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From A Fire To Terrible Crowd Lights, WWE’s Royal Rumble In-Person Fan Experience Had Problems

Ronda Rousey in the WWE
(Image credit: WWE)

A few of my colleagues went to The Royal Rumble to cover the event last night. I got jealous and bought a ticket to just go as a fan because it’s the freakin’ Royal Rumble, and the card was really solid. On the whole, I’m glad I went. Some of the creative choices were a little odd, but there were some great matches. Also, it’s the freakin’ Royal Rumble. Even when it’s whatever, it’s great. That being said, I need to talk about the in-person fan experience because there were several huge problems, to put it nicely.

First, as you may have seen, the Royal Rumble sign caught on fire after some pyrotechnics went off. It wasn’t a raging inferno, but the giant sign had to be lowered from the rafters to the ground in order to extinguish it. Unfortunately, the sign was on top of a bunch of floor seats. So, ushers had to rope off the entire area, move all of the people sitting there and slowly lower the sign. This took at least fifteen or twenty minutes. Check out a picture after the fire was put out below…

WWE sign with smoke coming out after the fire was put out.

(Image credit: Mick Joest)

If you were wondering why there wasn’t more crowd noise during the Becky Lynch and Doudrop match, it’s probably because the whole arena was in WTF mode. There were also multiple sections (thankfully not mine) that had most or all of the ring obstructed from their view the entire time this was going on. There were enormous cheers when the sign was finally raised again. It also caught fire a second time, but thankfully that was after the Men’s Rumble was over.

Obviously, freak accidents happen. I ordinarily wouldn’t throw shade at a live event for something weird like that, but unfortunately, it was far from the only logistical problem WWE had at the Royal Rumble. Throughout the entire event, large sections of the crowd had problems seeing the ring. Initially, I just thought it was my section. There was a really bright light shining into the crowd that made it difficult to see the video screen and was distracting when trying to see the ring itself.

As people in my section repeatedly screamed “turn the lights off,” I figured we must have just gotten really unlucky with our section choice, but then I heard a completely different section, maybe 10 or so down from us, start chanting “turn the lights off.” Then I heard people screaming from a completely different section that they couldn’t see. I spoke to other people I knew who went to the event who mentioned the same thing. So, I looked on Twitter and sure enough, tons of tweets and pictures from people saying they had trouble seeing. You can check out the view from my seat below...

WWE Light shining from the ring.

(Image credit: Mack Rawden)

Basically, on top of at least two different video screens, there was what appeared to be almost like a flood light that you can see above. It would turn off when music was on or people were making their entrances, but then as soon as the lighting was switched back to normal, it would come on, eliciting an audible groan throughout many portions of the arena. I get that you need to light the crowd for television purposes, but you know what else is good for television? Fans having a good time and being into it. I was fortunate. I was low enough where I could basically see with limited issue if I didn’t glance up, but there were others with higher seats who just flat out couldn’t see. I mean just look at the "view" from this person's seat.

I don’t know what happened. Maybe this is standard WWE behavior. Maybe this was just a mistake from the lighting people. Stuff happens during live events. Signs catch on fire. Stage lights are too bright. Whatever. I’m seriously not the type of person to look for stuff to complain about. I just want to focus on the event and have fun, but the above weren’t even the only glaring in-person issues.

You know those people who normally check your tickets when you try to enter 100 level seats? Those didn’t exist here. Maybe that's on WWE. Maybe it's on the venue. I don't know. Unfortunately, this was quickly realized by many in the crowd. So, by the halfway point of the event, there was an arc of people just standing in the walkways between the seated fans and the ring in the 100 level. This wasn’t a my section problem; this was an arena-wide problem. You could just scan your eyes and see a swarm of people milling about and not moving in all the walkways.

Even worse, the raised seats in the 100 level of the Dome at America’s Center in St Louis aren’t really that much higher than the walkway. So, these people were partially obstructing the views of the guests in those first few rows who actually had those seats. Many of them were also drunk, stumbling around and forming large packs. One of them in my section was standing in front of a kid and completely blocking his view, though thankfully he at least moved a few feet down when a dad asked.

I don’t really know what to say. I love WWE. The Royal Rumble is my favorite event of the year. I’m glad I went. There is a sense of anticipation when the clock starts counting down that I’ve never experienced at other live events. I cheered. I booed. I rode the emotion of the crowd. I knew exactly where the Men’s Rumble was headed before it even started, and I still loved being there. It’s the freakin’ Royal Rumble.

But the in-person experience here was a mess. There’s no other way to put it. The lighting was distracting for many and seemed to completely ruin the experience for some. The sign catching on fire torpedoed the Becky Lynch/ Doudrop match and sucked all the energy out of the building. The operational/ crowd control portion of the event was a failure throughout, from drunk people lingering in all the walkways to giant, snaking food lines because half the concession stands were inexplicably closed.

When I look back on the Royal Rumble, I’ll remember a lot very fondly. I loved Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins and the story they told. I loved Ronda winning the Women’s Rumble, even if it was widely predicted. I loved the crowd pop for Johnny Knoxville and my section screaming for Rick Boogs. I’ll remember Mickie James, Pat McAfee dancing on the table for Shinsuke, Bad Bunny, the mixed tag match with The Miz, but unfortunately, I’ll also remember being kind of uncomfortable and frustrated the whole time. And that sucks.

Mack Rawden
Mack Rawden

Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, the NBA and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.