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WWE WrestleMania 37: Roman Reigns, Daniel Bryan Embraces Fans Returning After Thriving in the ThunderDome Era

On WrestleMania 37, WWE fans will welcome back to a live main roster event for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 25,000 fans attending the two-day event at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. In the main match of Night 1 on Sunday, Roman Reigns will defend the universal championship against the 2021 Royal Rumble winner Edge and Daniel Bryan. While all three men had unlikely trips to the main event, they also had to be the best stars during the most unique era in professional wrestling history.

With the onset of the pandemic, WWE moved all shows, including WrestleMania 36, ​​to their Performance Center in Orlando, Florida. Eventually, they would move the operations to the ThunderDome, an extensive lineup that brought back the standard entrances and extensive pyrotechnic exhibits with fans virtually on video boards around the ring. The ThunderDome was first housed in the Amway Center in Orlando before moving to Tropicana Field in St. Louis. Petersburg, Florida.

For Bryan, there was a unique excitement – one with a very limited attraction in the locker room – for the early period of wrestling in the empty WWE Performance Center at the start of the pandemic.

“I can not tell you how excited I was when we wrestled in the Performance Center in front of no people without additional sound effects,” Bryan told CBS Sports. ‘I thought’ This is so cool ‘. No one else thinks so and certainly as a viewer it is less interesting but for me and I do not know if I consider myself an artist but what we do is art. This is a true statement of how good you are at art. I really enjoyed the challenge. There were some people who really enjoyed it. Cesaro and I talk about it and Drew Gulak. Talking about it, without people, is one of the positive things that you do not have to entertain. people are alive and can do some of the wrestling better. That’s just the difference between theater and cinema, right? For someone who has struggled for as long as I have, I like any small change.

“But yeah, I’m ready for the fans to come back. I’m ready for the immediate feedback. There’s nothing like pro wrestling in front of a live crowd. It doesn ‘t matter if it’s 300 people and if it goes not to be 25,000 people.It’s clear that bigger stadiums are cooler and that you get immediate feedback on what you’re doing.Especially after returning from my concussion, it’s a bit to another level, where I’ll be fit “Sometimes I get chills. I’m very excited, but I do not want to diminish how nice it was to wrestle in front of no people, because it’s right in my alley.”

While Bryan saw himself as exactly the type of artist who could thrive with the blank canvas provided by the blank Performance Center, the move to the ThunderDome and the return of Reigns, who out of caution put out the beginning of the pandemic as’ a cancer survivor. , was a learning experience for a veteran placed by many of the greatest talents in WWE history.

Since his return at SummerSlam 2020, Reigns’ character has taken on new dimensions, both by wrestling a heel and a mixture of arrogance and intensity translated through interviews and his work within the ring.

“When I watched the show and saw Roman from a character perspective and the way he wrestled in the ThunderDome, I was like, ‘This is genius,'” Bryan said. ‘I do not know if it can translate well to a casual audience, but he accepted it and emphasized the positive aspects of no crowd … Romans, from a character perspective, is just another level of everyone in this era. “

The key to Reigns’ ‘genius’ for Bryan stems not only from his character work on the microphone, which Reigns has long won critical acclaim, but from the understanding that the environment in the ThunderDome offers a unique level of intimacy with which to tell stories. to tell during matches.

Where Bryan focused on the hood, kicks and corporeality of the action without fans, Reigns added a unique kind of dialogue to his matches. This was the focus of Reigns’ feud with Jey Uso and Kevin Owens, which enabled Reigns to tell in-ring stories with both visual and audio rhythms.

‘I agree 100% [that the stories are boosted by the intimacy of the environment]”Bryan said.” And he can speak quietly. It will be harder to do in front of a live audience. The ability to talk rubbish with your opponent in a match … like, I thought the things with Jey Uso were fantastic. Not just the matches they had, but that the story of the matches was told in an audio format, not just in the visual format of wrestling. It’s one of the things I hate about using the word ‘genius’ too much, but the ability to look at something with fresh eyes and see the positive. This is something I completely missed. When I thought about wrestling in the Performance Center and ThunderDome, I thought sound would be good with a lot of physical wrestling, where you can hear the kicks and coat hangers. You will be able to feel the physicality more because there are no fans. It did not bother me to speak the rubbish that Roman spoke, but also the story he audibly told through the process. When he did the Jey Uso game for the first time, I was like, ‘Oh my god, why didn’ t I think of that? ‘

Like almost everyone, Reigns says he’s excited about the return of a live crowd. Wrestling is at best an art form driven by the interaction between the artists and the crowd. Fans can have a huge impact on a match, not only through presentation and optics, but by giving feedback to the wrestlers about what is and is not connected to the viewer.

In an interview with CBS Sports, Edge discussed how difficult it is to perform without receiving the feedback, saying he had to rely on an ‘intestinal compass’ and used his decades of knowledge to internally calculate how a living crowd would respond to his interviews and matches. .

Reigns agrees with Edge and explains that, even with his well-received work in the ThunderDome, the thing he’s most excited about at WrestleMania is introducing himself and his current character to a live audience and the kind of reaction receive what comes from a true connection with living people in the stands. This will give him the validity he missed when he increased his game over the past eight months.

“Edge is not lying. It’s hard,” Reigns said. ‘It’s hard to do it in front of no one, but having the ThunderDome area is without a doubt better. But this is not a real connection. The crowd does not dictate what we do. They do not change my pace. and no hearing aids are called, because that’s what they’re doing or something. Participation is so crucial to this art form. This is the interaction based on eliciting a reaction. Without it we are not in our purest state of execution There is no doubt that there is a crowd – whether it is a full house, a half crowd or a quarter crowd – someone out there to be with us to dive into this performance and go with us on this emotional rollercoaster of physical storytelling, there is nothing like it. For me, it’s even more so because I returned to SummerSlam, where it was the first week of the ThunderDome; i think and that’s all i did. So, for me, Sunday night is not just going to be that night, it’s going to be about all the time that built up to that night.

“I have nine months of work with me – from character progression, dedication to the personality and the details of the stories I told each week. To being able to do all the hard work and frolic it all out and show it on the best of all, this is the ultimate cake. This is the reward. This is the trophy. To be able to post it all and make the crowd feel, whether they’re recognizing me carefully as they should or if they’re the hell of me. be the sign that the hard work and everything I did week after week … since August I have not taken a week off.I was on every SmackDown program, several segments, every week.I have more television- time spent like any other superstar on SmackDown.For me, WrestleMania is so much more than the interaction.It is to be able to go there and get the satisfaction of the audience and get the respect that I long for, that I act for and that my leads to being the greatest. “

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