Most years, media outlets that don’t usually cover WWE are awash in Superstar interviews during the build-up to WrestleMania.
This year, the coronavirus pandemic has talk & studio shows creating most of their content remotely, and WrestleMania 36 was pre-recorded on sets closed to fans. It will be interesting to see how much mainstream press WWE does this week - and who they send out to do it.
Because the people they do offer as interview subjects are going to have to answer questions about the company’s decision to go forward with the event when almost every other sports and entertainment worldwide has shut down similar productions.
ESPN is partnered with WWE to air old ‘Manias in the build-up to this year’s show (and to provide the Disney-owned network with something to fill their schedule with since every other league in the world is on hiatus). So it made sense Paul “Triple H” Levesque would appear on SportsCenter to promote those replays and this weekend’s new broadcasts.
Sure enough, John Anderson asked Haitch to “explain the decision to hold, and the conditions in place for the upcoming WrestleMania event.”
Here’s how he answered:
“Well you know, in this time I think we believe, WWE, I think our talent, our staff, our crew -that probably now more than ever, entertainment for people is a necessity. And them having something that they can tune into, forget about everything that’s going on or what they have happening in their lives or not being able to leave their house, or whatever it is, and just tune out for a few hours, tune into something that’s just fantastical, and just forget about it all. And we feel not only the need to do that but sort of the obligation to do that for people.
Our fans are there for us year-round. They’ve been doing it for years, and we have a message in the WWE that is, we say what our jobs are everyday is to put smiles on people’s faces all over the globe, and we truly believe that. And in this time, maybe more than any other in my memory, people need those smiles right now more than anything. So you know, we choose to carry on and to try to be able to deliver those smiles.
We’ve taken as much safety precaution as we can. Certainly the health of our talent and of our staff is primary and the biggest focus for us. So with medical screening and everything that we’ve done - we’ve followed the CDC’s instructions and tried to be as careful as possible. As we’ve done matches throughout various shows, whether it’s Raw, SmackDown, NXT, we have sort of scheduled out talent so there aren’t so many of them there at a time - sort of shifted the schedule around. So we’ve done everything possible.
And having these on closed sets without fans in attendance? It’s not ideal. But we feel like it’s worth it for us - the effort is worth it for us, the stretch is worth it for us, to be able to put those smiles on people’s faces when they need it the most.”
Anderson brings up Roman Reigns asking out of his scheduled match with Goldberg for his own health (Reigns lives with blood cancer and is immunocompromised), but Triple H says he didn’t “want to get into the specifics of WrestleMania, because that’s a ‘watch-and-see event’” before continuing:
“All of our talent are in this in a voluntary capacity. So right at the get go, if they don’t want to be a part of this, if they feel there’s a risk - for whatever reason, be it themselves or somebody around them - they don’t have to be here and there will... nothing is held against them for that. Same with our crew and everybody else. But we don’t want to take chances on that, and with Roman having a pre-existing condition that would make him more susceptible to something, it’s understandable.
We’ve had very few talent that have had issues or chosen to not be here... I can tell you that, you know for us - at least for me - an amazing process to be able to go to these events, everybody’s under immense pressure, obviously there’s a ton of work going into these and trying to do them. Even the talent. Performing in front of no one is not the easiest thing in the world. And yet everybody is here, they feel like - I think they just feel a sense of purpose. They’re all laughing, they’re smiling, they’re having a blast. These have been some of the most fun days of television, of everybody just staying within the rules and trying to do it, but happily going out there and trying to perform a service. And I don’t think people should look at it as anything more than that. We’re trying to put a smile on your face. If you enjoy it, hopefully you do, and that’s great.”
They’re good answers that are likely equal parts true and spin. They’re also answers which require a savvy PR person to deliver - and that’s not a knock on WWE or Triple H. I’m torn on their decision to continue producing shows, but they didn’t ask me. They made their decision, and The Game’s been called on to sell it. I think he does about as good a job of it as you can.
You can watch him above and decide for yourself.