WrestleCon is back in Tampa Bay for WrestleMania 37 weekend
WrestleCon announced that it will be returning to WrestleMania 37 weekend in Tampa Bay, Florida with sessions on April 9 and 10. However, the popular convention, attended by thousands every year during Mania weekend, will be different this time around due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite still being in the red for around $60,000 stemming from last year’s fiasco with various venues that still refuse to give WrestleCon refunds, the main man behind the convention, Michael Bochicchio, is upbeat about this year’s event, even though it won’t be a financially rewarding experience for the company.
“Thankfully, nothing will be as financially devastating as last year. We are still owed nearly $60,000 from various venues that refuse to give us our refunds and its probably going to be something we have to take to court in the very near future,” Bochicchio said. “However, we are interested in moving forward and using Tampa as a launch towards Dallas and Los Angeles. One of the great things is with a much smaller audience, we’ll be able to implement some new concepts that we haven’t done in the past (volunteers) that might be a part of future events.”
The plan for WrestleCon at WrestleMania 37 wasn’t entirely an in-person event, but rather a virtual one from the same Mania location. But after exercises of due diligence, Bochicchio told us that they came to the conclusion that they could offer more than just a virtual experience. “For us, having the small ‘in-person’ convention was nearly to help bring better/more talent to the virtual side. Not every talent is comfortable doing in person meet and greets, but surprisingly many are doing these on a weekly basis now,” he said.
The announcement of this year’s WrestleCon was met with mixed emotions online. Some welcomed the somewhat-normality, but many came hard on the company for the future contributing of the infections count in the free-reigning state of Florida. And with the requirement of mandatory masks throughout the event, the debate will get even hotter.
“My office park includes an abortion clinic, so every day I drive into work, I have one group of people lobbying against the clinic and an entirely different group lobbying for ‘pro-choice’ rights,” Bochicchio said. “I think in some ways, the coronavirus has sparked similar polarizing opinions that will never meet in the middle. I respect everybody’s opinion and I hope they respect ours.”
Bochicchio explained how he traveled to Florida multiple times during the pandemic and saw how people in the state moved forward while trying to keep safe while acknowledging how out-of-state individuals think that people in Florida are “crazy.” Bochicchio is sure that with the help of the Marriott staff and their experience, WrestleCon can be a very safe experience for everyone involved. He also added that his staff is also very divided over the decision and no one is required to work. “We will have about half of the staff not participating this year because of their own concerns.”
By holding WrestleCon this year, Bochicchio hopes that those who don’t agree with the decision don’t assume that he doesn’t think coronavirus is very real. “I just really believe that by using the protocols we have in place, we can conduct this just as safely as going to a grocery store,” he added.
WrestleCon will be held indoors across multiple areas inside The Westin Tampa Waterside hotel with a 20% capacity in the areas at any one time. Social distancing rules will be observed and masks are mandatory inside the hotel and that includes all talent who will be posing for photos with paying customers. Some talent will also be seated behind plexiglass depending on their personal choice.
“Anybody that thinks they are going to be able to do whatever they want like in past years should stay away,” Bochicchio warns. “Our mask mandate is very real. We mean a mask and not merely a face covering. We’re going to actually encourage everybody to double mask and we’ll be providing a Wrestlecon logo mask to everybody that attends so it can easily be worn on top of whatever mask they find to be more comfortable.”
One thing that will be missing from the scaled-down event is in-ring action. Over the past several years, WrestleCon was a hotspot for indie action but you can chalk that up to being a casualty of COVID-19. Bochicchio said that they can’t hold live events safely with their staff limitations but you can bet that live events will be back in Dallas and Los Angeles in 2022 and 2023.
WrestleCon sessions will run from 9AM to 11AM, 12PM to 2PM, 3PM to 5PM on Friday and Saturday will have 9AM to 11AM and 12PM to 2PM, with the possibility of adding extra sessions on Sunday. Temperature checks will be held before you enter and the hour break in between sessions will allow the Marriott staff to sanitize the area before the next session starts.
For those who cannot make it to the show, you won’t be left out. WrestleCon plans to hold virtual events throughout the weekend but Bochicchio is keeping his cards close to his chest. “We have a framework of what we’d like to accomplish, but we also have two months to listen to ideas. We have been doing virtual meet and greets with guests twice per week now for the last 10 months. I’m sure we’ll be doing a lot of those on location, but we will also have some other ‘programming’ for fans that are just looking for some entertainment.”
If you are attending WrestleCon, you can also take advantage of the cheaper room rates at the beautiful Westin Tampa Waterside which sits on Harbor Island across from downtown Tampa. Rates are $169 per night for stays of one to four nights while stays of five nights or more are reduced to $139 per night.
For more information about the convention and to book your tickets and/or hotel, check out WrestleCon.com.