Pro wrestling is supposed to be an escape from reality and the everyday challenges of real life. So, what happens when the everyday challenges of real life and pro wrestling suddenly collide?
Meet Adrian Gomez. Gomez owns Middle Kingdom Wrestling (MKW), based out of China. The company has been in business since 2015 and has moved forward despite challenges with promoting the brand in their country, where social media platforms like YouTube are banned. Despite that, Gomez finds ways to promote his brand and grow his audience. He puts on shows and has a pro wrestling school. He’s used talent such as Peter Avalon from AEW, Ho Ho Lun (who competed in WWE’s Cruiserweight Classic) and Kongo Kong (formerly of IMPACT Wrestling), among others. Gomez explained to me how China doesn’t have a deep history with pro wrestling, how people often don’t grow up there seeing or understanding it. “We’re trying to bring wrestling culture into China,” he told me.
Those challenges were recently amplified by the coronavirus outbreak in China, which led to a forced government shut down of MKW for the time being.
Gomez wisely looked to expand his business outreach outside of China and into places like Myanmar, a Southeast Asian country which borders China. He’d traveled back and forth numerous times without a problem, but not since the coronavirus outbreak.
Gomez’s latest trip to Myanmar was about to become a real life nightmare.
On his third night in Myanmar, Gomez went to dinner with friends, which was nothing out of the ordinary. After he left, his luck took a turn for the worst.
Gomez developed a mild fever, began vomiting and had diarrhea. He had the chills and cramps. As he described it to me, he had “next level food poisoning.”
He had a dilemma – he was in another country and now knew he needed medical treatment but was afraid of how healthcare providers would react if they heard his symptoms and saw he was visiting from China.
Reluctantly, he let a friend take him to the hospital. When he arrived, they asked to see his passport. Once they confirmed he was visiting from China, they took him to a special room and took samples of his blood.
Despite having few actual symptoms of coronavirus, they told him the combination of a fever and visiting from China meant, as he described it to me, meant “Off I go.”
People in white, full body suits suddenly appeared, loaded him into an ambulance and took him to a special hospital outside of Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar. He was told he would be forcibly held under isolated quarantine and monitoring for at least 14 days. Thankfully, they allowed him to keep his cell phone.
After four days, Gomez twice tested negative for the coronavirus. He was no longer sick but was told he wasn’t allowed to leave until the highest levels of government decided he could. The U.S. Embassy in Burma is involved, and Gomez praised their efforts while he’s being held in Myanmar by the government. He feels like he’s caught up in the bureaucracy of a government who is afraid to release him.
Gomez is in a room being constantly monitored by cameras and guards in the area. I asked him if he feels like he’s being held hostage by the Myanmar government, and this was his reply:
“I don’t, you know, I don’t. I feel like it’s just a very extreme measure. They love their people and I have to respect that. It’s definitely an overreaction but maybe it’s necessary. We’re not living in normal times right now with this virus. I won’t say that until I am here passed 15 days. I’m trying to be as positive as I can. They recommended two weeks.”
I asked him how the coronavirus was impacting his hometown of Harbin in China.
“We have had to suspend our (MKW) operations, including a women’s tournament in March which was scheduled to feature Leva Bates. You can’t hold anything right now per the Chinese government. The whole city is under quarantine. Every neighborhood has police and guards in white suits and they only allow you to leave home under strict curfew once every two days. So, if you have a family, they have to decide which one person will leave the house. You have to have a valid reason as to why you’re going out. I’ve never seen something shut down so immediate and effective. One of the reasons the numbers are improving is because no one has any freedom. Most business that don’t have to run, like civil services, are not running for the most part. Most people are under the impression they’ll get paid, and it was announced that during this period that if people are losing work they will still get paid during lockdown. From MKW’s perspective, we’re still paying full salaries to our employees.”
I asked Gomez how he felt about the future of MKW, and he felt good about it. He believes they’ll return stronger once things are back to normal. He’s hoping to continue expansion outside of China and have more of his shows broadcast.
He wanted me to pass along for everyone to be careful. He believes the coronavirus is dangerous and asks that people respect the rules of government and take care of themselves.
Gomez remains in forced quarantine in Myanmar. You can support him and MKW by following them on social media and watching or attending their events in the future.