For the few fans who have been living under a rock the past few days, WWE announced that WrestleMania 36 is still on for April 5th. Naturally, instead of taking place at Raymond James Stadium in front of thousands of screaming fans, it will be at the WWE Performance Center in front of nobody. Standard operating procedure for the time being during the coronavirus pandemic.
There are tons of reports saying why this is happening. Some say Vince McMahon just doesn’t want to risk the potential of not having WrestleMania and would rather have a bad one than none at all. Other theories suggest this is an insurance ploy to get cancelled and recoup some of the expenses. Few people know what is going on in WWE right now and even fewer in the world know how this will all play out.
But First, A Word…
As you can tell by the headline of this post, I’ve got a pitch I want to sell everyone on when it comes to this. However, before even getting into that, it’s important to touch on how nobody knows how to handle this situation—myself included. Every possible “what if” or “they should do XYZ” discussion you’ll find on this site and elsewhere has as much clout as the next, as most of us aren’t experts in business tactics during pandemics. For instance, here’s Greg DeMarco’s thoughts in favor of this as an escape for fans during troubling times.
Still, I’ve been thinking a lot about alternative measures WWE can take. Just as I’ve written about how WWE should pre-tape all their upcoming shows in advance, I think I have a strategy for April 5th that is worth hearing out.
The Elevator Pitch
WWE should try to put on a show for April 5th, but it should not be WrestleMania 36.
Instead, some of the weaker matches should take place and it should be renamed Stomping Grounds.
Then, WrestleMania should be postponed in the hopes to do the bigger matches down the road.
You Already Think I’m Nuts
At face value, this may seem ridiculous. After all, who is going to want to sit through another month or two, possibly longer, of waiting for Drew McIntyre to fight Brock Lesnar? Wouldn’t the Randy Orton and Edge feud fizzle out by then? Surely, Becky Lynch and Shayna Baszler don’t have enough steam to carry them into June with the rumored Madison Square Garden concept (if that’s even possible), right?
To an extent, I agree. I’m normally a quick complainer about WWE dragging things out. But there’s a big difference between stretching something out from last October until April before COVID-19 became a pandemic compared to the current situation.
WrestleMania cannot take place in front of nobody. It will forever be an asterisk on this lineup. Nobody will have had a “WrestleMania Moment” of any kind. The title wins won’t matter. The matches will be awful in comparison. Edge’s big match will be neutered. A Last Man Standing match won’t work at the PC as we just saw Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa blow that load. The Hall of Fame isn’t happening. WWE can’t run some 16-match show for 7 hours at the Performance Center. I could go on and on.
But just as fans have been more forgiving about SmackDown and Raw not being up to par (which is already saying a lot), I feel like the WWE Universe would be okay with a Performance Center show that wasn’t called WrestleMania.
What’s in a Name?
That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. (10 pts to those who get the reference without looking it up. The English teacher in me is proud of you.)
The best name for this is Stomping Grounds. The term literally means “a favorite or habituatil resort; a familiar territory; a place where someone regularly spends time.”
That is, by definition, the WWE Performance Center. It is the south end of the bipolar headquarters of WWE, with the other being in Stamford, Connecticut. The name Stomping Grounds makes more sense to apply to this venue than anywhere else on the planet.
But it’s not just that. There are more semantics to factor in with this name change.
WrestleMania Won’t Be WrestleMania
WWE fans may not be willing to admit this through introspection, but it’s a fact that we attribute more value to names than we care to acknowledge. That is why you hear people complain that the Royal Rumble winner didn’t get the “main event” match at WrestleMania if it goes on anywhere but dead last. It’s also why when a Superstar loses, some are quick to label them “buried” and we have to have that discussion again.
There’s no way someone will look at WrestleMania happening at the Performance Center and think it’s anything but trash. Without the pageantry and magnitude, The Grandest Stage of Them All will be depressing to hear. It will go down as one of the worst Manias of all time, if not the top pick.
At best, people will applaud WWE’s efforts in trying and do their best to overlook the flaws. That will be pity, not genuine appreciation. All the pats on the back will be of “well, you tried” and “good effort in failure” nature.
At worst, people won’t tune in, the ones who do will laugh at it as an embarrassment, it’ll hinder WWE’s overall perception in everyone’s eyes and it will be so bad that months of build will have amounted to negatives. You don’t want Drew McIntyre carrying the weight of the world and only bad feelings for his title reign. He needs to be associated with triumph, not disaster.
Stomping Grounds Can Get Stomped On
But if this event on April 5th were called Stomping Grounds, it’s nowhere near as important, which is a good thing.
It can suck and it won’t hinder the WrestleMania brand. The show can be shorter, which is easier for the production crew and for safety protocol. Even the card wouldn’t have to be difficult to build to, as nobody would be criticizing it for a lack of momentum.
Some of the weaker matches originally planned for WrestleMania could be put on here so fans don’t feel cheated. Give us Daniel Bryan against Sami Zayn for the Intercontinental Championship. Do the Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins match. Book The Kabuki Warriors against Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross. Hell, do that dumb Fatal 4-Way between Andrade, Humberto Carrillo, Rey Mysterio and Angel Garza you love so much.
For an emergency scenario 2-hour special event broadcast, that seems pretty decent, given the circumstances, right? Focusing on the matches that can deliver the best in the ring, pre-taping them to make schedules better and allowing fans to hate on the first show without feeling guilty about crapping on WrestleMania could mitigate some of the negatives.
It’s Not Perfect…
Are there problems with this? Of course. WWE would have to make some announcement that it’s no longer being called WrestleMania, which would confuse people. New graphics would have to be made on short notice. All the matches that are too big for this show would be put on hold and everyone would need to suffer through dragging those stories out.
But people wait months for two boxers to fight. They can do the same with Goldberg and Roman Reigns. Upcoming episodes of Raw and SmackDown can be used for documentaries that build hype by showcasing different people. Give us interview footage and “the best matches of” for different people like Lynch and Baszler. Build the Firefly Fun House set for SmackDown and have a whole episode dedicated to Bray Wyatt’s tortured games.
Then, by the time June comes around—again, if that’s possible—people will be so excited to see any live wrestling in front of a crowd that even though it will have taken forever to get to that point, everyone will love it anyway. At that point, WrestleMania 36 will be a true WrestleMania and will probably go down as one of the most joyous occasions in WWE history, rather than a reminder of dark times.
What do you think of this idea?
Drop your thoughts in the comments below to keep the discussion going.