Brock Lesnar performed at WrestleMania this past weekend. The event, which took place Saturday and Sunday, went on despite the coronavirus pandemic that has shut down pretty much every other event. WWE held the show without fans, mostly at its training center in Orlando, Florida. Associated Press/Don Feria

COVID-19 has certainly changed the landscape, not just in sports but in the way we go about our lives. Sitting here on the edge of my bed typing this column sure reminds me of that.

For the sports-starved fans, it has been difficult, not having baseball, hockey, basketball, the NCAA men’s and women’s hoop tournaments, etc.

Over the weekend, the World Wrestling Federation did its best to give sports a boost, bringing us two days of Wrestlemania, easily the company’s biggest event each year. Originally, the plan was to hold the marquee event in front of 70,000 fans at Tampa, Florida’s Raymond James Stadium, the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

When the coronavirus began its path of disrupting our lives, the WWE had a choice. It could cancel the event, postpone to a later date, or put it on in front of zero fans. Owner Vince McMahon chose to play on, with the event repackaged as “too big for just one night.”

WWE superstars converged on the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, with four hours of programming held on Saturday and Sunday (the matches were taped last week).

So how did the WWE do?

First off, kudos to the WWE for going forward. I’m sure it was as tough decision, with the company surly losing millions of dollars just in merchandise sales alone. For us professional wrestling fans, we thank the WWE for giving us something.

As with any event, there were ups and downs on both action-packed nights. There was a bone-yard match pitting the iconic Undertaker against one of the very best in A.J. Styles, who certainly will go down as one of the best in-ring competitors of all time. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt and John Cena took us through the Firefly Funhouse (think an evil Mr. Rogers show). These were less about classic wrestling matches than plain old entertainment.

The WWE women were busy. Alexis Bliss and Nikki Cross won the tag titles, Becky Lynch and Bayley retained, and Charlotte Flair will look to give WWE’s third show a boost after winning the NXT title from Rhea Ripley.

The show stealer came on Sunday when Edge, coming off a nine-year retirement, defeated the Viper Randy Orton in a last-man standing match. Kevin Owen and Seth Rollins were superb on Saturday, with Owens using a “Stone Cold stunner” to win. And both the WWE’s main titles changed hands, with Braun Strowman defeating Goldberg for the Universal title and Drew McIntyre upsetting the Beast Brock Lesnar for the WWE title.

There were some downers, as two of WWE’s top stars — Roman Reigns and Mike “The Miz” Mizanin — skipped the event, Reigns choosing not to participate because of his leukemia scare 18 months ago, and “The Miz” making a decision to not work the show.

Again, the results of this year’s Wrestlemania is not the story. Wrestlemania 36 will go down as the year that the event went on without a live audience, a central part of professional wrestling, especially in the WWE. Monday Night RAW, Wednesday night NXT and the young upstart All-Elite Wrestling, and Friday night Smackdown will likely continue on without fans.

We know that eventually this pandemic will end, life will begin to go back to normal and sports will return to our everyday lives. We will be able to go out to a restaurant, watch a movie, go the mall, and live out our lives. Hopefully, this type of world-changing event will never return.

However, rather than rip on WWE for putting on what many consider a sub-standard event, let’s take a second to remember that for eight hours this weekend, we were entertained. For me, that was all that I was looking for to break up the mundane.

BOB CONN is The Times Record sports editor. He can be reached at [email protected]

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