Pro wrestling is dealing with two major concerns at the moment with the COVID pandemic and the Speaking Out Movement. Sports Illustrated writer Justin Barrasso discussed covering both at the same time when he joined The Wrestling Inc Daily podcast.
"I think that's one of the areas that makes pro wrestling have independence in a positive way, or right now in a less flattering way, with all of the allegations of abuse. Obviously, it's terrible what people have dealt with in the wrestling business," Barrasso said before noting that there's no centralized organization to govern indie promotions.
"You have that with the bigger promotions with WWE, AEW, New Japan, Ring of Honor, Impact… I think the big thing with speaking out is that there are so many different accounts on Twitter. It's almost like before you got to read one, there was a new one and are so many. But I don't think that's gonna stop – I think that that's real."
He added that even though promotions have addressed some of the allegations, there are still many unanswered questions. He specifically pointed out the futures of Marty Scurll in ROH and Matt Riddle in WWE as unanswered questions.
"Even though it's been addressed, I think there are many more questions that need to be asked, need to be covered and need to be vetted," said Barrasso.
"In terms of COVID-19, I don't think that story is going away either. They're in Florida so they're right in the thick of it. It only makes sense that people will test positive. Why wouldn't WWE, or AEW for that matter, not test positive and everywhere else they would, especially in that state? So, more questions too on testing. Are wrestlers going into the crowd? Little things like that – are they doing everything they can from the corporate side to protect the talent? So, definitely a lot going on, but fun to cover."
It was recently reported that dozens of WWE staffers has tested positive for COVID-19 including both employees and talent. Barrasso was asked what he's heard about WWE's COVID problem.
"I think that from the outside, I'm sure it's not good for WWE that people are testing positive. But the fact that people are positive and they're getting tested, and not just a thermometer check, clearly it's an issue. That's been the biggest thing – why aren't they testing? So, it's a positive that they are now. I know that leads to more issues once people test positive, but that's a lot better than the alternative," stated Barrasso.
"When did they film the Riddle-Styles match? That was a couple of weeks ago and that's a ring filled with all the babyfaces including Daniel Bryan and Renee Young who announced that she has COVID-19. So to me, as much of a headache as it probably is for WWE, it's better than the alternative.
"I think too, it's tough because – I don't work for WWE – but transparency is a positive. But I think if they were more open… I'll juxtapose it with Tony Khan saying, 'Hey Jon Moxley is not gonna be on TV tonight.' I don't think you would have saw that the same way with WWE. Maybe moving forward they're watching what Tony and AEW are doing and how they're handling the situation. But more transparency is the constant battle with covering WWE."
He added that it was a fairytale to think that no one in WWE was going to contract the virus at some point. Even with the recent positive tests, WWE plans on holding tapings on both Friday and Saturday including SmackDown.
"I just got off a phone call and somebody was mentioning that they're gonna re-test the people that were negative, just to confirm. It's such a quick turnaround and it does seem overly ambitious," admitted Barrasso. "I don't know at SmackDown if we're gonna see Drew Gulak and AJ Styles. I'll have a Q&A up with Gulak on Friday where he talks about getting tested because the Styles match for him is so important. He kinda imposed a self-isolation just to stay away from everyone. It's kind of a fun story as he did it while watching wrestling. All he's doing is watching old matches which I think is a cool story.
"Now, Drew's fortunate in a sense as some guys don't have that capability. They might go home to their family and the kids might need help. So, I do think it does seem unrealistic to go forward with tapings on Friday and Saturday. Maybe we'll see the Friday SmackDown tapings different. Maybe they'll only have three matches, a backstage segment or two. You could let Gulak and Styles go 30 minutes to maybe get three segments out of that. But I don't know and the part that boggles my mind, Nick, with the tape library they have you could do so many fun, creative things.
"You could have The New Day cover the commentary on an old-school match or you could do so many fun things especially with FOX airing your show and they keep showing old PPVs on FS1. I just don't know why there's not more synergy… maybe Raw is different because it's on USA. But since they're showing so much stuff on FS1… Xavier Woods is a guy that's injured but you could have him doing commentary. He does his podcast. He's charismatic. He's funny. He's smart. That's an easy way, to me, to highlight your current talent and show off what you have on the network. That could be 20 minutes on every SmackDown. I'm surprised that they're pushing and pushing and pushing different talent in the ring and with the testing and everything else going on, it seems like they're trying to force something when there's so many other opportunities for creativity."
You can follow Justin on Twitter @JustinBarrasso. Barrasso's full interview aired as part of a recent episode of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it's released Monday - Friday afternoon by clicking here.