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Baseball can learn from wrestling’s empty arena shows

Professional wrestling and baseball have always fought for the top spot of my heart. My first memories of baseball came after moving into my house on Long Island. My mom had an extra-inning game on during the 1995 season. I couldn’t tell you who won or what even happened. Just that it was the Yankees against someone.

A few years later professional wrestling was brought into my life. Stone Cold Steve Austin was one of the greater heroes I’d ever known and he wasn’t even a hero. He just whooped your ass regardless of who you were. That kind of stuff resonates with kids ya know?

In these recent years, baseball has obviously dominated my heart but now, with the world coming to a standstill with no clear finish to this virus in sight, all that’s left right now is wrestling. Other than watching old episodes of Oz and realizing all my favorite actors got their starts playing murderers, rapists and neo-nazis, professional wrestling has really taken the charge in being the only live form of entertainment left.

Right now both the WWE and All Elite Wrestling have essentially quarantined all their talent to one location and have kept putting on shows. The one caveat is that it’s an empty arena.

What was once a live experience in front of 15,000 – 20,000 people depending on the arena has now been reduced to a small set and wrestlers telling their story in a ring set up in practice facilities. When it is done right, I’ve noticed, you really forget the audience isn’t there. I hope the powers-that-be in the MLB, NBA, and NHL are watching right now. Professional wrestling – that fake thing everyone laughed at – is laying the groundwork for all of you.

WWE was the first to do a show with no audience. It seemed, with the sudden news of the world shutting down because of the Coronavirus the first show had a weird pacing to it. There were matches, promo segments with wrestlers on the microphone and in the middle of it all was an old match from earlier this month that lasted about an hour.

It wasn’t a full show because of that old match but you can’t hold that against them. Monday Night Raw was the same. This time around there was more original content between promo segments and matches.

There was this year’s Royal Rumble taking up time but this time around it seemed they were getting the hang of things a bit more. It had more of a feeling of a wrestling show than the last.

Now I’m not sure how many of you reading this know what All Elite Wrestling is. I’m sure the thought of WWE, the biggest wrestling promotion going, is not something that catches your interest so talking about an even lesser-known one doesn’t make this any better. Right now though, until Wrestlemania weekend where I’m sure WWE will pull out all the stops, they are probably the best evidence that you can do a live event without an audience.

It was all original content with no old matches. The best way to explain AEW is that, if WWE is Bon Jovi then AEW is the Sex Pistols. Here are what some of their matches looked like from the other night.

Instead of showing older matches from the year they ended up producing cinematic segments to move the story along. I fully expect WWE to use this method by the time Wrestlemania rolls around.

Then there were wrestlers singing each other’s theme songs. Don’t know how this adds to this article other than it’s just entertaining.

I really love both companies. At this point, I feel like AEW has done the best job of making me forget there were no fans there. Halfway through the show, I had already forgotten that I was watching something affected by a disaster but instead just saw it as another live event.

That is perfect. It’s what we all need.

Baseball’s implementation

Unless things get worse – and that is well within reason guys – I really think baseball can do something like this. It’s going to be a while before things are normal again. You can’t possibly put an ETA on a health crisis like the one we’re facing at this moment. Here is what we can do though.

We can try to capture normal as much as possible. Baseball following the path of professional wrestling can make this happen.

If there is a way to have teams face each other while also doing it safely, I think baseball has to do it. It won’t be the greatest presentation or be up to our standards but at this time, with the world in the state, it’s in, it’s time to put what we believe to be our standards away.

If there are things that can make us happy then let’s take it. They don’t need to be pitch perfect and squeaky clean. Reading all the news in Italy and Iran where they don’t even have time to bury bodies, I would appreciate a three hour game with an Aaron Judge moonshot to take things off my mind.

Play 162 in the Trop for all I care. If it can happen things will be a little better. Not by much because in the end, the most important thing will be our health. A little better is better than what we have right now though.