After the WWE was forced to film its content in an empty studio due to the coronavirus, many compared the awkward, melodramatic promos and near-silent matches—both of which resonate differently without the hum of a crowd buoying them—to “avant-garde theater.” Of course, anybody who actually watches wrestling knows the form has been and will always be one of our purest forms of modern theater, a bizarre blend of melodrama, ballet, and gymnastics capable of reaching indelible heights (and traumatizing lows). By removing the roaring audience, the source of much of the “sporting” aspect we associate with the form, its debt to its artistic influences is just made that much clearer. That, however, doesn’t make it any less awkward.
What makes the lack of an audience so striking is that the performers simply aren’t used to it. Their cadences, their pauses, their move sets—they’re all designed to play to the cheap seats, so to see it unfold in tinny silence evokes the kinds of offbeat, uncanny beats one finds in oddball art. Like, say, the work of David Lynch.
Sensing this themselves, Twitter’s @SIDEEYEmusic took footage of John Cena and “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt’s recent Smackdown spat and underscored it with Angelo Badalamenti’s eerily romantic Twin Peaks score, which helps summon that series’ operatic themes and stylized performances to make an audience-less WWE a bit more palatable.
Of course, this isn’t the first time a thread has been strung between Lynch and wrestling. Last year, someone layered in the score beneath one of Vince McMahon’s most deranged performances.
Granted, McMahon’s lunacy is pitched more towards Dennis Hopper’s Blue Velvet character than the behaviors of the homicidal BOB, but it’s still a damn fine mashup.
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