Professional wrestling is all about the crowd. Performers rise and fall on the heat they generate from sold-out stadiums, feeding on the energy of audiences who buy into the story and psychology of each and every match. But in the era of the coronavirus, wrestling promotions are holding shows in empty arenas – a situation that has pushed them to produce unique and innovative content.

Professional Wrestling coronavirus WWE AEW
WWE and AEW have both put on shows in empty arenas over the past week due to the coronavirus pandemic, and fans won’t be in attendance for WrestleMania, either. (Image:

Over the past week, both World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and All Elite Wrestling (AEW) have put on televised shows without audiences.

Coronavirus Forces Professional Wrestling to Get Creative

Surprisingly, these shows have garnered generally positive reviews from fans. The unusual atmosphere has created numerous memorable moments, such as this great interaction featuring the legendary Stone Cold Steve Austin on WWE Raw this week.

Of course, there have been the occasional hiccups. Some viewers accidentally got to see what was happening during commercial breaks during WWE Smackdown on Friday. Naturally, with nobody watching, the wrestlers felt comfortable taking a break.

Generally speaking, WWE has limited the amount of wrestling on its shows since governments began issuing social distancing guidelines for the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, shows have been heavy on promos and taped segments from recent pay-per-view events, with a small amount of live wrestling thrown in.

On Wednesday night, AEW took a different approach with its Dynamite television show. The episode began with a promo by Cody Rhodes, who simultaneously spoke to both the current state of the world, and to some of the current storylines in the promotion.

The remainder of the show featured a surprising number of matches. Several wrestlers sat in the stands to provide a modicum of audience atmosphere, and at times, it was clear that – CDC guidelines be damned – there were more than 10 people gathered together at a time.

Rob Gronkowski to Host Two-Night WrestleMania

The COVID-19 outbreak will impact even The Granddaddy of Them All: WWE’s WrestleMania. On Wednesday, WWE announced that WrestleMania will span two nights over April 4 and April 5. Former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who recently signed a contract with WWE, will serve as host.

As with all recent WWE shows, the company’s Performance Center will serve as the venue for WrestleMania, and no fans will be in attendance.

“The two-night, pop-culture extravaganza will be hosted by three-time Super Bowl Champion Rob Gronkowski,” WWE announced in a statement. “As previously announced, only essential personnel will be on the closed set during the production of WrestleMania.”

With many people now self-isolating in their homes, professional wrestling has provided a rare form of live sports entertainment for the public. That dynamic has resulted in high ratings, with 2.34 million viewers tuning in to Monday’s WWE Raw, the program’s best showing since Feb. 17.