One of the highlights for every wrestling every year is the reveal of the WrestleMania set – the grandest stage of them all for the WWE and its plethora of talented wrestlers, commentators, announcers, referees and backstage officials.
But, who actually develops these stages and what goes into a job like setting the scene for some of the greatest wrestling matches each year?
Well, that’s WWE’s Jason Robinson – a veteran set designer of 26 years.
Starting his WWE career in 1995 as a gaffer and running the lighting console, Robinson’s first WrestleMania design was in 1998. But by 1999 – the sets were getting bigger, larger than life and more exciting.
By the turn of the century, WrestleMania returned to stadiums which brought a sense of excitement at the thought of exploring new and exciting ways to bring sets to life, different from anything they’d ever done before, according to Mr Robinson.
Ahead of Wrestlemania 37, he explains the process of creating a set for such a large-scale event.
“Until [the turn of the millennium], WrestleMania had featured fans 360-degrees around the ring and the sets had to be really small. After that, the sets grew with the venues”, Robinson said.
“[To plan this out] we go to the stadium for a sit survey to sit and simply look around and go: “Okay, what’s different? What’s creative about this stadium? What assets can we use? How do we want this show to look?.
“When I get that ‘aha’ moment, it is time to go pitch it and say: “Hey, I’ve got a cool idea”. If Executive Producer Kevin Dunn says: “Yep, that’s a cool idea, go for it,” then I’m off. As soon as I know that I’m in the right direction, that’s where the work becomes really fun.”
Robinson begins the creative process for designing a WrestleMania set in September or October, six months out from the event.
He recognises the importance of seeing the size and space first of all, before setting on a theme, noticing the architecture and thinking how to bring it to life, using post-it notes to sketch his ideas.
On the day, Robinson falls into many roles, but is always running around, coordinating with the props and carpenter departments to oversee the set moves.
“I’m still the Production Designer and Lighting Director and my show position is underneath the TV camera position with the lighting programming staff”, Robinson said.
“During the show, we sit right in the middle of the stadium and I get chill bumps just like the fans. When we are at the front of the house, I think it’s the best seat in the house.”
This year, Wrestlemania will be welcoming back fans into the stands and while viewers would have recently seen Raymond Jones Stadium in Tampa, Florida as the backdrop to the SuperBowl LV, Robinson ensures this event will provide something extra special over the two-day festival of wrestling.
“A lot of sports fans around the world have just seen the stadium host the Super Bowl on TV. So they know what it looks like,” he said.
“Now it’s our turn. We’re going in there to do something different. I don’t think it matters whether fans are seeing it again after the Super Bowl or for the first time with WWE, they are going to love what they see.”
WrestleMania 37 Night One broadcasts LIVE on the WWE Network on Sunday from 10am ahead of WrestleMania 37 Night Two will take place on Monday from 10am.
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