WrestleMania this past weekend was the first time in a year that WWE talent wrestled in front of a large crowd. In an interview with Richard Deitsch for Sports Media, Paul Heyman was asked about working without a live audience. For Heyman, it has been a struggle for numerous reasons.
“It is up to us, we the performers, to do our role in that scenario,” Heyman said. “It’s a daunting task to be interactive with an audience who’s not there for you to be interactive with. Everything I do is based off the reverberations I get from the live crowd. But when there’s no live crowd then it’s no longer a live performance. I’m in a studio. I don’t know any musician that prefers being in a closed studio as opposed to being in front of a stadium full of people that are jamming with them.
“Last year’s WrestleMania the main event was Brock Lesnar vs. Drew McIntyre. When Brock and I came out to the ring I said to Brock ‘I can’t denounce you.’ That was our schtick. I couldn’t do it, because my dance partner wasn’t there. And my dance partner was the audience. I didn’t realize it till we were halfway down the aisle to the ring. This is going to get me in trouble with WWE but so be it, it’s the difference between sex and masturbation. Sex is with someone and it’s wonderful, it’s intimate and it’s give and take. And masturbation is by yourself.
“I just couldn’t bring myself to pick up the mic and do that schtick without the audience there with me. Because that introduction was every bit as much about the audience doing it as it was about me doing it. And without them I’m just by myself. I didn’t feel it, I didn’t like it, I didn’t want it. And I couldn’t do it.”
Heyman discussed how they learned to work in this new environment.
“What we’ve learned is how to do things and create an interactive environment in a Zoom era,” Heyman said. “I dare say my job is a cake walk, because I’m not taking physical punishment without the heat and atmosphere and the reaction of an appreciative audience.
“I can’t imagine, in my heart of hearts, what it’s like for Roman Reigns, Daniel Bryan or Edge to get smashed with a chair when there’s no audience there to feel that chair shot. No matter if it’s one minute or thirty minutes into the match, your body is not ready for that level of impact without the warmth of the crowd giving you feedback for it.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Sports Media with Richard Deitsch and provide a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription