’s what’s going on because at least McMahon wouldn’t be seriously planning on putting his staff at risk right as we reach the first peak of the pandemic in the United States.

The alternative is Vince doesn’t particularly care about the danger to his workers or their families or the other people in their circle of exposure. Given his company’s long history of using and discarding talent, that’s just as likely.