For the foreseeable future, we’re going to be getting WWE shows in front of no fans at the Performance Center. It creates a surreal environment, a strange departure from the norm. The wrestlers feed off the fans, after all, and vice versa. That’s the entire concept of the show.
So while the fans are gone, WWE has to adjust.
You’d think they would.
But you would be wrong.
This week’s episode of Monday Night Raw showcased as much. It started well enough, with Edge cutting a fantastic promo directly into the camera — you know, where the fans watching are — and addressing Randy Orton directly. You could even argue it was better without a live crowd! That’s a testament to the story these two are telling, and Edge’s talent as a performer, that he can pull off both without either side losing anything.
It was basically downhill from there.
Undertaker and AJ Styles had a typical contract signing segment, one that didn’t look all that different than any other. It was played exactly like it would have been played had the venue been full.
Where it really got bad was when Becky Lynch made her entrance.
This one's for you, @QoSBaszler.#Raw @BeckyLynchWWE pic.twitter.com/7PpHeOR0nt— WWE (@WWE) March 17, 2020
She’s looking out at an empty arena! Why is she playing to a crowd that doesn’t exist? It’s just the wrestler in the ring doing the thing the wrestler always does when she makes an entrance. It’s just standard, which is what WWE has become.
Worse yet, she proceeded to cut an entire promo directly addressing Shayna Baszler, her opponent at WrestleMania 36, as though she was talking to the crowd. It wasn’t like Edge, who looked directly into the camera right next to him in the ring. No, Becky looked out to the hard camera like she was looking into the audience. Again, the standard.
Then, amazingly enough, the cameras cut backstage to show Shayna Baszler, in the very same building, watching all this on a monitor backstage. They literally had Lynch cut a promo speaking directly to Baszler to an empty arena while Baszler herself was watching on a monitor backstage instead of just having them both in the ring talking to each other. Again, this is just WWE doing its standard thing as though the show should go on exactly as it would if there was a live audience.
It’s the same old recycled material.
If there’s ever a time to experiment with something new, it’s when no one expects the same old, same old because of circumstances beyond everyone’s control. But despite those circumstances, WWE insists on pushing ahead with its same tired tropes, no matter how goofy and out of place they may be.
That includes having Stone Cold Steve Austin, one of the greatest of all time, doing a bad stand up comedy act for an audience of one, Byron Saxton, for the purposes of setting up a Stunner. He, too, played for the crowd that wasn’t there.
This was especially discouraging because, well, this is what we’re getting for the next few weeks at the very least, and likely even longer. WWE is going to do what WWE does, circumstances be damned, and expect that everything will be okay in the end.
The thing is, it almost certainly will be, which won’t give them any incentive to change how things are done.
It’s going to be a long couple months.