The 12 Best Matches Of WWE's ThunderDome Era

From August 21, 2020 to July 16, 2021, all episodes of "Raw" and "SmackDown" and all pay-per-views (excluding WrestleMania) emanated from what WWE dubbed "The Thunderdome".

The Thunderdome was WWE's response not only to the inability of producing shows with live crowds due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also to the ratings decline and negative reaction their shows out of their Performance Center in Florida were doing.


The Thunderdome was built in three separate locations: the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida from its inception to December 7, 2020, the Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida from December 11 to April 2, 2021 and finally the much smaller Yuengling Center in Tampa, Florida for the final three months of existence of WWE's pandemic home.

While this era of programming in WWE might be usually remembered as dull or uncreative, there still were some absolute gems inside the ring worth taking a look back at, and fondly remember this state-of-the-art environment WWE was able to create and call home for almost a year.

12. Rey Mysterio vs. Seth Rollins, SmackDown 11/13/2020

To kick off our list, we have the conclusion for one of the lengthier feuds in 2020 for WWE. Rey Mysterio and Seth Rollins consistently fought for around four months before the feud ended with this match, which was appropriately dubbed "The Final Chapter."


This match is a particular hidden gem of the Thunderdome era, mainly because the feud between Rollins and Mysterio had more notable encounters like the tag team match also involving Dominik and Murphy at Payback and the now infamous Eye for an Eye Match at Extreme Rules. This bout has an extra layer of drama, thanks to the romantic angle between Aaliyah Mysterio and Murphy, and good old unpredictability, thanks to the added No Holds Barred stipulation.

When it comes to the quality of the match, it absolutely delivers as the closing act of such an impactful rivalry. It features a sunset flip on the outside into the barricade and a tornado DDT on the apron from Rey Mysterio that took us straight back to 1996, and Seth Rollins at his demented best trying to stab Mysterio in the eye and attempting the three amigos on the anniversary of Eddie Guerrero's death.


The match is only made better by the added drama of Rey's wife and children being at ringside, including Dominik Mysterio, and by the conclusion of the match, which featured Murphy finally turning on Rollins after weeks of build.

11. Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre, Survivor Series 2020

Here we probably have the bout with the biggest "Big Match Feel" on the list. Thanks to the modern Survivor Series format, it put not only WWE's World Heavyweight and Universal champions head to head, but it also arguably put the company's biggest babyface against the company's biggest heel, where the only stakes are proving who the superior World Champion is.


Just like their other encounters in previous years, these two hold nothing back. After a really slow and methodical start to the match, they go trough the announce table, the barricade and we even get one of the rare, fake "This is Awesome" chants.

The match is big move after big move, after big move, as the WWE's top two stars exchange everything on their arsenal, even prompting a ref bump and interference from Jey Uso. These extra elements to the match do not bring it down — on the contrary, it adds to the drama of the match that maybe Drew will be able to be the first man to defeat Roman on his "Tribal Chief" run.

That was not meant to be, as Roman came out on top after McIntyre passed out on the guillotine following close to 25 wonderful minutes of, as Big E would say, "big meaty men slapping meat."


10. Cesaro vs. Jey Uso vs. Kevin Owens vs. King Corbin vs Sami Zayn vs. Daniel Bryan, Elimination Chamber 2021

Back when Roman Reigns' Universal Championship reign sat at only 175 days, and just after he decisively defeated Kevin Owens and Jey Uso, this match — also featuring Daniel Bryan, Cesaro, and King Corbin — felt like the perfect final step before arriving at the "Island of Relevancy" and challenge for the "Tribal Chief."


There could be some debate about whether or not this was the superior Elimination Chamber match of the night, and while the WWE Championship Chamber match which Drew McIntyre would win later on the night was tremendous as well, this particular one was smoother and cleaner. At the same time, it was also more physical, and felt much more violent than the eventual main event.

The match opens up with Daniel Bryan and Cesaro which guarantees must-watch action, cooled down a little with the additions of Corbin and Zayn and finally kicked into full gear with the late additions of Owens and Uso, whom take their feud to the limit with one particular spot where Jey superkicks Owens over and over while the latter is stuck in the Chamber door.


One major negative point to the match is how predictable the result is, as Bryan is the only really viable challenger for Roman Reigns at that point, but that gets fairly compensated with Bryan's performance as the underdog entering first and winning the whole match.

9. Roman Reigns vs. Jey Uso, Hell in a Cell 2020

After only two months into his still ongoing run as the "Tribal Chief" and Universal Champion, Roman Reigns was gaining momentum like crazy following his victories over both Braun Strowman and the Fiend to conquer the championship. He also beat Jey Uso in a highly emotional match only a month before.


This match picks up right where the previous encounter between the members of the Anoa'I family left off at Clash of the Champions, where Roman defeated Jey after his brother Jimmy threw in the towel to stop the match. And just like its predecessor, this is a long, emotional, and almost tragic bout. While the physicality and pace are exceptional, the match really excels when both Roman and Jey are able to explore the psychology behind their family conflict, even with full on dialogue at times.

The match itself is a really hard-hitting battle between two completely different in-ring styles. While Jey threw himself at Roman and tried incorporating weapons the entire match, Roman kept overpowering him with big powerful strikes, one after another. It even reached the point of turning into a strap match for a couple of minutes, adding to the two already existing stipulations.


While it was a tough decision to choose between the two Roman vs. Jey matches, we believe this is a better told story, a better executed wrestling match and it even has a more compelling version of the finish a month prior — only made better by the first-time ever stipulation of having an I Quit match inside Hell in a Cell.

8. Drew McIntyre vs. Sheamus, Raw 3/1/2021

There are other fantastic matches between Sheamus and Drew from the Thunderdome era, particularly their No Disqualification match a week from this one or their No Holds Barred fight at Fastlane — but this one, which was the first time the "Celtic Warrior" and the "Scottish Psychopath" faced off in singles competition since January of 2012, makes for the best out of the three.


This match immediately became one of the most physical and hard-hitting matches in either man's career, which was appropriate since Sheamus was in the middle of a storyline where he was trying to prove he could still hang at the very top level. It's more evenly matched than you might expect, considering the run McIntyre was in at the time, but there sense of equality between both men from the very start of the match, where they both get turns on the trademark Sheamus chest-hitting spot on the ropes. At the end, they go for the Claymore and the Brogue Kick, but only McIntyre's kick would land, giving him the victory.

This contest goes above and beyond any expectation you might have had and will surely be remembered as one of the best matches in either man's WWE career.


7. Rhea Ripley vs. Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair, WrestleMania Backlash 2021

For the first women's match in our list, Rhea Ripley defends the "Raw" Women's Championship for the very first time in what probably would have been a WrestleMania bout had Charlotte Flair not caught COVID around a week before the Showcase of the Immortals.


In Charlotte's first pay-per-view match since that year's Royal Rumble, she undeniably injected physicality, energy, and experience to the already existing feud between Ripley and Asuka, making for a convincing first defense for Rhea and an awesome showing by both "The Queen" and "The Empress." The match featured the trademark top rope moonsault to the outside from Flair and a couple of double team moves rotating between the participants in really entertaining sequences.

Other than the sheer athleticism and in-ring talent from all competitors, the element of psychology is probably the match's biggest virtue. It plays to all three's strengths and ends up making all look strong in the process, even in defeat.


Finally, this match keeps a consistently high pace throughout the entire contest, which, considering this was an unusual rhythm for all three, turned the match into a must-see event. You rarely see Flair, Asuka, or Ripley moving this quick and hitting this hard.

6. Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens, Royal Rumble 2021

Out of the three matches we saw between Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens from December 2020 to January 2021, it was not easy to pick any particular one as the best — but at the end of the day, there are added layers of drama, danger, and unpredictability that make this match the best out of their memorable series.


Unlike the other matches, this is probably where Owens felt the closest to winning the title from Reigns, specifically since at one point the "Head of the Table" was handcuffed down to a lighting rig for what felt like a few days. Some other truly unforgettable moments include Roman throwing Owens from the Thunderdome fan screens through a table, Owens operating and jumping off a forklift with an empty Tropicana field overlooking him, and of course, the "Tribal Chief" running over Owens with a golf cart.

If you are looking for an in-ring technical masterclass, this match will not be it, as almost none of it actually takes place inside the ring. Instead, it earns a spot on this list based on the sheer car-crash nature of the match.


5. Matt Riddle vs. Xavier Woods, Raw 5/24/2021

Back when Riddle was still trying to convince Randy Orton to tag team together and Woods was still getting used to life without Big E, these two fan favorites put on an unannounced instant classic on a random episode of "Raw."


With no storyline justification behind it, they both go all out from the moment the bell rings. They go from trading mat-based submissions, to trading strikes, to trading chops, to even trading suplexes. This is an excellent showcase for both of them, as they went out and took advantage of every minute out of the almost 13 they were given, which is even more impressive considering this was their very first singles match together.

These two guys, who were both deep into tag team runs, just had a good old pro wrestling match with no backstory, stipulation, or gimmick to it. For Xavier Woods, it served as an excellent reminder that even if he does not get the opportunity to wrestle in singles matches more regularly, he still is one of the most reliable members of the roster. When given a dance partner like Matt Riddle, only great things can happen in the ring.


Finally, the match is perfectly capped off with Riddle picking up the win after delivering an RKO, truly out of nowhere, and subsequently imitate Randy Orton's viper taunt, furthering the story between the two.

4. Sami Zayn vs. AJ Styles vs Jeff Hardy, Clash of Champions 2020

In what turned out to be the only Ladder Match (not counting TLC Matches) to be held in the Thunderdome, Jeff Hardy would put his fifth reign as Intercontinental Champion in jeopardy in his specialty match, against former champion AJ Styles and conspiracy theorist Sami Zayn.


As a little pre-match detail, there was a short clip highlighting each participant's last ladder match during their entrances, which absolutely sets the tone for the senseless wreckage that was about to take place. The match is nonstop action from start to finish and features all three wrestlers at their most destructive. They all take huge risks during the match — especially Jeff Hardy, who threw in a trademark swanton bomb from to a ladder bridge. Close to the end of the match, he got his earlobe extension grossly handcuffed to a ladder.

This match also gains notoriety as it marked the beginning of the second Intercontinental title reign for Sami Zayn. More importantly, it very well may have been Jeff Hardy's last ladder match in WWE.


3. Bayley vs. Sasha Banks, Hell in a Cell 2020

Following months of putting on the women's division of "Raw," "SmackDown," and even "NXT" on their backs, Sasha Banks and Bayley reignited their seemingly never-ending feud when the host of "Ding, Dong, Hello" attacked "The Boss" after they lost their WWE women's tag team championships.


The match had all the components to become an instant classic and it did not disappoint. Both Sasha and Bayley executed perfectly every step of the match, from the build and the promos before the match to the great use of weapons and high spots during the actual match.

This contest featured all usual ingredients in a WWE hardcore match. including chairs, kendo sticks, a table, and even a ladder. Where this match shines the brightest is in the execution of the moves, as they deliver a reckless and chaotic match while being completely safe. Both competitors were at the top of their game on this night and it shows as they do not miss a single beat during the entire fast-paced contest.

This match is a more than welcomed addition to their storied rivalry and stands tall next to their classic at Takeover: Brooklyn and the first ever Iron Woman Match at Takeover: Respect, and it deservedly earns a spot on the top three matches inside the WWE ThunderDome.


2. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn, SmackDown 7/2/2021

Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn had been generally kept apart as singles opponent following their excellent feud in 2015-16 that spanned over from "NXT" to "Raw," but this changed when both men reignited their feud over on "SmackDown" beginning with a singles match at WrestleMania last year. They would also square off in singles competition in an episode of "SmackDown" in April and during the Hell in a Cell PPV, but neither of those matches hold a candle to this one.


In a welcome surprise, WWE decided to give away this very clearly PPV-caliber match on "SmackDown" and as a Money in the Bank Qualifier no less. And as you can always expect them to, these two blow care to the wind as they added one more violent and gruesome chapter in their never ending story.

This is second Last Man Standing Match on this list, as well as the second match with this stipulation to feature Kevin Owens. That said, this somehow feels like a completely different than the match with Roman Reigns, especially since this match takes place pretty much entirely in the ringside area, making less use of space and stunts and more of crazy and violent spots.

Some of the moments that made this match such a barn-burner include the signature Kevin Owens fall onto a tower of tables, Sami Zayn dragon-suplexing Owens on the apron of the ring, and the finish of the match — which included Owens powerbombing Zayn three times, twice through a table and once on the apron of the ring.


1. Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan, SmackDown 4/30/2021

This is it, the best match out of 770 matches (per to take place inside the Thunderdome.

Once again, this was not an easy match to select, only made even harder by the fact that the match these two had a month earlier at Fastlane is absolutely fantastic. This one gets the upper hand thanks to the added stakes of Bryan's "SmackDown" career being on the line — and the fact it ends decisively and features no interference from neither Edge or Jey Uso, as opposed to the match a month prior.


As noted, Daniel Bryan ends up losing this match, which makes this match, as of this writing, his last ever in WWE. It feels appropriate, as he put on one of the best of his accomplished run and arguably one of the best matches in "SmackDown" history.

The match is an absolute masterclass in psychology, as Bryan works on Roman's right arm during most of the near-fall and submission filled match. This ended up being the "American Dragon's" downfall, as the "Tribal Chief" would ultimately use his left arm to lock in the deadly guillotine to finally put an end to Daniel Bryan's time in WWE.