WWE Champion Drew McIntyre has tested positive for COVID-19 and will enter quarantine, according to a statement from WWE Monday. McIntyre was set to defend his championship against Randy Orton on Raw tonight. The news comes with just twenty days before the Royal Rumble, one of WWE's biggest PPVs of the year, and a week after WWE gathered over a dozen "legends" for a special Legends Night episode of Raw. McIntyre was involved in scenes with several of them, including a geriatric Hulk Hogan and Jimmy Hart as well as in a face-to-face confrontation with Bill Goldberg, who challenged McIntyre to a match at the Royal Rumble. It's unknown how McIntyre contracted the coronavirus, but it may have been from fighting the virus in hand-to-hand combat for WWE's 2021 Happy New Years ad.
WWE has had a difficult relationship with the coronavirus pandemic. The company laid off dozens of workers at the start of the pandemic for "cost-cutting" measures, but has raked in record profits due to the reduced expenses from not needing to tour or put on live events. Thanks to a close relationship with President Donald Trump and his allies, such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, WWE was able to get wrestling declared an "essential" business by Florida very early in the pandemic, allowing them (and rivals AEW) to continue producing weekly wrestling shows even as most other sporting leagues shut down. However, WWE failed to adequately test performers, doing only temperature checks, resulting in several outbreaks. By October of last year, local authorities were targeting WWE wrestling shows as potential hotspots of COVID-19 activity. WWE began testing people at their tapings only after a major outbreak and then only after Kevin Owens suggested it to Vince McMahon. Even still, several in WWE management have flirted with coronavirus denial.
Luckily for WWE, if Drew McIntyre is the only wrestler affected, the Royal Rumble PPV is a draw for the Rumble matches themselves, so even if McIntyre isn't ready to return to the ring by January 31st, WWE could proceed with the show without the WWE Champion without too much damage. More concerning is McIntyre's health itself, as well as whether or not anyone else has been affected by the outbreak. WWE has remained notoriously tight-lipped about positive COVID-19 tests, preferring to quietly leave people off television and hope nobody notices, though that would be more difficult with the reigning WWE Champion, which is likely why they chose transparency this time around.