Does Wrestlemania Prove the Sports World Should Rethink Its Shutdown?

For WWE and pro wrestling fans, WrestleMania is the biggest event of the year. The biggest names in wrestling almost always show up for WrestleMania, including Ronda Rousey and now, Rob Gronkowski. But this year, amidst the coronavirus pandemic, WWE chose to move forward with the event. Was this the right choice?

How the WWE did it

Obviously, safety was one of the most important factors when WWE decided to go ahead with WrestleMania. As WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon told Sports Illustrated, the organization took a lot of precautions before hosting the event.

First and foremost, and just like with other WWE events that happened earlier in the pandemic, there were no audiences. Secondly, like many places still open for business, McMahon said janitors thoroughly cleaned the facility every night. On top of that, WWE wrestlers didn’t have to attend. This is great news as the WWE employs many people who are at-risk, like The Undertaker and Roman Reigns.

In terms of the actual matches, large-scale fights like the battle royal were canceled altogether. Fights were also shot in waves. And lastly, nobody with a temperature over 100 degrees or if they’ve traveled out of the country (or been in contact with someone who has traveled out of the country) will be allowed to enter the facility at all.

How WrestleMania succeeded

WWE star The Undertaker competes against Goldberg in 2019
WWE star The Undertaker performs in 2019 | AMER HILABI/AFP via Getty Images

Despite the fact that wrestling is audience-dependent, WrestleMania was a success, according to Hypebeast. Not only did a lot of people on social media talk about WrestleMania, but many tuned in to watch, too. This is ultimately what matters for the WWE; at the end of the day, it’s a business that seeks to make money.

Hypebeast said this recent WrestleMania saw a viewership growth of 20% compared to last year’s. This is almost definitely a result of so many people staying at home and with nothing to do.

There may also be a novelty factor as well, as some viewers may have tuned in to watch how WWE would host such a major event during these times. That said, the organization’s decision to go ahead with WrestleMania flies in the face of the recommendations of pretty much every government body. 

Should the sports world rethink its shutdown?

WWE isn’t the only sports organization looking to cash in on people staying home and seeking entertainment. The UFC tried to host its biggest event of the year, UFC 249, despite many hurdles. In fact, the organization tried to secure a private island to host fights. It also tried to host UFC 249 in a Native American casino.

Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and decided that endangering the lives of people for entertainment wasn’t worth it. In the end, people more powerful than the UFC canceled the show altogether. The UFC and WWE aren’t the only organizations trying to keep things going during the pandemic, however. 

The MLB is currently considering returning with all games occuring in Arizona. Unfortunately for the MLB, it’s more than likely that this plan will get scrapped as the pandemic worsens in the U.S. As CDC staff professionals will tell organizers, there’s no truly safe way to host a sporting event without putting a lot of people at risk.