The COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost every aspects of our daily lives. It has also changed the way we approach things as we discover what’s the “new normal” is – from the way we shop to the way we consume content and the way that content is delivered.
The professional wrestling and the WWE have been entertaining fans in packed arenas and venues for decades. The sport, which feds off audience interaction like no other, now faces a challenge like never before as it, and the athletes, have to compete and perform in empty arenas and stadiums.
On Ep3 of justsaying with… we chat with reigning WWE Champion, Drew McIntyre, who won his title in an empty arena on how he now approaches his matches and how he feels that the way, he and the WWE have adapted to find ways to continue engaging with the audience during the pandemic and beyond.
Zed: Do you approach matches a different way than you previously would, now that you’ve got the title and have to defend it?
Drew Mcintyre: I don’t approach matches different just because I’ve got a championship. I’m guess I must, but I think the reason I approach matches slightly different is because of the environment we’re in.
When you’ve got crowd there, the crowd can sometimes change the flow of a match by how they’re reacting or the adrenaline of the performers in the ring. Now, I don’t know what happens.
I guess the best way to describe it is like if you’ve ever been in a bar fight or a pub fight, and you get out there and then there’s just maybe a few people in the bar, but we start fighting it’s just going to be you and that a person you’re fighting out there and there’s not much outside beside a couple of voices around.
So I guess that’s what my matches resemble now – more of a bar fight, you know, very physical. I go out there and I’ll smack my opponent very quick and with the environment we’re in, you can hear all the shots. So there’s no punches pulled in a Drew McIntyre fight. I hit somebody you feel at home and they better hit me back or I’m gonna eat them alive.
It’s as simple as that, because I want my matches to feel different. When it’s their champion out there, I want people to go “oh it’s Drew McIntyre time”, this is going to get good. You’re going to feel these shots through the screen so you can feel bad for my opponents because it’s basically a bar fight.
Z: I think when you compare the WWE to most other sports, it has the most amount of audience interaction and communication with the fans. What are you doing new that continues this connection with the fans, even though they’re not there?
DM: I’m trying to figure it out like the other superstars how to best embrace this environment. You can’t just go out there and pretend there’s 20,000 people there because there’s not 20,000 people there.
So I go out the best I can and embrace it. I walk out there and there’s no one there but a cameraman and three commentaries and I’m probably going to go, (waves) “Oh guys, how are you doing?”, because there’s nobody else there and it feels natural to do.
I’m going to do it because if I’m relaxed and having a good time the fans at home are like “okay you know I can watch this. This is easy watching and it doesn’t look like he’s very uncomfortable the whole time”.
And going forward, like as you say we’re learning different things and if it works, we’re going to apply it and when things resume back to normal. For me, you know making that connection to people at home, by using the camera – we’re able to look into the camera.
I think we should continue to do that in the right circumstances. If you’re looking to make a point to your opponent who is maybe backstage. If you’re looking to speak to the people back home – like I keep saying there’s no greater connection than eye contact and the people in the building, that’s one thing you play off of them, you have fun with them.
It’s one of my favorite things to do, especially since I’ve been allowed to interact with the fans in the arena. But when I want to make my point, or I want to hammer something home to people at home, I really want to look in that camera and see it and I think that is something that I will continue to do until I get told to stop.
WWE Raw is shown live from the US on Tuesday mornings at 8am on: