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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

WWE Shows "Snow" Concern For Safety

Last night the Minnesota Vikings defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in a rare Tuesday night NFL game. The game was postponed from Sunday night because officials were concerned over the safety of fans and players, as less than a foot of snow fell in Philly.

Concern over fans and talent? What a foreign concept.

The NFL’s decision stands in stark contrast to those made earlier this week by WWE. On Sunday night, WWE went ahead with a non-televised live event at Madison Square Garden, despite ample warning of an impending blizzard that promised to wallop the New York City region.

For those of you who have never been to MSG, let me give you a quick layout of the “World’s Most Famous Arena.” The Garden sits right on top of Penn Station, Manhattan’s terminal for the Long Island Rail Road—the oldest and largest commuter railroad in the nation, and one of the primary sources of transportation for fans heading into and out of MSG.

I’ve been using the LIRR to get to WWE shows at the Garden for 20 years, and it’s always a fun experience to ride in and out with hundreds of fellow wrestling fans, eagerly anticipating the action before the show, and after the show reveling in the fun they had the whole way home.
And WWE, which has called MSG its “home” arena for half a century, is well aware of the vital role the LIRR plays in getting its fans to and from its shows in the venue.

It’s worth noting that earlier this year, the LIRR enacted a policy of suspending all train service during a particularly harsh snowfall. And throughout the entire weekend, the LIRR warned customers that it might just have to do that on Sunday night.

Ultimately, the storm dumped nearly two feet of snow in some parts of the region and had sustained hurricane force winds in some locations. It went down as the sixth-worst snowstorm in New York City in recorded history. And it came as a surprise to nobody.

Nevertheless, WWE, as it has done so many times in the past under questionable circumstances, decided that the show must go on, despite the fact that even some talent was unable to get to the Garden.

And, sure enough, just after John Cena defeated Wade Barrett in the cage match main event of the show, thousands of fans made their way down to Penn Station to discover that no trains were running.

Well, that shouldn’t be that big a deal, right? So they wait a couple of hours before service is restored, right? Try 22 hours.

It was Monday evening before some WWE fans were able to finally get home. Until then, hundreds of them—including very young children—slept on idling trains, wandered the train terminal, and even tackled jigsaw puzzles on the station floor.

For its part, WWE defended its decision to run the show. In a comment to Newsday, a spokesman said the company “tries its best not to let down our fans due to the weather,” and made the decision in conjunction with the Garden. They figured some public transportation was working, and many fans lived in the area anyway.

The most shocking part of the spokesman’s comment was when he actually boasted of the show’s attendance of 13,600, “which was more than those that attended the respective Islanders and Devils games” that same night.

WWE may think it had its fans in mind when it decided not to let to disappoint them. And for certain many fans were glad that the show went ahead as planned (some no doubt even enjoyed the experience of spending the night in a New York City train terminal.)

But something far more important than the entertainment of some wrestling fans was at stake here.

By not postponing the event, WWE jeopardized the safety of thousands of fans, as well as its own talent (who had to make the perilous drive to Albany right after the MSG show for Raw the next night).

Imagine what would have happened if a family with young children ventured out in the severe weather to get to the show and got into a nasty car accident? Or if a fan with medical issues was unable to get help for hours because he was trapped in a train station?

WWE did its fans no favors by running a show on Sunday. The right and responsible thing to do would have been to cancel the show with plenty of notice, reach out to ticket-holders by e-mail if possible and post a message online, and reschedule the show for a future date. Some fans may have been inconvenienced and upset, but at least they would have been safe.

WWE officials shouldn’t be bragging about how many fans came out during a dangerous blizzard to attend one of its shows. They should be apologizing to them.

-Al Castle
Pro Wrestling Illustrated Senior Writer


Pro Wrestling Illustrated said...

I'm surprised, Al. Last year, WWE postponed the same Philadelphia house show twice because of weather concerns. I guess that's because public transportation to the Philly Sports Complex is inadequate.

I wonder if the paid attendance represents those who bought tickets--or those who actually braved the elements.

Any word on how they'll handle complaints from those who bought tickets and wisely stayed home?

Stu Saks

Pro Wrestling Illustrated said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pro Wrestling Illustrated said...

WWE claims there were "minimal no shows" among ticket buying fans, but some fans in attendance say the crowd looked far smaller than 13,600.
WWE says it will handle situations of ticket holders who couldn't attend "on an individual basis."
-Al Castle
PWI Senior Writer

Anonymous said...

How is WWE running the Garden any worse than Cirque Du Soliel running at the same time? Or Spider Man on Broadway or any other dozens of shows and events. The reality is that the NYC subway system kept running, so while it was unfortunate the LIRR shut down, the LIRR is not the only means of transportation to and from MSG as there are no less than TEN SUBWAY LINES within a three block radius. Unless you lived on the Island, you were fine, although it took much longer to get home than usual.

Pro Wrestling Illustrated said...

They all should have shut down. I should emphasize that MSG deserves just as much blame, as they also could have called off the WWE show, and Cirque Du Soleil as well (it ran in the MSG Theater.)
I think the WWE show probably attracted more fans traveling on the LIRR than all those other events, as well as more kids. But considering the amount of warning that was given about the storm, and about the likelihood of the LIRR shutting down, all major NYC events should have been canceled.
-Al Castle

Lou said...

I had tickets to that show, and I'm glad I stayed home; it took friends of mine over 3 hours to make what's normally a 45 minute trek back to Stamford, and $30 was a small price to pay to avoid perilous travel.

WWE, however, should be ashamed and should have sent talent directly to Albany.

Yes, it would have been a headache for ticket holders, as unlike any Broadway show or anything else, that was a "one-time" event.

However, a friend inside WWE told me that there was serious discussion of postponing the show, with MSG offering Saturday Jan. 15 as a replacement - but WWE, despite the profit it would have likely gained, turned down the offer because it would require them to cancel the 1/15 live event in Beaumont, TX (at the spacious 8,000 seat Ford Arena) and have RAW talent fly three times in three days - from their homes to Chattanooga for the 1/14 RAW live event, up to MSG for 1/15, and then back to Louisiana for the 1/16 SuperShow in Shreveport.

Luckily nothing catastrophic happened and talent was safe, but having lived in the Northeast for 25 years of my life and having traveled the NYS Thruway to Albany many times, I can only fathom what would have happened if a weather-related mishap caused any WWE Superstar a major injury or worse.

Actually, I know what would've happened - they would've done Raw the next night in Albany.

-Louie Dee