Just as the NBA, it appears WWE will move upcoming TV broadcasts to its Orlando, Florida Performance Center facility in order to blunt the spread of coronavirus.
This week’s episode of Friday Night SmackDown was scheduled to take place in Detroit, Michigan’s Little Caesar’s Arena. But instead, the show will air from the Performance Center, according to PWInsider’s Mike Johnson, a reputable wrestling journalist.
The publication notes that WWE will soon make an official statement. WWE was contacted by CNET but did not immediately respond.
SmackDown’s move from arena, where it would get an audience of 5,000 to 12,000, to Performance Center was also reported by Fightful’s Sean Ross Sapp. Sapp notes that WWE is considering moving more of its TV broadcasts to the Center. WWE has three weekly live TV shows, Monday’s Raw, Wednesday’s NXT and Friday’s SmackDown.
Wednesday night’s NXT show also broadcast from the Center due to the fact that Orlando’s Full Sail Arena, where NXT usually airs from, was booked for another event. Wednesday’s show featured a small crowd in the Performance Center, but it’s unclear if an audience will be allowed in if upcoming shows are moved there.
It would follow a nearly identical move by the NCAA, which announced Wednesday that its upcoming basketball games would be played in empty arenas. Professional wrestling, as a performance instead of a sport, relies more on audience participation and reaction, so removing the crowd entirely would be a particularly drastic measure for WWE.
If the move occurs, it could spell disaster for WWE’s upcoming WrestleMania 36 event. Scheduled for April 5, its set to pack out Tampa, Florida’s Raymond James Stadium, which has a capacity of around 65,000. WrestleMania moving to the Performance Center or a smaller arena would mean the WWE losing out on millions in ticket sales.
We may find out the fate of WrestleMania soon, as CBS Tampa journalist Ryan Bass reports that city officials will meet with the mayor on Thursday to discuss postponing major events.
After infecting over 121,000 and causing more than 4,300 deaths, the coronavirus outbreak was declared to be a pandemic on Wednesday by the World Health Organization. The WHO has in the past defined a pandemic as “the worldwide spread of a new disease.”
The coronavirus, which causes the illness COVID-19, spread to over 110 countries within three months. On Jan. 30, the WHO announced the coronavirus outbreak was a “public health emergency of international concern” around the time almost 8,000 cases had been confirmed across 18 countries and the death toll was approaching 200.
Also on Wednesday, President Donald Trump announced new travel restrictions that prohibit travel from Europe to the US.