The Thunderdome era in WWE may be coming to an end in two months.
It was reported by Andrew Zarian of the Mat Men podcast that WWE plans to go on the road with shows again starting on July 16 for an episode of Smackdown. It would be the first time WWE goes back on the road in front of fans since March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic led to live events being shut down. That doesn’t include WrestleMania 37 last month, which had about 20,000 fans at Raymond James Stadium on April 10 and April 11.
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There has been no formal announcement from WWE. We also don’t know what city would host that Smackdown event or what else it means for future touring from WWE.
There are a lot of sports teams right now with crowds and some of them don’t have limitations at all. Since the CDC in the USA announced yesterday that you don’t have to wear a mask indoor or outdoor if you are fully vaccinated then that’s going to lead to more events taking place. This should lead to more events taking place, including WWE.
TJR Thoughts: I want to make it clear that there has been no formal announcement from WWE about touring again. We know that AEW is going back on the road starting July 7. If WWE does go back on the road starting in July then they will probably announce it soon because they will want to announce when tickets are on sale and give fans a chance to attend the show. That should lead to Smackdown and Raw being weekly touring shows again, live pay-per-views as well and then likely house shows returning too.
Zelina Vega Likely Returning to WWE
Zelina Vega is likely returning to WWE television in the near future. The former WWE wrestler/manager was fired by WWE in November because of a dispute about WWE forcing talent to end their Twitch gaming channels as well as other things. It was reported by Fightful Select initially that she was at the WWE Performance Center training in the ring. It is believed that she has signed a new deal or is likely to sign.
It was reported by the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer that Vega was at the WWE Performance Center on Thursday and it is believed that she is returning to WWE. Apparently, she had talks with AEW, but she didn’t come to a deal with them.
Vega is married to WWE superstar Aleister Black, who is on Smackdown right now and getting a new push following some recent videos that have aired on the show. The guess here is that Vega would likely join the Smackdown brand with her husband whenever she returns.
TJR Thoughts: I thought it was silly that somebody would get fired over refusing to give up video games. WWE pays their talent very well and she wants to be a wrestler, so it doesn’t surprise me that much that she is coming back. With that said, I think she’s more valuable as a manager than a wrestler, but if she has a desire to be a wrestler then that’s cool too and I’m sure she’ll work hard to get better.
Changes for COVID-19 Protocols for WWE Superstars and Fans
The Wrestling Observer‘s Dave Meltzer had more info about WWE NXT fans attending tapings at the WWE Performance Center:
“WWE has changed its policy regarding fans attending the Tuesday night NXT tapings. Previously you had to come in on Monday and get COVID tested. Now all fans have to get COVID tested on Tuesday instead. WWE will provide free testing for the fans before every show and there is a turnaround time of 30-60 minutes before you get the results and can enter the arena.”
There has also been a change for WWE superstars and other talents. In the past, talent would get tested the day before the show they were and if somebody failed then you knew that they wouldn’t be available while the ones that would be cleared would obviously be allowed to be at the WWE events. Since so many people are vaccinated in the United States now, the people coming in from out of town (to Tampa) still have to get tested the day before. For the wrestlers that live in Orlando, they can go to the WWE Performance Center to get tested the day before the show (to avoid the trip to Tampa) and then go home. The drive from Orlando to Tampa is about 75 to 90 minutes. Meltzer added that for NXT they can test in the morning rather than the day before, and go back home for several hours.
Most of the NXT wrestlers live in the Orlando area since they have usually taped the show out of Orlando even before the pandemic.
TJR Thoughts: It will be interesting to see how things change in the weeks and months ahead. Since the CDC in the US said that you don’t have to wear masks anymore, maybe WWE will tell the superstars that are fully vaccinated that they don’t have to get tested anymore. That’s likey coming soon.