WWE isn't just implementing ThunderDome as a response to COVID-19, they are also looking to utilize elements of this evolution once normalcy returns.
WWE will debut the ThunderDome on Friday's SmackDown, which is a new virtual fan experience taking place at the Amway Center. However, that doesn't mean that WWE isn't planning on utilizing the virtual experience in other markets.
Speaking with SportsBusiness, Duncan Leslie, WWE senior vice-president of event technical operations, openly discussed how ThunderDome will help re-strengthen WWE’s relationship with the audience and the possibility of the virtual viewing experience being used in other markets outside of Orlando, Florida.
"We’re looking to use our technical and design prowess to creatively enrich the experience for the fans. To me, having been here a while now, this almost feels like a mini-WrestleMania setup," said Duncan. "We’ve used so much of the available space to us because there are no physical fans here, and we’ve replaced them with artistic elements. The videoboards surround the ring almost in the same way the fans did when they were here in person."
Continuing on, Duncan spoke about the helpful nature of WWE's residency at the Amway Center and how that allows the streamline of production.
"It does help a lot. The set that has been designed and deployed is large in scope, very powerful, and visually impactful. The fact that we have a residency, as you mention, has allowed us to really expand on the physical characteristics of the set," said Leslie before addressing the possibility of ThunderDome outside of the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. "Anything’s possible. The set’s very complex. But I think we’re being very pragmatic about it. We’re here and we’re going to make the best use we can of the arena we’re in."
However, everything WWE does is with an eye towards the long-term future. Duncan spoke of the possibility that ThunderDome elements can be used outside of the COVID world.
"I think we’re going to have a proven design that is still amenable to change. As we go forward, whatever happens, we’re still going to have a lot of technical firepower to enhance both the in-venue and at-home viewer experience."
WWE ThunderDome kicks off with tonight's episode of Friday Night SmackDown and the show itself will begin with WWE CEO, Vince McMahon.
Fightful will have live coverage beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern.