This past Friday night on Smackdown WWE introduced the “Thunderdome” to the Universe. The WWE Thunderdome is set to host upcoming RAW, Smackdown, and Pay Per View events for the foreseeable future. So, what is the Thunderdome? It’s a new and exciting viewing experience in the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida that’s visually stunning for audiences watching at home and for the audience in attendance. You heard that correctly. The WWE has LED boards in the stands where fans would normally be and there are small screens in each row with a fan viewing the show from their home. It’s basically a live zoom call.
When audiences tuned into Smackdown on Friday they were absolutely blown away, myself included. This doesn’t come as a surprise to many because WWE has never failed to visually impress audiences, and why shouldn’t they? They’re a multi-million dollar television company with years of experience in stunning stage designs. WWE has a huge budget to work with and that definitely helps create great production value.
The WWE Thunderdome was second to none in production value. The WWE superstar’s entrances were amplified with use of every LED board surrounding the ring creating something new and exciting for audiences everywhere. The virtual crowd really created a refreshing atmosphere that fans have been missing for months. It was a wonderful change from the incredibly dull look of the Performance Center. Yes, I know they had to make do with what they had, but this was a nice change of pace. All of this being said, you’re probably wondering why the title of this article is negative?
A new look may be refreshing to audiences everywhere, but nothing changes the fact that the product still sucks. Yeah, sorry to be blunt, but it truly does. RAW and Smackdown have been a disaster for months and RAW is getting significantly worse each and every week. I tuned into Smackdown Friday with a glimmer of hope that maybe because of the new location and new look, maybe the creative direction would change… boy was I wrong.
A Roll up win isn’t good if you’re fighting for a title or asserting dominance like Big E was trying to do over Sheamus Friday night. It doesn’t work for either party. It makes Big E look like he took a cop out won and it makes Sheamus look like a chump. That’s just one example, there are so many more. Speaking of improper finishes to a match, there were THREE on RAW Monday night… THREE! That’s excessive and way too many for one night.
Here’s the thing. A flashy new arena won’t change the fact that the creative direction is horrible. Let’s begin. There’s a group that calls themselves “Retribution” that’s been terrorizing the WWE performance center, superstars, and staff for weeks and it’s the lamest angle they have going right now. They wear masks to hide their appearance and the WWE is making audiences wonder who they are when in reality everyone is annoyed and want them to go away. Let’s just say, I really hope the WWE has a huge pay off for this group because it’s not working for anyone right now.
Another thing that’s driving fans crazy is the insane amount of repetitive and improper finishes in matches. These days you see more roll up, DQ, Count Out, or no contest finishes to matches more than actual pin or submission finishes. This is a huge issue because it’s not helping anyone. If the WWE is trying to get a star over or build a feud this isn’t the way to do it. Roll up wins are good if you’re trying to put over a new talent over an established veteran talent.
Booking issues are getting worse and even when matches have actual finishes such as pin or submission, the WWE still manages to screw something up in the middle. There are way too many distractions and shenanigans that happen during a WWE match. For example, just the other night on RAW Angel Garza went one on one with Ivar of the Viking Raiders and while you’d expect this to be good, Zelina Vega had to get involved somehow and it distracted Ivar leading Angel to score the pin after his finisher.
I understand that this is what a manager is supposed to do, but it happens far too often. Sometimes, you have to let the heels play dirty on their own. Thumbs to the eye, low blows, the usual thing that makes a heel a heel.
The creative direction has been an atrocity these days that makes no sense at all. Two weeks ago on RAW Montez Ford was “poisoned” before his match against Andrade and collapsed in the ring during his match. Yes, he was poisoned, i’m not making this up. The WWE went with a poisoning story.
Furthermore let’s talk about the women’s division. Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan reunited as a tag team recently and they lose every single week. What was the point in having them team up if they were just going to lose? Who is this helping? Another thing that makes no sense is that Mustafa Ali made a huge return a few weeks back and scored a huge win and since then, he’s been getting jobbed out to Bobby Lashley, MVP, and Shelton Benjamin.
RAW also has a bad tendency to just throw things together with no build up. One week the universe is forced to sit through Lana and Lashley getting a “Divorce” and we didn’t see Lana for quite some time and then one week she’s with Natalya and their a team apparently, because logic? This is a recurring problem and it’s confusing audiences and making them tune out.
Recently RAW introduced “RAW Underground” which is basically an “anything goes” fight club during the third hour of RAW. In translation, WWE creative was desperate for something new and fresh during the third hour because it’s the hardest hour to write for, so they gave us this. Shane McMahon hosts “RAW Underground” every single week and here’s what I’ll say about it, I’m going to give it a chance. It’s different, hasn’t sucked me in yet, but it’s not the worst idea they could’ve come up with. That’s all I’ll say about it now.
I understand that all of my examples on WWE creative being lackluster were all from RAW, but if I had to sit here and spell out every single detail I’d be typing all day. My point is I truly don’t believe that this “Thunderdome” is going to change anything. The product hasn’t been good in months. I respect the WWE being there each and every week because I genuinely enjoy watching RAW, NXT, and Smackdown. This article may not show that sort of affection, but I truly do.
Not all of WWE is bad. Every show has their moments. NXT stands alone on its own because it’s definitely the best broadcast each and every week. Smackdown is a close second but could use some minor changes, and RAW is a mess almost every single week, but getting to see Drew McIntyre as champion, Randy Orton deliver his best work in years, and rising stars coming into their element each week, it’s worth having to sit through the confusing booking, frustration match finishes, and idiotic creative, but having this new “Thunderdome” won’t change anything. The bad will just look visually appealing, but it’ll still be bad.