Matt Riddle’s Positive Experience Wrestling in the WWE ThunderDome Amidst the Pandemic

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On a recent edition of “The Kurt Angle Show” podcast, former WWE Superstar Matt Riddle explained why he enjoyed wrestling in the WWE Thunderdome during the COVID-19 pandemic following his main roster call-up in 2020.

Riddle was released from his WWE contract in September 2023 following which he signed with MLW.


You can check out some highlights from the podcast below:

On his main roster call-up in 2020: “You know, going to the SmackDown roster, I knew it was the big show. You know, not that Raw isn’t, Raw’s been there forever. But when you first get called up, getting called up to Raw is cool, but when you first get called up, getting called up to SmackDown because it’s on Fox and it’s like, there’s a lot of prestige. At least at that time, when you announced me, there’s a lot. I don’t know how it is now things have changed [with Endeavor taking over]. There’s a lot of moving pieces. But when I was there, the place to be was on Fox, especially during COVID and everything else, because it was like most watched things going. So it was huge, I knew I was put in a fantastic spot.”

On wrestling in the ThunderDome: “Honestly, highly enjoyable. You know, not because I don’t like the fans. It’s even more enjoyable with the fans. But like, when you wrestle in high school, there’s sometimes you wrestle and there’s not that many people in the stands sometimes. And when I was on The Ultimate Fighter, we basically bought in like — we’re fighting, we’re breaking faces. I broke a dude’s jaw in front of like 15 people. But to me it was like, ‘Oh whatever.’ You know, it’s just like, it’s a job, you know. I can still get that adrenaline pumping, even if there are no people or there are people. Because I just psych myself up.

“So I was gonna get used to that situation. I know a lot of the guys I worked with weren’t happy with it of course. Because, ‘No crowd, how do you feel about the moments? How do I set? Usually, I pace myself here.’ Well when there’s no crowd or anything, it was kind of more like sport. Because you didn’t have to wait for the crowd or — you’re still listening, the ref’s giving cues. But then again it’s like, there’s nothing to really give cues on. You know the match, you’re given the times. You know what you’re filming for. And then even when we went live, it was pretty much the same because we didn’t have to work around a crowd or anything random, right.”

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Former WWE Superstar Matt Riddle recently discussed his experience wrestling in the WWE Thunderdome during the COVID-19 pandemic. Riddle, who was released from his WWE contract in September 2023 and signed with MLW, shared his thoughts on being called up to the main roster and wrestling without a live audience.

When Riddle was called up to the SmackDown roster in 2020, he felt a sense of prestige and excitement. He acknowledged that while Raw has been around for a long time, being on SmackDown, especially because it aired on Fox, felt like a significant opportunity. At that time, SmackDown was one of the most-watched shows, and Riddle knew he was in a fantastic spot.

One aspect of wrestling during the pandemic that Riddle enjoyed was performing in the ThunderDome. He compared it to his high school wrestling days when there were sometimes fewer people in the stands. Riddle also drew from his experience on The Ultimate Fighter, where he fought in front of a small audience. For him, the lack of a crowd didn’t affect his adrenaline or performance because he psyches himself up regardless of the circumstances. He understood that some wrestlers struggled with the absence of a live audience, as they relied on crowd reactions and pacing themselves accordingly. However, Riddle saw it as an opportunity to focus on the sport aspect of wrestling, without having to wait for crowd reactions or work around unexpected moments.

Despite the enjoyment Riddle found in wrestling without fans, he acknowledged that having a live audience enhanced the experience even more. He appreciated the energy and reactions from the crowd but was able to adapt and perform at a high level regardless of the circumstances.

Overall, Riddle’s perspective sheds light on the unique challenges and opportunities that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic for professional wrestlers. The ThunderDome provided a different environment for performers to showcase their skills, and while it may have been an adjustment for some, Riddle embraced the situation and continued to deliver exciting matches.

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