There’s little doubt that WrestleMania 36 is the most unique event in WWE history. As the world struggles to get a handle on the coronavirus pandemic, WWE retreated into the company’s Performance Center where it’s currently airing its weekly television shows with no crowd in attendance. While the surreal atmosphere eventually became the new normal for wrestling fans, to have WrestleMania take place under the same conditions seemed unimaginable. Yet, that will be the case when WrestleMania 36 airs over two nights on Saturday, April 4 and Sunday, April 5.
Paul “Triple H” Levesque, current WWE executive and legendary performer, spoke to CBS Sports HQ on Friday about the decision to move forward with the event. He also revealed when preparations began to move tapings to the Performance Center, beginning with a phone call on March 10.
“I called Vince [McMahon] and said, ‘You know, on the off chance things keep going south with this situation, maybe we should leave all this stuff up here and the production capabilities before it converts back into a training center. Maybe we should leave this up in the off chance things keep going badly and we need to have a backup facility in case something cancels,'” Levesque said. “We had a conversation about it and decided it was a good idea. Within 24 hours, we were doing just that, and it’s been escalating ever since from events canceling and sports leagues canceling and entire seasons canceling and all the way through.”
Many fans and media members have criticized WWE for the decision to continue holding events during a global pandemic, skirting medical and government guidelines in an effort to move forward with operations up to and possibly beyond WrestleMania. Pro Wrestling is an intensely physical, close-quarters pursuit, and with the high transmission rates of coronavirus, many have expressed concern at wrestlers — who are considered independent contractors and thus not afforded many of the protections of full-time employees — being asked to participate in matches. This is especially true as almost every other sport and entertainment outlet has suspended operations.
In Levesque’s mind, WWE’s structure makes the company uniquely suited for the situation.
“We find ourselves in the unique position of one of the few sort of entertainment sporting events where we’re live and can do this in a different manner,” Levesque said. “We’re not flying an entire team to different locations against a different team and having to fly crew and staff all over and mix people together. We can do this in our Performance Center, we can bring in individual talents, we can work with the CDC and medical community to give them the best medical advice and screening possible to do this safely. Even in parameters of bringing talent in in waves as we’re doing with WrestleMania, having matches take place, bringing talent in, having them do their bit of the performance and then leave and not be there for the entire thing so we don’t have to risk as many people being in the same place at the same time.”
Levesque also spoke to what he felt was an obligation for the company to march ahead and put smiles on faces despite the existence of an unprecedented global situation.
“We’re really doing everything we can to make this happen as safely as possible. But like we mentioned in the beginning, because we feel there is a need for this and it is almost our obligation, we feel, to try as best we can to entertain people as much as possible. It’s going to be different. People will either like it or not or criticize it or not. But we’re hoping they can just forget about their problems and enjoy this for a few hours, even though there’s no fans there and even though there aren’t 80,000 people going crazy.”