During the latest edition of his podcast, 83 Weeks, Eric Bischoff talked about fan expectations going into night one of WrestleMania 36. Bischoff discussed why so many people might have viewed WrestleMania’s first night as a positive during these strange times.
“This whole situation is so freakin’ bizarre,” Bischoff admitted. “It thrusted all of us around the world into such a unique environment in terms of what we do. I haven’t sat down and watched an entire episode of either WWE or AEW since they’ve been producing in a silent stage, closed environment with no audience. People’s expectations for WrestleMania were very very low and this show was so unique that it probably passed people’s expectations just because they were so low. They convinced themselves it was going to be miserable and once something was presented to them that was very unique, particularly in that Boneyard Match, people were left pleasantly surprised.”
Bischoff mentioned the importance of the crowd to the wrestlers. The former WCW President gave an analogy as to how important the audience truly is to a match.
“Elvis Presley once said that the most important aspect of any of his live shows was the audience,” Bischoff said. “That always stuck with me. You’ve got your baby face and you’ve got your heel, you’ve got a referee so you’ve got three people in the ring, but the audience is the fourth character. That audience is just as important in my respects, in my opinion, as anything.
“Pick your favorite WrestleMania main event of all time. The Rock and Hogan from Toronto [at WrestleMania 18], now that was a great match. [It had] great emotion but close your eyes and imagine that same match, same heel same baby face same storyline same setup, in a high school gym. In your mind, when you think about it in that context, you can really get to see how much of a challenge it was for the talent.”
Bischoff also talked about how some talent handled the empty arena show better than others. He felt that WWE should have talked to their talent and gave them guidelines to follow in a unique situation like this.
“It was jarring for me,” Bischoff said. “Having not sat through an entire episode in the empty venues, to see this sports entertainment produced in a way that completely took me out of anything I’ve ever experienced before. What was fascinating to me was how the individual talents handled it. So talent handled it really really well, and I think some didn’t. I’m guessing and hoping people are going to look back at this and say next time we do this, if we have to do this again and hopefully we don’t, but if we ever have to perform in front of an empty arena again, let’s change the way we present the product and embrace some of the things that some of the talent did really well and avoid the things that some of the talent didn’t.
“I’m looking at that and thinking why didn’t they sit down with everybody and say, ‘there is no audience here people?’ Don’t mug to the crowd, don’t reach out and try to get the crowd behind you, which is something everybody does way too often anyway, don’t do any of those things because it will take the viewer out of the moment. Play to your stuff, play to that small confined 20×20 ring. React to the ref, react to the opponents, react to the cameraman if you have too, but don’t react to an audience that isn’t there. It makes it even more obvious that there’s no audience. You’re playing to a character that doesn’t exist.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit 83 Weeks with Eric Bischoff with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.