WWE’s Charlotte Flair ‘enjoys’ WrestleMania in empty center

Charlotte Flair
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Updated 10 June 2020

WWE’s Charlotte Flair ‘enjoys’ WrestleMania in empty center

  • ‘Once life returns to normal, I would like to perform in Saudi Arabia’

RIYADH: Current World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) NXT champion Charlotte Flair says performing during the coronavirus pandemic has been a learning experience for all in the company.

Charlotte, a second-generation WWE superstar and daughter of Hall of Famer Ric Flair, experienced her first WrestleMania in an empty WWE Performance Center in Florida.

“It made me want to work harder because I love WrestleMania. It’s that one show a year where I have to be at my very best,” Charlotte told Arab News.

She wanted to stand out as a performer in these empty arenas, and said she thought about how when watching fight scenes in a movie, there is no live audience to cheer or boo the performers.

“My main goal at WrestleMania is making the millions at home forget that there isn’t an audience during my match,” she added.

“I feel that I’ve grown so much as a performer in the current situation. To me it hasn’t been a negative,” she said.

“You’re comfortable with the silence. You don’t need instant gratification … Whether it’s quiet or not, I’m controlling the pace,” Charlotte added.

“That’s the key. You have to be comfortable with the silence talking and being OK working the camera.”

For the first time in WrestleMania’s history, the event was taped and held across two nights then aired on April 4-5 this year.

It was originally scheduled to take place solely on April 4 at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, and to air live, but it was moved due to COVID-19.

The pandemic has caused all live events and large public gatherings to be canceled worldwide, so WWE has adapted to the situation.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the company talent-wise and production-wise to pull off outside-the-box matches that still entertain our viewers and make it something new, fresh and different,” said Charlotte.

She added that once life returns to normal post-COVID-19, she would like to perform in South Africa and Saudi Arabia, as she has not yet visited or performed in those countries.

Charlotte, who has won a record 12 women’s championships, said she wants to have a one-on-one match as the main event at WrestleMania.

F1 season kicks off with astonishing, chaotic race in Austria

Updated 06 July 2020

F1 season kicks off with astonishing, chaotic race in Austria

  • Mercedes dominance, Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton leading the charge, and Red Bull providing the challenge

DUBAI: Formula 1 is back. And, for the majority of the season’s much delayed first race, it looked business as usual.

Mercedes dominance, Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton leading the charge, and Red Bull providing the challenge.

But this, despite Bottas’  eventual victory, would prove anything but an ordinary race, for so many reasons.

The Austrian Grand Prix, the first race of the shortened season, was, like all top class sporting events around the world, taking place with no fans inside the Red Bull Ring, a legacy of the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The empty stands may have given this the initial look of a practice session, but the race would prove anything but routine.

This was a dramatic, often chaotic, return to action for Formula 1’s finest.

No doubt, the absence of motorsports’ most passionate and colorful fans, who in normal circumstances would have descended on Spielberg, Austria, were missed.

But for those watching on television, the truth is that the intensity of Formula1 action, unlike in football, and perhaps other team sports when they resume, is not overly affected by taking place behind closed doors.

 And it is something that the public will no doubt quickly adapt to. For now, only seven other rounds of the 2020 season have been confirmed; in Austria again (Red Bull Ring, July 10-12), will be followed by the Hungarian Grand Prix (July 17-19), two British Grand Prix races (Silverstone, July 31-Aug. 2 and Aug. 7-9); the Spanish Grand Prix (Barcelona, Aug. 14-16); Belgian Grand Prix (Spa-Francorchamps, 28-30); and the Italian Grand Prix (Monza, Sept. 4-6).

Other races are pending, and fans in the Middle East will be hoping that the restart continues to go according to plan, hopefully leading to the confirmation of the Bahrain Grand Prix later this year, and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as the season’s finale.

Before the race the drivers had worn anti-racism T-shirts, though there was an element of controversy when several drivers, including Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc chose not to take the knee like their  rivals. Both explained  their stance on their social media accounts.

The early stages as expected were dominated by Mercedes and Red Bull, with Bottas and  Hamilton separated in first and fourth by Verstappen and Alexander Albon in 2nd and third.

After the reigning champion Hamilton overtook Albon in the early stages, one of the race’s turning points saw Verstappen retire after gear failure. With fewer points on offer this season, this could turn out to be a decisive incident, even at this early stage.

Bottas and Hamilton, now in first and second, seemed to have the race under control for Mercedes.

Lap 28 saw the safety car come out, but when the green light came back on Bottas streaked away followed by Hamilton with Albon in third and British driver Lando Norris, excelling in a McLaren, in fourth.

Within seconds from the restart, Vettel’s Ferrari spun as he attempted to overtake Carlos Sainz, and though he avoided an accident, it meant he dropped to 15th.

Less than half way through the race, the Austrian Grand Prix was providing more drama and incidents than millions glued to their televisions could have dared hope for.

The race now settled into a battle between Bottas and Hamilton, and even another intervention of the safety car after 52 laps could not put them out of their stride.

Kimi Raikkonen’s exit with 15 laps meant seven drivers had retired.

 But with with five laps left, Hamilton was penalized five seconds for an accident with Albon. Suddenly second place, for long seemingly a lock for Mercedes, was now up for grabs. Indeed, so was third.

Hamilton, to ensure a podium finish needed to beat Norris (in fourth) by more than five seconds. But Norris saved his best till last, his fastest lap ensuring the gap between him and the champion was sub-five seconds.

Bottas was the first winner of the season, second place went to Leclerc and Ferrari, and a disbelieving Norris and McLaren team in third.

Hamilton, in the blink of an eye, dropped to fourth.

The podium presentation no doubt lacked its usual celebratory vibe, but try telling that to Leclerc and Norris who could not have dreamed of this conclusion.

 If the remainder of the 2020 races live up to this astionishing Austrian Grand Prix, Formula 1’s shortest season could turn out to be one of its best.