Around the world major events are being cancelled. All sports leagues have been postponed, music festivals are being pulled and even the great Eurovision Song Contest isn’t going ahead this year.

However, there is one event that defied this trend and went ahead, albeit in an unusual fashion: WrestleMania.

The 36th annual edition of WWE’s flagship and longest running event was supposed to take place at Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Raymond James Stadium on April 6th, but due to the coronavirus pandemic was moved behind closed doors to WWE’s Performance Centre in Orlando.

If the thought of the biggest event in wrestling, which usually boasts attendances of anywhere between 50,000-100,000, taking place with no fans sounds odd, you would be correct.

Much like any of the football matches that took place in empty arenas, hearing the echoes of the athletes can be disconcerting. But unlike sports, wrestlers are performers, and being able to hear every word they are saying can actually add to the story line of the matches.

Braun Strowman went on to deafeat Goldberg to become Universal Champion.

One great example was the fantastic match between Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins. Their latest rivalry saw Seth turn heel for the first time in years and ignite this personal feud, which has been raging on and off for years. Hearing every word added to the huge moment when Owens asked Rollins ‘how’s this for a WrestleMania moment?’, before diving 20ft onto Rollins, driving him through an announce table.

Another unique way WWE approached the problem of an empty arena was to shoot segments completely differently to a normal match. There were two examples of matches as cinematic storytelling rather than a sporting contest. The first being the ‘Boneyard Match’ between veteran The Undertaker, and former WWE Champion AJ Styles. This was more like a 20 minute action film fight sequence than a wrestling match, and ended with AJ Styles buried alive as The Undertaker rode off on his motorcycle.

WWE also used the change of venue to build up the event across two nights. The second night saw Hollywood star John Cena return to his wrestling roots, but also show off his newly demonstrated acting credentials in the most radical, and incredible, ‘match’ of the night. Cena faced ‘The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt, a children’s television presenter with a demonic alter ego. They had a ‘Firefly Fun House’ match, which took place inside the fantasy world, with John Cena taking an imaginary journey through his career and past failures.

In contrast to the cheesy action style Boneyard Match, this was an incredible and introspective look at John Cena’s career, including his transition to acting, troubles in his personal life with his engagement and separation from fellow WWE Superstar Nikki Bella, and reports of Cena ‘burying’ up and coming talent, as he did to Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania 30. This all culminated in Wyatt revealing that Cena might actually be a heel after all, and proceeded to defeat, and vanish him from his Fun House.

Drew McIntyre became the first ever British born WWE Champion.

The rest of the event was a mixed bag, fraught with last minute changes due to Superstars pulling out over health concerns. Leukaemia survivor Roman Reigns withdrew from his scheduled match with Universal Champion Goldberg and was replaced last minute with Braun Strowman, who went on to win the title in a disappointing match.

The main event of former UFC Heavyweight Champion, and current WWE Champion Brock Lesnar against Royal Rumble winner Drew McIntyre, set to be a mammoth clash, felt anti-climactic. The end result of the first ever British born WWE Champion being crowned felt extremely underwhelming as Drew posed on the turnbuckles to a completely empty arena, in what should have been the pinnacle of his career.

Overall WWE’s decision to press ahead with WrestleMania has been seen as either commendable or foolish. On one hand, it has provided fans with much needed entertainment and distraction from the global pandemic. On the other, it has greatly affected the staging of the event, and thousands of fans have missed out on the opportunity to see these moments live.