It has been well documented that WWE have done a significant about turn on the policy of masks at the Performance Center for TV tapings in recent weeks.
From insisting that nobody in the planted crowd wear masks on camera, management have now instigated a policy that anyone wear a mask unless they are actually performing in the ring. Strict fines are in place for those that do not comply.
Now some light has been shed on what made WWE change their mind, or rather, who.
Kevin Owens made the decision to sit out TV tapings after the recent COVID-19 outbreak amongst the WWE crew. His absence was short-lived and he recently returned to television after being given some reassurances on how seriously WWE we’re taking safety measures going forward.
In a recent Q&A with Sports Illustrated, Owens elaborated on his reasoning behind coming back so soon. He said:
I hurt my ankle at WrestleMania so I needed time off, and then I came back—and then I went away again. I just felt like it was the right move for my family and I to sit out a few of the tapings of Raw and assess the COVID outbreak. We live in Orlando, so it’s not just going to the Performance Center. It’s everywhere. We thought it was the right time to quarantine and practice safe guidelines. Last week, I saw the measures that the company was taking, from the testing to the splitting up the crews to make sure Raw and SmackDown wouldn’t be there the same day, and sending out very clear very indications that masks were required unless we were in the ring.
Owens has some very personal reasons for ensuring his safety and that of his family. He went on to explain why the current pandemic has struck him so closely to home:
A big part of this is my wife lost her grandfather to COVID. We make these decisions together. I don’t want anything I do to make my wife uncomfortable when I get back home. I want to make sure that she feels safe and that my children are safe. Every decision I make, I make with her. She saw the efforts the company made, as well, and she said maybe it was time for me to go back to work because it’s what I love to do. The company depends on me and there are a lot of fans that look forward to seeing me on TV every week, so we’re just trying to juggle everything. The family being safe, of course, but I also want to contribute to the shows. With her blessing, I went back. And what I observed gave me hope and gave me a sense of security.
Owens is clearly a big believer in the ability of masks to lessen the spread of the disease. So much so that it seems he personally ensured the company mask policy was changed with immediate effect:
It’s been brought up—at first, the masks weren’t being taken seriously enough. Eventually, a fine system was implemented to make sure people took it seriously. That came from me. I thought that the masks weren’t being worn seriously enough, so I went and talked to the people in charge. They immediately did what they could to remedy the situation. I don’t blame anybody for the mask thing. It’s easy to forget how important those masks are. Some people just straight up believe that the masks don’t make a difference, and that’s their belief. But if we’re all going to work together and we’re all trying to keep each other safe, I think it matters. If you’ve had somebody in your family affected by this the way my family was, it’s a lot easier to remember that these masks make a huge difference. These masks do make a difference, and I felt it was important for people to take that seriously. I was pleased that the company felt the same way and made sure to get the message out to everybody that this is a big deal. That’s why, in the end, I decided to come back. I feel comfortable going back to work, and I feel as safe as I can be there.
It’s always felt like Owens is one of wrestling’s good guys and now, if these events are to be believed, he is leading the charge to improve the health and safety for him and his colleagues during these crazy times.
KO is OK in our book!