Effect of COVID-19 on indie wrestling

Indie wrestlers discuss the sudden impact of COVID-19

WrestleMania week is the most pivotal time of the year in the eyes of wrestling fans, media, and of course, the performers themselves. Die-hard fans come from all over the world, gather and bond over the industry they love, making memories that will last a lifetime.

This year, the world is facing a life-threating crisis, the Coronavirus. COVID-19, as we all know, is a global pandemic that has basically shut down the majority of the world. WrestleMania is no longer the grand spectacle as we know it, and it has left fans who planned to travel to the event heartbroken.

COVID-19 indie wrestling
Photo credit: WWE

This also left the promoters, who spent their life savings to bring the best independent shows to Tampa, and the wrestlers who have worked their entire lives for this one week, directionless.

WWE went forward with a “the show must go on” mentality and recorded their “Show of Shows” at the Performance Center, which will air this weekend. The dozens of independent promotions, that planned events this week, aren’t as lucky.

Independent wrestlers have been preparing all year to showcase their talents in front of their biggest audiences to date. For many, this would’ve been their first WrestleMania week experience and their biggest payday of the year.

The week will pass, but the negative impact on wrestling will remain for months to come. Shows through April have been canceled or postponed and May shows may be next on the chopping block.

Lauren Founds from Bell to Belles reached out to some of the women on the indie circuit and asked them to share their stories. As such, Masha Slamovich, Ariela Nyx, and Ruby Raze spoke on how this pandemic has affected their careers.

The majority of the women had several bookings scheduled during WrestleMania week. Slamovich looked forward to her first Mania week experience.

“I was very much looking forward to making my debut for Prime Time Pro Wrestling and being out there to network all week, see friends I rarely get to see, and generally enjoy the festivities.”

Nyx was also looking forward to first-time matches and seeing friends, incuding wrestling im front of her father.

“I had a couple of matches against wrestlers I’ve never faced before and not sure if I’ll get the chance to face them again. Personally, I was looking forward to seeing friends and have my dad watch me wrestle. “

On the other hand, Raze decided to opt-out of the trip to Tampa after trusting her instincts that it wasn’t a good idea.

“Interesting story, sometime around November/December I had been in communication with promoters regarding Mania week and I was going to go with a small group of girls; we talked about splitting an Airbnb and staying for 6 or 7 days. Then I started having a weird feeling that I shouldn’t make plans to do Mania Week. So, I focused on my other bookings and told the girls we would meet up in Denver for a show we had there and, well, you see what happened. I’ve always been big on listening to my instincts, so that paid off and I didn’t take any big losses. “

The cancellation of Independent wrestling shows began in early March and continued to effect April and May, with even June shows in jeopardy. Some bigger promotions have postponed events for later in the year but smaller promotions are feeling the hit financially and unable to simply push their dates back.

Raze estimates she has already lost twenty bookings so far due to the global pandemic and other ventures are in jeopardy. She also works on several TV shows including, WOW. She told Founds, that she just landed her “best opportunity to date.” When California halted all non-essential work in mid-March, production was shut down on projects.

Raze also had a huge opportunity on the East Coast that she was told it would be postponed until later this year. Between this booking and the new TV deal, Raze remains positive, “These were two big opportunities I had going right now and they both were going to be sizable career boosters so I just gotta keep faith right now and trust the universe.”

Slamovich had a full itinerary planned after she left Tampa with travels in the US, Canada, and her home country, Russia. Then, she would return to the US at the end of May.

“If it had only been missing Mania week I’d have dealt with that. So much was lined up, there were plans for Battle Club Pro, Limitless, my return to the Maritimes & debut for Kaizen Pro Wrestling. May 57 shows were debuts, and one was a much-anticipated return to UCW in Nova Scotia, which I am quite disappointed to be missing, as well as Rebelution x Chaos for K9s show the next day in Ontario. “

“I was also scheduled to return to IWF Russia in my hometown of Moscow which I’m heartbroken to miss, as much of my family I rarely get to see was excited to come out to the show and also just get to spend some time together. As for the end of May, there is still hope I suppose. “

Despite all the cancellations and missed opportunities, Slamovich has incurred, another opportunity opened up for her. Prior to the widespread cancellations because of the pandemic, Masha was in Japan finishing up her second tour. Since her schedule was open now, she decided to stay in Japan and wrestle.

“Upon learning that all of April was canceled in the states I had been asked to prolong my tour in Japan, which I happily accepted to do. My plan was to avoid the virus and continue to wrestle for as long as possible avoiding cancellations. As I will continue to stay here until the end of April at a minimum, plans were in the making to continue working with Marvelous Women’s Pro Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Wave, and other companies around Japan. “

Unfortunately, shows were canceled in Japan to avoid further spread of the virus, as well. Still, Slamovich feels fortunate to be in Japan until further notice.

“All in all, this was set up to be one of the biggest and busiest times of my career, and it’s all been ground to a halt. However, I am lucky and happy to remain here because at least there is the dojo with the ring and weights to continue training. Japan is by far my favorite place to be so whatever I can do here I will do, and I will remain here for as long as I possibly can, even in the face of this global pandemic. “

The pandemic has brought on uncertainty for a vast majority of people in the world right now and the economic repercussions are frightening. Professional wrestling as a whole has taken a huge hit financially and unfortunately, many smaller promotions may not survive. Indie wrestlers use shows to further hone their skills and build their resume. When Founds spoke to Nyx, she was worried.

“As of now, all bookings that I had scheduled have been canceled. The longer this goes on, the longer everyone’s career is on hold. I think a lot of us that aren’t big names will almost have to start over in a sense and start building our name again once things return to ‘normal.'”

Raze spoke candidly about the potential economic struggle this pandemic will have on the business for the foreseeable future.

“The thing no one really seems to be thinking about is the current economy and how it will impact the wrestling industry (and wrestlers) once the stay-at-home orders get lifted. A lot of people are hurting for money right now, and to think that fans would be willing to buy a $60 tickets to a show may be a far fetched concept in the near future – then what? If tickets prices drop, wrestler pay could also drop and those of us who make their living (or majority of their income) in this sport may be back to working one or two jobs on top of this to make ends meet. “

“This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a tough position when wrestling sometimes requires us to leave on short notice. The benefit of this is that it taught a lot of us the importance of having contingency plans in both short and long terms.”

The world we live right now is a scary place and it will continue to get worse before it gets better but we WILL heal. Humans are resilient and so are wrestling fans. Wrestling is a release from the hardships and stress of daily life. Fans rely on the entertainment from shows held in football stadiums to VFW Halls.

Bell to Belles would like to thanks the women who took the time to participate in this article and give insight into the effects COVID-19 has had on their careers. Please follow these wonderfully talented women and help support them when they are able to return to the ring to entertain us.

To help support these women check out their merchandise shops below.

Ariela Nyx https://arielanyx.bigcartel.com/

Ruby Raze https://razerpops.bigcartel.com/

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