Last Friday night, I was fortunate enough to be selected for Smackdown’s WWE ThunderDome. For those unaware, that is the live virtual fan viewing experience that has been around for the past two/three months. We’ve all seen it. We all know what it is. All the video screens and weird faces in the background of the ring and set. Kinda different and hard to get used to…but that’s the best of a bad situation right now. I had previously registered back when all of this started around Summerslam but haven’t even bothered since. The capacity was already full and/or I worked those specific nights. Last week, I did apply again on the off chance I was selected. The day of the show, I did get a confirmation email and was told to click my personal verification link around ‘call time.’ For me, that was about an hour before Smackdown.
Here is my experience from inside the THUNDERDOME!
First off, I must say that I almost did NOT get in. When I went to my email and completed the verification link sent, I had a screen staring back at me saying stuff like “Sorry, full capacity.” Or my favorite was “Your session is over. Good luck next time.” I just kept refreshing, kept trying again, kept signing in, kept going for it. Like I said above, it was another hour until Smackdown began, so I knew I had to have this wiggle room or else I’d have been screwed. Finally, about 30 minutes before the show was set to start, I was in! Success! I think the quote was “YOU MADE IT. STAY TUNED!” I have pictures and videos in this column throughout. Also on my Twitter page (@JustinWatry) – be sure to check out those.
From there, we got Voice Dude telling us what was to come. He said no smoking, no vaping, no blocking the camera, no laying down, NO MASKS, no signs unless it is supporting WWE, etc. Stuff like that. He also noted to turn on FOX if you are a Nielson household. I found that funny. He noted to mute your television and only watch your monitor. That is where the crew can best see your face and excitement, not looking off into the distance. The more high energy you are, the better your odds to be on camera. I did indeed have my TV on FOX but only so my girlfriend could watch from the couch. She was my spy, looking for my beautiful face somewhere in the crowd. There was a slight 15 second delay I noticed, with the WWE ThunderDome stuff being on first, followed by the FOX airing. Maybe it was just me though?
The show was what it was. I will not review everything because that isn’t why you clicked. You clicked for the WWE ThunderDome stuff. Couple of quick notes:
– We got a Chad Gable promo. It wasn’t exactly the best but whatever. The guy is talented inside the squared circle and hopefully gets a chance to shine.
– I also remember a Bianca Belair promo, but now I can’t recall if that was also from Smackdown or not.
– In between commercial breaks, we did not get any advertisements you saw on FOX. We were treated to various WWE video packages. Just the usual ones you see during television tapings inside the arena. Quick two minute videos about WWE. Funniest was Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, and The New Day on The Jimmy Fallon Show from a few years back. Always laugh at that lip sync battle.
Either way, nothing to write about there. The Voice Dude would count us down to returning. He never gave outright spoilers, but he would say stuff like “Promo coming.” The rumors are true; they do tell you to boo, cheer, point thumbs down, do the ‘Yes!’ chant, etc. That is true…he would tell us good job or say we are doing great to keep us motivated and chugging along as the night progressed. My favorite was during the big Murphy kiss scene, Voice Dude was muttering “Drama, drama, drama…” and told us to show off our shocked faces. I needed no instructions there. That was a jaw dropper.
At the end of the show, he counted us down one last time to tell us when the broadcast was going off the air. Afterwards, he thanked us and the screen said “WE ARE DONE FOR THE NIGHT. CHECK BACK SOON!” That was it. I logged off and went to bed. Early work the next morning. Pretty fun. I may actually be joining the RAW edition of the WWE ThunderDome tonight as well, but who knows? I’ll keep everybody posted. This is not something I would do every show. It was tough to stay in your little screen for the whole two hours. I did get up and grab some food during the main event and did my best not to shake the camera or move out of sight very much. Tough, slow walk to the kitchen.
As for the big question – did I make it on TV? Let’s be honest. That is why most viewers are probably doing this. Well, within about five seconds of sitting down, my girlfriend yelled she saw me. I didn’t believe her. She hit REWIND and paused every little thing until sure enough, there I was. I was in the corner to the right of the hard camera view but to the left of the announce table. If you go back and watch, I was above Murphy’s shoulder as he was talking…so yeah, kinda off to the side but right at eye level. Same with Sasha Banks when she was talking to Bayley, I was behind her. Without my girlfriend looking out for me, I would have never seen my bald head. In hindsight, wearing my white custom made WWE suit and sitting in front of a white wall was not the best decision.
Maybe next time will be a bright yellow shirt with my Winged Eagle Championship around my shoulder? Maybe.
That pretty much covers it. Cool time, something different and interactive. I like the concept and implore everybody else to apply. Just for the experience, at least once. Until then, if you do have any questions about the entire ordeal, feel free to hit me up. Again, Twitter is @JustinWatry – thanks for reading.