OPINION: The Pros and Cons of Empty Arenas


Jeremy Davis

WrestleMania got creative with the way they broadcasted their show while being in the middle of a pandemic. Graphic by Hailey Stessman/The Gateway

With plenty of events getting shut down because of COVID-19, it was only a matter of time before sporting events got cancelled. In March there was a discussion going around if events like the NCAA Tournament should still go on but in empty arenas. I do not know if it would be a good idea since they decided not to do it. If for some reason this were to happen again, would performing in empty arenas be a good idea? There is one form of entertainment that is trying this: professional wrestling.

World Wrestling Entertainment’s biggest show WrestleMania took place in an empty arena and it made for quite the show. They performed from their Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, instead of Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, which was the original plan. It was odd to see someone come out and motion toward an empty audience. Some wrestlers worked the emptiness into the show and used the quiet arena to add dialogue to the fights. This didn’t add much but it was at least better than silence or the occasional grunting.

The thing about professional wrestling is that, without a crowd, it’s just not the same. It just ends up looking like two people fighting in an empty building. I’m sure for basketball or any other sport it would be different. There is a set goal in most sports and that is to win or at least have fun trying to. In professional wrestling the goal is to get a crowd reaction, but with no one in the seats, it was quite a different show.

I had some of my friends watch it with me from their point of view. At first, they were really distracted by the empty chairs and the fact some wrestlers would yell at the audience that wasn’t there. Eventually they got into some of the better matches that took place later.

Although most matches took place in the ring, some did not. There were matches in a graveyard, backstage and other places. Usually when these segments are done with a crowd, they get upset because the action isn’t right in front of them, but because there was no audience these were the best segments of the show. One of the matches took place all over the Performance Center and a camera man followed them from room to room.

There was one match that was filmed in a graveyard but was filmed more like a short film then a wrestling match. It was just a couple guys fighting outside, but the way it was filmed you would think it’s a scene out of a movie. They edited the clips together and made it more dramatic. There was even music played during some parts. It definitely felt bigger than a regular wrestling match as the two would talk to each other during a fight similar to some fights in movies.

It seems WrestleMania went off without a hitch, but there were several wrestlers who couldn’t be there because they couldn’t travel to the Performance Center. Several other wrestlers were kept off the show due to having low immune systems.

I think when WrestleMania was over, they did a really good job. It’s hard for these athletes to go perform in front of nobody and still put on a convincing show. These wrestlers are used to having filled arenas and people surrounding the ring. I’m sure it took some getting used to for them. At the end of the day, I would say they accomplished their goal of entertaining people. As long as everyone was safe, I think it was worth doing to help entertain people who are stuck at home. In a way it’s sort of a distraction to what’s going on everywhere. For a couple hours you can just sit down and get invested in a couple of matches and forget about all the chaos that is going on right now.