Quick Takes on WWE ThunderDome, Goldberg's Future, NXT TakeOver, More

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured ColumnistAugust 23, 2020

Quick Takes on WWE ThunderDome, Goldberg's Future, NXT TakeOver, More

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    The ThunderDome has the potential to make WWE programming infinitely more aesthetically pleasing if the company can continues to work out the bugs.
    The ThunderDome has the potential to make WWE programming infinitely more aesthetically pleasing if the company can continues to work out the bugs.Credit: WWE.com

    WWE ThunderDome was unveiled during Friday's SmackDown and drastically changed how fans will be experiencing the product for the foreseeable future.

    The timing of its debut couldn't be better, with SummerSlam taking place Sunday. While a noticeable improvement over the WWE Performance Center, there are still several bugs that need to be worked out before it can be considered a true success.

    Raw, SmackDown, 205 Live and the pay-per-views are set to emanate from the ThunderDome through at least late October, whereas NXT will continue to be filmed at Full Sail University. That included Saturday's TakeOver XXX spectacular, a show that managed to deliver despite the unfortunate circumstances meaning there were no fans in attendance.

    It will be exciting to see what the future holds for the black-and-gold brand coming out of the event, even though the question of "what's next?" is often reserved for Goldberg.

    The WWE Hall of Famer made headlines recently when he revealed on The Pop Culture Show that he's under contract to WWE through 2023 and will wrestle at least two matches per year. Having already wrestled twice this year, it's safe to say it's going to be a while before we find out who else from he is interested in working with.

    Ahead of SummerSlam, this week's installment of Quick Takes will tackle potential opponents for Goldberg for his return, initial impressions of the ThunderDome, AEW Dynamite fallout and more.

Weighing the Pros and Cons of WWE ThunderDome's Debut on SmackDowm

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    WWE did what it could to make the shows emanating from its Performance Center worthwhile, but it's been evident for weeks that a change of scenery was desperately needed.

    If nothing else, WWE ThunderDome injects new energy to Raw, SmackDown and the pay-per-views.

    The ThunderDome looks fantastic. The grand stage and set fans are used to seeing on WWE TV hadn't been used since March because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the return of pyrotechnics was a nice touch.

    Most importantly, it was refreshing to have fans take part in the program, even though their involvement was limited. Viewers who tuned in on Fox could see the spectators sitting in front of their cameras, watching with the rest of the world at home, so WWE encouraging them to be more lively would be a step in the right direction.

    Furthermore, their audio was replaced by background noise that's typically heard in the WWE 2K video games. Whether that's effective in making the shows more engaging is dependent on personal preference, but a balance between that and the fans in the "audience" would be best.

    It's important to keep in mind that the next several shows at the ThunderDome are essentially test runs. Aspects of the arena will be tweaked if need be, and any issues with the concept should be looked at as growing pains.

    There is reason to be optimistic about this idea, however. It's the most practical thing WWE can do without welcoming fans back into the building in person. And as overwhelming as those bloated video walls may be, it's worth giving a chance to WWE and accepting the ThunderDome as the new norm for now.

Pat McAfee Must Be Brought Back to NXT Following Impressive in-Ring Debut

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    There were a ton of questions among fans going into Saturday night as to whether former football player Pat McAfee would deliver the goods on the grand stage of NXT TakeOver XXX. And sure enough, he didn't disappoint.

    McAfee obviously benefited from having as talented of an opponent as Adam Cole. However, there can be no doubt that he was determined to prove his detractors wrong with his performance and that he managed to do just that.

    It was well documented ahead of TakeOver that McAfee was a naturally gifted athlete given his history on the gridiron, but it was impossible to tell how he would fare inside the squared circle. Between taking Cole to the limit and nearly scoring what would have been a massive upset, it's safe to say he exceeded expectations.

    Of course, Cole reigning supreme was the right outcome, but McAfee gained plenty more in defeat than Cole did in victory. With more training, he has the potential to be a real player on the black-and-gold brand.

    In the meantime, NXT would be wise to keep him around in a managerial role, as his mic skills are above-average for someone who has zero prior wrestling experience. He's easy to hate and has a lot to offer, as seen Saturday night.

Renee Young Reportedly Leaving WWE; Is She AEW-Bound?

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    Renee Young, who has been a recurring highlight on WWE programming since her debut in 2012, is reportedly set to leave WWE, per Bobby Burack of OutKick.

    The news was repeated by Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com, with Alex McCarthy of TalkSport later adding that she's expected to depart immediately following SummerSlam this weekend.

    Young has been seen sparingly on SmackDown recently but has not been utilized in a significant role since WWE Backstage on FS1, which she hosted, was unceremoniously cancelled in June. That's in addition to her removal from commentary last year and the cancellation of Talking Smack—which she hosted alongside Daniel Bryan—in the summer of 2017.

    In other words, the writing has been on the wall for quite some time.

    Whether she was serving as a backstage interviewer, pre-show panelist or talk-show host, Young knocked virtually every role she had out of the park. Even when her run as a Raw commentator didn't pan out, she at least gave it a great effort for as long as she was behind the booth.

    Early speculation among fans is that she's All Elite Wrestling-bound, with that being where her husband, Jon Moxley, competes. But as great of a fit as she would be there, she has all the tools necessary to thrive anywhere she decides to take her talents. That includes ESPN and Fox, as either company would be fortunate to have her.

    It can be argued that Renee Young may just be too good for professional wrestling and has the ability to branch out if she so chooses. Perhaps she signs a deal with AEW that allows her to work elsewhere in addition to doing backstage interviews or whatever else for that promotion.

    Regardless, her decision to exit the company should prove to be smart based on how WWE doesn't seem to know what it has in her.

AEW Begins Process of Rebuilding Brodie Lee with Dominant Title Win over Cody

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    Brodie Lee's run in AEW has been less than stellar, to say the least.

    The former Luke Harper arrived with plenty of online fanfare and was introduced as The Exalted One of The Dark Order his first night in. After failing to fully flesh out his new character, he was thrust into the AEW World Championship picture and lost to Jon Moxley in a title match at Double or Nothing.

    In the three months since then, he hasn't done much of note aside from attempting to recruit Colt Cabana. That was, however, until he challenged Cody to an AEW TNT Championship match Saturday night on Dynamite and proceeded to squash him in under three minutes to clinch the title.

    Virtually every bout Lee has had on AEW TV up to this point has been somewhat competitive, so to see him make such short work of The American Nightmare was both surprising and refreshing. It cemented him as a force to be reckoned with a la Brock Lesnar after he decimated John Cena at SummerSlam 2014.

    Other than his outing against Moxley, Lee hasn't been afforded too many opportunities to shine in the ring in recent months. Thus, his one-sided victory over Cody was crucial as AEW begins the process of building him back up again.

    The show's ending angle, with The Dark Order laying out every member of The Nightmare Family, seemed to plant the seeds for a faction war as well as send the message that The Dark Order isn't to be taken lightly anymore.

Who's Next for Goldberg?

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    With Goldberg confirming recently that he's slated to wrestle at least two matches per year for WWE until 2022 or 2023, fans have started to speculate who's next for the WWE Hall of Famer.

    Goldberg last appeared on WWE TV at WrestleMania 36, where he lost the Universal Championship to Braun Strowman in quick and decisive fashion. He was originally scheduled to face Roman Reigns before The Big Dog pulled out of the event because of coronavirus-related concerns, so Reigns should be the first person he faces whenever he resurfaces.

    Considering Goldberg already has two matches under his belt this year (including the infamous contest with "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt at Super ShowDown), it's likely we won't be seeing him until 2021 and potentially WrestleMania season at the earliest.

    Aside from Reigns, there aren't many obvious candidates for Goldberg's next opponent. On the SmackDown side of things, Matt Riddle would be an interesting option seeing as how he's criticized the two-time Universal champion for years, but Riddle isn't at the level where he would be perceived as a legitimate threat to Goldberg by fans.

    Meanwhile, John Cena was rumored to collide with Goldberg at one point before WrestleMania 36, but it may not be as much of a marquee match as WWE probably hopes it would be. Sheamus would make more sense given how physical both men are in the ring and how he could feasibly get the best bout possible out of him.

    Anything can change between now and the next time Goldberg returns to the ring, but it isn't exactly something the WWE Universe is clamoring to see after his latest lackluster run.

                 

    Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.