The past few months have sucked.
Let’s just get that out of the way. My girlfriend made a similar comment on our anniversary. I said “Oh, thanks!” in a sarcastic manner, but she wasn’t talking about us. She was talking about the entire health situation. Nobody wakes up and gleefully puts on a mask before you are allowed out of your front door. Nobody is happy to be sweating and fogging up your glasses all day while sweating at work covering your face and nose. Nobody is having a blast trying to listen to co-workers or strangers talk to you, trying to hear what they heck they are saying through a face covering (mask). It is rough. I doubt any of us were thrilled about canceling vacations, changing moving plans, limiting our time with friends and family. Heck, my sister just graduated high school. Not only was she high honors and all that crap, her Prom was postponed and then canceled, just as her entire ceremony back in June. Only to take place later that month…kinda…then in July…kinda and then August…kinda. Seriously.
I could list a million more examples, just as everybody else. This is no “woe is me” column. This is just a basic understanding of the current landscape.
Look at music festivals. Look at the movie theaters. Look at sports…and yes, look at WWE…
It has been quite the fiasco since March trying to figure things out. Cancel live events? Cancel television tapings? Cancel WrestleMania? Postpone shows? Sit out the rest of 2020? Travel or don’t travel? Host a freakin’ cooking show rather than wrestle matches? Every single option was on the table. What WWE ended up going with was empty seats and recording their usual shows in a near silent training facility. Including the granddaddy of them all, WrestleMania. Things went okay that weekend (yes, Mania was made into a two night event, but the followup has been hit or miss. Mostly miss.
Taping in advance. Different settings for their pay-per-view bouts? Money in the Bank ladder matches taking place at the same time. Inside WWE Headquarters. Ending up on the ROOF! Oh, gosh, A Universal Title feud just had a fight at a swamp. There was a match where the only way you could win was ripping out somebody’s eye ball! Meanwhile, WWE introduced trainees as fans and did/didn’t have masks on, depending on the date. Weird all around. We complained, we groaned, we tuned out (low ratings) but above all else, we criticized with no remorse.
Here is where we back track a couple of paragraphs and get to the heart of the matter.
Not only is WWE desperately TRYING to figure things out, they are doing so while fighting a losing battle. They can’t win. There is no right or wrong answer in any of this. Look at the MLB. Look at film production companies. Look at different bands. Look at every major entertainment entity. They’re experimenting and testing out every little thing just to get fans involved and make each and every one of us smile. WWE often says they are about putting smiles on people’s faces. It is often mocked, but it is true.
You don’t think the producers backstage miss the roar of the crowd? You don’t think Seth Rollins would give everything up in the world right now to have a sold out building boo him this Sunday at Summerslam? You don’t think Drew McIntyre had dreams his whole life of fans cheering him on during the main event of WrestleMania? You don’t think Edge is beyond frustrated he returned after a nine year hiatus in order to wrestle in front of crickets? It sucks, but none of those awesome moments are possible right now. Fans make WWE what it is. The past couple months have proven that. Go watch the legendary Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock match from WM X-8. Okay? Now watch it on mute. Whole new world.
The next big thing in terms of creating buzz is something called the WWE ThunderDome. Virtual fans, crowd noise, back in an actual arena setting in Orlando, a big event feel with the set design, etc. It is about as close to “normal” as we may get for the rest of 2020. Our first taste of that will come Friday night for Smackdown. Then Summerslam on PPV, followed up by Raw on Monday night. Live shows, live fans. Will it be a success? Is it worth the reported $450,000 price tag to rent out the 20,000 seat arena just to have computer screens fill the seats? Time will tell. Until we see the entire ThunderDome in action, just remember that WWE is doing what they can. They know (and have admitted) that things have been a disaster since March. The whole world has been. I not only give them credit for trying to turn things around with fun, cool ideas. I also give them a pass for knowing full well, no matter what happens, there is no right answer.
Follow @JustinWatry on Twitter.