The WWE celebrates 20 years of Smackdown in it’s latest release courtesy of WWE Home Video. Matthew Roberts takes a look to see whether the two disc release does two decades of action justice.
A somewhat “throwaway” remark from The Rock in a promo took a life of it’s own. It gave the TV show that this set celebrates it’s name and it’s even made it’s way into the dictionary. There have been plenty of moments in the show’s history that have been memorable, even during those times when Smackdown was clearly the “B” show to the main WWE priority of Raw.
The problem with this 20th anniversary set, of course, is one of familiarity. There’s been a 10-year anniversary collection, there’s been annual Raw & Smackdown “best of’s” and there’s been numerous other archive collections in the past decade or so that have mined the TV show for classic matches and moments as well as forgotten gems. And let’s face it, turning 20 years of TV into a two-disc set is always going to raise problems.
The set is hosted by Bryon Saxton and Jerry Lawler. Thankfully their interludes are very brief as they add precisely zero to proceedings. Things kick off with the main event of the inaugural “full-time” Smackdown, pitting newly crowed World Champion Triple H against The Rock in a match refereed by then-Commissioner Shawn Michaels. It was a big name match to headline the first-ever show, but it’s not something that has aged particularly well today.
From there Crash Holly’s fun and games with the Hardcore Title is highlighted and as fun as his romp in a child’s play area with the Headbangers is I find it hard to believe that anyone thinks his “match” with Gerald Brisco is one of the highlights of the past twenty years. Similarly, as much of a sort-of tradition that it became, does anyone really need to see a Thanksgiving Food Fight from 2000, never mind celebrate it on a twenty-year anniversary collection?
Chris Jericho vs Rhyno from 2001 is a decent match before we get to the post 9/11 episode of the show which was, it has to be said, an emotional and heartfelt moment for sure. If you’re celebrating the “show” of Smackdown (rather than the matches) it’s a moment that makes sense to be on here. That it’s followed by the riotously entertaining supermarket brawl between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Booker T and then the search by Vinny Mac for a new Personal Assistant that launched a million memes just shows what a vast area of scope WWE Sports Entertainment covers.
John Cena’s TV debut against Kurt Angle is a great moment and deserves it’s spot here before we get a 2002 mini-retrospective of one of Smackdown’s biggest names Edge. His WWE Tag Team Title win with Hulk Hogan against Billy & Chuck isn’t the greatest match ever but even now it’s a whole load of fun. A Steel Cage match with Chris Jericho is a strong effort, as is a No DQ match with Eddie Guerrero. From there it’s a Cruiserweight Title match between Matt Hardy and Rey Mysterio and the famous Brock Lesnar / Big Show match where the ring collapses. Disc one closes out with Mr. McMahon addressing the troops at one of the Tribute events (you’ll never guess who Santa Claus ends up being) and a confrontation between Eddie Guerrero and Chavo from 2014.
Disc Two kicks off with the ever-hilarious “Sexy Kurt” promo before a fun tag team match between MNM and Batista & Rey Mysterio. Of course, the TV build-up to the match is missing so it doesn’t make much sense in isolation. King Booker’s “Coronation” is typical over-the-top nonsense but you’d be hard-pressed not to raise a smile at it. The Edge/Jeff Hardy in-ring promo confrontation that follows is alright but is another one of those things that you couldn’t really say it worth its spot on this retrospective. A WWE World Heavyweight Title Steel Cage match between CM Punk and Jeff Hardy is a lot better and one of the better matches on the collection and it’s fitting that Edge’s retirement is looked at as well. That Saxton and Lawler segue it into Christian finally lifting a World title in the WWE seems to push it a little, but his match with Randy Orton is another good one from what is perhaps an unfairly forgotten feud from 2011.
From there we skip SIX years to 2017’s Women’s Money In The Bank Ladder match, which of course came about due to the backlash that was generated when, essentially, James Ellsworth won the PPV match on behalf of Carmella. Though I could understand why people were disappointed with the storyline, for me it was “classic” WWE. The “rematch” is a good effort too. This is followed by the time that “Rusev Day” became a thing.
AJ Styles ending the Jinder Mahal Champion “experiment” from November 2017 is perhaps the best match Mahal has had (and likely ever will have) and have been in attendance for it I found the chance to relive it an entertaining once. After an August 2018 Tag Team match between The Bludgeon Brothers and the New, Day history repeats itself in November ’18 although this time it is Styles who loses the WWE Title in the Survivor Series build-up to Daniel Bryan in an excellent match. Things close off with a May 2019 match between Kevin Owens and Kofi Kingston.
The one extra is the main event from the Smackdown “pilot”, pitting Steve Austin & The Rock against The Undertaker and Triple H. Fans who were around in 1999 will be astounded that a TV main event features a mass of interference and is over in five minutes. (Incidentally, it was still the second-longest match on the card). It’s a fun addition but hardly essential.
And that’s the crux of this collection. As a fast-paced ride through 20 years of Smackdown, you would be being churlish to deny that there’s not plenty of entertainment on show. Most of the things that are included are fun, there’s enough quality action to get you through and very little drags. Yet you couldn’t call it “the best” of Smackdown and a lot of it has already been included in previous releases. So, in the end, this is an entertaining set, rather than an essential one.
Format Reviewed: DVD
Photographs courtesy of Fetch and WWE
Thank you to our partners, WWEDVD.co.uk and Fetch for providing our review copy of Smackdown 20th Anniversary which is out Monday 14 October on DVD. You can buy your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk by clicking here.
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