In Florida, professional wrestling is an 'essential business'

WWE can stage live matches again, but not in front of a live audience.
Image: WWE SummerSlam 2015
Kevin Owens celebrates his victory over Cesaro at the WWE SummerSlam 2015 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. on August 23, 2015.JP Yim / Getty Images file

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By Corky Siemaszko

WWE has managed to avoid being body-slammed by the coronavirus in Florida.

The professional wrestling company was “deemed an essential business," Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings told an NBC News affiliate in Orlando. “And so, therefore, they were allowed to remain open.”

Demings said WWE, which will resume live matches after running pre-taped shows in recent weeks, was given the much-coveted designation after consultations with Gov. Ron DeSantis’s office. It was originally deemed a "non-essential" business.

"We believe it is now more important than ever to provide people with a diversion from these hard times," WWE said in a statement to ESPN.

While WWE now has the green light to broadcast live matches, there won't be an audience inside the venue to cheer on the wrestlers.

"We are producing content on a closed set with only essential personnel in attendance following appropriate guidelines while taking additional precautions to ensure the health and wellness of our performers and staff," WWE said in its statement.

WWE has been filming episodes of Raw, SmackDown and NXT from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando.

The guidelines established by DeSantis's office could also provide a path for other sports leagues such as Major League Baseball to resume operations in Florida with event locations closed to the public.

The developments came after WWE reported that an employee tested positive for the coronavirus after having dinner with two health care workers on March 26. The employee has since recovered.

Formerly known as World Wrestling Entertainment, WWE is big moneymaker in Florida and it has some clout in Washington too.

Vince McMahon is the majority owner of WWE. His wife Linda, the former head of the federal Small Business Administration in the Trump Administration, is now in charge of a pro-Trump Super PAC. And DeSantis, who has been hit with criticism for his state's slow response to the coronavirus crisis, is a staunch Trump ally.