Fair play to the WWE, they took a gamble, and it paid off.
Most sports entertainment leagues have teams that travel across the country to play other teams. But it’s not just the players that travel. You have trainers, coaches, medical staff, marketing and team media, as well as other front office staff. For the NBA, it might be more than 30 people. For Premier League teams, it must be more than 40. For rugby squads, maybe 50. For the NFL, I dread to calculate.
The WWE is different. OK, it’s not the same type of sport (it’s scripted, for one), but it still takes its toll on the body of the athletes.
But it also has a single roster of talent that travels around the country. Technically, there are multiple rosters if you consider Smackdown, RAW and NXT, but it is very possible to have everyone in one place at one time. So, with everybody medically cleared to do so, the WWE brought everyone to its Performance Center in Florida and figured out how to continue going about its business.
While some wrestlers opted out for health reasons, the WWE reworked storylines and set up some shows in recent weeks to no crowds and tried to figure out how they were going to put on Wrestlemania. It is the biggest event in its calendar, the equivalent to the Superbowl or the NBA Finals.
The WWE has made some questionable business and moral decisions over the years, but it has the means to continue business during a global pandemic and shutdown, and it has done.
Vince McMahon’s promotion has told stories better than most others in the world, and saying Wrestlemania is an event so big that it has to be done over two nights is great marketing. There is nothing else available to watch so spreading out an event ensures bigger ratings, and making it free means more people will have access. Honestly, that’s the reason I decided to sign up to my free-month trial.
Wrestlemania was weird to watch with no fans. The ring looked smaller as a result of the closer camera angles. There was no one – besides Rob Gronkowski – to react to big moves or cheap shots. And the final match of the first night – The Undertaker taking on AJ Styles and The OC – might have been corny as hell, but it hooked me right in from when I left it at some point between school and university close to 15 years ago.
The WWE Network also has great documentaries and what feels like every classic match you could ever want available to watch, plus information on all the wrestlers I need to catch up on.
One thing that’s much better than it was when I last watched was the women’s wrestling. In my peak, the women were there for little more than bikini contests and eye candy on the arms of male wrestlers. Even at the time it felt awkward, but these days they actually wrestle.
And the new wave of stars are fun, with great personalities – aside from King Corbin, that gimmick sucks – and I’m falling in love with the WWE all over again.