COVID-19 Forces WrestleMania to Tap Out
March 17, 2020 7:24 AM   Subscribe

In the midst of quarantine and lockdown and curfew, one might think that professional wrestling is uniquely suited to an all-television format, and indeed, WWE's decision to air its Smackdown program from a makeshift empty arena at its Performance Center drew better ratings than usual (if only to see wrestlers using microphones to yell at each other while standing a few feet apart without having to play to a huge crowd). But the big news came late Monday when WWE announced that its annual extravaganza WrestleMania will also emanate from an audience-free Performance Center, rather than the 65,000 expected to fill Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on April 5th.

This will likely be a catastrophe for independent wrestling, which uses the week of WrestleMania to showcase itself to the tens of thousands of WWE fans who descend on the host city each year. Last year, more than 40 non-WWE events took place in and around New York City during WrestleMania week, from the hip-hop house party WaleMania to the highest-profile counterprogrammed alternative to WWE, the New Japan / Ring of Honor G1 Supercard. Promoters and wrestlers are already tweeting about scrapped shows and venues demanding ruinous cancellation fees.
posted by Etrigan (24 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I am just really interested by their use of the word "emanate".

WWE will be broadcast; it will livestream; it will emanate.
WWE will come forth; it will radiate; it will arise.
WWE shall emerge from the Performance Center and suffuse throughout the earth.
WWE shall permeate the air, the water, the soil, and we will not be exempt, nay not even the meanest among us. We will each wrestle and be wrestled with, our souls will be the souls of wrestlers.

So says McMahon, so say we all.
posted by Adridne at 7:38 AM on March 17, 2020 [18 favorites]

Watching late night shows become audienceless Brechtian black box experimental theatre highlighting the cliches and crutches of the form as every laugh line falls flat and the skeletal weakness of the format exposed as an artificial geegaw to manufacture consensus IS the surrealist play we deserve right now.
posted by The Whelk at 8:09 AM on March 17, 2020 [34 favorites]

From what I’ve seen, wwe is so far into its rut that they don’t seem to know how to deal with this, and it looks like I’m not alone in thinking this.

I hope they figure something out, soon. They have so much talent available, and at the moment, wrestling is pretty much the only sports adjacent thing still happening outside of, say, marble racing. Hopefully they can figure some way to approach these shows in a better fashion. One suggestion I liked was just go ahead and have wrestlers sitting in the stands for their turn on the mat. Hell, go full Lucia Underground and add the full on soap opera aspect to things.

As far as the indies, though, and the cancellation of Tampa WrestleMania weekend, that’s going to have long lasting effects. This is probably the end of the indie wrestling boom that we’ve been blessed with, and a lot of promoters are going to lose a lot, and many will likely have to shut down.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:24 AM on March 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

“She must’ve come in through the crowd!”
posted by Huffy Puffy at 8:25 AM on March 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

The Whelk: Your comment made me wonder what Craig Ferguson is doing right now. Because he's one of the few current or former late night hosts who could probably thrive in the format, as he seemed to be trying to do that anyway.

As for Wrestling, hell, steer into the skid. They're all quarantined together in the performance center, some people are loving it as they don't have to travel or get held hostage in any middle eastern dictatorships, others are loosing their minds without having a crowd to play to, people are getting on each other's nerves, tempers are fraying, management is going mad with power now that they don't even have to pretend to care what the audience thinks and can push whoever they want, and split between the matches in the ring and fights elsewhere in the building as tempers flare up out of control. I think there's enough in there for a decent spandex soap opera run.
posted by Grimgrin at 8:31 AM on March 17, 2020 [7 favorites]

The new heel must be Carnivorous,* dressed as a spiky viral shell, who crushes all in their path, until the new Face, Saviour Corn**, comes out and cobs them into submission.

*an anagram of coronavirus, duh!
** sponsored by archer daniels midland

posted by lalochezia at 8:32 AM on March 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

Even without an audience, putting on a show like Wrestlemania is still going to bring an awful lot of people together in close proximity.

Safety & medics, stage techs, broadcast techs, catering, corporate staff, venue staff, whoever gets to clean up after the whole thing, the wrestlers themselves & presumably a few of them will just have to bring someone else along... oof.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:39 AM on March 17, 2020

wrestling is pretty much the only sports adjacent thing still happening outside of, say, marble racing

Don’t forget the Idtitarod!
posted by leahwrenn at 9:02 AM on March 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Craig Ferguson did do an audienceless episode. .
posted by Yowser at 9:15 AM on March 17, 2020

VKM's fascination/obsession with positioning WWE adjacent to real sports blinds him to the obvious solution. You run a scripted show. You control the entire narrative, things don't have to happen if they cause you a problem. You don't have to be beholden to the same schedule of playoffs, qualifiers and championships. Why not just pause every storyline for 6-8 weeks, show reruns of classic Raw and Smackdown episodes to dovetail with that whole "Ruthless Aggression" nostalgia you're currently pushing, and offer everyone a free three-month subscription to the Network until this blows over?

I mean, they already have their venue/date for Summerslam -- just fricking do Wrestlemania there instead! This isn't a seasonal thing, you can do Mania whenever you damn well want to! Instead you're going to have Undertaker come out to an empty Florida gymnasium? Set a new attendance record of "Zero"?

CM Punk said it best: Vince McMahon is a millionaire who could've been a billionaire.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 9:48 AM on March 17, 2020 [11 favorites]

I remember a few years ago there was a weather related issue with Monday Night Raw and so the show "emanated" from the home office in Connecticut. I remember having a similar reaction as Adridne to the use of that word.
posted by acidnova at 11:16 AM on March 17, 2020

It's so weird!
posted by Adridne at 1:21 PM on March 17, 2020

My biggest disappointment is that they aren't kayfabe-ing the Performance Center. They keep hyping what a great training center it is, so give us montages of Sasha teaching Bayley the Bank Statement. Or McIntyre working on countering the F5 over and over and over. Or Miz asking Morrison to teach him some flippy shit. Or R-Truth challenging Heath Slater to run the ropes and just cut to them between every segment and pretend they've been running the ropes for 2 hours straight or something. Or Braun vs Rowen in a power lifting competition and gimmick the weights. There's so much potential for easy material. I'm hoping they get there with more time and only filled recent shows with Royal Rumble replays out of panic and lack of time to figure it all out.
posted by jermsplan at 10:02 PM on March 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

if the lack of audience makes the patter and speeches in Wrestlemania too awkward they should just make out.

posted by The Whelk at 11:38 PM on March 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

And now the word is that some or all of Wrestlemania will actually be taped this week. A daffy answer to a completely avoidable problem.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 3:50 PM on March 22, 2020

And now the word is that some or all of Wrestlemania will actually be taped this week. A daffy answer to a completely avoidable problem.

If they really take the reins off (so to speak) and let creative go nuts and ignore the usual limitations of live events, it could be amazing. I put the chance of Vince McMahon letting that happen at about 20 percent.
posted by Etrigan at 8:03 PM on March 23, 2020

Well, Cena vs the Fiend is evidently getting the full House of Horrors treatment. This comes after the one guy the could have counted on to make it work, Matt Hardy, walked over to AEW, so get ready for more ghost tractor and projected images of cockroaches!

(In the right hands, a cinematic Cena vs Fiend match could be amazing, but these aren’t those hands)
posted by Ghidorah at 8:16 PM on March 23, 2020

Roman Reigns has decided not to work WrestleMania. He is barely a year past his leukemia going back into remission and is still immunocompromised.
posted by Etrigan at 6:49 PM on March 26, 2020

Supposedly (sorry, no links, just wrestling twitter talk) the Miz showed up to the taping, but had a fever and was tested, and found to be positive, which was the tipping point for Reigns. Mysterio and Dana Brooke are evidently in isolation, and Andrade has a rib injury suffered at a taping, which is giving us Austin Theory tagging with Carilllo (I think) against the Street Profits at Mania, and Brooke is out of the multi women match.

Evidently Braun Strowman is the sub for Reigns, which makes me doubt they’ll be taking the belt off Goldberg.

As for AEW, they were told they can’t have wrestlers ringside, as it violates the “no gatherings larger than 10 people” rules in effect.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:46 AM on March 28, 2020

Evidently Braun Strowman is the sub for Reigns, which makes me doubt they’ll be taking the belt off Goldberg.

They should see if Goldberg can lift Braun first.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 6:27 PM on March 28, 2020

So, um... Part 1... ruled?
posted by Etrigan at 8:15 PM on April 4, 2020

And the Cena/Wyatt "Funhouse Match" was truly something new in pro-wrestling, beyond even Matt Hardy's "Final Deletion" of a few years ago.

Brandon Stroud literally just wrote a 4000 word essay on the subtextual meaning.

I really wonder who in the WWE Creative team is behind this, because it's waaaaay too insightful and cognizant of the layered past of both characters to have "emanated" from Vince McMahon.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 7:20 PM on April 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

The “Firefly Fun House” Is the Future of Wrestling, by Oliver Lee Bateman for The Ringer

I really wonder who in the WWE Creative team is behind this, because it's waaaaay too insightful and cognizant of the layered past of both characters to have "emanated" from Vince McMahon.

Reports are that the Boneyard was Michael P.S. Hayes and Triple H, and the Fun House was Bruce Prichard and Wyatt (and of course, Styles and Taker and Cena had plenty of input, with Taker suggesting the last shot of AJ's hand coming out of the dirt). Jeremy Borash and Chris DeJoseph had their hands in pretty much everything.
posted by Etrigan at 11:08 AM on April 7, 2020

I’m still working my way through the show, and just got to the end of the Firefly Funhouse match, and wow. I was prepared, through years of WWE dashing pretty much every hope, cultivating every story line only to fall flat, to be utterly disappointed. Instead, not only did they stick the landing, the landing was Titus O’Neill of all people being the perfect stand in for the audience. That was fantastic, paid off so, so much of what Bray Wyatt’s career should have been, and took a complete and total buy in from Cena, which makes me respect him even more.

Hot damn, that was awesome to watch. I never thought having the full on “rapping” doctor of thuganomics making a return to wrestling would be lower than the best single thing on the show, but it wasn’t even the best thing in the match, and that’s amazing.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:46 AM on April 9, 2020

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