Plans are shaping up for Thunderdome, WWE's new concept for reproducing the excitement of shows with live fans in an arena where none are allowed. As previously reported, WWE is starting a residency at the Amway Center, a basketball arena in downtown Orlando. To reproduce the live event dynamic, WWE will be using LED screens to show fans watching the show from home. But that's not all that Thunderdome is about. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, WWE EVP of Television Production Kevin Dunn detailed exactly how Thunderdome will work.
"We can now do things production-wise that we could never otherwise do," said Dunn in the interview. "We're flying drones in the arena, we are putting a roof inside the Amway Center, and we'll be able to project content onto the roof. So when a big star like Drew McIntyre comes down to the ring, the whole arena will turn into his content with lasers, pyro, smoke, projections on the top of the building, and on the floor. It will be a big, beautiful entrance, better than WrestleMania."
In addition to the theatrics, the Thunderdome will allow 1,000 fans to participate virtually by cheering, booing, and, probably, showing their genitalia on screen. We mean, it's gotta happen, right? At least once.
"Like the NBA, we're doing virtual fans, but we're also creating an arena-type atmosphere," Dunn said. "We won't have a flat board; we'll have rows and rows and rows of fans. We'll have almost 1,000 LED boards, and it will recreate the arena experience you're used to seeing with WWE. The atmosphere will be night and day from the Performance Center. This is going to let us have a WrestleMania-level production value, and that's what our audience expects from us. We are also going to put arena audio into the broadcast, similar to baseball, but our audio will be mixed with the virtual fans. So when fans start chants, we'll hear them."
"We may have fans for certain entrances, standing up and cheering for the typical babyfaces," Dunn continued. "But someone like Bray Wyatt, who is so character-driven, the entire Amway Arena will be one big Fiend-dom."
For Dunn, the Thunderdome has got to be his wet dream. As a producer of all of WWE's television shows, Dunn peppers the action with frequent camera cuts, shaking the cameras whenever someone hits a move, and other extremely distracting tactics. Now he'll have even more cameras to cut to, some of them flying drones, as well as a thousand fans to show reacting to whatever is happening in the ring. Dunn could probably produce an entire three-hour Raw where we don't even see a single move performed in the ring, just constant camera cuts, and fan reactions.
WWE Thunderdome begins on Friday's episode of Smackdown and will continue through Raw, Smackdown, and PPVs for the foreseeable future.