With the spread of COVID-19 continuing to play havoc with events throughout the globe, the WWE has taken the unprecedented step of moving their flagship event – Wrestlemania – from Tampa Bay to their performance centre in Orlando.
Easily the largest event on the professional wrestling calendar, the show had been expected to draw upwards of 70, 000 fans to Raymond James’ Stadium, the home of NFL side the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but now only personnel deemed ‘essential’ will be in attendance.
The WWE has already moved a number of tapings of its RAW, SmackDown and NXT shows from public venues to their Orlando training base.
Despite the move, the event, according to a statement released by the WWE on Tuesday morning, is still scheduled to go ahead on April 5 (April 6 in Australia).
“In coordination with local partners and government officials, WrestleMania and all related events in Tampa Bay will not take place,” WWE’s statement read.
“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.”
It is unclear at this stage how or even if fans that have purchased tickets for the event will have their tickets refunded.
Though it had long been considered a mere formality in light of the distancing measures and travel bans being put in place to fight the virus, confirmation that Wrestlemania has been cancelled represents a major blow to the Tampa Bay area and its surrounds.
Last year’s Wrestlemania 35 event reportedly created US$165.4m in economic impact for the hosting New York and New Jersey region.
With modern incarnations of Wrestlemania, much like the Superbowl, operating more like a week-long festival of professional wrestling rather than a one-off event, the shutter of public proceedings also throws into chaos the numerous independent wrestling events that were also set to be staged in the Tampa Bay area to coincide with the event.
These shows often provide one of the largest revenue sources for the promotions each year.