WWE’s Executive Producer & Chief of Global Television Distribution Kevin Dunn recently spoke with Cynopsis Sports and discussed the genesis of the WWE ThunderDome set up. Dunn said due to the COVID-19 pandemic, WWE looked at what other sports leagues were doing, but they knew they had to innovate and think outside of the box, virtually.
Dunn also revealed that almost 300,000 fans from around the world have signed up for ThunderDome crowds since it launched in late August.
“During months of testing and learning and listening to our fans, we were experimenting with new ways to add more energy into our live shows,” he said. “We looked at what other leagues were doing, but we ultimately wanted to do something that was right for us and right for our fans.
“We knew we had to innovate, think outside the box, and recreate the in-arena atmosphere and interactive experience that is synonymous with WWE events. But do it virtually. Our world-class WWE TV production team had a specific vision, and designed and executed WWE ThunderDome, which launched on August 21, in advance of SummerSlam. A state-of-the-art set, video boards, pyrotechnics, lasers, cutting-edge graphics and drone cameras. A true spectacle. To date, nearly 300,000 WWE fans from around the world have registered to be a part of WWE ThunderDome. It’s the hottest ticket around.”
Dunn also discussed lessons learned and surprises from the ThunderDome. He said the biggest challenge the company has faced was just trying to reimagine RAW and SmackDown with a new technology.
“I think the biggest challenge was just trying to reimagine our weekly flagship programming with a new technology that, we believe, has never been implemented before at this scale,” Dunn said. “Everything had to be reassessed as we were planning to launch ThunderDome. In testing, traditional camera shots were making the virtual fans look flat.
“Our entire lighting and production design had to be reimagined from the ground up. We have a great team that had to reinvent themselves, and their day to day responsibilities, in order to come up with something as innovative as WWE ThunderDome.”
Regarding the future and moving forward through the pandemic era, Dunn said WWE is exploring new ideas and new shooting techniques. He also said he expects WWE’s live events to draw heavily from what they’ve learned from ThunderDome.
“If you asked me a year ago, I’d have said there is nothing we haven’t done from a production standpoint, but during this process, we’ve learned a lot and innovated in so many ways that I’d say anything is possible,” he said. “Our goal is always to create the best possible experience for our fans. So, we are exploring a number of ideas and new shooting techniques, and in a post pandemic world I would expect to see our live shows draw heavily from our ThunderDome learnings.”
As noted, WWE is set to move the ThunderDome from the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, to the Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.