Professional wrestling continues in empty arenas during pandemic

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Dan Piersma, Assistant Sports Editor

With the world of professional sports shut down indefinitely, professional wrestling or sports entertainment is still going on with weekly programming.

Wrestling events have a new rule, though. While wrestlers are still performing, events are happening in front of an empty audience. This is a sport where performers feed off the crowd and can change matches in the blink of an eye based on the reaction. 

For fans such as senior Nick Ahles, this environment is not working and takes the enjoyment out of the storylines and matches. He said he has stopped watching since the no-fan rule went into effect.

“I still like wrestling, but it’s just not the same without a crowd,” he said.

Despite having no fans, WWE is still going to continue with their biggest event of the year, Wrestlemania 36. One of the biggest live sporting events every single year will now be held over a two-day period without fans and will be pre-taped for the first time.

UC professor Paul MacArthur has been a wrestling fan for a few decades now and he said he also sees the situation as very strange. 

“I understand why because they feel like they need to keep the product moving forward, particularly if you’re AEW and don’t have a large content library to rely on whereas WWE does,” MacArthur said. “It’s another thing to actually be engaging in the matches at a time where we’re being told ‘don’t touch each other.’”

Canceling Wrestlemania was considered due to the coronavirus pandemic. Top superstars were also pulling out of the event in order to protect themselves and their families.

The event is believed to have already been recorded so there’s obviously no canceling now, but in terms of the future, it’s really unknown as to how long the shows will continue or if they will ever cancel at all. 

“I gave up trying to predict Vince McMahon a long time ago” MacArthur said when asked whether he thought WWE would continue shows or not “Neither thing would surprise me”. 

Ahles said that they should begin to cancel shows because of health concerns and the quality of the show. 

“It will easily be one of the worst Wrestlemania’s, and Wrestlemania shouldn’t be remembered like this.” he said “The quality is severely lacking”. 

This isn’t the first time WWE has broadcasted shows as a result of a crisis. Many still recall watching the live wrestling show two days after 9/11.

“It felt tone deaf to the situation,” MacArthur said. “And WWE I think has a long history of being tone deaf to what’s going on culturally.”

It’s still unclear at this time how the event will turn out in terms of ratings and how the quality of matches will be. As of now both companies plan to continue weekly shows moving forward.