It should come as no surprise that WWE has adapted to the idea of filming matches and rivalries similar to those seen on the silver screen. Having several titles to the WWE Studios brand, the company may have struck gold with the new idea. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic keeping the talent from traveling and fans from attending shows, perhaps doing these cinema-style movie scenes isn’t such a bad idea.
Take the Boneyard Match at WrestleMania 36 as a great example. It was entertaining while highlighting the best of both AJ Styles and The Undertaker. This has even more meaning now that Taker has announced his retirement.
The cancellation of the event in Tampa disappointed many, but as for a fan like myself, this match/short-film took my mind off the new normal of our world for a little bit. With the impact of the pandemic, that fact stands out more than anything. The Undertaker’s character is the epitome of theatrical pro wrestling, so the positive factor of the Boneyard Match was like a happy ending for someone with a storied career such as his.
And that is what pro wrestling is about. Many of us get lost in wrestling as a form of escapism. The Boneyard Match was well received, while others didn’t get as great reception. The Cinema/short film matches will certainly go through trial and error, but the idea of creating entertainment for the fans during this time has to have brightened some spirits.
Having more of these type of matches will definitely be coming into play as the pandemic keeps WWE in the Performance Center, and now the Thunderdome. But once things open back up and fans start attending shows, will these cinema matches go over well with a live audience?
At this point it is really hard to say. The most recent match prior to the pandemic was the House of Horrors match between Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton back at Payback 2017. This was meant to put an end to their storied feud however the lack of attention to little details (such as the house brawl taking place at night, when it was still daylight during the show) made the match not so well received.
Then there was the Ultimate Deletion (I’m sensing a pattern with Wyatt here) with Wyatt and Broken Matt Hardy. The Broken gimmick was so over with fans; it was a given to do something similar to what Hardy done in Impact Wrestling. “Broken” Matt Hardy is something quirky and completely mesmerizing for even a casual wrestling fan.
The Ultimate Deletion was done to end the Wyatt Family Cult Leader character to ultimately make way for The Fiend that the fans all know and love. Hence the purpose of The Lake of Reincarnation. Of course that didn’t happen right away as Hardy and Wyatt teamed together once more before disbanding for good.
Wyatt’s character has been compared to The Undertaker, as both characters shared the same theatric traits they’re known to carry. With all the realism and technology that has encompassed pro wrestling, Wyatt has been able to take advantage of a theatrical character successfully.
Doing the short film route once in awhile to support a storyline post COVID-19 would be sufficient. But a multitude of them in a certain amount of time may not be a good thing. The two scenarios I mentioned above happened in a year’s time. One was well received and the other was not. There’s all these factors involved overall with attention to detail, etc.
WWE has seemed to balance the short films out, especially now that Wyatt and Strowman are done feuding. One other cinematic match that took place that is worth mentioning was the match between The Street Profits vs. The Viking Raiders at this year’s Backlash. It wasn’t perfect, but a majority of their friendly competitive games were vastly entertaining.
Overall entertaining is the purpose of these short films. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the films has successfully provided the escapism that pro wrestling fans crave. They are certainly a high point given the circumstances. It is a matter of balance and knowing what does and doesn’t work.
The short films are meant to be fun, and most fans can understand that. Not all of them will be perfect, and that is okay. When fans look back on this pandemic era, it will be vastly different reminiscing those moments. Some carried storyline meaning and legacy while others were meant to simply entertain. So far, WWE has been pretty successful with the outcomes. That is always a good thing.