Editorial Columns

Times When WWE Would Have Liked An Empty Arena

Shaun Pond looks at times WWE would have preferred to have had an empty arena to work in.

Arenas are empty, matches are being contested in silence, and legends are returning without a pop. 

The Coronavirus has taken an immense toll on society across the globe with events being cancelled and citizens being asked to self-isolate for a currently indeterminate length of time. The effects of this have been more than a little noticeable on the latest episodes of Raw and Smackdown as there have been no fans to react to the action taking place in the ring, leading to an eerie feeling for these barren episodes. 

Without making light of the situation, it may be fair to say that the WWE wish there was no crowd present for a few other moments in their history. Whether it be due to exceedingly negative reactions or no reactions at all, some moments would have fared far better had there been no crowd to influence viewers. 

The first example of this that springs to mind is Roman Reigns winning the 2015 Royal Rumble. 

It was a moment that was supposed to crown the WWE’s heir apparent en route to him toppling Brock Lesnar in the main event of the biggest show of the year. It is clear that WWE wanted Roman to be cheered as a conquering hero upon winning the 30-man epic, going so far as to pile all the heat on Big Show and Kane by having them ruin the match by eliminating everybody who fans cared about towards the end. They even had Rusev pop back up after Roman thought he had won in order to give The Big Dog a last-minute challenge before he eventually did win.

The problem? Nobody wanted Roman in the main event. A chorus of boos rained down upon the next face of the company and not even The Rock could get the rebellious audience back on side. 

It was an unmitigated disaster. 

Now imagine it had taken place in an empty arena. Sure, there would have been an online backlash, but it would have lacked the venom and vitriol that the raucous crowd sparked. Without that on-screen catalyst, the online noise would likely have dissipated far quicker. Subsequent audiences may not have had the inspiration of the Royal Rumble crowd leading them to boo just as loudly. 

Roman would still have been rejected, but not as violently. 

If the Rumble crowd is to be faulted for being overly vocal then the Raw crowd from March 14th, 2011 should be similarly admonished for their utter silence. Particularly this is in reference to the pin-drop noiselessness that accompanied the return of Grandmaster Sexay

The former Too Cool member made a rare appearance in the WWE to side with Michael Cole against his father, Jerry Lawler, in the build to the announcers disastrous Wrestlemania match

You might ask how having no fans present would have helped if the problem was silence in the first place. It’s simple, take away the fans and you take away the embarrassment. 

In an empty arena there is no expectation of any kind of reaction so Sexay would not have been roundly mocked for not receiving one. However, if you have an entire arena full of fans then that silence becomes a damning indictment that they just don’t care about what they are seeing. 

The Grandmaster Sexay Pop is still a thing to this day and that is something that the WWE will wish had never happened. 

Let’s circle back to Roman Reigns for a second. Whilst this is not designed to be an article that just openly mocks him, it would be remiss of me not to mention the horrendous reaction to his main event match with Samoa Joe at Backlash 2018.

This was still during the time period that saw fans roundly reject Reigns as their top babyface. He was coming off of a loss to Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 34 and this match was just so clearly designed to give him a big win before he faced Lesnar yet again later in the year. 

It did not help that the match was slow, to the point of being plodding. Both of these men have proven themselves capable of putting on high energy brawl that got over in a major way, but this was not an example of that. 

The crowd voiced their displeasure by chanting “Beat the traffic” and leaving the arena early. 

An empty arena wouldn’t have made the match any better but at least it would have saved the WWE this particular black eye as no one would have been spotted leaving before the show finished. 

On a funnier note, let’s talk about the worst match type ever dreamed up. Of course, I refer to the infamous Kennel from Hell Match contested between Al Snow and Big Boss Man.

Coming about in a feud so absurd that it contained a skit where Boss Man killed Snow’s dog, cooked him, and then fed him to Snow. The Attitude Era was weird, alright?

The match was half a Steel Cage and half a Hell in a Cell whilst simultaneously being entirely a shit show. 

Basically, the ring was surrounded by a steel cage, the outside was patrolled by guard dogs, and the whole thing was contained within a Hell in a Cell. As it turns out, a group of dogs aren’t well equipped to understand the nuances of pro wrestling and so they spent the contest humping each other and defecating at ringside. 

It was one of the worst ideas anyone in the wrestling business has ever had, which is saying something. 

If it had been filmed in an empty arena, then it could have been cut from all future releases and forgotten about. Resigned to a story told on hard to source shoot interviews. Something tells me that WWE would have given anything for this to be the case. 

There are a number of instances that could have taken this last spot but I’m going to give into recency bias and award it to Lacey Evans being made Special Referee for Baron Corbin vs. Seth Rollins at Stomping Grounds 2019.  

The reason that this might have been preferable in an empty arena is a little different to those examples previously mentioned. There appears to have been a disconnect between the online and in-person responses on the night. 

The live crowd hated this after having seen Evans earlier in the night and were disappointed that it wasn’t someone pop worthy. Whilst that sentiment was present online too, there was also a good amount of understanding that the move made a lot of sense when looked at from a purely logical stance. 

Rollins was going to beat down any man that Corbin brought out to aid him, so the clever heel allied himself with a woman who was embroiled in a feud with Rollins’ girlfriend, Becky Lynch

Had the reaction been left to the fans sitting at home you wouldn’t have had such a distracting outrage and that might have allowed for the match to be enjoyed a little more.

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You can find the author of this article on Twitter @Impers0nalJesus. Thanks for reading!

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