With the current climate making sports events a real tricky thing to execute, WWE have done their best to circumvent the issue by carrying on with their scheduled shows, just without fans in the crowd. For the first time in history, episodes of RAW, SmackDown Live and NXT are all being broadcast from an empty arena at the WWE PC. With only a skeleton crew of essential personnel present, it’s business as usual as we inch closer towards WrestleMania 36.
It’s strange to say this, but I’m starting to get used to these empty arena brawls. Yes, it’s a little odd having to watch the superstars play to a crowd when there’s nobody sat cheering them on, but there’s an alluring charm to it that makes empty arena matches seem a lot more exciting.
Professional wrestling has had its fair share of empty arena matches, whether that be storyline-based or just out of necessity. In this list, we’re going to take a look at the 5 best matches that took place in front of absolutely nobody.
5. Minoru Suzuki vs Sanshiro Takagi
Minoru Suzuki is used to performing at the Tokyo Dome in front of thousands upon thousands of rabid wrestling fans but in this case, the Never Openweight Champion competed in a match for DDT Pro that saw him battle Sanshiro Takagi in a totally empty version of the iconic arena.
Bar a few cameramen and members of staff, the two men took their brawl all across the venue, battling in the stands, the concessions area and even in the production area where fellow NJPW stars Shinsuke Nakamura and Hiroshi Tanahashi were completing photo shoots.
It’s truly something to behold and a testament to how fun Suzuki can be when he’s not being downright terrifying in the ring.
4. Generation Me vs Motor City Machine Guns
I could talk about the series of tag matches between Generation Me (The Young Bucks) and Motor City Machine Guns for days. To summarise: they were some of the greatest tag matches to ever hit TV and kick-started a golden age of tag team wrestling. The two duos battled in iconic ladder and hardcore matches that lit the world on fire, but none was quite so exciting as their empty arena match.
Granted, it might not be the best-wrestled match on this list, but I personally loved seeing the two teams settle their differences in a match totally new to tag team wrestling. No other two teams had ever competed in this match, and it gave their feud the spotlight it deserved.
It still featured some incredible spots and hardcore moments that helped make this feud memorable. Definitely give it a go, as well as the rest of their TNA trilogy, if you want to see The Young Bucks at their best before they truly evolved into the best tag team in the world today.
3. The Final/Ultimate Deletion
Bit of a cheat here, as it doesn’t really count as a stipulated Empty Arena match. I’m not really sure how you’d classify this if it were to be considered a wrestling match. Regardless, the series of cinematic epics featuring Broken Matt Hardy, Brother Nero and eventually Bray Wyatt certainly makes it onto a list of best matches without any fans to see it live.
The Final Deletion broke ground for not only Impact Wrestling but for the industry as a whole. Broken Matt’s fame was capitalised by this excellent programme of sheer creativity and wacky hijinks emanating from The Hardy Compound. Of course, the first of the Great Wars to take place at House Hardy wouldn’t be the last, as Impact doubled down with another Hardy directed featured during the brothers’ feud with Decay, and then again when both men jumped ship to WWE and gave rebirth to the Broken gimmick in Matt’s feud with Bray Wyatt.
All episodes of the Broken saga deserve a shout-out here, as they were something totally unique that wrestling fans across the world ate up. I’m sure we’ll see more of these ‘Empty Arena’ matches take place now that Broken Matt has arrived in AEW, but who knows who will be the first to step into the Hardy Compound.
2. Kurt Angle vs Sting
Even though these two wrestling legends had some excellent matches throughout their TNA careers, I believe their Empty Arena duel to be their very best. Sting and Angle were butting heads as part of the Main Event Mafia, a grudge that reached its boiling point as part of this brawl across the empty Impact Zone.
The two men took their action everywhere they possibly could, with both men executing some insane spots in a match that most would have probably slept on because of the stipulation alone. This goes to show how versatile both Angle and Stinger were, and how exciting TNA could be when they were hitting their stride.
The match ended setting up their next pay-per-view encounter for the TNA Championship, unfortunately they never really managed to meet the same excitement level as they did with no fans in attendance.
1. The Rock vs Mankind
I remember catching highlights of this match as my young, innocent self was starting to develop a keen interest in wrestling. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before, two men slugging it out in a completely empty arena, with nobody but Vince McMahon himself to witness just how far The Rock and Mankind would go to tear each other a new one. It was a spectacle in of itself, let alone a very important championship match.
After tracking down and watching the whole thing years later, I started to appreciate just how much fun the Attitude Era was with matches such as this. The Rock and Mick Foley had some insane level of chemistry together, and their empty arena match took you on an emotional journey through comedy, sadism, tragedy and eventually, triumph.
Rock and Mankind took their battle everywhere they possibly could in the arena and as far away from the ring as possible. Nowhere was safe from the intensity of this WWF Championship match. I like to occasionally show this match to a non-wrestling fan, just to show them how fun wrestling can be when the performers are given free-rein over the action. Matches like this allow for unlimited potential for creativity and drama, making some of the best matches of the time, even without fans to bounce off of.
Give this one a whirl if you’re feeling like some nostalgia, or if you’re just feeling like some entertaining wrestling. Honestly this match holds up with the majority of the Attitude Era’s PPV main events, so it’s a win-win.
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