Why WWE Should Pretape Shows During Coronavirus Pandemic
This isn't a situation of one random live event being canceled because of bad weather or an episode of Raw having to move venues for one week. Instead, mass gatherings and events are being canceled across the country in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19.
As a result, WWE's weekly shows have been filmed in an empty arena at the Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, where WrestleMania 36 will also take place without fans in attendance on April 5.
Given that this situation is unlikely to change in the near future, WWE should consider pretaping all of its upcoming shows rather than recording them live.
Normally with a live audience, pretaping can give people in attendance the opportunity to spoil the event before it airs. Without a crowd, though, prerecording episodes can help make the shows run smoother in more ways than one.
Here are four reasons why WWE should pretape shows while no fans are in attendance.
Scheduling Talent Will Be Easier
In a regular week, everyone must be at the arena well enough in advance to finalize the script, prepare for the show and be ready to go by broadcast time.
Of course, problems can happen with that setup. If someone is running late, their segment has to be pushed back or canceled.
But WWE can avoid that problem now, as any segment an be recorded at any time that would be most beneficial. Talent can be booked to film in appointments rather than sitting around waiting to do their couple of minutes.
Instead of recording all of Main Event and Raw from 7:30 p.m. until 11 p.m. with no grace period, WWE could be working on it through Saturday-Monday leading up to the broadcast and then start next week's content after that is filmed.
Superstars could even record their content for multiple shows at once and not have to come back to the Performance Center for two weeks or more at a time.
This will also cut down on the number of people gathering in one spot at the same time, which could help efforts to avoid spreading COVID-19 and promote less traveling and greater social distancing.
Retakes Can Be Done
If there's a botch in a match in front of a live crowd, it can't be changed. Sometimes when WWE tapes in advance, a rematch will happen so an alternate take can be filmed, but the live crowd will still see it and can report on it.
In front of no audience at the Performance Center, any errors can be rectified for broadcast purposes.
Those corrections can be made prior to the finished product, which means viewers see the best presentation possible.
Experimentation Is Not Risky
Since taping in advance can allow for adjustments and retakes, the formula of filming in general will have more room for experimentation.
In front of a crowd, the cameras are mostly there to pick up the action. It's more about making sure it's all captured rather than filming it in a dynamic way.
These Performance Center shows don't have to be filmed in a multi-camera style, with most people ringside to cover all the bases. Camera operators can climb a turnbuckle if it allows for a better shot.
Producing these shows more like movies can lead to innovative ideas of how to film things going forward when events resume. Perhaps it will open WWE's eyes to new technology or even just appreciation of the camera operators.
It can also change the static filming operations. The product has been so streamlined for decades that when Superstars spill to the outside, we know a commercial break is coming, as that has been WWE's most convenient way to take a break.
A fresh take on the presentation of wrestling could rejuvenate interest from those who have become complacent in the same stuff every week.
With everything filmed in advance, WWE will have the full scope of content to work with to make sure the episode flows well.
The more time the editing team has to work on something, the better the overall product will be. If a match feels too dull when watching it back, WWE can cut portions of it, fill in the gaps with retakes or commercial breaks and make new content to pad the runtime of the show.
A match could be 20 minutes long, cut down to 10 minutes and the remaining 10 needed for the show could be given to something else that wasn't originally planned.
Even just reordering segments without editing their content can make a big difference to the pacing, which isn't possible when shows are produced live.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.