Show of hands: how many people are actually enjoying the Empty Arena era of wrestling?
This is, of course, not wrestling's fault and in fact, they have zero choice in the matter. Because of the global pandemic, live crowds simply aren't permitted and because of the language in their lucrative television contracts, WWE is compelled to create hours of new programming each week. Thus, we're subject to weeks and likely months of empty arena shows just so that the world's largest company can honor its commitments.
But what if there were a workaround that satisfied everyone?
WWE has -- by extremely conservative estimates -- over 10,000 hours of content already recorded and ready to stream at a moment's notice. If you exclude 205 Live, syndicated and Network shows and of course monthly PPVs and really just focus on its three main weekly programs, the company is required to produce 7 hours each week of original content. That means (and again, this is oversimplifying everything) WWE has nearly 1,500 weeks worth of content they could drop at a moment's notice -- and I'd wager at least 98 percent of it was filmed in front of an actual audience.
Before we go any further... it's highly likely WWE has already thought of this and in fact, much of their programming over the past month has been supplemented with archived footage. And it's just as likely they've floated this idea to the folks at USA Network and Fox are were told in no uncertain terms "thanks, no."
But what if they got really fun and creative with the content they had? We're not talking about pressing play and watching last year's Money In The Bank event. It could be something such as:
This week's SmackDown being dedicated to a deep dive on the history between Braun Strowman and Bray Wyatt, using archived footage of actual matches, interspersed with new interviews of both men, plus their friends and rivals, discussing why this feud has become incredibly personal. I'd much rather have that than watch Strowman and Wyatt attempt to psyche each other out on a barren set.
The live programming for next week's Raw being cancelled next week and instead, we see The Best Of Kevin Owens? Imagine if you could watch three hours of Owens' best work on NXT, Raw and SmackDown (plus any indy footage of his they may own, who knows?) . I'd much rather that than have Owens face, say, Bobby Lashley in an arena completely devoid of passion and crowd noise.
A Best of NXT TakeOver series could run for several weeks, if not months, and it would probably have generate more interest than rising starts battling it out in front of no one.
WWE held draft episodes last year and they weren't very good. But what if they went all out and spent weeks shaping what Raw, SmackDown and NXT would look like once the world returned back to normal? Even drafting a couple of people each week and supplementing that with their best matches and "live" promos would be a step up.
Live commentary from people who participated in classic WrestleMania matches together, or a segment after the match airs that shows how important that contest was to them.
Heck.... even two or three hours of vintage matches from Saturday Night's Main Event, Clash of the Champions or similar shows, even without current context, would be a vast improvement over two opponents play-wrestling in front an empty arena.
Would the networks allow for this? Maybe not, as it's widely believed that these television contracts are based on a certain amount of live programming each week. But what would be preferred - another six months of meaningless, crowd-less matches that technically progress current storylines but do pitiful ratings? Or exciting, classic footage that - while certainly available on WWE Network and elsewhere - would generate considerably more excitement and buzz?
Ultimately, it will be up to WWE and its network partners to reconcile. But if forcing an off-season for a while in favor of showing classic WWE moments is even an option.... I know which scenario I'd rather tune into.