Happy 10th anniversary WWE SmackDown. Tonight, the little show that couldn’t celebrates 10 years of television. For years, WWE SmackDown played second fiddle to WWE RAW. Yet over the last decade WWE SmackDown has turned into the “wrestling show.” Ten years later and some will argue today that WWE SmackDown is now the “A show” Now that may be more of an accomplishment than the 10-year anniversary itself!
I remember the first WWE SmackDown special like it was yesterday. It was huge news at the time that the WWE had a new show on another network. SmackDown came along at the perfect time. Between Goldberg and the Rock, pro wrestling was red hot in 1999. WWE used SmackDown to counter WCW’s Thursday Thunder. The first special was appealing because there were less angles and gimmicks with more wrestling than RAW. This would be something SmackDown would later become known for amongst WWE fans.
[adinserter block=”1″]The first show has a bit of an interesting story to it. The main event of the show featured The Rock against Triple H. The match itself wasn’t a big deal considering that they wrestled about every month for a year. The twist was that Shawn Michaels returned to referee the match. Michaels had been sporadically back with the company after retiring and played a total babyface. Michaels actually turned heel in the match and nailed the Rock with a Sweet Chin Music allowing Triple H to get the pin.
The story out of this was that Michaels and the WWE never followed through with the heel turn. Strangely, it was never acknowledged and Michaels disappeared shortly thereafter. Years later it was revealed that Michaels was still battling his demons and the WWE wasn’t ready to take him back in that condition. You have to wonder what would have happened if Michaels stuck around? Would Michaels and the Rock have wrestled at WrestleMania? Would the original DX reunite and wreck havoc? Unfortunately we will never know.
Another funny story coming out of the first WWE SmackDown concerns the music. A former WWE employee once told me his story and I don’t know if it was ever repeated. The theme of the first SmackDown show was Marilyn Manson’s “Beautiful People.” Ironic today due to the group in TNA Wrestling known by the same name. According to this ex-employee, Vince McMahon never paid for the rights to use the song. Vince was unaware of how popular Manson was at the time and just assumed that Manson would appreciate the exposure. Vince and the WWE found out quickly that Manson wasn’t looking for exposure and threatened the company with legal action.
I also remember the controversy that erupted when WWE SmackDown became a weekly television show. Many wrestling journalists predicted it would be a bad move. Most thought that the WWE writers would spread themselves too thin. How could the writers create interesting storylines and angles for another-two hours per week? Who knew that years later not only would the company produce another an hour (ECW), but that they would also increase their pay-per-view schedule? The prognosticators were right and thus, the brand extension was born.
Looking deeper into the history of WWE SmackDown, the move to a weekly show may have impacted pro wrestling history more than Hulkamania. Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara have claimed for years that the extra work of writing two more hours of TV was never compensated to them. Russo in particular claims that this was the reason that he approached WCW. Russo has gone on to claim that after complaining to Vince McMahon about the extra work and not being able to see his kids, Vince said to hire a nanny. Russo and Ferrara eventually left for WCW and we all know how history played out. It is entirely conceivable that Russo and Ferrera never would have left and maybe WCW is still around if the move to two more hours of WWE TV was never made.
[adinserter block=”2″]SmackDown has had its struggles over the last several years. The show was in jeopardy after Viacom dropped the program a couple of years back. The move to MyNetworkTV has been successful, but troublesome. Constant reports about the network’s own instability continue to put SmackDown in jeopardy. Unlike WWE RAW, SmackDown has yet to land on a stable network. Something like this could end the program entirely. A few years ago when SmackDown was a free agent, MyNetworkTV was the only serious taker. It is very conceivable that if SmackDown becomes a free agent once again that it has a very difficult time landing on a new home.
In the end, it is a great accomplishment to remain on television for 10 straight years. Over the years, WWE SmackDown has produced some memorable moments, lots of new stars, and classic matches. Earlier in the decade, you couldn’t watch SmackDown and not see something great on the program every week. Vince McMahon and everyone else that have contributed to SmackDown’s success should be proud. Happy anniversary WWE SmackDown and here is to another ten years!
Order WWE: The Best of Smackdown – 10th Anniversary 1999-2009 DVD by clicking here.
Order the WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 video game clicking here.
Order the WWE: The Best of RAW 15th Anniversary DVD by clicking here.