This spring, WWE pulled up stakes and moved its weekly shows to the state with the second-most COVID-19 cases in America — Florida. After doing shows from its Performance Center, Vince McMahon and company have now settled into the Amway Center, which normally hosts the Orlando Magic.
Welcome to the WWE Thunderdome. As part of the ambiance of the new digs, WWE has introduced a wall of virtual fans, a la the NBA and the Democratic National Convention.
To be a virtual fan, all one had to do, initially, is go to WWE’s site, register for an event (Smackdown, RAW, or a pay-per-view show) and be chosen on a first-come first-serve basis. If you can already see the potential problems with this, you’re way ahead of WWE.
On Monday Night RAW last night, the virtual crowd included images of Chris Benoit — a former wrestler who killed his entire family in a murder-suicide — a KKK rally, and what appeared to be grainy footage of a beheading.
We’re not including images of that last one.
WWE is obviously aware of the problem (now) with letting fans, unsupervised, appear on national television. The company gave Deadspin the following statement:
“This abhorrent behavior does not reflect WWE‘s values and we have zero tolerance for these unacceptable acts. We are working to ban those involved from future events and, per our policies, any inappropriate actions result in the removal from the livestream.”
To be fair, thousands of fans are coming through the Thunderdome at any given time, making it hard to police what everyone is doing, but that’s a problem WWE needed to solve before it made the decision to put randos on TV with no barrier to entry.
As it stands, WWE found there are a lot more reasons to ban people than an AEW T-shirt.