Best Empty Arena Matches in History
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has forced wrestling companies to get creative. Stardom recently put on No People Gate for an empty Korakuen Hall. Last Friday the WWE was forced to put on a SmackDown in front of an empty Performance Center. It looks like wrestling shows will be forced to go crowd-less for the foreseeable future. Although the situation is unprecedented, prowrestling has many empty arena matches in history in which promotions could draw inspiration.
Terry Funk vs Jerry Lawler
The idea for an empty arena match was born out of a Terry Funk promo. Funk claimed that he couldn’t get a fair shake in Memphis, because it is the home of Lawler. So Funk wanted to level the playing field by removing everyone from the arena. The actual motivation might’ve been to squeeze another Funk appearance in the territory while they still had his services. The match was filmed before a Monday show in the Mid-South Coliseum and aired April 25, 1981. The two men brawled in front of only announcer Lance Russell and two cameramen. Russell does a great job making it feel organic. Funk’s censored curses also add to the realism. After throwing each other around the arena, the match ends with a dramatic kayfabe injury to Funk’s eye.
Terry Funk vs Bruce Walkup
Funk and Lawler’s empty arena match made an impression on fans. So much so, that Funk brought it with him to Championship Wrestling from Florida in 1982. This time Funk defeated Bruce Walkup in a Texas Bunkhouse Empty Arena Cage Match. The match served to add heat to the feud between Funk and Dusty Rhodes. Funk puts on a master class in playing to the camera and folks at home.
nWo Saturday Night
As a reward for winning the 1996 war games, the nWo was allowed to have their own segments on WCW Saturday Night. It resulted in a series of matches. The matches consisted of nWo members squashing jobbers in front of an empty arena. Canned wrestling crowd responses were utilized to break up the silence. The nWo member commentary alone makes these matches must see for any 90’s wrestling fan.
Mankind versus the Rock is by far the most popular empty arena match of all time. The World Title match aired on the USA network during the Halftime of Super Bowl XXXIII. The hubris that it takes to counter program the Super Bowl shows you how popular the WWF was in 1999. It was a massive ratings success. Commentary was provided by Vince McMahon himself. The two wrestlers explored the empty Tucson Convention Center as they comedically brawled. The match resulted in Mankind regaining the World Title after my favorite extreme close up of all time.
Kurt Angle vs Sting
In 2009 Sting and Kurt Angle were in TNA and the Main Event Mafia stable. The two stablemates had a falling out, leading to an empty arena match. This was less of a match and more of an awkward confrontation. Angle and Sting brawled while shouting expletives at each other. Kevin Nash and Scott Steiner tried to talk some sense into their stablemates. The whole underwhelming scuffle was intended to set up a match between Angle and Sting at Destination X.
Motor City Machine Guns vs Generation Me
While TNA’s first attempt at an empty arena was underwhelming, their second attempt made up for it. Motor City Machine Guns and Generation Me (the Young Bucks) put on the most underrated empty arena match of all time. The match was aired November 18th, 2010 on an episode of Reaction. This confrontation utilized more wrestling than previous empty arena matches in history. The camera work made it feel real. The match ended with the Motor City Machine Guns brutalizing Generation Me into submission. It helped set up their match at Final Resolution.
Tim Storm vs Jocephus
After Jocephus threatened his family Tim Storm looked to get the revenge that only an empty arena match could provide. The match happened in an empty Impact Zone on January 14th, 2018. The winner would earn a shot at The NWA Heavyweight Championship. Tim Storm brutalized Jocephus for the majority of the match. It seemed like a tribute to the original empty arena matches in history. Storm and Jocephus even went after each other’s eyes. Somehow Jocephus survived a beating to win the match and earn the title opportunity.