Sunday, 18 October 2020

WWE Thunderdome: Will this be the future of fan engagement in wrestling?

 

    If you haven’t heard about Vince McMahon’s latest and greatest, The Thunderdome- you have probably been living under a rock. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have often thought of what fan engagement in sports, specifically wrestling is going to look like not only during this Covid crisis but afterwards as well. Vince created this virtual fan experience called the Thunderdome to allow fans to participate virtually in ring from the comfort of their home via video conferencing. The idea itself is pretty cool, but along with any sort of technological advancement also comes flaws and room for improvement. Having been a dedicated supporter of the WWE for many years and also having a passion for technology I was excited to try this out and share my experience and opinions with all of you!

When I first learned about the Thunderdome I made it my mission to be apart of it. While learning the registration process, I found it difficult to register as the dome becomes full within a matter of minutes, sometimes seconds after the WWE releases the tweet. After trials and tribulations, success and failure I have learned some tips and tricks to ensure a wonderful  Thunderdome experience . Don’t worry, I will give away most of my secrets, but not all of them as I guide you through the Thunderdome Fan Experience as if you were sitting in the Performance Center yourself.

The Thunderdome is live for fans during WWE’s regularly scheduled programming including RAW, Smackdown, 205 LIVE and Pay Per View programs as well. On September 4th, after attempting the previous week without any luck- I was in! I hovered the WWE twitter account, notifications on awaiting the release of the greatly anticipated registration link. Within minutes of filling out the registration form, I was sent a confirmation email which gave me a call time, more information as well as a set of rules. I did not realize before getting accepted into the Thunderdome how serious this was going to be. Vince was not messing around and had a strict set of guidelines with rules such as No drinking, sleeping, eating, swearing or wearing AEW Merchandise allowed.  Failure to follow theses guidelines may result in being kicked off of the show, permanently banned from the Thunderdome and mailed a ticket from Vince McMahon himself. I read over the rules, ensured I knew the drill and then prepared for an exciting evening with an early call time of 7pm. This meant that I would be on air during the 605 Live show prior to Smackdown starting. At 6:55pm, I was anxiously awaiting 7pm to hit ‘enter’ on the link as quickly as I could. I was extremely disappointed to receive a message that said “We are sorry. The Thunderdome is at Max Capacity”. I was devastated and frankly, a bit annoyed that I had put in all of this work for what seemed like nothing. Being the persistent man I am, I refreshed the page (even thought it suggested not too!) and within a matter of seconds I was being redirected into the THUNDERDOME! 



Once I was in, I was greeted by a director who informed us that we would be going live on FOX for the entire world to see! He then went over some basic rules, and instructions which involved cheering, hand movements and choreographed booing. I felt like I was at the Performance Centre with a inside peek on the development of the show. Hearing “Go time in 5 minutes. Everybody take your seat and get ready to rumble!!!” Made me super excited and got everyone in the Thunderdome fired up for a night of Smackdown. Fans are also required to stay within a outline on their screen to ensure a appealing visual for the wrestlers and viewers at home. After being on the air for almost 2 full hours I was cycled off so that someone with a later call time could also join. I was thrilled to have been live for as long as I was and was still riding the Thunderdome high for several days afterwards. Since this day, I have been in the Thunderdome a few more times and it only gets better as each show passes.

The one thing that wrestling needs is a live audience as the wrestlers use their energy as fuel to their fires. Having fan involvement adds a whole other level of entertainment and I think the Thunderdome encapsulated this perfectly. My one ‘downfall’ or suggestion for the WWE would be to improve the registration process and perhaps also provide priority  access to WWE Network subscribers. Being a Canadian, I go through quite the process to have this luxury in Canada and this shows fans dedication to the WWE in its entirety. Another way to improve upon this fan experience would be to have an option to purchase a ‘seat’ where you would have more screen time or possibly a larger camera view. With the hundreds of LED video screens that wrap around the ring, this leads to some video production limitations with camera angles. A way they could improve upon this would be to have a 360 degree video board with a multiple viewing options. If fans had control over where they were during the Thunderdome it adds a more personalized experience for die hard WWE fans.




If I had to give you my Top Five pieces of ‘Thunderdome’ advice it would be:

1. Turn on your WWE Twitter notifications. This is how they alert the fan base of when registration opens. I have learned through observation that this typically occurs on Mondays and Wednesdays around lunch.

2. Read over the rules before entering as you can potentially be kicked out without any notice or warning. Here is the link to the rules and regulations: https://comicbook.com/wwe/news/wwe-thunderdome-rules-registration-no-smoking-obscene-gestures-led-screens/

3. Ensure you have a strong working internet connection and the correct versions of Safari or Google Chrome. For Mac Users you must have Safari 14 or later. For PC Users you must have Chrome or Firefox 86. I don’t recommend this experience from an iPhone as you wont get the full screen experience but If this is your only option it will only work on iPhones 6 and newer. 

4. Remember that if you are watching the show simultaneously the view from the Thunderdome will be slightly ahead of the FOX programming. This can be a bit annoying to some viewers as reaction times can be a bit delayed. I recommend just watching the show from within the dome, and maybe recording the programming on FOX to try to find yourself later!

5. On that note, My last tip is to dress to impress and be active on camera. Ensure you are looking your best in your favourite WWE gear. I wore my new, Stone Cold Steve Austin shirt and had made some signs as well. Unfortunately, I did not see myself on TV the first couple of times but I recently found myself from last weeks Monday night RAW! I have linked the photo below.

I hope that this has helped you to understand and appreciate the WWE Thunderdome as much as I do. If you love wrestling you will have to agree with me that this is a pretty cool way to engage fans during a time when we can not physically be present. I would love to hear if you decide to give this a try. Comment down below if you think that this idea will be adopted as the new normal.

See you in the THUNDERDOME!


Saturday, 16 May 2020

Interview with Jamie Campbell


   Hey Hockey Ambassador readers! It’s been a while I know but don’t worry. I am safe, healthy and going only a little bit stir crazy. I hope all of my readers are also staying safe and healthy during this time and keeping yourselves busy! I have been staying connected with old friends and I've met some new friends online as well.  Recently I had the opportunity to interview Jamie Campbell who is a Canadian Sportscaster with Sportsnet. Jamie is currently the host of the Toronto Blue Jays telecasts and during the pandemic shut-down, he's been delivering PPE to those in need. He was kind enough to take a moment out of his day to chat sports with me.

  We all know that Jamie Campbell is an incredible sports broadcaster. From announcing Canada’s first gold medal on Canadian soil in 2010 to his famous line “You can kiss that one goodbye” but what you may not have known is Jamie is an incredible human being. He told me that he may be coming back again to deliver PPE to those in need in Ottawa and surrounding area. You can learn more about Jamie and his drive to give back to the community during these unprecedented times by following him on Twitter :@SNETCampbell @ConquerCovid19. Please consider giving to Jamie's PPE campaign HERE https://www.canadahelps.org/en/pages/jays-twitter-in-support-of-conquer-covid-and-jamie/  if you can!


Do you think that baseball and professional sports will be forever changed? How do you think this will affect the business of sports overall? This is question that has been on my mind since the pandemic was announced. As a sports fan, I think that going forward the world of sports is going to change and be forever evolving but what will not change is my passion and love for live sports. 

Our agreed chat time of 4PM finally rolled around and my telephone rang. My assistant Shantel answered the phone and it was Jamie Campbell asking for me!

“Hey Shantel” Jamie exclaimed. “I'm looking for Nicholas Wright”

Shantel passed the phone to me and I wasted no time to dive deep into my interview. 

“Nicholas, Hello- It’s Jamie Campbell!”

“Hey Jamie, How is it going?”

“Things are great! How are things up in Ottawa? Is it a beautiful sunny day”?

“It is! I enjoyed some time outside yesterday with Swiss Chalet and a cold beer.”

“Oh Nick! Wow my goodness! I’m completely envious. Oh my lord!! Although I must admit when I come to Ottawa I go to St. Huberts.”

“Well in that case post pandemic- St. Huberts on me!”

“Awesome! In fact I was in Ottawa last week delivering some PPE to some of the hospitals in the city and surrounding area. It was 15 degrees and sunny- I got a sunburn!”

The conversation continued as we talked about everything from sports to our favourite beer. Jamie told me about a brewery in Timmons he went to that makes a beer that requires 50 boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal to make! He said it was delicious and I added it to my brewery tour bucket list!


I then told Jamie that along with being an avid sports fan, I have been writing a sports blog called “The Hockey Ambassador”  for the last 10 years. I asked him if he had time to answer a few questions. Jamie was kind enough to accept this interview.

“Alright Jamie, I have a few questions for you and some Blue Jays specific questions as well. Are you ready?”

“Perfect- ask away!”

 “I see that you grew up in the Toronto area. Does this mean you are a Leafs fan?”

Jamie laughed and quickly reassured me that he also appreciates other teams in Canada one of which is my beloved Senators.

After informing Jamie of my love for the Ottawa Senators, I then asked him about how he got to where he is now.

“After living out west, I moved to Ottawa about 22 years ago and I got a job with CJOH TV. I covered the playoff run in 1998 between New Jersey Devils and Ottawa. It was pretty incredible experience seeing guys like Ron Tugnutt and Bruce Gardner. The Sens were a really good team.

Now I'd like to ask you a couple of Blue Jays related questions, Jamie.

Who, in your opinion, is the better Blue Jay- Bichette or Guerrero Jr?

Oh my Goodness! You come with the hard questions! I wasn’t expecting to be drilled by a journalist today, I’m going to say Bo Bichette has become the better player, overall.

Why do you think so?

 I think he has an ability to be a better  defender, hitter and base runner. It's about his overall ability. I do think Guerrero will become the better hitter but they both are incredible athletes so its hard to pick just one.

Okay Jamie- Next Question is do you think Nate Pearson has Ace potential?

Yes. He. Does. Nate is a great kid who comes from a great family. Just because he doesn’t say much doesn’t mean he won't go out on the mound and blow fans away. Pearson grew up near the Jay’s training facility which proved to be very convenient for him. When he was drafted, he only had to travel about 15 minutes by car. If the season begins, which I think it will, I don’t think you’ll see Nate playing in the minor leagues. I really believe if they decide to do an 80 game schedule starting in August they can start from the beginning.


Later in the conversation, the roles reversed and I suddenly became the interviewee! I’ll leave those questions and answers between my pal Jamie and me. Suffice to say that there were lots of laughs, stories shared and friendly banter. We even talked about where Jamie used to live in Ottawa which was not far from where I used to live myself.

I would like to give a big shout out to Jamie Campbell for taking time out of his day to chat with me. As a sports fan during this pandemic it was very reassuring to hear that I am not the only one deprived of live sports. This time in isolation has really made me think about how impactful sports are not only to my life but to all of us as Canadians. Jamie reminded me that this will not last forever and that sports will resume soon enough.

I would like to thank my dear friend, Ruth Kapelus for always thinking of me and helping to connect me to the right people. Your dedication and efforts do not go unnoticed! 


Here is a link to Jamie in action: https://youtu.be/dcwUsvPBxiA

Here is a link to a video from the Senators vs Devils run in 1998

Signing off for now,

The Commish.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

WWE 2K20- Is it really worth it?


     Every year wrestling fans in North America anxiously anticipate the release of the new WWE video game. Myself, I have been a supporter and player of these games since the early 2000’s. Over the past two decades, the game has changed dramatically as the world of wrestling itself has evolved. More specifically, the role of Woman in sports gaming has become much more prominent since the new release of 2K20 this past week. If you are interested in hearing more about the differences between 2K19 and 2K20- sit down, relax, grab a cold one and read on!

MyCareer Mode

      Keeping consistent with last years addition of WWE gaming, this years release still has the MyCareer mode except with a slight change. In WWE 2K20 for the first time in history you can now select a Woman archetype as your character for MyCareer game play. This was highly requested by WWE fans worldwide and I was pleased to see that WWE finally incorporated woman into their gaming. In keeping with the trend, Showcase mode now features “Women’s Evolution” which is a documentary-style, objective based game play which replaced the rise and resurgence of Roman Reigns in the 2k19  game mode.

Quality and Control Changes

      When looking at the improvements in picture and audio quality there are minimal changes. Players have reported that the overall vibrancy of the colours has improved as well as small details such as tattoo’s are more vivid then ever before. However, the lighting in the ring in the new version is not as bright as 2K19 and this has bothered some players. 2K20 has also decreased the que time as well as made general improvements on fluidity through out the game. One major change in terms of the controls is that on 2K20 you must now double click for finishers and OMG moments. This is a small, but annoying change that avid gamers will have to adjust too. By adding another button to click for these special moves- this is also a step in wrong direction in terms of accessibility.

Archetypes

     There has been some major changes to the archetypes in the new edition of 2K20 as there are now
over 200 playable characters. In the past, a common trend among WWE gamers was that they felt there was not enough selection for their avatars. This is no longer an issue as WWE is adding legends such a Chyna and soon to be: Rob Van Dam, Icing Kong Bundy and NXT UK’s Walter. In the meantime, players can take advantage of the Creation Community which is a feature that allows you to upload your own logos and scan your face to create your own archetype.

So is it worth it?
If you are looking for a slightly improved version of 2k19 than 2K20 is for you. Although there are few dramatic changes, the new features such as the Women’s Evolution is attracting more players than in previous years. By expanding their gaming demographic I am hoping that this translates to increased numbers in viewers watching wrestling on a weekly basis.

WWE 2K20 FOUR HORSEWOMAN GAME PLAY

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Wednesday Night War






             If you are a wrestling fan be prepared to clear your schedule for Wednesday evenings.  TNT’s All Elite Wrestling and WWE’s NXT have been battling for viewers the past fours week for the prime time spot. Wrestling fans are now forced to either pick between the two shows or switch back and forth between networks Last night was an exciting night for both shows as they were filled with great storylines and entertaining matches. It was definitely the most exciting night of the past four weeks of Wednesday Night Wars which is why I was surprised to see such a dramatic decline in views.

           Captivating new fans to tune in and remain watching seems to be an increasing problem in the world of wrestling. However there are some factors affecting this including the MLB World Series.  Last night 1.018 million viewers tuned in to AEW Dynamite compared to the previous week of 1.4 millions viewers. 878,000 of these viewers fall in the 18-49 years old demographic which is the most popular audience for wrestling. (I can speak to this as I fall in this category). Many people believe that the ‘Golden Era’ of Wrestling has come and gone but I think that we are on the cusp of another golden age that is only possible with the support of true wrestling fans.


         Dynamite had  an agreement with TNT that if the Cardinals and Braves played past 8:30pm in last nights’ National League Division Series game then AEW programming would be moved to TruTV. This was the case last night and I believe that this could have contributed to the decline in viewers. On the other hand, WWE’s NXT had 790,000 viewers last night with 414,000 of them falling in the 18-49 years catergory. They also faced a decline since last week where 891,000 viewers tuned in. Another reason that could have led to the downturn of  views could be the ‘casual viewers’ who were flipping through the channels browsing for something to watch. It is possible that new fans landed on either event and continued browsing or selected other sporting events.


At the end of the day true wrestling fans should always tune in regardless of other sporting events- this is the only way to enter the new ‘Golden Era’ of wrestling.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

NXT on USA

                          WWE vs USA for NXT

Today is an exciting day in the world of wrestling. It was announced this morning that NXT will be broadcasted on the USA Network instead of the WWE Network. Wrestling fans everywhere are anxiously awaiting tonight’s episode of RAW where they will be announcing the new NXT show that will debut on September 18th. There are some mixed emotions about these changes. Here I will explain the pro’s and con’s and this network switch.

This change could potentially acquire many new wrestling fans. By having NXT broadcasted on network television, this allows non-wrestling fans to stumble upon the channel and it may grab there interest. This could also bring back some ‘old school’ wrestling fans as well. Another benefit would be that viewers would not have to be subscribed to the WWE network in order to watch this show. The stock market shows that since the announcement this morning, the WWE stock has risen from $2.57 to $72.18!

Fox Sports is not too thrilled about the change. They were hoping that the WWE would replace the screen time that UFC had which ended at the end of 2018 on Fox Sports 1 and 2. In an interview with Forbes Magazine, Dave Meltzer could not of said it better himself. 
“FS1 obviously lost God knows how many hours of UFC programming which hurts them because UFC programming is some of the strongest stuff they had — NASCAR was kinda like the strongest I think on FS1 — but, UFC was very strong on FS1 and they lost all of that," explained Meltzer. "Part of the deal was the idea that ‘the money that we’re going to spend on UFC we’re gonna spend on WWE. They had a shot, but the thing is that if nobody said anything then people would be like whatever, but they told their affiliates that we’re going to be getting NXT and they’re not.” -Dave Meltzer, Wrestling Observer Live. 

In my personal opinion, I believe that NXT should live on the WWE network. However, I do see the value in sharing the experience of wrestling with network television viewers. Myself, I can not wait for tonight’s episode of RAW where we will find out more information about this transition. Stay tuned for a recap tomorrow of tonight’s announcements.


Signing off, 

Nicholas Wright, Sports Broadcaster and Analyst. 

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Interview With Former NHL’er and now High School Coach, Shawn McEachern

For many Ottawa Senators hockey fans, the 1996-97 NHL playoff series against the Buffalo Sabres is an unforgettable one. For my younger readers, let me explain one of my strongest memories as a Sens fan. The 7th seed Ottawa Senators took on the 2nd seed Buffalo Sabres in the Eastern Conference Quarter-finals. It was a classic very hard back and fourth series. They were in overtime in game 7, just one goal away from pulling off a major upset against their heavily favoured opponent. Sens star centre Alexei Yashin was taking a face off in the Ottawa zone. When he won it, the puck slipped by an unsuspecting Ron Tugnutt, the Sens number 1 goalie in the playoffs. So the series tragically ends with Alexei Yashin putting the puck in his own net. It’s a memory and a dramatic Sens moment that I will never forget.  

I had the pleasure of interviewing Shawn McEachern, the Sens right winger who got two goals in that series. Shawn had an impressive 13-year NHL career. Over that span, he netted 254 goals and got 317 assists for an impressive 571 points. I hope you enjoy my interview with Shawn, a really nice guy who has only fond memories of his time with the Sens. 

  1. Do you have special takeaways from your ‘96-97 season with the Sens since it was such a pivotal season for the franchise?                                                                             

(Shawn) 1996-97 was my first season in Ottawa.  Sports Illustrated had called the Senators the worst franchise in sports! We had a great group of guys on the team, a blue collar group.  Jacques Martin, Craig Ramsey and Perry Pearn were really good coaches.  We played a team game and got it rolling -- and made the playoffs in the last game of the season!  Still one of the most fun seasons I had in the NHL. The city of Ottawa was so excited, the atmosphere for the 1st playoff game was crazy. Just a great time to play for the Sens.


2.  What were your thoughts on Palladium/Corel Centre, as it was known back in ‘96, when it                was first opened and was a fresh new build?
     
(Shawn) The building was great! One of the best in the NHL at the time. I really enjoyed living in Kanata and driving a few miles to the rink everyday.


3.  What were your feelings about (Coach) Jacques Martin? As he was in my view a driving force in their improvement through ‘96-2001. 

(Shawn) Jacques was one of the best coaches I’ve ever played for.  He was low key but really knew the game.  I use a lot of what I learned from Jacques today with the team that I am coaching.  I’m not surprised Pittsburgh has had success with Jacques on their coaching staff.  He’s also a good person.


4.  Was there anything you struggled with or were frustrated with while playing with the Sens that you’d like to share? Or any significant struggles you had in your hockey career?  

(Shawn) I think everyone has struggles in their career. Playing hockey in the NHL is so much fun.  But it's also very competitive.  Playing in a Canadian market there’s more pressure to perform. I loved that about Ottawa! But when you slump, it’s front page news -- so it can be tough, but that's what we signed up for.  


5.  Do you have any suggestions for the Sens this season as they seem to be faltering a bit?

(Shawn) I don't follow the Sens that much but I do root for them and especially Brady Tkachuk.  His Dad was my line mate at Boston University and Brady played at Boston University so I look to see how he's doing.

6.  How did you find your transition from NHL to being a coach at a private school? Were there lessons you learned in the NHL that you pass along to your players today?


(Shawn) I pass along everything I learned from the coaches I played for and players I played with in the NHL.  It's been a great transition and a fun way to stay in the game.