Fate of WWE’s Wrestlemania 36 expected to be decided next week


Brock Lesnar (Don Feria/AP)

WrestleMania 36 is set to take place at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Sunday, April 5. As numerous North American sports leagues continue to postpone and cancel games, sports entertainment fans have been looking to WWE for answers on the possibility of postponing, cancelling or moving WrestleMania.

Hillsborough County, which is home to Tampa, has voted to impose a local state of emergency for seven days, in an effort to combat the COVID-19 outbreak. However, the group did not make a decision on WrestleMania. Instead, they will reconvene in a week, if necessary, to vote on the fate of WWE’s biggest show of the year.

In a statement to Sportsnet, WWE said, "the health and safety of our fans, performers and employees are our top priorities and we are monitoring the situation closely with our partners and government officials in Tampa Bay. We remain committed to hosting WrestleMania at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, April 5, and like many other entertainment properties in the U.S., there are currently no plans to cancel or postpone our upcoming events."

As of late Wednesday, the state of Florida had 29 COVID-19 cases with close to a dozen originating from the Tampa area, according to the Tampa Bay Times. There are over 1,000 cases in the United States.

Meanwhile, WWE was supposed to broadcast SmackDown from Little Caesars Arena in Detroit this Friday, however due to coronavirus concerns, the company has decided to move the event from Detroit to its performance centre in Orlando.

"Friday Night SmackDown on March 13 will air live as regularly scheduled and emanate from WWE’s training facility in Orlando, Florida with only essential personnel in attendance. The event was originally scheduled in Detroit, Michigan," WWE said in a statement.

WWE was set to host a live event in Toronto on Saturday, but has since cancelled it. An official announcement will likely be made Friday. In regards to other upcoming shows, WWE released a statement earlier Thursday that read, “We are putting contingency plans in place in the event that upcoming WWE shows are cancelled by government officials, civil authorities and/or local venues. We are monitoring the situation closely and as always we will take the necessary precautions to protect the health and wellness of our fans, performers and employees.”

U.S. states such as New York and Ohio have imposed bans on large mass gatherings, which will directly affect WWE shows set for later this month. Youngstown, Ohio was supposed to host a live the event on Sunday, the day after the Toronto event, and New York City was scheduled to host an event at Madison Square Garden on March 22.

The NBA announced the postponement of the remainder of their season on Wednesday night after it was discovered that Utah Jazz forward Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19. The Jazz visited the Detroit Pistons at the Little Caesars Arena, the scheduled site of SmackDown this Friday, on Saturday, March 7. Utah’s next game was at home to the Toronto Raptors on Monday, March 9. Due to recent contact with Gobert, Raptors players have been told to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Tampa was set to host NCAA March Madness games on March 19 and 21, but NCAA officials have decided to cancel the men’s and women’s tournaments. In addition, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will not permit general admission to watch the race scheduled for Sunday, March 15.

The Tampa Bay Vipers of the XFL, who play at Raymond James Stadium, had a game scheduled Saturday. However late Thursday, the XFL became one of the last leagues in North America to announce it would be suspending operations. WWE chairman Vince McMahon owns both the Vipers and the XFL. It’s worth noting that McMahon sold US$272 million in WWE stock to help re-launch the XFL this year.

If WrestleMania does go on as planned, it may do so with significantly less fans. The United States has suspended travel from continental Europe for the next 30 days in an effort to combat the spread of the virus. It’s well known that WrestleMania gathers fans from all around the globe. For instance, WrestleMania 34 in 2018 attracted fans from 67 countries around the world.

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