WrestleMania 36 – originally slated to be Tampa’s first time hosting the annual event – was instead held at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando with no live audience.
"We had zero fans in the building," he recalled during an interview on Good Day. "We were trying to make up our own reactions. Now, this is our first live event in over a year."
O’Neil said when it comes to sports entertainment, the WWE didn’t take a day off during the pandemic.
"To everybody’s credit on the roster, we are the only organization in all of sports entertainment that did not miss one week of work," he explained. "We produced 52 weeks of television, 17 hours a week, with our various shows, RAW, SmackDown and NXT. Everybody else can’t make that claim."
Just two months ago, Tampa hosted Super Bowl LV. Now, the city has the chance to host the ‘Super Bowl’ of professional wrestling.
"We celebrated almost two months the Tampa Bay Buccaneers making history by being in the Super Bowl at Raymond James Stadium and winning the Super Bowl at home," O’Neil said, "and now we get our chance to have the Super Bowl of sports entertainment which Forbes has labeled one of the top five sporting events in all of the land. I’m very excited about being the host and looking forward to doing it in my home city."
O’Neil was one of several WWE superstars who trained in Tampa through the organization’s developmental program, Florida Championship Wrestling.
While remaining affiliated with the pro-wrestling industry, he has also been involved in philanthropic efforts within the Bay Area, earning him the WWE Warrior Award this week.
He is the first WWE superstar to earn the award.
"It’s definitely special to be acknowledged and brought into the WWE Hall of Fame. I’ve gotten tons of texts and calls from various celebrities, athletes, and my coworkers and friends congratulating me," O’Neil said. "I’m hoping I’m not in the last. I hope that what I’ve been able to accomplish over the 12 years with WWE, especially in the realm of community and helping with our global partnerships…that other superstars have the power of the platform and the power to put smiles on people’s faces which is our company motto."
His co-host, Hulk Hogan, has been credited for making WrestleMania a highly-anticipated annual event, more specifically because of his match against Andre the Giant.
"Without a question, if Hulk Hogan hadn’t had his match against Andre the Giant, WrestleMania would not be where it is today," O’Neil said. "He’s definitely on the Mount Rushmore of all WWE history and he’s the hometown kid as well. He grew up here, so to have that dynamic of two guys that are local residents, that’s never happened for any host in this capacity. To be able to do it with him, it’s going to be pretty entertaining."