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While the majority of the entertainment industry has more or less shuttered during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, not everyone has been so quick to call it quits. Vince McMahon and the WWE, for instance, have waited a surprisingly long time to make a final decision regarding the upcoming pay-per-view event WrestleMania 36, which was set to take place on April 5, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida. That won't be the case anymore, however, as the WWE has announced this year's WrestleMania is changing locations and crowd strategies.
The good news here for pro wrestling fans is that the WWE is dedicated to making WrestleMania 36 a reality, although that necessarily means all of the event's match-ups will take place in a crowd-free environment. The action is shifting away from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay and will take place within the WWE's training facility in Orlando, which is where the company has been holding its weekly TV series, Monday Night Raw and SmackDown.
Here's the official statement from the WWE:
In coordination with local partners and government officials, WrestleMania and all related events in Tampa Bay will not take place. However, WrestleMania will still stream live on Sunday, April 5 at 7 pm ET on WWE Network and be available on pay-per-view. Only essential personnel will be on the closed set at WWE’s training facility in Orlando, Florida to produce WrestleMania.
So while this is most certainly a disappointment for anyone who had been planning to take a trip to watch WrestleMania 36 in Tampa Bay, it's also the safest possibly way for the event to still occur given the global COVID-19 pandemic. It was also the most inevitable course of action for the WWE in the face of so many other sporting events being postponed, not to mention all the TV production shut-downs, cancelled concert tours, movie theater closings, and Las Vegas casino closings, among all the other shake-ups across the country.
Also interesting to note is the start time for WrestleMania 36 is at 7:00 p.m. ET, which possibly implies that there won't be any pre-show matches such as the annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale, or the female-infused take on that match, the WrestleMania Women's Battle Royal. Considering "only essential personnel" will be present for the matches, and considering the heavy stance toward social distancing, a Battle Royale might not be the best idea, regardless of when it would take place.
As well, it's probably better for the WWE to move everything over to their own training facility, as opposed to going with Bray Wyatt's pitch for his match against John Cena to take place at Hooters. Especially considering restaurants are also being closed down in wide swaths.
For wrestling fans who want to learn more about the more problematic sides of the industry, Dark Side of the Ring is returning to Vice TV for Season 2, which will showcase Chris Benoit's tragic downfall, Owen Hart's death and many other eyebrow-raising stories that went beyond the squared circle. Perhaps one day, the complicated story of WrestleMania 36's upheaval will get depicted.
Don't forget, WrestleMania 36 will still be happening on Sunday, April 5, at 7:00 p.m. ET, but instead of seeing it happen at a fan-packed stadium in Tampa Bay, it will be within the enclosed training facility in Orlando. Hit up WWE Network or your preferred pay-per-view provider for information on how to order.