The last few weeks of WWE and AEW programming have taken some getting used to in terms of presentation. Gone, for now, are the excited fans, big arenas and a lot of what we expect tuning into a wrestling show. The two companies decided to move forward to bring some sort of escapism to their respective fan bases. They say silence is golden, but as each has found that’s not necessarily true in this line of work.
AEW has gotten around the hurdle by posting wrestlers around, and found using tighter shots and certain other angles can help mask the emptiness of the venue. They have reportedly wrapped on filming and have enough in the can for at least the next few weeks. WWE also took steps to change their usual ways of producing television given the circumstances they face. Much of what was learned could be seen put into practice during WrestleMania 36.
There was a level of optimism with the performers doing their best to make you forget there wasn’t a live audience. You could hear the body shots a little more and the superstars verbally expressing how they felt more to tell the story of their matches. So much it led to some social media chatter likening it to the sounds you’d hear in a porn. Although when you tune into tennis matches and hearing the grunts on the court, it’s quite common.
WWE also began to think outside-the-box for certain matches on the card. Night one saw the company hit a home run for the most part with the Boneyard Match between AJ Styles and The Undertaker. With the sounds of Metallica, special effects and a haunting set, clearly a lot of thought and effort went into pulling it off. Even the biggest critics were immersed in what was created on this night.
Night two saw the Firefly Funhouse, which went in a more abstract direction with John Cena and Bray Wyatt battling in a war of mind games. Diehard fans loved the callbacks and easter eggs sprinkled throughout. Traditionalists may not have enjoyed it as much given it wasn’t your typical match, if you can call it that. However, you’re not going to please everyone. I applaud the efforts of WWE for using this strange time we are in to experiment a little more than they might have had the coronavirus pandemic not forced them to change course.
In contrast to Randy Orton and Edge’s Last Man Standing Match, WWE presented a lengthy battle that started in the ring and spilled all over the Performance Center. This one could have used some sort of soundtrack based on your interpretation, but this was certainly a straight-up fight. There weren’t many wrestling moves. Just a down and dirty encounter between two performers who worked hard to present a payoff for fans who were invested in this personal story.
NXT mixed a little of everything for Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa, which I dub Triple H’s Fight Club. Some sort of soundtrack would have also benefited from this scenario as well. But I enjoyed and appreciated what WWE gave its audience the last few days. And from talking to the likes of Keith Lee and Charlotte Flair, they’ve found joy in providing a distraction for people.
AEW and WWE have not stopped providing content. Apparently the same can be said for Impact Wrestling as they plan to tape again. If they’re going through with it, I’m glad WWE is adding more actual content, although I did enjoy revisiting Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels from WrestleMania 24 on SmackDown. It has helped with the pacing of the show. I also liked watching new faces like an Apollo Crews get the platform to shine.
I’ve slowly accepted this environment as our “New Normal” the next couple of months. The setting might not be the cup of tea for viewers out there as evidenced by twiddling numbers, but like your old reliable t-shirt or grandparent you don’t talk to that often, wrestling is there when you need it.
Let me know what you think by tweeting me @smFISHMAN