By Eddie McDonald, Columnist
Who knew that the March 11th editions of NXT and AEW Dynamite would be the last time we would get to experience pro wrestling with a live crowd? Since then we have gotten shows every week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but there have not been live audiences.
The fans are a huge part of the overall presentation and success of pro wrestling. Fans dictate who is popular, whether it be heel or face, and who ultimately is over. The whole gist of a professional wrestler is to elicit a response from the audience. Some come out and want you to boo them out of the building, while other want you to cheer them on.
AEW has put their wrestlers in the stands to act as a fill-in audience, but it’s just not the same as thousands of people screaming in approval or disgust. Some fans have liked the makeshift crowd, which is a cool concept but still not the same.
Professional wrestling needs a live audience more so than other professional sports. Sure, pro sports are far better with an electric crowd, but for now pro wrestling is the only professional organization still going in the United States, but minus the fans. The UFC will go on with UFC 249 this weekend, but much like pro wrestling, sans a crowd. Pro wrestling is a live-action Broadway that depends on a reaction. I think I would like pro sport better without a crowd than I do pro wrestling.
WrestleMania 36 went on as scheduled, at the WWE Performance Center – and a makeshift boneyard – but without a crowd. Thousands of fans come from around the world every year to attend WrestleMania and the plethora of events also taking place that weekend. The city of Tampa and thousands of fans and wrestlers missed out one a weekend that for some, is the best weekend ever. Shout out to the WWE for knocking WrestleMania out of the park, and for the first time ever, over the course of two nights.
Drew McIntyre completed his quest and captured the WWE Championship by defeating Brock Lesnar. The magical moment was still dope, but not having a live crowd set the moment back. That moment would have been a lot more memorable if the crowd was able to erupt with joy once the final three count hit the canvas.
In AEW, Broken Matt Hardy and Brodie Lee made their debuts, but those debuts were robbed of the proper reaction they would elicit and deserved. It was still a cool moment for each, but again, it just wasn’t the same.
On the March 16th edition of Monday Night Raw, Stone Cold was booked to celebrate 3/16 Day. Well he showed up and normally when the glass shatters right before he makes his entrance, the crowd goes banana (shout out to at Pat Patterson). Well this time, there was no crowd. I was especially bummed, as I had bought tickets to go to that Raw in Pittsburgh. He went on with his promo, but there was no crowd participation. Announcer Byron Saxton tried to fill in and even got hit with two Stone Cold Stunners and doused in beer, but yet again, it just wasn’t the same.
With no definitive date of when this pandemic will be over and we can return to attending wrestling shows, the performers are going to continue to give it their all. We do not like wrestling without fans, but big props to the guys and girls still going out and busting their asses for our entertainment, and an attempt to allow us to escape reality for two-three hours a night. The wrestlers are not being forced to work and if they wanted to stay home, they could, but a lot of them want to continue to do what they are best at.
I cannot wait for the day we can enter arenas and stadiums to cheer on our favorites and boo those we dislike. Until then, we have to find the joys in wrestling and be appreciative we still have it. The crowd pop for the first live show is going to be insane.