[ads]In case you haven’t heard, the upcoming episode of “Smackdown Live” is a major milestone as the show hits 900 episodes. While “Monday Night Raw” is the flagship show, you absolutely cannot forget what goes on with the blue show. The show has a long history of famous moments, title changes and just plain cool events that deserve a look back. That’s what we’ll be looking at today: a brief history of “Smackdown Live” (which of course includes all former incarnations of course) and looking at some of the stuff they’ve done over the years.
Naturally this isn’t going to be complete as there’s no way to cover seventeen years of history in a single column. This is merely a collection of my favorite moments over the years. These are also in no order.
Let’s get this one out of the way first: the post-9/11 show. This is something that actually felt special as the WWF was the first massive entertainment gathering to take place after the attacks in New York City. Two days after the attacks, the WWF held a live “Smackdown” in Houston, Texas with no storylines and almost all the wrestlers talking about what the attacks meant and how strong America was. There’s really no other way to put this: it’s an amazing moment and Lillian Garcia can sing the heck out of the National Anthem. We’ll skip over the infamous Stephanie McMahon promo for the sake of keeping my sanity and move on.
Moving on to something a bit happier, there’s the rise of the new generation. Back in 2002, over the span of about two months, Randy Orton, Batista and John Cena all made their debuts with the company. The three of them had all been down in developmental for a long time and then came up to the main roster one month after another. All of them had difference degrees of success in their early appearances but that’s the case with so many wrestlers over the years and rarely means anything long term.
Let’s keep up with the idea of groups of wrestlers as we look at the Smackdown Six. In late 2002, Paul Heyman took over the booking and turned the show into a breeding ground for younger stars. This was never more apparent than when he lit the show on fire by pushing a three way feud between Edge/Rey Mysterio, Kurt Angle/Chris Benoit and Los Guerreros. These six could be put together into any combination and nearly guarantee a great match. It became must see TV and just kept getting better and better, including the masterpiece between Edge/Mysterio vs. Benoit/Angle at No Mercy 2002 in probably the match of the year.
As great as that match was though, I’ll throw in my favorite match ever on “Smackdown”: Edge vs. Angle vs. Benoit vs. Guerrero in a four way elimination match for an upcoming title shot. There’s nothing about the match that makes it stand out or blow away anything else, but it’s nearly twenty five minutes of hard hitting, fast paced wrestling. I had a great time watching it originally and it’s stuck with me for a long time. You felt like something was changing and that something new was happening, which was the whole point of this era.
Speaking of World Titles, which it pales in comparison to “Monday Night Raw”, “Smackdown” has seen ten World Title changes over the years (not counting titles being vacated). Out of all those, my favorite is actually Alberto Del Rio beating Big Show in 2013. There was something entertaining about Del Rio’s face run and he really kicked it off right by defeating the seemingly unstoppable Big Show in a last man standing match. That’s a cool thing to see and not something that happens very often on free TV.
On a bit of a different note, how awesome was the big fist set? I still miss that thing and it holds up when you look back on the older shows today. It gets really tiring to look at the same setups over and over, especially when they’re just the Titantron with a different color scheme around the sides. The fist was really cool looking and felt like nothing else WWE did, if nothing else due to the size.
While the bigger stars were over on “Monday Night Raw”, there were two names who were more associated with “Smackdown” and neither of them are anything to be sneezed at. Those two would be the Undertaker and Edge, neither of whom need any form of introduction and both of whom were major stars on “Smackdown” far more often than “Monday Night Raw”.
I know they might have piled up World Titles and devalued those reigns quite a bit, but Undertaker and Edge were both cool guys to watch and often had great matches with almost anyone they worked with, including each other in a Wrestlemania main event. While they would make occasional appearances over on the red show, these two bled “Smackdown” blue far more often than not.
Another fixture of “Smackdown” for several years was General Manager Teddy Long in one form or another. He was some sort of authority figure for the better part of ten years and the “LET’S MAKE IT A TAG MATCH PLAYA!” was one of the best recurring themes for years and years. Not everyone needs to be a big serious boss who gets involved and sometimes it’s ok to just have a fun character like Long, especially on a show that rarely mattered in the grand scheme of things.
While I’m nowhere near as big a fan of his as many are, “Smackdown” gave Eddie Guerrero a World Title. He might not have been the greatest ratings success but the visual of Guerrero and Chris Benoit standing together to end “Wrestlemania XX” was amazing and it wouldn’t have happened without “Smackdown” having its own World Title for Guerrero to win.
We’ll stick with Guerrero for a minute and look at his feud with Mysterio. This was a great way to turn Guerrero heel as he became more and more obsessed with being able to defeat Mysterio, even once. The matches got better and better (and included the amazing line of “the following match is for the custody of Dominic!”), offering some amazing wrestling TV, which is never a bad thing.
Finally, and certainly not worst, we have a segment from “Smackdown” on December 13, 2001. At the Green Frog Grocery Store in Bakersfield, California, Booker T. ran from Steve Austin until finally getting caught, setting up one of the most entertaining segments I’ve ever seen anywhere in wrestling.
For the better part of ten minutes, Austin beat Booker from one side of the market to the other, hitting him with almost every kind of food you could want, from flour to milk to saltines and all points in between. Booker was left a beaten and broken mess as Austin ran him over a price checker before finally leaving him for good. I love it when they take things outside of the arena and send this mayhem somewhere else for a change. This was entertaining and some of the most fun I can ever remember having watching a wrestling show.
I know “Smackdown” isn’t the same kind of show as “Monday Night Raw”. It’s often been treated as the ugly stepchild of WWE where so many wrestlers are sent to rot while the main stars are on Mondays. Just because it doesn’t get the spotlight (and often because it doesn’t get the spotlight), “Smackdown” is still worth checking out. The show has gotten better in recent months due to some backstage changes and a live spot on a better night but the earlier years are still worth remembering and looking at again. Especially when that involves a grocery store.
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