Wrestling fans, rejoice!
WWE announced on the May 24th edition of Monday Night Raw that the company will be returning to its live event schedule, beginning in July 2021.
The 25-city tour begins with trio of Texas shows: The Toyota Center in Houston will be home to Friday Night Smackdown on July 16; the “Money In The Bank” pay per view will take place at the Dickies Arena in Fort Worth on July 18; and finally Monday Night Raw at the American Airlines Center in Dallas on July 19. Additional dates will be announced in the coming weeks.
Forced to halt touring as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, WWE retreated to the confines of the Performance Center, its Orlando-based training facility to maintain its rigorous weekly programming schedule on a closed set.
Missing its fans, WWE introduced the ThunderDome: a state of the art immersive fan experience complete with pyrotechnics, augmented reality graphics, 8K cameras and the ability to project a virtual audience from the confines of home.
The ThunderDome established residencies at the Amway Center in Orlando, Tropicana Field and the Yuengling Center in Tampa Bay. While it could not perfectly replace a raucous live audience, the ThunderDome promoted at-home fan engagement while live sporting and entertainment events were put on pause.
“I am your conductor of destruction . . . and I can’t wait to get back competing on the road[!]” declared Raw superstar Braun Strowman during the official announcement.
ThunderDome was an instant hit with the WWE Universe. The innovative solution to COVID-19 capacity restrictions earned the Virtual Fan Experience Award at the 2020 SPORTEL Awards, as well as the Best Tech Innovation Award at the 2021 Cynopsis Sports Media Awards. Additionally, its success led to the launch of a similar interactive fan experience called the Capital Wrestling Center, which currently serves as the home to WWE’s third brand, NXT.
To commemorate the return of a live crowd, WWE has commissioned new sets for its weekly shows, Monday Night Raw and Friday Night Smackdown.