WWE WrestleMania: Is a Small Arena or Stadium Better?
As we quickly approach WrestleMania XXVII in Miami’s Orange Bowl, I wonder if WrestleMania is better served in a smaller arena.
From a financial or purely aesthetic feel, the stadiums are unmatched; yet. the crowd elements and history of smaller arenas at WrestleMania make those the better option from a fan’s standpoint.
There is no question the large-scale look of WrestleMania inside a stadium is stunning.
The last time World Wrestling Entertainment invaded Miami for WrestleMania, they made the typically desolate Citrus Bowl Stadium look stunning.
Covering the ring with an outdoor canopy, Vince McMahon and the WWE were able to skirt any potential weather issues while packing 74,635 crazed wrestling fans into the otherwise sterile building.
Last year’s presentation in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome was nothing short of amazing, featuring a glowing video cube suspended above the ring and an always-great visual of 71,000-plus wrestling fans packed into a gigantic stadium.
From a purely aesthetic level, the large-scale stadiums are the way to go.
The major, “big-time” feel of 72,000 fans packing the University of Phoenix Stadium versus 13,000 inside an arena like WrestleMania XI’s Hartford Civic Center is without question.
Obviously, the extra 50,000 tickets sold are a nice bonus for WWE.
In addition to ticket revenue, you also must take into account 50,000 extra potential concessions purchases, cars parking and merchandise buys.
It is a knockout blow for stadiums over smaller arenas thus far. So, why do I think the smaller ones are better?
As a fan, I love the sound of a good smaller arena. WrestleMania XXII inside the Allstate Arena in suburban Chicago was one of my favorites of all time. The matches themselves were good, but the crowd was insane the entire event.
Watching the event live you felt more a part of the show and more entertained thanks to the passionate crowd.
That Chicago crowd single-handedly turned Mickie James into a short-term star, made John Cena the controversial champion (which he still largely tries to distance himself from) and made the Edge/Mick Foley hardcore match one of the top 20 WrestleMania matches of all time.
Energized crowds really do have that impact.
WrestleMania XX at the heralded Madison Square Garden surely did; Chris Benoit’s victory over Shawn Michaels and Triple H was special because of an insane New York City crowd.
On the flipside, the smarter, smaller crowd also took a negative approach to Brock Lesnar and Goldberg’s match when word got through the internet that Lesnar was breaking his WWE contract to pursue a career in the National Football League.
Likewise, Goldberg’s contract was ending. By all accounts, this would be the last match for both men. Feeling the two, moreover Lesnar, were turning their back on the fans, the Madison Square Garden crowd gave it to the duo throughout the match.
While the match itself was one of the worst in WrestleMania history, the moment is memorable because of the crowd.
Could that same moment happen at Ford Field with 80,103 fans? I do not think so.
The stadiums are nice to look at on my HDTV and I am sure they look great on Blu-Ray re-releases, but the audio is just not the same.
Even the epic matches lose something when the crowd noise rises to the skies and does not get trapped in an enclosed, smaller arena.
That is not to say Triple H and The Undertaker’s battle from last year lost anything from the stadium, but it is worth wondering just how loud the pop of Undertaker’s kick outs would have been at the Allstate Arena or Madison Square Garden.
I do not think WrestleMania ever will return to the smaller arenas because it simply does not make sense for a publicly traded company.
As long as the demand remains for 70,000-plus tickets, there is no reason to take to a 15,000-seat arena. But, hey, I am selfish and really love great crowd reactions, especially at giant shows.
This column also appears on VoicesofWrestling.com. Follow author Rich Kraetsch on Twitter @richkraetsch.