RADICAN’S TAKE: Several independent companies take a financial hit due to COVID-9 forcing government cancellation of events

By Sean Radican, PWTorch Columnist (Twitter: @sr_torch)


With all of the major sports leagues in the world shutting down last week for the foreseeable future due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the question became whether or not WWE and several independents would be forced to cancel their live events. WXW out of Germany had already announced that due to travel bans, they would not be coming to WrestleMania, but it wasn’t until this week that independent companies large and small began announcing their cancellations. WrestleCon, WWN, GWC, WXW, and Beyond Wrestling have all announced the cancellations of their shows scheduled to be held during WrestleMania weekend.

WWE and companies like Highspots owned by Michael Boccichio, which runs WrestleCon, were waiting for the government to step in and prohibit their events from running WrestleMania weekend and not cancelling their events.

WrestleCon was set to host big independent shows with the stars of NJPW as well as a convention with wrestling stars of present and past signing autographs.

The major reason for WrestleCon and other big independent companies delaying a cancellation announcement for WrestleMania weekend was because they would be able to recoup their money from hotels and vendors they had made deals with for WrestleMania weekend. WWE could afford to absorb the loss, but they didn’t want to and have since announced that WrestleMania will be held over the course of two nights at an empty Performance Center.

Mariott, the hotel chain that WrestleCon had an agreement with, was refusing to release Boccaccio from his financial obligations until yesterday when the local government announced the cancellation of public events going forward. Before the cancellation announcement from the local government in Florida, Chris Jerihco had attempted to generate public support for WrestleCon on Twitter.

If the government had not stepped in, Boccichio would have been on the hook for over $114,000 and would have likely had to sell his house and fold Highspots to cover the losses. PWTorch reached out to Highspots owner Michael Boccichio, who indicated that despite WrestleCon being granted relief from their obligations to the Marriott, he was still taking a monster loss. “The bigest issue honestly is that I need to refund everybody in the next 3-4 days and so far not one penny has been returned to me from venues, buses, deposits, etc.,” said Boccichio. Everybody has spent the money and has promised to return it, but that doesn’t help me right now.”

Boccaccio indicated that WrestleCon would be going on next year, but that it might be the last year of WrestleCon during WrestleMania weekend due AEW and WWE snapping up available talent. “Yes, we went under contract for L.A. a few weeks ago,” said Boccichio. “Honestly, if I hadn’t already gone under contract and made a large deposit, I would have likely ended WrestleCon. Unless L.A. is a huge success, I think it will be the final year. Every year seems to be more difficult than the last, the new AEW vs. WWE war has decimated the availability of talent.”

Game Changer Wrestling (GCW) is the other major company affected the most by the coronavirus outbreak. GCW has built a big reputation on the independent scene and has run shows all over the country while airing their shows live on PPV on FITE TV. Unlike most promotions that rely on a streaming service to distribute their content for a flat monthly cost, GCW has managed to charge a flat rate of $15 for their live shows and has toured all over the country.

GCW was going to present The Collective, which hosts a collection of themed shows like the popular yearly tradition Joey Janela’s Spring Break and Bloodsport during WrestleMania weekend. Bloodsport was set to be main evented by Jon Moxley vs. Josh Barnett.

At first, The Collective claimed they were going to go forward with the shows, but once the government stepped in, they announced the shows had been postponed and would take place at another time in the future once public events are allowed to be held again. This is a huge blow to GCW, but the company asked fans on twitter not to ask for refunds and consider the money they paid for their tickets as an investment: “We are not asking to keep your money for nothing. We are asking you to invest in the future of independent wrestling. We are asking you to believe in us. The Collective, GCW, and all of its amazing partners as we endeavor to finish what we started.”

As for content fans can look forward to going forward, Black Label Pro will be running a show called “Empty House” on independentwrestling.tv on March 28. The show will feature wrestling matches in an empty building and also present fans an opportunity to donate to a fund for independent wrestlers, which are currently missing out on their biggest paydays of the year, as WrestleMania weekend provides them with the opportunity to work multiple matches over the course of the WrestleMania week festivities.

To show support for the companies impacted by coronavirus, the best thing to do is is subscribe to their on-demand services like hightspotswrestlingnetwork.com, ClubWWN.com and independentwrestling.tv amongst others or in the case of GCW, purchase their PPVs on FITE TV or their past events on DVD or digital at smartmarkvideo.com.

To individually support wrestlers, go to Twitter and see what kind of merchandise sales each wrestlers is offering. You can also visit prowrestlingtees.com and directly support individual wrestlers by buying their merchandise, which they get royalties from.

Contact Sean at radicansean@pwtorch.com. Follow him on twitter @sr_torch

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