Ring of Honor’s recent TV tapings near Baltimore at the UMBC Event Center were profiled at this link by Childs Walker of The Baltimore Sun.
It was noted that ROH shut down operations for more than 5 months earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they found a safe way to restart after consulting with the Maryland State Athletic Commission. To pull off these tapings, ROH officials had to find a hotel where wrestlers could quarantine in single rooms (the DoubleTree), fund three rounds of COVID-19 testing for more than 100 performers and staffers, and tape TV shows at an empty venue. ROH tested the experiment for a week in late August, and then taped for another two days last weekend.
ROH Tag Team Champion Jay Lethal spoke with Walker from his hotel room at the DoubleTree, and revealed that he thought the pandemic “could end professional wrestling” earlier this year.
“Which was terrifying to me,” Lethal said. “If I can’t wrestle, I don’t want to live. It’s like telling me I can’t breathe.”
It was noted by The Baltimore Sun that ROH sent home one performer last week after they tested positive for COVID-19, and three others (AC Mack, Dan the Dad, and Cabana Man Dan) who wrestled at The Collective indie wrestling event due to positive tests. ROH COO Joe Koff confirmed that the positive tests forced shows to be re-written. Koff also said the decisions show how seriously ROH is taking their COVID-19 safety measures, and called the pandemic bubble near Baltimore one of ROH’s “crowning achievements.”
Regarding the hiatus ROH was forced to take earlier this year, Koff said it was an easy decision to fill the weekly TV shows with archived material while everyone waited out the pandemic from their homes.
“I was not comfortable until we had a set of protocols that we worked on diligently with the Maryland State Athletic Commission,” Koff said. “It took us months.”
ROH wrestlers also praised company officials for how they reacted to the pandemic. It was noted how they watched as WWE continued to tape shows and announce mass layoffs, while ROH told them to stay at home and promised to pay their contracted salaries.
“We’ve got the best bosses in the world,” Lethal said. “Essentially, [Joe] was saying, ‘Stay home. You guys are going to get paid, and I just want you to stay safe until we can limit risk as much as we can.’ For someone to tell you that … it really warmed all of our hearts.”
ROH announcer and wrestler Caprice Coleman noted that the pay issue was a “huge weight lifted off” him as he gave up his side job as a driver for Uber and Lyft because his daughter has asthma, and he wanted to lower his chances of getting her sick with the coronavirus.
Regarding the “ROH bubble” near Baltimore, wrestlers were asked to take a COVID-19 test 14 days before traveling to the city, and then another test the day after checking into their hotel. While at the hotel, they would be confined to their rooms until cleared by the test, and then they would only be allowed to leave for a job or a quick workout in the socially-distanced gym. Wrestlers would interact with co-workers at the arena only. The ring and mats were cleaned after each match, wrestlers had to remove their masks for in-ring action only, and they had to take another coronavirus test at the end of the taping for contact tracing reasons.
ROH wrestlers are tentatively expecting another TV taping to be held in December. Koff noted that ROH is also possibly looking at staging shows in other states besides Maryland. Koff added that ROH has no immediate plans to bring back fans in Maryland, even though Governor Larry Hogan has eased coronavirus restrictions in recent weeks.