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‘WrestleMania’ Holds The Spotlight Despite Coronavirus Lockdown

WWE champion Brock Lesnar clobbering the man who beat him for the UFC Heavyweight Championship, Cain Velasquez | Photo: WWE

Despite the shutdowns caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, WWE’s Wrestlemania won’t be halted. The annual showdown will air this weekend as scheduled, even as most of the sporting world are on hold because of the spread of the virus.

However, while still considering the safety of their audience, the show was recorded last week without a live audience in WWE’s training center near Orlando. The show will air Saturday and Sunday without the usual spectacular, stadium-size ring entrances.

In addition, this year’s event will take place with a few of its top stars off the Supercard, including some who are included on this year’s Forbes list of top-earning wrestlers. The ten wrestlers who made the list pulled in a combined $38.5 million before taxes in 2019, up from $30.8 million in 2018, the last time the list was published.

The rising pay scale was helped by the launch of All Elite Wrestling, the first legitimate competition for WWE in two decades. Founded by Jacksonville Jaguars owners Shad and Tony Khan, AEW is leading to increases in payouts up and down WWE’s roster, with WWE’s record profits from new TV rights deals and a lucrative partnership to produce propaganda events for the Saudi government also pushing the numbers up.

WWE pays each wrestler a baseline income called a “downside guarantee”, that it negotiates with each performer, plus additional payouts when events do well and a cut of merchandise sales that use their image. Guarantees have escalated well past the $1 million ceiling that existed before the arrival of AEW last year.

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