It’s WrestleMania week in New Orleans and the NBA schedule gods lobbed up quite the easy bucket for the Pelicans. Most WWE talent arrived in the Big Easy Wednesday afternoon, hours before the Pelicans tipped off against the Memphis Grizzlies in the same building that will house the Hall of Fame, NXT, Raw, and Smackdown. Plus it was “Wrestling Night” at the Smoothie King Center. With marketing like that, we’re bound to score some crossover, right?
In the weeks leading up to the biggest week in sports entertainment, the Pelicans appeared to be aligned with the WWE. In addition to in-arena commercials promoting the upcoming events and giveaways to WWE events, we were treated to stuff like this:
But on Wednesday night there was … nothing. Not even a mention of the upcoming WWE pre- and post-WrestleMania events, held in the same building. The closest thing to synergy we got was a local high school wrestling team walking on the court to wave at the crowd, and this tweet featuring a wrestler who has been pretty damn distant from the product for several years now:
There were at least two Superstars in the building, Titus O’Neil and Mark Henry, but neither scored an appearance on the big screen. Also absent from the screen was any advertisement for the biggest sporting event in the area in 2018. So, what happened?
An internal promotional calendar originally had tonight’s game against the Grizzlies as “WWE Night” and at least one source confirmed that was the plan until recently. They couldn’t say much but there was some sort of conflict behind the scenes about the use of the phrase “WWE Night.”
So instead of WWE Superstar crossover (like what, ironically, New Orleans’ opponent tonight, the Memphis Grizzlies, have been able to accomplish in the past), we got a halftime show featuring an inflatable “ring” and a battle royal with Royal Rumble rules. The “wrestlers” were Pierre The Pelican (who came out to Daniel Bryan’s music) and a handful of interns in those inflatable “sumo” suits with other NBA team logos on them.
To be fair, we don’t know what problems the franchise ran into with what was originally slated to be “WWE Night,” but the atmosphere in the Smoothie King Center was awkward, even with those lucha libre mask giveaways and the Photoshopped “Wrestling Night” graphic. (Shoutout to DeMarcus Cousins as Stone Cold, though.) All in all it was pretty unfortunate, considering something special could have been put together for the fans in New Orleans just before WrestleMania.