WWE Thunderdome is making its debut tonight on SmackDown as WWE has set up shop at the Amway Arena in Orlando. Thunderdome will provide an upgraded fan experience complete with 1,000 LED boards, pyrotechnics and drone cameras to add to the production.
Wrestling Inc’s Raj Giri got to test out the Thunderdome and Ryback discussed this new set on “Ryback TV Shooting Blanks Wrestling Report With Raj Giri.”
“I do think this is a temporary thing, probably, until crowds are back and it’s a much better option than nothing. I do think it’s gonna be one of those things we get used to over time,” said Ryback. “Let’s say if this was the new normal, it would take some time obviously to adjust. But from a performer’s standpoint, they have to be thrilled. They see all of that ? the boards set up throughout the arena. To me, that’s the next best thing.”
Ryback admitted that it is also eerie at the same time with all of these fans’ faces on TV screens and reminded him of a Black Mirror episode. He also wondered if we’re entering an era where there will be fans in attendance but also a section for virtual fans.
“From a business standpoint ? right now it’s probably free to get people to do this ? but once you’ve got fans in the arena and you can devote a section to the virtual fan experience. Maybe they can set it up where they can bring in a whole new revenue stream and not even take away from the live gate audience, if they were smart. This may be the beginning stages of the business evolving to the virtual reality and real life,” stated Ryback.
“I commend them for being the first ones in wrestling and they’re going all out with it. Those arena costs ? I remember because I would always ask the price at the arenas and keep track at the gates especially doing main events and getting paydays ? you keep track of that stuff? To get [Amway Arena] for $450,000 is great. The real challenge is gonna come once things start picking back up and they can’t keep that arena set up like that at all times. Then what do they do? They’ll deal with that when they have to cross that bridge or find another arena. But hat’s off to them for being the first to really do it and I think it’s gonna make a difference. I wish there was a way to do it with the real sound and not piped in sound, but better than nothing.”
Thunderdome’s debut couldn’t have come at a better time for WWE as their ratings have continued to sink during the pandemic. Raw has posted it’s four lowest viewerships of all-time in the last six weeks and SmackDown could also use a pick-me-up as WWE heads into SummerSlam.
“It’s gonna be interesting to see if there’s a boost in the ratings or if they continue to decline even when bringing energy? This is gonna be giving us information in the couple of weeks with how this does. It’s gonna be quite telling. It’s not gonna solve the overall problem but it’s a step in the right direction,” said Ryback.
He then noted that just having fans’ eyeballs, even virtually, will provide the type of nervous good energy that performers like and feed off of.