We know. You say it’s ‘fake’. Not to Brock Lesnar’s face, but with your fantasy football pals you say these things. You say it’s not a ‘sport’. You say this, even though decorated Olympians and professional athletes from other sports are all over the roster. You say “I will never watch that”. Well, if you’re a member of this crowd, perhaps you won’t budge.
For the rest of us though, while hockey, baseball, and hoops are shut down, pro wrestling is filling a void for many Americans.
The closures came in droves. As the Chinese coronavirus became more of a threat, sports leagues and organizations fell like dominos, No NCAA tournament, no Wimbledon, no more XFL. The NBA is suspended. The NHL too. No golf or NASCAR. Sports are off. But, wait a minute! Look out! Wrestling is still going strong.
The WWE was hit with this virus during its busiest time of year, WrestleMania season. While other sports were closing up shop, however, Vince McMahon and company were making unprecedented adjustments.
As league after league suspended things or canceled altogether, the WWE started to roll out weekly shows with no fans. RAW and SmackDown were held at the WWE Performance Center in Florida with no spectators in attendance. At first, it was interesting to see wrestlers perform with no crowd backing. A couple of shows later, it seemed weird. After all, wrestlers and fans thrive off of each other. Then, it started to become something that grew on you. Certainly, it is not ideal, but wrestling with no fans is better than no wrestling.
WrestleMania this year was scheduled to take place at Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Over 75,000 were expected to be in attendance. Enter the virus. WrestleMania 36 would not be in Tom Brady’s new digs, but it would go on. The signature event of the WWE would take place in Orlando at the same venue that RAW and SmackDown have been filming from in recent weeks. Instead of 75,000 fans there would be zero on hand. Millions, however, would be watching from home. They were most grateful.
While many Americans are anxious or depressed, worried or confused, or just plain bored, WrestleMania 36 provided two nights of entertainment for them. Instead of being inundated with fake news and depressing virus coverage, fans had the chance to escape for a bit. The WWE came through when Americans needed it most.
This year, because of the special circumstances, WrestleMania was held on a Saturday and a Sunday. Usually, it is only a one-night affair. Two nights, allowed quarantined families the chance to doubly enjoy some escape from the world of no sports. WrestleMania did not disappoint.
Though there were no crowds at the physical event, fans cheered for their favorite superstars from their respective homes. They had a lot to cheer about. The event was highlighted by major WrestleMania moments for Drew McIntyre, Braun Strowman, and Charlotte Flair. Plus, some horrifying weirdness that only the WWE can provide in a Boneyard Match between Undertaker and AJ Styles and a Firefly Funhouse Match between Bray Wyatt and John Cena. With the impossible hand they were dealt, the WWE came through.
As of now, the WWE is continuing with it’s weekly schedule of RAW, SmackDown, and NXT, all with no fans on hand. AEW and other promotions are also up and running without fans in the seats. There is speculation that perhaps now that we are post-WrestleMania, the WWE will eventually take a break until the virus has passed us by. So far that has not been the case. Pro wrestling, despite looking a bit different, is alive and well. Fans are very appreciative. There is absolutely nothing fake about that.
Follow Kevin Scholla on Twitter @kevinscholla