I’m Old, I’m Tired and I Can’t Watch The ThunderDome
Welcome to the Cool Points.
Wow. It’s been awhile, eh? Feel like I went for a nap and woke up a year later, and we’re still in lockdown. We’re still living in a pandemic. But we can see the light. We’ve had a Wrestlemania with fans again. We’ve got fans attending nXt shows again and things are turning around.
My wrestling fandom has been at a standstill though. Though I have kept up a little through highlights and social media, I’m waiting for something or someone to catch my attention and hold it. What makes it difficult is the presentation WWE has settled on.
Maybe it’s just that I’m old and tired. I’d rather watch a wrestling show from 1997, one hell of a great year for wrestling, than watch something from what will become known as the pandemic era. I blame the production, not the skill level of the wrestlers and not even the storylines.
1. Quick camera cuts
Back and forth, back and forth, close-up, left, hard cam, ringside, close-up, left, right, left, right, it’s like a damn boxing match. I can appreciate that the TV producers are trying to create more excitement by adding these camera cuts to show the intensity of the action, but it’s too much. This is not an action movie. It’s still more of a sporting event than anything else. If you’re watching Premier League soccer or Monday Night football, you’re not seeing camera cuts every second as the quarterback throws to the receiver. Imagine seeing the camera cut turn from quarterback to intended receiver to right tackle approaching the quarterback, to quarterback again, all in the span of a few moments. It’s unpleasant and jarring.
It’s enough to make a person nauseous.
2. Bright lights and screens
I’ve really appreciated the aesthetics of nXt shows in the past where the lights over the audience are dimmed and the spotlight is on the ring. That’s where our focus should be anyways; I don’t need to be able to see what’s happening some 12-15 rows away from the wrestlers in the ring. With the creation of the ThunderDome and the Capitol Wrestling Center during the pandemic, screens have taken over as the focal point of the show. Bright, LED screens surround the opposite side of the hard cam, on multiple levels. We can see the faces of fans watching from the comfort of their homes, some paying attention, some not, and it’s so much more glaring and abrasive than having actual fans in the building. It’s harsh on the eyes to receive that much information at once. If I wanted sensory overload like that, I could play a video game or walk the strip in Vegas.
Why did WWE see this as an improvement over a more muted and dimmed in-arena environment?
3. No live audience
What has become abundantly clear to me, and likely to you, is just how important a live audience is to appreciating a wrestling event. The energy that fans bring to the matches and promos is something that wrestlers and fans at home equally feed off of. When WWE relies on piped-in crowd noises, it’s completely unsatisfying and unrealistic. I don’t need WWE telling me who should be cheered or booed. They’ve already been doing that for years with the booking and fans have been quite vocal in rejecting some of those forced reactions. Thankfully, they’ve pivoted with Roman Reigns lately, but you know some people are just gonna love Roman as a bad guy. I want to hear that mixed reaction from a live audience. Not canned “boos”! I want to hear the audience reacting to live promos again. I don’t want to keep seeing virtual fans do nothing while a pre-recorded crowd chant, from the good ol’ days, increases in volume after an energetic promo from Seth Rollins.
So, in the WWE Universe, when can an old and tired wrestling fan like me expect things to return to some kind of normal? Apparently, Friday, July 16th will feature the return of a live audience to Friday Night Smackdown. From there, Money In The Bank will be the next PPV to have fans back in the building. I suppose, if things go well, we can expect it to continue from there.
Word is that there will be new sets and a new look again for the shows. How that will affect the visual appeal of the show is unknown. Likely, it won’t be ThunderDome 2.0. and that makes me happy. WWE can make the sets as busy as they want as long as they’re largely out of view during the wrestling matches themselves. Hearing fans react to the in-ring action, seeing them react in real-time with no glitches or choppiness will be a sight for sore eyes. And man, my eyes have been sore during this pandemic era of wrestling.
Here are a few questions to consider from today’s column:
Have you enjoyed the ThunderDome and/or Capitol Wrestling Center? If so, why?
2. Do you agree or disagree with the importance of a live audience to the enjoyment of a wrestling show?
Please join in the discussion below on those questions or anything else you’d like to share. You can also follow me on Twitter to keep the conversation going there.