It feels like yesterday when I was sitting on my couch watching the very first episode of Smackdown. Flash forward 19 years later and I still watch the show every week. A show that was named after one of The Rock’s catchphrases “Layeth the smack down,” has become a global phenomenon among the wrestling community. Today marks the 1000th episode of one of the longest running episodic tv shows. It’s gone through several changes, whether it’s from network changes, wrestlers, theme songs, and venue set-up. It’s had its ups and downs, but the show has always found a way to deliver quality content and some pretty memorable moments. In honor of this history moment, I thought I’d write about my top Smackdown moments of all time. It was difficult to just narrow it down to 10 moments, but these moments come into my head any time someone asks me why I watch Smackdown.
10. First Main Event – The Rock vs Triple H
During the 90’s, fans were witnesses to some incredible moments. Whether it was the Monday Night Wars, the rise of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, or the beginnings of the Attitude Era, WWE was delivering quality entertainment. One of these memorable moments happened during the very first broadcast of Smackdown. where the WWE Champion Triple H was to defend his title against The Rock. The commissioner of Smackdown Shawn Michaels set the match and made himself the special guest referee. Just as it seemed like The Rock was going to win, Shawn Michaels hit him with his finisher, the Sweet Chin Music. Shawn then let the match continue to allow his friend Triple H to pick up the victory. This established a long rivalry between Rock and Triple H. When I saw this, I thought this would be the perfect way to set up a rivalry between Shawn and Rock, but sadly that rivalry never happened. This made quite an impact in the world of pro-wrestling.
9. John Cena’s Debut
If you ask any wrestling fan, or even any random person, they will most likely be able to tell you who John Cena is. The professional wrestler, actor, author, and internet meme has become a worldwide superstar. However, watching an episode of Smackdown on June 27th, 2002, Cena was looking to make an impact that would catapult him to success. Kurt Angel called out any superstar from the back and John Cena stepped up to the challenge. His debut sparked the beginnings of what would be the “Ruthless Aggression” era. He put on an incredible match against Angel but it wasn’t enough to pick up the win. But John Cena had done what he set out to do, make an impact. In a backstage segment after the match, Cena had an encounter with the Undertaker. Undertaker shook Cena’s hand and said, “Good job:. At that moment I knew that John would have a long, successful career in the WWE and I became an instant fan.
8. Edge Cashes In His Money in the Bank Contract on The Undertaker
Edge shocked the world when he cashed in his Money in the Bank contract on John Cena at the New Year’s Revolution in 2006. After that day, he earned the nickname of “The Ultimate Opportunist”. The winner of the Money in the Bank ladder match the following year was Mr. Kennedy, but he lost the briefcase in a match against Edge on the May 7th episode of RAW. The following night, after a vicious attack by Mark Henry on the Undertaker, Edge cashed in his contract on Taker and won the match. This was a perfect heel moment for Edge. Of course as a kid not really knowing how wrestling works, I was upset that Edge won. But now as an adult, I can fully appreciate what Edge did. That moment solidified my feelings about Edge being one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.
7. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin Destroys the D-X Express
No other wrestler caused as much chaos as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. After his “Austin 3:16” segment at King of the Ring” in 1996, the world of WWE changed forever. Fast forward to April 27th, 2000, the rivalry between Austin and the McMahon’s had reached a whole new level. Triple H concocted a plan to get rid of Austin, which he thought had worked. On the April 27th episode of Smackdown, Austin returned to get revenge on Triple H and the McMahon’s. Austin came back with what he called the “Austin Deconstruction Crane” and destroyed the DX Express bus. Now THAT’s crazy. This was a high point of the Attitude Era. It was a segment where Austin showed just what he’s capable of. I lost my mind seeing that happen. From then on, Austin had become one of my favorite wrestlers.
6. Brock Lesnar and Big Show Collapse the Ring
This match was incredible to watch. I had no idea just how much destruction would come out of this match. Big Show had challenged Brock Lesnar for his WWE Championship on the June 12, 2003 edition of Smackdown. I was ready to see a fight between these two powerhouses and a fight is what I got. Big Show was looking to Chokeslam Lesnar from the top rope but Brock managed to reverse it. Brock started to climb the turnbuckle while setting up Big Show for a superplex. Not a single person could have predicted what would happen once both superstars hit the mat. Once Brock managed to lift Big Show and hit the superplex, the entire ring collapsed. The crowd, the commentators, and everyone watching at home lost their minds. Nothing like that had been seen before. This has been done by many other superstars over the years, but none of them achieved the level of excitement quite like this.
5. Eddie Guerrero Memorial Show
The world of professional wrestling mourned after the death of Eddie Guerrero. A memorial was held on Raw the night before, but since Eddie was a part of the Smackdown roster, the memorial continued the following night on November 18th, 2005. Wrestlers wore his wrestling merch, spoke about how much Eddie meant to them, and dedicated their matches to him. His death was hard on me since he was my favorite wrestler at the time. I also recently wrote about just how much he meant to me. I was happy to see the company honor Eddie. The world had lost a legend but the memorial showed the impact that he made. I’ll never forget that episode.
4. Booker T and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s Grocery Store Brawl
2001 was a great year for WWE since WCW was going out of business. It had reached a new level of success. And what better way to continue that success than the rivalry between “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Booker T. Booker T had come to WWE from WCW and looked to make an impact in WWE. Their rivalry escalated to a brawl inside of a grocery store. Austin attacked a paranoid Booker T and the two fought in a fight that would never be forgotten. Needless to say, the match was really funny. They were using object inside the store while Mr. McMahon and Ric Flair were watching from the security cameras. I just want to thank the person who came up with the idea to have them fight inside a grocery store.
3. Rey Mysterio Wins the World Heavyweight Championship
This was a moment I never expected to see. Much like Eddie Guerrero, Mysterio wasn’t supposed to be the face of the Smackdown brand. Don’t get me wrong, I had full faith that Rey could carry the championship with pride and elevate Smackdown to new heights. But he didn’t fall under the status quo of world champions in WWE. Yes, this wasn’t something that happened on an episode of Smackdown, but it still made an impact on the show. I was overjoyed to see another Latinx wrestle gain such success. What made this more special is that he did it in honor of Eddie, his best friend. I’m sure he would be very proud of Rey for winning the title.
2. AJ Styles 2nd WWE Championship Victory
For six months, the WWE Universe had to bear witness to what many like to refer to as “The Jinder Mahal experiment”. Jinder, who was a jobber for the better part of 4 years, had made a return to WWE in 2016. He quickly gained momentum and won a battle royal to challenge the WWE Champion Randy Orton. Mahal beat Orton and held the title for about six months. That was an incredible shock to many fans, including myself. I hated every moment of his reign as champion. It was later revealed that WWE made a deal with India and wanted to have Mahal as champion to further strengthen their deal. But Mahal just wasn’t working as a champion. He was set to fight Brock Lesnar in a Champion vs Champion match at Survivor Series in 2017 but had a match a few weeks before against AJ Styles. Their match was for Mahal’s title and was to take place at the Smackdown LIVE event in Manchester, England. I had hope that AJ would regain his title and bring back some legitimacy to the WWE. With the time difference, news broke out that AJ had won their match and become the new WWE Champion. I was shocked. AJ Styles had ended the “Jinder Mahal experiment” and was once again champion. I watched that episode of Smackdown LIVE just to see the match. It was truly PHENOMENAL.
1. Eddie Guerrero’s WWE Championship Celebration
Even after 999 episodes of Smackdown, in my mind, no other moments have come close to being as amazing as seeing Eddie Guerrero’s championship celebration. He had just done the impossible at the No Way Out PPV. He beat Brock Lesnar to become the WWE Champion. The ultimate underdog had accomplished his ultimate dream. During his entrance as champion, he came out to the ring through the stands and interacted with the audience. Many other superstars hadn’t done that before but seeing him do it showed that he was the people’s champion. Even though he held that title for a few months, I was happy to see someone I could identify with as champion.
Even though Smackdown is only a few months away from its 20th anniversary, having aired 1000 episodes is quite the accomplishment. I’m excited to see where the WWE goes from here.