My first impression of ThunderDome after WWE unveiled it on SmackDown last week was that it was fine. Aesthetically speaking, I don’t particularly like the digital backdrop of all the fans on all those screens, but that’s not too much of a bother.
As it turns out, some trolls and generally stupid people decided to play pranks and try to screw it up for everyone in the past couple days. So there are some definite drawbacks to this thing as the promotion continues working out the kinks.
Having said that, I am shocked at how fast ThunderDome grew on me.
Put simply, WWE wasn’t entirely wrong when the powers that be claimed one of the biggest issues with its television product was how small it all felt in the Performance Center. I hardly realized just how much that was the case until they moved to the Amway Center and suddenly everything could breathe again.
It instantly made it feel like we were watching an actual show with performers who were legitimately performing for an audience instead of entertaining an empty room (or, later, a room full of planted “fans”). The audio isn’t perfect, and I’m certain they’re piping in noise, but even that is a welcome addition. With actual fans there to witness the action, the piped in noise feels almost natural.
The early returns are solid as far as ratings are concerned. That may or may not hold, and the presentation isn’t nearly as important as the creative — which was sorely lacking this week — but at the very least WWE feels like WWE again.