GCW Promoter Brett Lauderdale spoke to Fightful's Sean Ross Sapp in an exclusive interview that covered a number of topics including the positive COVID-19 tests coming out of The Collective, protocols put in place at The Collective, the alleged sexual harassment incident involving Logan Stunt, and more.
Fans can listen to the full interview with Brett in the video above. The full transcript is below.
Why run GCW The Last Resort on October 17 after the positive COVID-19 tests from The Collective?
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. 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.
What changes have been made from The Collective to this weekend?
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.
What kept you from canceling GCW The Last Resort in California?
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 great than any other show we've promoted or any other company has promoted.
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.
Did you have concerns after the WWE Performance Center and AEW COVID-19 outbreak given that the wrestlers spend so much time together?
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.
Indiana rolled back limitations (in regards to capacity), GCW kept the limitations...
I've seen comments suggesting there was greed motivating [The Collective]. I understand how some could get that impression, but if this was about greed and money, we could have taken this ten times further. That was a 2,000 seat arena and there was no rule that said we couldn't put 2,000 people in that arena or that we had to follow any guidelines at a certain capacity. We made the decision to limit the capacity. I made the decision to limit the capacity on the rows. We usually have 80 people in the front row, 20 people on each side. You can see what was left on the table in the name of safety and precaution. You can say I'm full of shit on that, but numbers don't lie. We went through every single row and laid down tape and signs, shutting down every other row of the bleachers and encouraging social distancing. Putting a physical impediment to getting there. We could have taken this five times further than we did. Everyone stuck to it and followed it.
Why Indianapolis and when was that decided?
Indiana has played host to us all summer. We ran a number of shows there at White River State Park and it was a great fit for us. A big part of Indiana being the host had to do with Nate Webb. He has a lot of connections in the city with venues and vendors. The ease, in these times, the ease of anything is helpful. Nate being able to bridge that cap to bring an event of this magnitude to Indiana was a major factor. Indianapolis is a pretty central location. There were other locations considered. I considered bringing it to Atlantic City, New Jersey. I could have had up to 500 people at any event outdoors and that would have been within the guidelines. Considering who was going and where they were coming from, it seemed like Indiana was more accessible and less people would have to fly. We weighed out the pros and cons.
What protocols was GCW mandated to adhere to?
When we first signed up, there were still restrictions in place. 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.
Why didn't GCW mandate negative tests before talent came in?
There is no good answer that would soothe everyone's concerns. Now that Indie wrestling has come back and there are promotions running regularly and there are big shows occurring and the top performers are working regularly, what you're basically doing is, putting the validity of any testing into question. There are those incubation periods and the severity of cases as well. It may take your three days to test positive, it may take me seven to ten days. Do we know if we get an accurate result?
If someone does test positive, why not mandate (a test result) it to at least reduce the spread?
We tried to enforce this 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 just very difficult to get done.
How do you balance health and safety with needing to run in order to pay wrestlers and help Independent wrestling?
I've said on social media that I've been working three times as hard for one-third the revenue. We're selling out shows at a fraction of the capacity we would normally sell. The money that comes in is dramatically altered. I'm paying out the same amount of money to wrestlers and venues. All my expenses are the same, but the income is slashed dramatically. It's difficult and I'm doing my best to support my people, my crew, and Independent wrestling. GCW's role is; we are a large platform and we, directly and indirectly, help power the rest of Independent wrestling as it stands. I feel a sense of responsibility and I feel people are counting on us and depending on us. All these people wrestling on the shows, they want to be there. They may feel like they need to, to make a living, but I've never forced anybody to come. It's a balancing act and we don't really have a choice until the government wants to pay wrestlers to stay home or provide support for promoters and vendors and people who work in live events, then there's going to be a need for people to get out there and do this. What's the alternative? No matter what we do, we're going to be at risk. If I say there's no more GCW until the pandemic is over, then I have to go get a different job. I'm still going to be around people and at risk. If that's the case, then our desire is to continue to do that in our chosen line of work.
Why was there no barricade or guardrail?
There is no particular reason. We've never really used barricades at any of our shows. What does the guardrail do? In theory, it keeps people from going up to the ring?
It keeps the action from spilling in that direction, it can prevent a number of things...
I'm not gonna say that guardrails might not have helped, but in general, it creates space, and I don't feel like we had that problem. I don't see fans getting any closer to the wrestlers or wrestlers getting closer to fans because there's no barricade. Action has spilled out of the ring and I will say that's a problem, not a good idea, and something I need to address, but I haven't felt like there was a need for barricades. I haven't felt like that's been a difference-maker.
Why run indoors and was an outdoor venue considered?
[Outdoor venue] was considered doing it at White River State Park. The weather is unpredictable. What if it rains? Snows? It's freezing? That was considered. It was done indoors for a couple of reasons. The reason I felt comfortable doing it indoors was because it was a 2,000+ seat arena and I knew that I was only going to have a certain capacity. I felt like there was enough space and it was a large enough building where it would not be cramped and there would be open space. There were also large garage doors that were open for the entirety of both events. There was free air flowing at all times.
Would you consider doing another show like The Acid Cup where fans can donate to the wrestlers?
I have a hard time asking people to put out that amount of money and asking them to donate this money directly to wrestlers and I'm not paying them anything. It feels like charity to me. I appreciate the sentiment and it sounds great, but what if we don't make enough money and the wrestlers don't make what they need to make? What happens if you do this two times a month? You're asking a lot from the fans. They can show the same support by ordering it on FITE TV and staying home. It's been considered, but some of us feel weird about it. it's not a horrible idea, but I choose as my business plan, I want to have spectators, as safe and responsibly as I can, and I prefer to have them in person. They give the promotion the money, they get live entertainment, and I pay the wrestlers.
Are there plans to run in Tampa in 2021 if WWE has WrestleMania in Tampa?
There are no plans on paper at this time. Of course, everything has been discussed. The Cuban Club still owes me $42,198, which they refuse to give back. There are things on the table that are going to have to be rectified at some point. It's been discussed, but nothing in place. Who knows what the world is going to look like in six months or one month or 20 days. We'll play it by ear. At some point, a decision will be made. I know my competitors are considering the same thing.
Do you accept responsibility for putting other Independent shows in dissary?
I do not accept personal responsibility for those shows not happening. If there were performers than not could performer and you need to replace them, then do that. That's what everyone does on a regular basis. Us running a show is no different from them running a show. If they run a show and someone is exposed and someone else has to replace a talent the following week, are they at fault? We don't know who gets COVID from who and we don't know when or where they got it. To place any sole blame on any one person or company, I think is unfair. I'm sorry that [St. Louis Anarchy] had to re-schedule their show. Right after they canceled their show, they announced five new shows, three on three consecutive weeks. It makes you question the sincerity of their statement in the first place. Are they just mad? What's the real story? Based on the concerns that they voiced, it doesn't seem like they're doing any different. I have no ill will towards them and I understand people say things when they are frustrated and he's reached out to other members of The Collective and apologized. Everybody just needs to take a deep breath and keep things in perspective, myself included. We're living in an uncertain world right now.
Do you have a comment regarding the sexual harassment allegations against Logan Stunt?
I obviously was not present when this incident took place, nor do I know the exact timeline. I have a rough idea based on what the accuser has stated. I can't make a judgment on what happened. I can't say she's lying and I can't say he's guilty, that's not my role. When word started to leak out and she made a post on social media, people from GCW immediately attempted to contact her and did make contact with her. They asked her what happened? What can we do? How can we handle this for you? How can we make you feel safe? This was done instantly. We maintained communication throughout the day and weekend. We made all attempts to handle the situation and did it the best we could. I don't want to get into too much detail. We spoke to this person and did what was asked of this person and to the best of our abilities. I'm not sure what else we can do that affect. We can't tell this person what to do, it's up to them to decide how they want to handle it. We did our part and if there's something else we could have done, I would love to know. We did the best we could based on what we knew at the time.
We didn't know Logan Stunt was the accused individual and he ended up being there the rest of the weekend. It wasn't because we knew and said, 'that's alright, let him finish the weekend.' We didn't know it was him. When we attempted to find out who it was, we were not given a name, so we were not able to act on that. Had we known, we would have taken some action.
Have you been tested?
I got a rapid test on Thursday, got a rapid test, and was negative. As far as I know, no one from our immediate team tested positive.
Who stood out at The Collective?
Lee Moriarty. He had a lot of buzz coming in and he had a huge slate. It was put up or shut up time. Is the hype real or not? I thought he stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park in every match. It's one thing to have three or four matches lined up in consecutive weeks and being able to deliver each time, but to have three or four matches lined up over the course of two days and being able to rise to the occasion in each match, that's extremely difficult. Not just from fatigue. Just the fact he was able to remain so focused and perform at such a high level for each match, it shows you a level of passion and pride in what he does. There was no, 'I just had a crazy match, we knocked it out of the park, I can take it easy on the next one.' You didn't see that from him at all. He went into every match like he had a point to prove and I thought he did that.
How do you think the theme shows where wrestlers had extra responsibility, like AJ Gray with For The Culture, went?
AJ booked that entire show by himself. He didn't ask me for permission, I didn't submit a suggested card. I told AJ, 'Go out there and put together the best matchups you can think of. I'll do my part to make them a reality.' He put together a great lineup. The amount of talent in that room was exceptional. He set the bar very high. It would be difficult for any show to live up to those expectations and they nailed it. I felt pressure for him. I wanted it to go well and I was nervous. As I watched it unfold, I was like, 'Not only is this show a reality, but this is an exceptional show.' By the time we got to the end, I was feeling happy for AJ and the entire roster. They nailed it. It laid the groundwork for what can be and should be going forward. If he wants to continue doing this, what better start than what we saw at The Collective?
I hear your concerns, I read them I do take them seriously. I look back on The Collective and do feel a sense of pride in what we accomplished and I also feel like there are thing we could have done better. I have to take responsibility for the shortcomings and I don't want people to think that I don't feel that and feel the responsibility for the good and the bad. It is my job to deliver that safety and I feel, in some ways, that their safety is my number one concern. I see the people who have tested positive and it does register with me. It's not something I blow off and is something I take seriously. I look back and say, 'what could we have done better?' I discuss all of this with my team and we talk about this every day since we left Indianapolis. There is a balancing act going on and how can we move forward and continue to do what we're doing and improve upon our safety for fans and wrestlers while still continuing to do what we do. We will continue to work on this and I will continue to take responsibility for the good and bad. All I ask for from fans is understanding and patience and work with me instead of working against me. Give me suggestions. Instead of some of the aggressive remarks, tell me what I can do better. if you're a fan at the event and you see something unsafe, come tell me. That's what I want to hear. The things that bother me is the stuff on social media. I saw someone call me 'a cold-blooded murderer.' That really bothered me. I know, in my heart, I'm doing my best. Everyone on our team is doing their best. I don't want anybody to get hurt. We're all moving forward together as a team, as an Independent wrestling community. Our world is moving forward and we're part of it. I'm going to continue to promote shows and pay our wrestlers to keep them going forward. That's going to happen regardless. Help me. Be on my team. We're all in this together, the entire wrestling community. We're on the same team. Keep perspective and please help me. If you have suggestions that I can implement, tell me.