As a Western Pennsylvania wrestling fan, I live roughly 30 minutes from PPG Paints Arena, the venue that sees Sidney Crosby gracefully glide on the ice for the Pittsburgh Penguins and was set to host tonight’s edition of Monday Night Raw. As a way to push the gas on the hype for an almost underwhelming Wrestlemania card on paper and because of the coincidence of the calendar, Stone Cold Steve Austin was scheduled to appear in the steel city. But, as we saw last Friday for Smackdown, Raw was moved to the WWE Performance Center, as the status of the corona virus situation continues to remain unclear.
All things consider, it was rather bizarre to watch the action on Smackdown, with a scaled down, albeit, still accurate set for matches in front of no crowd. The reasoning for this is rather simple since much of the wrestling narrative during a live broadcast is built upon a crowd reaction. Listening to Stone Cold talk for any extended period of time is very entertaining, proof of which is the fascinating Broken Skull Sessions on the WWE network, but seeing the Stone Cold style promo without an audience just wouldn’t translate. In fact, one of the many reasons that Austin is still one of the most over figures in the history of the sport is because he connects with the audience to garner such a crowd response.
All of this is rather unprecedented scenario so who knows what a three-hour broadcast will look like without fans until Raw airs tonight. With WWE shows taking place without fans in attendance, the question that persists is, will Wrestlemania actually get postponed? Some people are even asking why hasn’t the event been postponed already?
As is usually the case with government, politics, not the concern of the people is probably the priority.
Again, this is such an unprecedented atmosphere that any speculation is merely a guess because nothing can be based on a previous scenario. That being said, with the NBA, NHL, MLS, and XFL cancelled or suspended while entire countries are shutdown, it seems like there’s no reasonable way to expect that Wrestlemania could or should run as planned, but that doesn’t mean it wont.
A lot of the predicament is bogged down in political red tape so some of the details are murky, but the bottom line is the cash involved for everyone if Wrestlemania is postponed. Similar to how there’s insurance for actors when they sign on for a film (a tragic example is when Paul Walker passed away mid-way through the production of a Fast and Furious film, there was an estimated cost of $50 million to shoot additional scenes) to cover any unplanned expenses, most of the touring and ticket business is structured the same way. Basically, if a government mandate is made that Wrestlemania can’t happen then in theory, the city of Tampa and it’s venues would be responsible for the additional costs involved in the cancellation, including the millions of promotional dollars the WWE spent to advertise an event that was projected to bring several million dollars worth of an economic impact to the area. On the flip side, if the WWE itself cancels the show then they are on the hook for all those costs and possibly any ticket refund costs through Ticket Master.
In recent reports, Tampa area county commissioner, Les Miller mentioned that he “hoped WWE would make the call themselves,” which translates to nobody wants to be left holding the bag for the costs associated with the event being held at Raymond James Stadium. Make no mistake, Miller’s concern probably isn’t the citizens he represents, but rather the political ramifications of costs to the city.
Granted, WWE isn’t going to fold if Wrestlemania is postponed, but there’s a ripple effect around WM that could cost the company several million dollars in addition to the promotional cost of the Tampa pay-per-view. Usually, the success of WM is a staple of WWE’s success as a publicly traded corporation so if the event is postponed until the next quarter then the results for the current quarter would be drastically below projections, which would tumble the stock price. Even then, the WWE isn’t in any danger, as the mega TV contract secured not only its stability, but also profitability for the next five years. Still, Vince McMahon didn’t become a billionaire because he didn’t capitalize on opportunities to make money. Plus, Wrestlemania is the center piece of his sports entertainment empire and without that payoff, both financially and for the storylines, the company will almost be completely stale.
Perhaps it would be a wise decision for WWE to run retro type programming to built up a demand for new content instead of the momentum for angles stalling when the rest of the build to WM is in front of no fans. Either way, some projections put other sports possibly the chance to resume their season in a month or two so there’s no reason to logically expect Wrestlemania to proceed as planned. As of this writing, WM is still scheduled for Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on April 5th, but that could change at anytime. Just a few days ago, the WWE issued a statement that there working on a contingency plan if WM isn’t hosted at the stadium so it appears that Vince McMahon still plans to run the sports entertainment spectacle. If Wrestlemania should be postponed or if it actually will be postponed are two different things. Considering that nearly every major sports league, Disney world, and even the MGM casino in Las Vegas have cancelled or closed, I think Wrestlemania should be postponed instead of Vince running the show just to see the company didn’t cancel an event, but if I had to guess, I would still say that Wrestlemania will still happen in some form or fashion as planned. More than anything, this entire situation proves again that professional wrestling is one of the most unquie genres in entertainment and it will be very interesting to see the conclusion of this situation.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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