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Wrestling With COVID-19: The Current State of SEA Wrestling


Dennis "the Ladykiller" from Grapple MAX in Singapore returns in this special column to share his perspective as a promoter on COVID-19's effects on the greater Southeast Asian scene.

You know how far respiratory droplets can travel? Six feet.

That’s how far someone can transmit these droplets by coughing, sneezing, or just talking. Now imagine if those tiny droplets carried a disease, for which antibiotics are ineffective against, and for which vaccines haven’t been developed.

Let’s do a visualization exercise.

You’re in the business of organizing events, and you’ve sold a few hundred tickets. You’re about to pack all these fans into an indoor environment, in close proximity to each other, for two to three hours. A pandemic is sweeping across the world. It has infected 150,000 people, and nearly 6,000 people have died.

What do you do?

Of course, I’m talking about COVID-19. It has dominated headlines for the past few months. This chart illustrates an increasing growth rate of new cases. Over the past week, we’ve gone into exponential territory. The disease has spread in more than 140 countries.

Source: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

As the co-founder of Grapple MAX, a pro wrestling-themed lifestyle gym based in Singapore, I was invited by Smark Henry to explore how wrestling promotions in Southeast Asia have approached the health crisis when running their businesses. It’s affecting livelihoods for many of us in the industry, so it’s not easy for the promotions in Southeast Asia to make the decisions they’ve made.

Grapple MAX
Grapple MAX responded quickly. Showcase 12 was scheduled to be on February 29, but as the situation worsened in Singapore, we cancelled the sold out event and refunded all ticket buyers. At the suggestion of our trainees, who all put in hours of effort preparing for their matches, we leveraged Facebook Live technology so that fans could tune in to watch the stream from the safety of their home. We also took the opportunity to create positive change by turning it into a fundraiser for the healthcare workers of Singapore.

Source: Grapple MAX Facebook

SETUP Thailand Pro Wrestling
SETUP initially issued an official announcement that the international talent on their March 21 card would not be flown in. Their championship match was therefore missing a challenger, and the promoters awarded a walkover win to local wrestler Paksa. This is only SETUP’s second show, so to have their momentum thrown off this early due to the virus situation is not ideal. Management then later decided to postpone the whole event altogether to May 16.



Source: SETUP Thailand Pro Wrestling Facebook

Philippine Wrestling Revolution (PWR)
PWR postponed a key show on their calendar indefinitely (days ahead of an order imposing a "community quarantine" on Metro Manila—Ed.). Path of Gold develops major storylines and sets up matches for the ‘Mania of Manila, Wrevolution X. Canceling their show on March 22 means upsetting booking plans, so this was not a light decision. But PWR took it in stride and even launched a humorous PSA health campaign that incorporated their action photos. As the branding and marketing guy in Grapple MAX, I take my hat off to whoever came up with this idea.

Source: Philippine Wrestling Revolution Facebook

Malaysia Pro Wrestling (MyPW)
MyPW acted decisively to reduce the number of fans attending New Moon on March 15. They sold a limited stock of 30 tickets to lower the risk of infection, and to satisfy fans who couldn’t get their hands on tickets, MyPW will also be releasing full match videos on social media. Guest wrestler Carlo Cannon from Australia is still performing and running a training seminar while he is in town.

Source: Malaysia Pro Wrestling Facebook

It is reassuring to me that wrestling promotions in the region are making the responsible call, and not choosing profit over public health. Regular ticketed events are an important revenue driver to keep many of our wrestling companies and brands alive. So to turn down income from shows that can be used to pay salaries and keep the lights on is a massive sacrifice.

As wrestlers, we emphasize that fans should not attempt the high-risk stunts we do for the sake of their safety. How hypocritical would we look then if we insisted on running our shows in such a risky environment, thereby endangering everyone’s health as a result? The responses and solutions put forth by the wrestling companies across Southeast Asia have been in line with precisely this philosophy.

We’ll bounce back.

Ladykiller is the co-founder of Grapple MAX, one of the most attractive wrestling destinations in Asia. He shares his general thoughts about the Southeast Asian wrestling scene on his blog.

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