WWE Friday Night SmackDown with no fans was unlike anything we’ve seen — and a welcome distraction

In a time where live events are few and far between amid the threat of the coronavirus — and rightfully so — the show still went on for WWE on Friday night.

Indeed, last night’s SmackDown was a historic occasion, emanating live from the Performance Center in Orlando, Florida. NXT had aired from that same location just two nights prior, but that was a planned, special situation. SmackDown’s broadcast was an audible called in the face of growing health concerns.

It was a welcome distraction, if a bit surreal. The night started with Triple H himself welcoming us to his dojo:

The Game joined Michael Cole on commentary…

… where they were quickly interrupted by WWE SmackDown Women’s Champion Bayley and Sasha Banks, both of whom were expecting Paige.

Sincerely, watch that segment above. The Rock and Mankind famously put on an empty arena match, but this is unique. This is two of the biggest Superstars in the business speaking directly to Triple H, Cole, and the WWE Universe — but without anyone in attendance.

That environment gave us an incredible Roman Reigns interview in which he pointed out the (very obvious) differences between himself and Goldberg:

And it also made for an epic, goosebump-inducing moment when Triple H introduced the one, the only, the 16-time world champion, John Cena:

Cena cut quite his own promo, before Bray Wyatt made his presence known:

Again, something about the silence in the Performance Center made these moments cut through in a way they haven’t before. It wasn’t better. It wasn’t worse. It was just different.

That was true during the in-ring action:

Or when The Miz and John Morrison hit the ring to call out their critics:

And when Triple H tried his hand as a cameraman:

It was a night when we had Rob Gronkowski’s addition to the WWE confirmed, too:

But more than anything, it was a night of sports entertainment adjusting to the circumstances and putting smiles on our faces when we needed them the most. Congratulations to WWE and everyone involved on one heck of an interesting night. We can’t wait to see what you come up with next.