Updated: Apr 21, 2020
WWE and AEW are both navigating their way through business during the COVID-19 pandemic. Each company is handling it a little bit differently, but what will fans remember?
The latest news articles are appalled that WWE has been deemed an essential business in the State of Florida. So, I was looking forward to sitting down and seeing what kind of monstrous thing Vince McMahon had done to somehow deem WWE as an essential business during the COVID-19 pandemic, but in reality, the order doesn’t just apply to WWE.
On April 9, an order was signed by Florida’s Division of Emergency Management, stating that:
“Employees at a professional sports and media production with a national audience – including any athletes, entertainers, production team, executive team, media team and any others necessary to facilitate including services supporting such production – only if the location is closed to the general public.”
So, while it is true that WWE is included in this Addition of Essential Services, the same also applies to Jacksonville-based AEW, and other sports productions within the State of Florida. If Vince McMahon was behind this, he seems to have also given the same advantages to AEW. Perhaps his ego won’t allow him to think that AEW will survive the pandemic.
Although sports productions are arguably non-essential during a pandemic, it got me wondering what the long term impact for WWE and AEW will be.
What’s At Stake? Money and Fans
In the short-term, the obvious thing at stake is money. Both companies are suffering financial losses, as neither can hold live events to generate revenue through ticket or event sales. However, both companies can still profit through TV ads during their weekly shows and merchandise sales. WWE’s Fox deal is more lucrative than AEW, and WWE’s long-standing fan base will likely continue to generate high volumes of sales through online merchandise including t-shirts, action figures and the WWE Network.
While both companies are suffering financial losses, both also have significant financial backing. WWE is reportedly worth $5.5 billion, with Vince McMahon himself being estimated to have a net worth of $2 billion. Per the WWE website, the Company has substantial financial resources, both available cash and debt capacity, which currently total approximately $0.5 billion, to manage the challenges ahead. AEW is not a publicly traded company, but Shad Khan is reportedly worth $9.9 billion. While Shad Kahn is not committing 100% of his resources to AEW, both companies have the means to keep productions going for the foreseeable future.
To prevent further losses, on April 15, WWE released employees including: Curt Hawkins, Kurt Angle and Zack Ryder. They also furloughed producers and talent. Vince McMahon seems to run his company with a black and white view: I make money or I lose money. Like any good businessman, his actions indicate that he generally takes the short-term path of protecting his money at all costs. Meanwhile, AEW, a company with a history of recruiting indie wrestlers, maintains a full roster and is highlighting what they’re doing to keep their wrestlers safe.
WWE will likely come out of the pandemic with less cash losses, but will their business decisions change how fans view the company? Vince has a right to protect his money, but isn’t that the whole reason AEW was formed, to offer a WWE alternative? The wrestlers were tired of his ruthless tactics, owning everything from their names to their hand signals, making offers to employees based on the assumption that WWE was the ultimate goal, with no comparable options. Will fans see WWE's actions as a necessary evil during this economic downturn? Or, will fans value AEW's choice to keep a full roster, without cutting pay (yet)?