Not yet ready to rumble: pro-wrestling to take year off in N.B.
Physical distancing make running profitable shows difficult for independent promoters
While some forms of entertainment have reopened to fans in New Brunswick, including ballet and motorsport, one notable form will likely remain shuttered during the pandemic.
The province's multiple pro-wrestling promotions have remained largely quiet since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and several promoters have decided to forgo holding shows at all this year.
Chris Glidden, the director of promotions and production for Moncton's Innovative Hybrid Wrestling, said even with the relaxing of rules around physical distancing that allow some indoor ticketed events, the numbers just didn't add up.
"To have physical distancing between people and groups of people we would end up only being able to have about a hundred people in the building," said Glidden.
"Which makes it really difficult to viably run a show that costs much more than a hundred people bring it."
While IHW has been running shows in the Moncton area for over a decade, at least two new promotions had to postpone their first show because of the virus.
Both Capital City Wrestling, an entirely new promotion, and Vision Pro Wrestling, a resurrected promotion that last ran shows in 2016, were going to have their first shows this spring.
Those have been postponed until 2021.
Trevor Firth, the booker at VPW and Championship Acadian Wrestling, said VPW's first show was going to feature both local wrestlers and outside talent. But the closure of the borders made that impossible.
"We're not doing our first show this year anymore which is really unfortunate, we were really looking forward to it," said Firth.
"But it puts us back a year and it gives us some time to look at things from different angles. Maybe it's a little bit of a hidden blessing, we've got some more time to work out some things, some details"
While some local promotions do have television and pay-per-view options available, the vast majority of their fans view the shows live.
Physical distancing difficult
The shows are generally held in smaller venues like community centres, which makes physical distancing difficult.
Issac Malley, the co-owner of Miramichi's Next Wrestling Entertainment, said they normally hold shows at the Loggieville Community Centre, which isn't the best option when it comes to physical distancing.
He says while they could get around this by running shows outdoors or in a bigger arena, those options have drawbacks as well.
"Outdoor shows, they're a little tricky because of weather and everything. You've got so many factors when you do an outdoor show," said Malley.
And, Malley said a big arena is too expensive to rent.
Firth said while CAW may have been able to run shows with physical distancing, that would mean higher ticket prices to offset the cost, something he doesn't think is a good idea.
"Like it or not, wrestling is a business. We need to make money," said Firth.
"I don't want to have to charge customers more for a ticket so that we can break even when we know there's going to be less of a crowd."
All four promotions CBC News spoke to said their company's overhead costs are relatively small and they don't spend much money when they're not running shows, so they're optimistic they will be able to stick around.
That doesn't mean there isn't an economic sting though.
IHW was set to air their second pay-per-view event in September on the Fite streaming platform, which would have cost viewers $13.99, representing a big potential payday for the promotion.
CAW was going to run their fourth anniversary show, an event that would've drawn a larger crowd for the promotion.
NWE was going to film another season of their television show that airs on Rogers TV, but will now instead air best-of episodes.
And, no shows means wrestlers in the Maritimes have no place to work.
And while many work for multiple promotions, only two announced events are taking place in the Maritimes, both in Nova Scotia later this summer.
The venues are also taking a hit.
Most promotions run monthly shows at one location, and have done so for years.
"A lot of the venues are going to be struggling with that. On the occasion that some of these venues may end up shutting down, then wrestling promotions will also be looking for new homes."
Keeping fans engaged
Another struggle will be to keep fans engaged without the lure of live events.
This is a problem even for the large professional wrestling companies.
World Wrestling Entertainment, All Elite Wrestling and Impact Wrestling have gone from running shows in front of thousands of fans across the world, to running shows without paying fans whatsoever and have suffered declining viewership as a result.
CAW may look at running one show without fans and putting it on Facebook.
IHW has over 20 unaired episodes of their show ready to go, and will consider shooting others if the pandemic continues.
NWE is exploring how best to present their best-of shows, possibly inserting new interviews and promos in between the classic matches.
"So we're staying relevant, we're keeping our name out there in the community so they still remembered NWE is here,"
"But basically I'm hoping that we do get to run next year."