As we move into yet another era for professional wrestling, WWE’s SmackDown! has made a historical move to the Fox network and catapulted itself to the number one brand in the company.
During its history, it has regularly been seen and booked as the “B” show, behind the ever-present Monday Night Raw, but this monumental TV deal has turned things on its head.
SmackDown! has aired on Fridays before, and the most recent re-launch of “SmackDown! Live” had the blue brand appear on our screens on a Tuesday. But at its inception, SmackDown! was a Thursday night show, and this is where we start our story.
Much has been said recently regarding the top moments in SmackDown! history, or top SmackDown! matches in its history, but I am going to look more closely at the important first 12 months.
If the show didn’t catch on and stay a hit with the fans in ’99 and 2000, we might not have all this fanfare we do today. There would be no grocery shop brawls, no exploding buses, no Schwarzenegger, no collapsing rings, no Cain Velasquez and no Tyson Fury.
So I am going to look at five top matches to check out between 1999 and 2000 that helped SmackDown! build its foundation’s and become the show it is today.
5. Undertaker & Big Show vs Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection, Buried Alive match for the WWF tag team titles (09/09/1999)
Another very useful piece of wrestling trivia courtesy of TWM Wrestling: thehe only tag team Buried Alive match to take place in the WWF was on the September 9th 1999 episode of SmackDown!
This main event featured WWF tag team champions The Rock and Mankind defending against The Undertaker and Big Show. Current storylines were heading towards a 6 Pack Challenge at Unforgiven 1999 with WWF Champion Triple H making enemies all over the main event scene.
The action quickly made its way graveside and as Rock and Undertaker brawled to the back, Mankind took a sick bump when he was tossed by the Big Show from the stage but just fell short of the grave and had to THUD onto the grass and roll into the hole.
As he did often at the time, Triple H then got involved. First, he was backstage with Rock and Undertaker, then moments later graveside when Big Show was burying Mankind. Triple H knocked Show out with a sledgehammer to the back of the head then buried Mankind himself, handing Show and Taker the win and the tag team titles.
But wait, there was more.
An ambulance arrived in the arena. Who was in the back of the ambulance you ask? Stone Cold Steve Austin of course! Austin punched and threw The Game all-round graveside, stuffed him in the back of the ambulance and drove him off into the sunset…
But wait, there was STILL more.
In the parking lot, Austin got out the ambulance and into a huge 16 wheel truck. He revved the engine, took aim, and put his foot down -smashing the truck into the side of the ambulance, seemingly crushing the WWF champion inside.
Arena wide brawling, gimmick matches, vehicles, weapons, twists and turns.
Complete Attitude Era chaos.
4. Mr McMahon vs Triple H for the WWF title (16/09/1999)
Before Vince Russo won the WCW title, Vince McMahon won the WWF title.
Months prior at Fully Loaded ’99, Vince had left the WWF after Stone Cold Steve Austin had defeated the Undertaker in a first blood match that had Vince’s involvement with the WWF at stake. He was not seen on WWF television until three days before this episode, when after Triple H confronted and put his hands on Linda McMahon, Vince triumphantly returned to defend his wife’s honour. He said he wouldn’t get involved in WWF business, but this isn’t business – it’s personal.
Business from Raw boiled over into SmackDown! And after taunting Vince’s manhood, the match between Triple H and Vince, with Shane as guest referee, was on.
Triple H took 99% of the match. Vince fired one shot at HHH and the rest was a beat down for the champ. He elbow dropped his boss through the announcer’s table and hit him in the head with a chair. Shane tried to stop the carnage but he ate a hard chair shot for his trouble. Patterson and Briscoe were no use and were easily tossed to the side. Linda tried to get involved too but Chyna stopped her in her tracks.
When Triple H looked to finish the job with a pedigree, the glass broke and Stone Cold Steve Austin ran through the crowd and stunned both Chyna and Triple H. He dragged Vince onto of Hunter, dragged Shane to the centre of the ring and made him count the three and award the match and title to Vince!
3. Triple H vs Tazz, WWF champion vs ECW champion (20/04/2000)
In a rare occurrence, the WWF champion took on the ECW champion on April 20th 2000, but the backstory to the match is somewhat interesting.
Mike Awesome was the reigning ECW champion when he agreed to jump ship and join WCW in April 2000. Depending on who you ask, it is questionable if Awesome had a signed ECW contract or not. Either way, a six-figure settlement fee was agreed between WCW and ECW that allowed Awesome to jump ship and appear on Nitro the night WCW wanted and then later drop the ECW title on ECW TV.
The person Awesome dropped the title to was former ECW but then-current WWF star Tazz. So we had a contracted WCW wrestler (Awesome) losing the ECW title to a WWF wrestler (Tazz) on an ECW show.
So the WWF capitalized on this bizarre situation and booked Triple H vs Tazz in a WWF champion vs ECW champion match in the ECW hotbed Philadelphia.
The match itself was good for the one-off feel it had. Triple H gave Tazz – who was going nowhere at the time- a lot of offence and made him look dangerous at times. Triple H had to use a low blow to break the Tazzmission, and after a pedigree, Tommy Dreamer also unintentionally hit Tazz with a chair which led to both the finish of the match and the scheduled ECW title defence in the same city a few days later.
2. Chris Jericho vs Chris Benoit for the WWF Intercontinental Title (02/05/2000)
If this match was given double its allocated time it would be talked about way more than it is today. This crisp, hard-hitting, 100 mph sprint lasted just over 7 minutes but it had everything you could want in a good Benoit vs Jericho match.
The circumstances all helped too. Being the opening match on this episode it had the fresh lively crowd. To spice things up some more they announced the home town hero and advisory to the McMahon-Helmsley regime Earl Hebner as the official. The Intercontinental title was on the line and the red hot fan favourite Chris Jericho was involved.
The action was top notch as you could imagine. Benoit caught Jericho in the ropes mid-Lionsault and hit three rolling German’s from it. Jericho retaliated by attacking Benoit’s consistently bloody nose with knees and strikes. Benoit hit a high angle back suplex and later dumped him from the ring with the same move. Jericho reversed a sunset flip from the top rope into the Walls of Jericho that was swiftly transitioned into the Crippler Crossface.
The ongoing Earl Hebner storyline with the McMahon’s came into play in the finish. Benoit and Hebner got into a shoving match that resulted in Earl taking a tumble from the ring. Jericho saw his chance and whacked Benoit in the nose with the title belt, hit his Lionsault just in time for Hebner to shake off the cob-webs and make the count for the win.
There are more famous Benoit vs Jericho PPV matches we all remember. But for an opening TV match to get the crowd pumped up for the rest of the night, this was great and worth a watch.
1. Lita & The Rock vs Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley & Kurt Angle (24/08/2000)
Nevermind the current Lashley/Rusev/Lana love triangle, the summer of 2000 bare witness to one of the most heated love triangles in WWF history.
Stephanie and Kurt Angle had been flirting for months, feelings between the two had slowly grown over time and the once slight smiles and glances were now beaming grins and loving stares. However, feelings had been simmering away, never boiling over into any major incidents. That was, however, until this night.
Here, on the last stop towards Summerslam 2000 and a triple threat match for the WWF title between Kurt, The Rock, and Triple H, the Olympic gold medallist took things to a next level by planting a kiss on Triple H’s wife.
The situation arose during the night’s exciting main event. Stephanie had been knocked off the apron and collided with the steel steps. Concerned for her safety, Stephanie’s husband Triple H came and took her backstage.
As EMTs were attending to his dazed and confused wife, Triple H came back out and blindsided the Rock, and with the help of Kurt, lay a beating on the WWF champion. When Angle and HHH’s attention turned to the helpless Lita, the Hardy Boyz also joined the melee to make the save.
The Rock, Hardyz and Lita got the better of Hunter, but Angle wanted nothing to do with it so he turned and headed backstage. There he found Steph on the couch. He apologies for what happened in the ring and then planted a kiss on her.
Stephanie initially waved her hands and squealed, but after a second or two the waving stopped and her hands rested on his shoulders.
This all led to a quite fantastic triple threat at Summerslam, then a breakaway Triple H vs Kurt Angle feud culminating at Unforgiven 2000.
So there you have it. A focused look at a time where the WWF had to hit the ground running with their new show. At a time where multi-millions of dollars are being thrown around, it is important to look at where things started and how it could have been so different if things didn’t catch fire the way they did.
That being said, it was hard for anything not to catch fire in the WWF in ’99 and 2000 as the company was so hot at the time. But these are hopefully five outings that will give you a fresh reminder of how SmackDown! made it to where it is today.