WWE announced on Monday that, after weeks of speculation, its WrestleMania event was being moved from Tampa, Florida’s Raymond James Stadium to its Performance Center training facility in Orlando, Florida. That means the biggest wrestling show of the year had its audience cut from around 65,000 to “essential personnel” only. On Wednesday, WWE announced a further shake up: WrestleMania will take place over two nights, over several locations.
“WrestleMania 36 is now set for a historic two-night presentation on WWE Network with former New England Patriot Rob Gronkowski hosting The Show of Shows at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT on Saturday, April 4, and Sunday, April 5,” read news on the company’s site.
“WrestleMania will not only take place at WWE’s training facility but will include multiple locations over two nights,” WWE said in a statement to CNET. “All locations will be closed sets with only essential personnel.”
Fans have previously complained about WrestleMania fatigue, as the event in recent years has exceeded five and even six hours. But the show being split in two is likely more of a reaction to the challenge of hosting such a big event in front of no crowd. Wrestling, as a performance, relies more on crowd reaction than does sport. Holding a five or six hour show in front of no fans could have been a recipe for disaster.
The decision to relocate WrestleMania was made official on Monday. Though WWE says the event will take place in several locations, the Performance Center is currently the only known one.
“In coordination with local partners and government officials, WrestleMania and all related events in Tampa Bay will not take place,” the company said in a statement Monday. “Only essential personnel will be on the closed set at WWE’s training facility in Orlando, Florida, to produce WrestleMania.”
After last Friday’s episode of SmackDown was pulled from Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena, relocation to the Center appears to be WWE’s modus operandi from here on out. Monday’s episode of Raw, originally scheduled to emanate from Pittsburgh, also aired from the Performance Center. The NBA had to take even more drastic measures, after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus.
It’s a big hit for the WWE. Though the company makes most of its money from TV deals with the USA Network and Fox, last year’s WrestleMania event brought in over $16 million in event ticket sales. With the show now taking place in front of no crowd, those millions will be lost. Even harder hit will be independent wrestling companies, who usually put their biggest shows on for the tens of thousands of wrestling fans who travel for WrestleMania each year.
After infecting over 121,000 and causing more than 4,300 deaths, the coronavirus outbreak was declared to be a pandemic on Wednesday by the World Health Organization. In the past, the WHO has defined a pandemic as “the worldwide spread of a new disease.”