The WWE ThunderDome is the pro-wrestling giant’s solution to having live crowds in their shows during the quarantine. In place of thousands of raving Wrestlemaniacs are rows and rows of screens with faces on them—like the world’s largest and most intense Zoom call.
This clever compromise allows the WWE to simulate the live atmosphere of a wrestling show as well as giving their talent a live audience to work with, which is an essential part of the wrestling craft. For the fans, The WWE ThunderDome gives them a way to experience and be part of the action like never before—and by that I mean you get to see yourself on TV.
I was one of those fans.
Last Saturday morning, (Friday evening EST) I made my WWE Debut™ as an audience member for Smackdown. It was a glorious moment in time.
This was it, I would not throw away my shot. I woke up at the crack of dawn last Saturday just to make it to the 9 am GMT call time. As I clicked the link to join the ThunderDome and proceeded to wait for three whole hours, I agonized about how I couldn’t wear my favorite WWE shirt because it was at the cleaners, and how I didn’t have the championship belts me and my wife were married with, all while intense wrestling music pumped non-stop in the background.
As I sat there and time flew by as I overthought myself to a nervous wreck, the time came to finally start. Then suddenly something unexpected and terrifying beyond all reason happened: A man started talking to me.
This unseen man spoke like a messiah from the heavens saying something along the lines of:
“Hey everyone, welcome to the WWE ThunderDome. We want to see some energy out there as we’re about to start”
Now, this is something that I learned about the WWE ThunderDome that no one really tells you—being part of the ThunderDome is actually a performance. You get to watch the show live, free of charge but you are essentially a background actor. You boo the bad guys and cheer the good guys. This disembodied messiah is your director. As the night went on this man would invoke you to react in certain ways to certain moves or superstars, he’d tell you when the show would cut to a commercial break, and he’d keep asking for “energy”.
Now at 9:00 on a Saturday morning, this energy that this man spoke of might as well have been a Goldberg match that I actually cared about—it just doesn’t exist yet. So I proceeded to meander through the first half of the show trying my best to react and cheer and boo. My facecam wasn’t in the coveted spot right behind the wrestling ring where the TV camera can spot me so I wasn’t paying much heed.
Then disaster struck.
I got complacent in one of the commercial breaks and left my chair to talk to my wife for a bit and I missed the call time for the break. When I returned to my chair all I saw were the twelve painful words:
“Your time with the WWE ThunderDome has ended. Thank you for watching!”
I was gutted. It felt like I was let go from a dream job by resting on my laurels. I flew too close to the sun and then it put me in a piledriver and sent me crashing back down to the earth. It was devastating.
But then my wife suggested that I take her link instead, as she wanted to sleep in anyway.
It was like a new lease on life. I was not too far gone. This was redemption for my sins.
From then on I proceeded to become the best wrestling fan in the history of the world. I would woot. I would holler. I would cheer and boo to every single little thing that happened on screen waving my hands like a maniac as I did until…
To my surprise, during a segment between Natalya and Tamina, I saw a familiar bald head right in behind the ring! It was me! I was on TV. It was happening!
Let me tell you, this only emboldened my resolve. If you thought I was overselling the moves before, at this point I was giving them away. I was paying people hand over fist to buy these moves from me. I was not about to throw away my moment in the spotlight.
I reacted to every single little blow like it was a vicious haymaker.
I booed and hissed at every heel that walked out with such hatred that I only usually reserve for disappointing season finales.
I acted like I had never seen a human lift another human and slam them onto a mat before.
Whenever a pinfall would be broken I wept and cried in awe as if an impossible herculean feat had been performed before me.
And every victory I met with unbridled elation and revelry.
I was the perfect wrestling fan. And the Director/Messiah noticed.
And with my devotion to the sacred craft, my production deity would smile upon me. He would keep me on, in the middle of the screen FOR THE ENTIRE LAST HOUR OF THE SHOW. Even as others beside me fell, reshuffled into the endless sea of obscurity, I would hold my spot from the halfway mark until the broadcast ended.
Here I am reacting to the main event, the final match of the night, between Daniel Bryan and Jey Uso.
When it was all said and done it felt as though I had ascended into more than a man: I was a demigod among audience members. I was chosen as champion by the production gods and my tale was immortalized in the Great Tapestry of Smackdown. I had done well and I earned my hero’s welcome in the hallowed halls of Wrestlehalla.
Should you want to follow in my footsteps and weave your own slam saga, you can do so by registering for the WWE ThunderDome here: www.wwethunderdome.com
Just know that you are going up against some stiff competition in the pantheon. I’ll see you out there, mortal.
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