In case you haven’t heard, Wrestlemania is back in business; both literally and figuratively, considering that’s the actual tagline for this year’s much-anticipated event.
As a child, I have vivid memories of watching cultural phenomenons like the Ultimate Warrior—who was later revealed to be the Ultimate Dick Head—and Hulk Hogan—who describes himself as “racist to a point” because of his strong disdain for “fucking niggers”—relentlessly clotheslining each other to my horrified delight. But as my adolescence waned, so did my interest in Vince McMahon’s unique brand of entertainment. Although throughout the years, I’d be lying if I said the choreographed sport I once knew and loved didn’t pique my interest on occasion.
2020 robbed us of just about everything we hold dear, and for wrestling fanatics, included among that list was the ability to attend Wrestlemania 36 in person due to COVID-19 acting like an asshole. A year later, however, as many as 25,000 fans will pour into Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.—please wear a damn mask, y’all—for Wrestlemania 37 this weekend. They’ll also make history as the WWE’s first live audience since the pandemic began.
I told y’all they’re back in business! Taglines never lie, dammit!
Prior to the weekend’s festivities, WWE superstars Bianca Belair and Drew McIntyre chopped it up with select press and expressed their excitement at not only getting the opportunity to beat the shit out of Sasha Banks and Bobby Lashley—their scheduled opponents—but being able to perform in front of actual living breathing human beings for the first time in over a year.
“I feel like it’s going to be a huge family reunion,” Belair said. “We’re having 25,000 people each night and we’ll keep everyone safe following safety protocols. But for me, my family is such a huge part of what I do. They come to all my big events, all of my big matches, and they haven’t been able to be there for over a year. So it’s going to be so fun seeing everyone’s faces. It’s going to be just an amazing feeling to have my family there and know that they’re going to be a part of the moment. So I can’t wait. It’s going to be a magical two nights.”
“It doesn’t even seem real after the past year,” McIntyre said. “I’m so proud of everything we’ve been able to do and keep everyone entertained during these difficult times. We miss our fans so much. They’re our number one, superstar secret sauce. The atmosphere is like nothing in the world. Our fans are so passionate [...] The atmosphere is going to be electric and I can’t wait.”
“We always say what we do at WWE is put smiles on fans’ faces,” Belair said. “I don’t think it’s said enough that the fans put smiles on our faces.”
As for what they learned while performing without fans for so long that they look to apply now that the traditional wrestling atmosphere is set to return, Belair explained how having to be hyper-focused on her character and performance actually made her a much stronger wrestler.
“I always knew the importance of performing,” she began. “But without a crowd, we really had to rely on connecting with people through a television screen. So for me, I debuted on Raw and Smackdown, and I won the Royal Rumble with no crowd. So it’s really just depending on your talent and depending on the depth of your character and trying to get people to feel something. I learned a lot about that and I feel like it’s made me a better performer.”
Belair will also be making history this weekend when she fights against Banks in the WWE’s first-ever title match to feature two Black women. So when asked which bout he’s most excited about, for McIntyre, the answer was obvious.
“Bianca versus Sasha.”