by Mohammad Samra / Staff Reporter
Fireworks at MetLife Stadium lit the sky in East Rutherford, New Jersey, as 82,265 devoted fans gathered for the most anticipated professional wrestling event of the year — World Wrestling Entertainment’s Wrestlemania.
The atmosphere of the event is one of the driving factors behind its 36 years of success. It generates revenue not only for WWE, but also for whichever city is hosting the event for that particular year.
On April 5 of this year, Wrestlemania 36 was supposed to emanate from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida. Instead, the event was taped, extended to two nights and aired from WWE’s Performance Center in Orlando, Florida.
Since early March, nearly every sports organization has been suspended until further notice. In their absence, wrestling companies like WWE and All Elite Wrestling have continued with programming despite the absence of fans. UFC also intends to continue regularly scheduled pay-per-views after UFC 249, which was set to take place on April 18, was postponed to May 9.
CEO of WWE Vince McMahon has struggled financially since the pandemic took center stage. The company lost millions in revenue from Wrestlemania, and McMahon’s Xtreme Football League filed for bankruptcy last week.
As of this writing, WWE has released or furloughed 38 employees.
An on-screen talent for WWE tested positive for COVID-19. But, the company fully expects to continue on with live programming after Florida deemed wrestling an essential service — which ignited mixed reactions.
“WWE is NOT essential and this is mockery to every worker that IS essential like nurses, doctors, EMT/firefighters, law enforcement, grocery store workers, etc. This is nothing but the privilege of politics and Governor DeSantis is as embarrassing as ‘tRumplicans’ come,” one Facebook user wrote under ABC7’s post announcing the news.
“Come on…there are a lot of kids and many with special needs who would be devastated without their raslin’ [southern term for wrestling] let ‘em keep a little normal going. They’re not endangering the public as they’re privately recorded events,” commented another Facebook user who agreed with the decision.
Many have speculated that McMahon’s lengthy friendship with President Donald Trump factored into the decision to deem WWE essential. It is also worth noting that McMahon was named to Trump’s advisory group tasked with advising the president on how to reopen the economy.
Though the company has faced hardships as of late, WWE has also stumbled upon ideas that can be used even after social distancing restrictions are lifted.
Wrestlemania usually is a seven or eight-hour-marathon, but splitting the event allows for fans in attendance and the audience at home to get a much-needed break from matches that are usually hit-or-miss.
WWE also discovered the effectiveness of pre-recorded cinematic matches when used properly — the two most critically acclaimed matches from this year’s Wrestlemania were both cinematic matches that relied on psychology, storytelling and character arcs.
For ages, WWE has been criticized for its constant recycling of the same tired storylines. Adding a more cinematic feel allows for the audience to further invest in their favorite superstars, leading to a more intense emotional experience when a rivalry reaches its climax.
The company has shown time and time again that it always has a trick up its sleeve and will exercise every option to ensure that WWE remains as financially stable as possible.