TAMPA (WFLA) – After the coronavirus pandemic pushed WrestleMania out of town a year ago to an empty arena in Orlando, Tampa is set to host the World Wrestling Entertainment’s biggest annual extravaganza for the first time this weekend.
Even with a limited 36 percent capacity of about 25,000 fans, Raymond James Stadium will still be rocking on Saturday and Sunday night.
“I won the title at the height of the pandemic and there was no fans when I was champion, so I had to lead by example,” said WWE Monday Night Raw Superstar and former WWE Champion Drew McIntyre.
McIntyre now calls Tampa Bay home, so he told 8 On Your Side on Friday he can’t wait to get in the ring at Raymond James Stadium.
“Nothing is like the WWE fans live and the fact that tomorrow WrestleMania be able to walk out for the first time in over a year and hear that real life response from the loudest fans in the world”
The home of the Buccaneers has been transformed into the center of the wrestling universe.
“We were just on the global stage with the Super Bowl and obviously winning with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers,” said WWE Superstar Titus O’Neil.
With temperature checks, required mask-wearing, pod seating, and cashless concessions, the WWE is putting in place similar COVID-19 safety protocols as the NFL did for Super Bowl LV.
Tampa Bay’s own Hulk Hogan and O’Neil are co-hosting the two night event.
“It’s a special year for me overall,” O’Neil said. “Just number one, it’s here in the city. To go into the WWE Hall of Fame as a Warrior Award recipient and also be a global ambassador and the host welcoming everyone from around the world.”
Back in January, McIntyre tested positive for coronavirus.
“They caught it before I was able to go into work, pass it to someone else who may pass to a high risk family member,” he said. “That was important to me.”
McIntyre has teamed up with other WWE Superstars for this vaccination PSA.
“It’s the only way we’re gonna get back to normal,” McIntyre told 8 On Your Side. “We are lucky we live in a world today where science and medicine is so incredible to create these vaccines so fast, so let’s get vaccinated, let’s get back to normal and let’s save lives.”
WrestleMania fans must acknowledge and review a COVID-19 liability waiver before taking their seats. Every fan will be given a free KN95 mask and there will be WWE themed face coverings available for purchase.