This is the weekend that nearly 80,000+ would be en route to Tampa Bay FL for Wrestlemania. People from all over the world should be cheering for their favorites and booing their villains; but as with much of the sports world, the cheers will go silent.
This year’s event is the 36th annual “showcase of the immortals” which has taken place in AT&T Stadium, the Silverdome, Metlife Stadium and even here in Boston at the TD Garden. Fan participation is crucial for big matches and big moments. This year’s event will take place at the WWE’s performance center in Orlando Florida over two nights with the show being pre-recorded and with no fans in attendance.
What the WWE is doing is an attempt to replicate what was done about 19 years ago. Two nights after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 Vince McMahon held a live episode of his show SmackDown. Until that night, all people could do was watch the news and a lot of it was stuff that might make you break down. The hope by holding this live program was to prove that we would come back from this stronger than ever. This is a different time from then, and now we must worry about not being within six feet of each other and not be in a public gathering.
This year’s event will be different. And matches are changing as some of the talent are understandably taking themselves out of matches: Roman Reigns, who has battled leukemia twice, and two others have tested positive for COVID-19. Regardless of what the matches will look like, for 4-6 hours this weekend we can turn our minds to other things.
Being a wrestling fan can be polarizing for older fans, but this weekend could be important for the WWE who has the opportunity to attract organic viewers to the product who are desperate for live entertainment. For fans in New England there is a lot to watch out for. In a previous article I mentioned that former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski would have a role in the show, and will serve as the official host of Wrestlemania. He could see some in ring action, as athletes have taken part in the action from Pete Rose, Lawrence Taylor, Floyd Mayweather to Muhammed Ali.
As far as local superstars are concerned, the big name many may recognize is John Cena who is from West Newbury MA. Some may not know that the former face of WWE was a tri-captain for Springfield College football in 1998, a year that saw them make their first Division 3 National Football Tournament. His opponent is the fiend, which for fans that haven’t watched wrestling since the 90’s is comparable to the Undertaker, as he plays mind games and at times can be scary.
Kofi Kingston has deep rooted ties to Massachusetts, graduating from Boston College. Before that however, Kofi and his family moved to Winchester where he would graduate High School. After winning his first WWE Championship last year Kofi brought the title back home to Ghana for a celebration. He is one of the most charismatic superstars that continues to illustrate positivity with his tag team partners in the group New Day. If you’re watching Wrestlemania and wrestiling for the first time in a long time, he’s the guy throwing pancakes. Kofi (Far left of picture) will be in a triple threat ladder match for the Smackdown tag team titles with his tag team partner Big E against champions the Miz and John Morrison and the Usos, whose father is Rikiski.
Another name with local ties is Sasha Banks, who is from Boston and is the cousin of Snoop Dogg and Ray J. This 28-year old played a key role in getting women’s wrestling to where it is today, being a member of the four horsewomen which had Ric Flair’s daughter in it as well. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh congratulated Sasha and her tag team partner Bayley on becoming the first women’s tag team champions in the history of the company. Banks (2nd woman from the right) will have an opportunity to win singles gold in a fatal five-way match for the Smackdown Women’s championship.
Ordering Wrestlemania used to be a costly venture, but if you just want to watch it once to take your mind off of what’s going on new subscribers to the wwe network can watch the super bowl of wrestling for free.