Kevin Dunn, the WWE’s Executive Vice President of Television Production, spoke to Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated today to talk about the WWE ThunderDome experience.
Earlier today, WWE announced that they will begin a residency at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida for the “foreseeable future” starting with this week’s Friday Night SmackDown. They will be employing a concept called “WWE ThunderDome,” which will feature a state-of-the-art set, video boards, pyrotechnics, lasers, cutting-edge graphics and drone cameras.
Speaking to Barrasso, Dunn said that the ThunderDome will allow them a lot of creativity and the entrances will be better than WrestleMania entrances:
“We can now do things production-wise that we could never otherwise do. 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.”
The WWE ThunderDome will also include virtual fans through a partnership with The Famous Group. Fans can register to be part of the show via live video from home.
“Like the NBA, we’re doing virtual fans, but we’re also creating an arena-type atmosphere. 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 start on Friday on SmackDown, and it will be a learning experience. We have two days of testing, and we’re going to practice like hell, then we’re off to the races. We may have fans for certain entrances, standing up and cheering for the typical babyfaces. But someone like Bray Wyatt, who is so character-driven, the entire Amway Arena will be one big Fiend-dom. That’s our opportunity to be different from sports, where we can present these larger-than-life characters uniquely. This will be great for people watching at home across the globe, as well as the ones participating.”
The WWE ThunderDome will premiere on Friday, August 21 on Friday Night SmackDown.