GCW doesn't just want to change the game of professional wrestling, GCW wants to be at the forefront of the independent wrestling world’s journey as the industry begins the process of navigating through life with COVID-19.
Unfortunately, a few names that wrestled as part of GCW’s Collective weekend tested positive for COVID-19. In an interview with Sean Ross Sapp, Brett Lauderdale, promoter of Game Changer Wrestling addressed the positive tests, saying that those involved all knew the risk and the promotion tried their best to enforce as many safety protocols as possible.
“When we first signed up, there were still restrictions in place,” said Brett. “I had to write a 12-page COVID-19 risk mitigation plan, which spelled out our precaution and what we planned to do to keep spectators and the athletes safe. I went through all 12 pages and spelled it all out. These had to be evaluated and these plans were approved before Indiana rolled back. When this was planned, there were rules in place.”
He added, “We tried to enforce [a negative test mandate] and other promotions tried to enforce this, but for a lot of people, they just can't get tested. In a perfect world, we would be able to do this with every show and every performer. I wish we were at the point to where we could do that. Going forward, I'm going to do my best to enforce this. We are going to make this part of our requirements going forward. I wish we had done this for The Collective and I apologize and am sorry that we didn't. There were many performers who were asked to, depending on who they were in the ring with, who did do it. If that was a requirement, then we failed and we should have done it. It's just very difficult to get done.”
When asked if he was concerned about running events following outbreaks at WWE and AEW, Lauderdale would stress that the risk for a GCW event is no greater or less than any wrestling show running since the emergence of the pandemic.
“There have been multiple outbreaks in AEW and WWE and these are billion-dollar corporations with all those precautions and testing in the world. The reality is, this is a virus that is contagious. You can have all the testing and precautions, but the only way to prevent getting this virus is to lock yourself in your home and never come out and have no interaction with the outside world,” said Lauderdale.
Game Changer Wrestling did not stop to smell the roses after The Collective, with GCW The Last Resort in Silverado, California on Saturday, October 17, 2020. Admittedly, Lauderdale says this is a scheduling decision that he would change if he could but they will be moving forward with the highest so safety precautions that they can take, including all tallent wrestling needing to prevent a negative COVID-19 test before being allowed to compete on the show.
“In hindsight, this was probably not my best decision when it comes to scheduling. I have discussed it with my partners and my team. If I could do it again, I probably would have changed the date of this show,” Lauderdale admitted. “I did discuss possibilities earlier in the week, the pros and cons of continuing with this date, our options, and the move that makes the most sense. We met in the middle. What it came down to was, how could we do this show in the safest manner possible that's not being blatantly dangerous. I took feedback from my team and the outside, there were guidelines laid out and if everyone can follow along, it's not unreasonable and not anything different that we've done any other weekend or any other company is doing. We've implemented some of those things and we're going to move forward following the safest guidelines we can follow.”
He continued, “It's a smaller crew in wrestlers and staff. One of the things we've done is no one traveled to California this week without a negative COVID test. Everyone participated in that. Most people have gotten two tests and most got them in the latter part of the week. Some of the other things we're doing is dramatically cutting back on the personnel in the locker room. I've stressed, 'unless you are in the ring, you are expected to be wearing a mask.' There's going to be no physical interaction between wrestlers and fans this week. This has been our policy the whole time, but we're going to be on top of it extra tomorrow. No high-fiving, probably no pictures.
“We laid out a whole bunch of factors; who is going to be there? where are they coming from? From a fan standpoint, 99% of these people are locals who were not at The Collective. These are people who haven't gone anywhere or done anything in many months. They're not people who were in Indiana last week and are bringing it here, untested. I cannot regulate fans' health and behavior. I did explore other options. Could we push the show back or move it? When we weighed them all, it was determined that if we could do this, this, and this, the risk is no greater than what we've already done. At the end of the day, with the added level of testing, the risk appears to be no greater than any other show we've promoted or any other company has promoted."
He concluded, "There is a lot of repeat talent, but as I said earlier, they've all been tested at least once since The Collective. Many have been tested twice."
Unfortunately coming out of The Last Resort, AJ Gray would test positive for COVID-19. Gray wrestled Joey Janela at the event. Janela was then removed from the AEW World Title Eliminator Tournament as a safety precaution. Learn more at this link.