April 9, 2020
Amid the spreading coronavirus pandemic, WWE had to put on a fan-less, empty arena event for its weekly Smackdown show on Fox on March 13, set at its state-of-the-art WWE Performance Center training facility in Orlando. While fans and reviewers noted the lack of energy without any fans in attendance, the ratings were solid. WWE from there continued to run its weekly shows, including USA’s Raw, in the same fashion. While critics decried the decision to continue taping shows amid the virus crisis, WWE relied on planning ahead and its, and chairman-CEO Vince McMahon’s, legendary focus on ensuring that the show must go on.
WWE says it has under the coronavirus restrictions been producing content, including WrestleMania 36, on a closed set with only essential personnel in attendance following federal, state and local guidelines, while taking additional precautions to ensure the health and wellness of performers and staff. Filming is, for example, understood to take place in waves to limit the number of people in attendance. While these and other late changes to the match card were confusing for fans in the run-up to WrestleMania 36, some wrestling industry watchers and commentators highlighted them in their criticism of WWE’s decision to push ahead.
Both nights of WrestleMania 36 promoted WWE’s next monthly pay-view, Money in the Bank, as taking place on May 10. Originally set for Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, it is now expected to be filmed without fans at the WWE Performance Center if Florida’s coronavirus restrictions then allow it or possibly in Connecticut, where WWE is headquartered and where one analyst said there was talk of the company getting a waiver for future production.