Since its debut in 1999, WWE SmackDown has been the second flagship show next to WWE Monday Night Raw.
SmackDown debuted with a sense of building for the future and throughout its 20 years of being on the air, SmackDown has indeed built a legacy and credibility to be wrestling’s second-biggest brand when compared to Monday Night Raw.
Over the show’s long history, SmackDown has experienced lots of changes, some good and some bad; From the giant SmackDown Fist to the Juniors Division. However, things are seeking to look up going forward for the blue brand as SmackDown is moving to Fox on Oct. 4.
To celebrate this monumental move and the historic 20th anniversary of SmackDown, this edition of The Unpopular Opinion is going to go back in time and look at the moments that put SmackDown on the map.
No. 10: Rhyno & Chris Jericho Destroy the Stage (Aug. 9, 2001)
We start the countdown a moment that changed SmackDown forever. In the mix of the infamous Invasion storyline, the Alliance’s Rhyno ambushed Chris Jericho from behind after a match. The two traded blows, until Rhyno hit Jericho with the Gore through the SmackDown set.
This is widely remembered not only because of the chaotic moment seeing a man get sent through the set, but for the huge change it would usher in for Smackdown’s aesthetic.
The very next week, the show debuted a new set with one of the most remembered objects in WWE history, the SmackDown Fist. The image of 6000 lb fist breaking the SmackDown set was awe inspiring and one of the coolest visuals in WWE’s history.
No. 9: Billy & Chuck’s Commitment Ceremony (Sept. 12, 2002)
For decades, WWE has been known for its unexpected and wild wedding ceremonies. This one was no different. The team of Billy & Chuck planned a commitment ceremony that each would commit to each other to be their tag team partner.
However, many of the WWE world took this into a marriage between the two guys set up by their evil stylist manager Rico.
The WWE world also took the alternative approach because of the partnership with GLAAD (Gays & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) giving the ceremony mainstream publicity.
Once the publicity was there, it was time for the ceremony, and just like any WWE wedding, there was chaos. After an interruption from The Godfather and his “lady friends,” it was time to seal it. As the wedding minister was preparing to unite the men, they announced that they were not gay. This was supposed to be a uniting of the team but Rico planned it differently.
Then came the true insanity. The minister was not who he said he was either. It was then Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff. He brought his team 3-Minute Warning as they came to attack Billy & Chuck and laid out then SmackDown General Manager Stephanie McMahon.
As the SmackDown locker room chased the Raw superstars out of the arena, the image of Billy, Chuck and Stephanie McMahon laid out with the entire ceremony in rubbish around them was all that remained. This was one of the first instances that Raw had invaded SmackDown after the first brand split.
No. 8: Big Show & Brock Lesnar Collapse the Ring (June 12, 2003)
When two behemoths collide, total destruction is set to take place.
In the main event of this episode of SmackDown, Brock Lesnar defended the WWE Championship against the Big Show. The 7 foot tall Big Show had a size differential over the Champion Lesnar, but the strength of Lesnar is what made him such an impactful champion.
Big Show looked to be closing in on becoming WWE Champion after trying to chokeslam Brock off the top rope. However, Brock was able to escape the hold and with every ounce of power in his body, was able to deliver a superplex off the top rope.
With an estimated velocity of around 800 Ibs combined, the two goliaths crashed to the mat, which imploded the ring. This was on record as the first time that a moment like this had ever happened in WWE history.
A moment that is lives on in history as one of the most chaotic and one of the craziest moments in WWE history.
No. 7: Stone Cold and Booker T: Supermarket Brawl (Dec 13, 2001)
The next moment on the countdown is probably one of the funniest moments in WWE history. Stone Cold and Booker T were embroiled in a heated rivalry right after the Invasion. Booker T attempted for weeks to get in the head of Stone Cold, but would constantly run away any time the Rattlesnake got anywhere close to him.
In this episode of SmackDown, Stone Cold attempted several times to get to Booker, even using clever disguises in an attempt to get his hands on Booker. Booker was able to hightail it out of the arena in a limo, but Stone Cold hopped in his pickup and was not close behind.
Booker attempted to hide out in a grocery store but, Stone Cold would not be outsmarted.
While in the grocery store, Booker overheard Stone Cold over the intercom and thought he had landed the first strike on Stone Cold. But, Stone Cold once again outsmarted Booker and attacked him all over the grocery store. From the produce section, to being smothered and covered in flour, Stone Cold opened up a can of whoop ass all over Booker T inside the grocery store.
This moment is constantly one of the most hysterical and chaotic moments in SmackDown history. But, it makes me think; man, I felt bad to whoever had to clean all that mess.
No. 6: Edge Cashes in Money in the Bank (May 8, 2007)
The next moment is a moment that no one saw coming.
The Undertaker had just gone to war with Batista and successfully defended the World Heavyweight Championship against Batista inside a Steel Cage.
After the match, the World’s Strongest Man, Mark Henry came down to the ring and attacked and already beaten and battered World Champion. The Undertaker was bloodied and beaten down by the near 400 Ibs monster. However, the night was not over for The Undertaker.
Raw superstar Edge had just won the Money in the Bank briefcase from Mr. Kennedy and did not wait to cash in on his opportunity. That week Edge won the briefcase, Edge went to SmackDown and cashed in on a defenseless Undertaker. After a pair of Spears, Edge defeated The Undertaker to become the new World Heavyweight Champion.
Edge became the first person to cash in the Money in the Bank twice and walk out both times as Champion. This moment proved why many call Edge the Ultimate Opportunist. It also brought Edge back to SmackDown.
Edge was originally on SmackDown after the brand split and was a member of the SmackDown Six. SmackDown is the brand where Edge became the Hall of Famer he is today and where many argue helped Edge became one of the greatest World Champions in history. This moment is where it all began.
No. 5: 2002 Debuts
In 2002, the landscape of WWE forever changed. It ushered in a new era, the Ruthless Aggression Era. Raw and SmackDown split the roster and created their own brands. On SmackDown, the future was getting ready to shock the world.
Through the course of the year, many wrestlers debuted on SmackDown. Those were laying the groundwork to forever alter the future of WWE.
First to make his debut was Randy Orton. Orton would go on to become a 13-time World Champion (youngest World Champion), two time Royal Rumble Winner, Money in the Bank winner and is one of only a few that can call themselves a Grand Slam Champion.
Orton debuted on SmackDown and showed that he is a major part of the future of WWE. His 17+ year career started on SmackDown and continues to go on facing the best of the best each time he steps in the ring.
The next was a strange one at first, but the next debut was Batista. Batista debuted on the SmackDown brand as Deacon Batista, a follower for Reverend D-Von. Batista would eventually split away from D-Von and would become another cornerstone of the future of WWE.
Batista would go on to become a four-time World Champion, two-time winner of the Royal Rumble and would go on to main event WrestleMania twice. He was a major star in WWE and would be the face of SmackDown in the mid-2000s.
The next to debut was John Cena. He did not wait to make an impact, debuting against Kurt Angle in an open challenge and nearly pulling off the upset.
What more can I say about John Cena than: 16-time World Champion, two-time winner of the Royal Rumble, Money in the Bank winner, he wrestled in the main event of WrestleMania five times and was the face of WWE for over a decade. His career began on SmackDown, becoming a rising star and arguably the greatest of all time.
The next debut was not technically an in-ring debut but it was a WWE debut. Rey Mysterio made his way to WWE from WCW in 2002 and made an explosive impact. Mysterio helped put the Cruiserweight Division on the map on SmackDown. He helped build the best and brightest the cruiserweights had to offer.
Mysterio was also one of the SmackDown Six and became one of the most successful Tag Team Champions on SmackDown with Edge, Rob Van Dam, Eddie Guerrero and Batista. Mr. 619 would also elevate to the main event scene becoming a three-time World Champion and winning the Royal Rumble in 2006 (lasting over 62 minutes).
These men were the future of WWE. These wrestlers would become superstars that led an era into the future and beyond.
No. 4: Daniel Bryan Returns (March 20, 2018)
The next moment on the countdown was a moment that no one thought they would ever see; Daniel Bryan announcing to the world that he had been medically cleared to compete back in the WWE.
In 2016, Bryan announced his retirement. He retired due to a history of injuries and concussions. However, after countless visits to doctors, Daniel fought for his dream. Daniel fought for his dream and his dream fought for him.
On this episode of SmackDown, Bryan announced to the entire WWE Universe that he was finally medically cleared to compete in WWE. Surrounded by a sea of YES! Chants, he returned to the WWE and did all in his power to fight for his dream.
Bryan’s return led him to win the WWE Championship on SmackDown in November, ending the long reign of AJ Styles and changing his character.
Bryan returning was the moment the entire WWE Universe wanted but never saw happening. However, when he announced his clearance to compete, it became a moment that many will never forget.
No. 3: Brock Lesnar v. Kurt Angle: Iron Man Match: WWE Championship (Sept. 18, 2003)
The next spot on this countdown is arguably the greatest match in SmackDown history. For the first time on network TV, the WWE Universe got to see Kurt Angle defend the WWE Championship against Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship in a 60-minute Iron Man Match.
These two had a rivalry that had stemmed from their classic at WrestleMania 19 and their rematch at SummerSlam later in the year. However, this was the last match between the two and what a way to end a rivalry than with an Iron Man Match.
These two athletes went to war for an action-packed and hellacious 60 minutes. Each wrestler put every ounce of sweat and heart into this matchup.
Every second of those 60 minutes left fans on the edge of their seats as the action and tension lasted till the last second. Angle looked to save his championship but the clock struck zero and so did the gold medalist’s title reign. Lesnar won the Iron Man match five falls to four.
This match was intense and well paced full of storytelling and athleticism. This is not only the greatest match in SmackDown history but arguably one of the greatest matches in WWE history.
No. 2: Stone Cold Destroys the DX Express (April 27, 2000)
Just like a lot of moments on this list, this moment was pure craziness and insanity. This episode was the go-home episode to the upcoming PPV, Backlash. It was announced that Stone Cold Steve Austin was going to be in The Rock’s corner for his WWF Championship match against Triple H.
No one had seen Stone Cold since Survivor Series the previous year after he was run over by a car.
Throughout the episode, Stone Cold had been playing mind games and tricks with the McMahon Helmsley Faction, but no one had been able to find Stone Cold.
Eventually, Triple H and DX got sick and tired of the games and went to the ring and called out the Rattlesnake, only to see that Stone Cold was outside in the parking lot and standing on a crane.
The crane had a large cement block that hung over the DX Express, the group’s personal bus. Stone Cold did only what he would do and he dropped it right onto the DX Express, blowing the bus up. It was one of the wildest moments in SmackDown’s history.
No. 1: The First Episode after 9/11 (Sept. 13, 2001)
The top moment in SmackDown history was a no brainer, the first SmackDown after the terrorist attacks of September 11. This day changed the world forever. People all over the world questioned their own well beings and had difficulty in trying to get back to everyday life.
However, SmackDown decided to lift up the spirits of America and bring the United States out of fear.
Vince McMahon opened the live broadcast with a speech that helped alleviate the pain of America. He stated that the Spirit of America was alive that night in Houston, Texas. Lilian Garcia then delivered one of the most powerful renditions of the National Anthem in history.
Many of the stars delivered thoughts, prayers and messages regarding the events of the prior Tuesday. Except for one Stephanie McMahon who compared 9/11 to her family’s steroid trial in the early 90s.
There was no match, in particular, that was eventful or spectacular. This SmackDown did more than just be another wrestling show. It entertained us and got our minds away from the terror going on in the real world at the time.
In front of a sold out arena in Houston and millions of fans watching around the world, this episode of SmackDown helped us get back to living our lives. It helped us unite our country when we truly need it most. It helped show the perseverance and patriotism of the United States of America.
The power of these moments and what it symbolized make this the greatest moment in SmackDown history.
SmackDown is heading into what seems into a new era. With the move to Fox in the near future and the return of the WWE Draft, what moments do the next 20 years of SmackDown have in store?