Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 2 July 2020

Crowdless WWE shows are proving one thing: professional wrestlers are great actors

The upcoming WrestleMania event will go on for the first time without a live crowd

The WWE has been broadcasting its weekly shows without a live audience because of the coronavirus outbreak. 
The WWE has been broadcasting its weekly shows without a live audience because of the coronavirus outbreak. 

People sometimes argue about what exactly professional wrestling is. Is it a sport, or just athletes acting out characters while performing impressive physical feats?

The truth is, it's somewhere in between, but something that cannot be argued is how well these wrestlers can sell you their assumed characters.

Growing up, everyone around me believed that everything that went on in the ring was the truth, and that when The Undertaker squared up against Kane, he was indeed battling his brother.

With time, we came to understand that professional wrestling was not really any different to some of our other favourite shows such as The Power Rangers. These big, muscular men were not who they claimed to be, and were just portraying a persona written for them.

With all the cancellations and postponements in the sports world due to the coronavirus, professional wrestling has been no exception.

Earlier in the week, the WWE had both of its live weekly shows, Smackdown and Raw, go on without an audience at the Performance Centre in Orlando, Florida. The events had the Superstars arguing and wrestling to no one but the camera.

This also revealed something extraordinary: professional wrestlers are excellent actors.

Removing the live crowds from the equation, and performing purely for the camera, as actors would on a soap opera, has shown another side to WWE Superstars.

When wrestlers step into the ring for a match, they are mostly reacting to and working off of the mood of the crowd. When a wrestler is beloved, the crowd will raise him higher through their cheers. When a wrestler is hated, they will boo him and he will use that to his advantage.

But when put into that most intimate of scenarios, the wrestlers, against the odds, shine.

Take for example the confrontation between "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt and his WrestleMania opponent John Cena. The two got into the ring to verbally confront each other before their anticipated matchup.

What unfolded was an extraordinary monologue by Wyatt that would surely see him cast as the nemesis of a superhero in the next big comic book adaptation. Thanks to a lack of a crowd, we were purely focused on both wrestlers and their words.

The stripped down, raw nature of fleshing out the character a wrestler has built is usually interrupted by how crowds feel about him (especially when it comes to chants), but when given the chance to perform, uninterrupted, the characters come alive before our eyes.

The stars, and the organisation they work for, will undoubtedly prefer to have live crowds as professional wrestling is ultimately a spectator-reliant event. But the small silver lining we can look forward to during these trying times is enjoying the supreme acting chops the wrestlers clearly have.

Updated: March 17, 2020 04:55 PM

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