Keith Mitchell explains why he did not want to utilize a setup similar to WWE’s ThunderDome during the early portion of the pandemic.
The global pandemic forced all Industries to rethink how they operate. Professional wrestling was no different. An industry that feeds off of fan reactions, now many promotions were running shows without an audience.
WWE introduced the advent of the ThunderDome, a technologically-advanced setup that would allow fans to log in to WWE events virtually and have their faces appear on screens in an empty arena.
WWE held many major events inside of the ThunderDome structure, including Roman Reigns’ heel turn at SummerSlam 2020, The Undertaker’s farewell at WWE Survivor Series, and the 2021 Royal Rumble event.
AEW instead opted for having wrestlers in the crowd as a pseudo-audience, allowing for a more natural atmosphere for in-ring performers.
During a recent appearance on Talk is Jericho, Keith Mitchell, who was a producer in many promotions through the years before ending his career in AEW, explains why he did not want a similar setup to WWE ThunderDome for AEW, citing the inauthentic nature of a digital audience.
Mitchell said, “ You guys , obviously, were the most adversely affected by it, which no crowd but from us, I mean, we there were several different things that were, you know, the Zoom wall or this or —
“I really didn't want to do that. I don't know if I don't really talk Tony out of doing it, because, to me, it just felt like it would be canned. It would not be, have I felt like we could get a lot better. It just didn't seem to me like it was it would come across well on television.”
Jericho said that he was in favor of trying it until he saw how it didn't work out well for WWE. Keith Mitchell noted that a lot of the problems they faced were what he was concerned about.
“That was my concern. Because, it was difficult to mix the sound of the people the look, it just would — to me, it came across as it was gonna look real plastic, real fake, not that energy that I was talking about earlier about the crowd, making you feel like you're sitting — you wouldn't have felt like you're sitting at ringside, you would feel like you were, watching a video game or whatever. So we — it was a big transition, but I think that having the guys come in at ringside, that the talent sitting at ringside was a genius idea. I think that was probably Tony's idea, and, brought in [and] helped out a lot of guys that, [were brought in], so they could work on Dark and Elevation.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Keith Mitchell talks about meeting with Vince McMahon during the early days of Vince’s global expansion. Learn more here.
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