The COVID-19 global pandemic forced the professional wrestling industry to a halt, just like it did nearly everything else across the world. As the United States and other developed countries find ways to get back to “normal,” multiple wrestling organizations have announced the return of fans. People should be excited as fans make up an important part of the show. However, the WWE cannot rely on the entire notion of fans being in attendance as the answer to their content woes of the last few years.
WrestleMania 37 is a clear example of how important the impact of fans is throughout a show. The night two main event between Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair saw the fans cheering them both on through the highs and lows of the match, helping deliver what was a special moment in wrestling.
But look at the opening to night two. The Fiend and Randy Orton battled in what has become an inconsequential match and the fans’ response from ringside showed that same level of apathy. It is a mistake to think that fans will cheer for just anything because they are back in attendance. Yes, the WWE and all other promotions will receive an initial bump from the return of fans because they have missed seeing the action live. But there should be real concern about whether the WWE can sustain anything that they see once shows return in July.
A lot of Friday’s episode of SmackDown was dedicated to creating excitement around the return of fans. However, trying to build said excitement around the same rematch after rematch fans have seen for the better part of the last few months does not create any type of buzz for WWE content. The situation is much worse on Monday Night Raw as the show continues to struggle to rebuild its ratings. Constant distraction finishes, the failure in using the women’s division, and the devaluation of wins and losses continue to hurt the WWE product.
WWE Creative knows how to put together a show that interests fans, however, it seems like interest in doing so has waned as financial strength through massive deals has continued to increase. Is there a breaking point? The answer to that question is unclear. WWE CEO Vince McMahon has said during investor’s meetings that the return of fans will help get the show back to where it was overall, but it is hard to see that really happening if the quality of content on television does not improve as well.