In the midst of the craziness surrounding the current pandemic – where the World of Sports has metaphorically died – an unlikely white knight has arrived to save us from being bored to death: Professional Wrestling. I for one will be eternally grateful.
Last Friday, WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) aired Smackdown – minus live audience – from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, FL. It was awkward and apparently I wasn’t the only one who thought so:
It was a different atmosphere on SmackDown before any WWE broadcast before it. The seats in the Performance Center were empty, and there were no reactions during entrances or matches. Triple H opened the show by explaining that the Performance Center is typically used for training future talent and reassured the WWE Universe that they wanted to help them forget about the outside world and put a smile on their faces.
While there was plenty of awkward silence and limited in-ring action, Triple H’s commentary has been praised for its laid back and insightful nature. WWE even still continued the build to WrestleMania…
The big draw leading up to Wrestlemania was the announcement that former NFL Footballer and über personality, Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski is joining the ranks of WWE. In addition to Gronk hosting this year’s Wrestlmania, the “Super Bowl” of wrestling will make history as the first to span multiple nights (April 4-5, 2020) and will be available on PPV and the WWE Network. Wrestlemania 36 also marks the return of the Undertaker (going one-on-one with AJ Styles in a “coffin match”, ‘natch) and a personal favorite of mine, Goldberg – who will be defending his WWE Universal Championship against Beefcake Roman Reigns.
The show opened the only way it could, with the one man capable of making sense of this strange time in professional wrestling in the ring by his lonesome…Cody Rhodes stood straight and tall and set the tone for the equally impeccable show to follow.
“Recent events have really put into perspective how small we all are,” Cody said…”It has also clarified for me how big and how important the service we provide is.”
On the independent scene, where wrestlers work without guarantees, the potential of months passing without an opportunity to earn their keep has created a minor panic.
Wrestling needed a win—and AEW delivered.
From the opening match between Best Friends and The Lucha Bros to the reveal of Brodie Lee as The Dark Order’s Exalted One, to the tremendous six-man tag between The Elite and Inner Circle, the show was firing on all cylinders…
AEW, perhaps learning from its rival’s example, made a subtle adjustment to the empty-arena concept, having heels come sit on one side of the ring and babyfaces on the other. Their energy and enthusiasm helped fuel the performers in the ring and brought what might have felt like an emotionless display of acrobatics to life.
“As a new company, AEW doesn’t have as much financial security as WWE at a time like this. As Omega said, we don’t even know if there will be a show next week, but the Superstars appeared dedicated to putting on the best show they could.” link
I’m hoping that doesn’t happen. WWE may have the big name, but AEW has the better show. There’s some real wrestling going on there…and great commentating by the inimitable Jim Ross.