7 underrated SmackDown moments
We all know the biggies by now: Big Show and Brock Lesnar breaking the ring. Arnold Schwarzenegger backhanding Triple H with the force of 10 men. (He must have gotten the pump before the show.) The big fist looming over the entrance stage. The history of SmackDown is filled with iconic moments that have lodged themselves deep within the collective cerebellum of the WWE Universe; you could pull up any of those and give a new viewer an instant crash course in what the blue brand is all about.
SmackDown has been around for a very long time. In fact, it’ll celebrate its 20-year anniversary with its FOX debut this Friday night. And there have been plenty of moments in those 20 years that are just as crucial to the blue brand’s history, yet never quite received the accolades or spotlight the others did. All told, there are way, way too many to list in full. So, here are seven.
John Cena and Eddie Guerrero’s Parking Lot Brawl
Whether you think John Cena is the greatest of all time comes down to a matter of personal opinion. But there’s no denying the man contains multitudes as a Superstar. One minute he’s a B-boy rapper type; the next he’s in a First Blood Match with JBL, and then you turn around and he’s in a lime-green T-shirt making “Star Wars” references on the mic. And, in this case, he’s … well, he’s hardcore, battling tooth and nail with Eddie Guerrero in a Parking Lot Brawl that feels more like a slugfest behind the local watering hole than primetime network TV. He takes a beating, too, going headfirst through a car window and absorbing a hubcap to the dome from Chavo Guerrero (more on him in a bit) before Eddie downs Cena with a Frog Splash on the hood of a car. Points awarded for the Brian Urlacher throwback and ring of cars that will likely illicit an under-the-breath “I just swept the Circle of Death,” as you watch the chaos unfold.
Brogue Kick vs. KO Punch
Back in yonder days of 2012, Sheamus and Big Show were fighting over the World Heavyweight Championship, and the crux of the rivalry came down to which of their deadly finishers was stronger: The Irishman’s Brogue Kick, or Show’s KO Punch. So, to settle the matter, then-SmackDown General Manager Booker T held a contest on top of the ramp to measure the pounds per unit behind each maneuver. That’s it. That’s the whole thing. It’s remarkably straightforward yet oddly effective — Big Show radiates real resentment at the thought that he’s being made to look like a fool, and Sheamus gets in some nice digs on Show’s seconds-long first reign as World Champion. And if you think we’re being too generous, consider the video has racked up 11 million views on YouTube. So, a lot of you really like it.
Rey Mysterio vs. Chavo Guerrero; “I Quit!” Match
Here’s Chavo! (Or, if you prefer, Ooohh, Chavoooo). Eddie Guerrero’s nephew always held a strange place in the SmackDown hierarchy. He was an excellent sidekick and occasional foil for Latino Heat, and after Eddie’s passing, he became one of the most ferocious rivals of Rey Mysterio. In this match, Eddie’s literal and figurative family go to battle under one of the most grueling stipulations in the rulebook, each honoring the late Guerrero’s legacy in their own way while building their own in real time. Rey wins with a chair to the knee, but Chavo’s grit and determination surprises you and makes you regret that his star never rose quite as high as Eddie’s or Rey’s. If we’re being honest, SmackDown owes just as much to him as it does to them.
Mark Henry pulls two tractor trailers
Mark Henry is very, very strong and very, very angry. This is unquestionably the best version of Mark Henry, and The World’s Strongest Man’s late-career renaissance was bolstered by some truly furious feats of strength. In this one, ostensibly to hype up a Four Corners Match between himself and Sheamus, he fastens two tractor trailers to his sequoia-sized torso and drags them 20 feet to set a new world record. His attempts to tie the accomplishment into the stipulation of match are somewhat confusing. Is Sheamus supposed to be the trucks? Is this all a metaphor for how Henry could carry a rivalry throughout his entire career better than he ever got credit for? But those questions are ultimately irrelevant. Mark Henry decided he wanted to pull tractor trailers. Mark Henry pulled tractor trailers. Nobody was going to tell him otherwise.
Kurt Angle tranquilizes Big Show
In hindsight, it’s difficult to blame Big Show for thinking that whole KO-Brogue Kick thing was going to blow up in his face: The World’s Largest Athlete has been involved in some of the most abjectly absurd events in WWE history. But put him with the right rival, and they take on an added bit of poignancy. Here, Kurt Angle is trying to shave Big Show’s head, but the giant is too big to take down. So, he shoots Show in the back with a tranquilizer gun hidden underneath the ring, then waits until he’s out to do the deed. On its face, this is ridiculous, but Show’s incensed staggering as he fades out, coupled with Angle’s shark-like grin as he prowls the ring and the big-game hunter pose he strikes at the end, give the moment a truly unsettling air. It starts as a Looney Tune and ends like “King Kong.”
John Cena vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
As John Cena rounded the final bend of his full-time WWE career, he clearly wanted to get all his dream matches in before he called it a day. The most bizarre (and unique) among them was the one he had with Shinsuke Nakamura, wherein the winner would challenge Jinder Mahal for the WWE Championship at SummerSlam. That setup aside, the match is exactly the type of showcase you’d expect between two icons of the East and West, coupled with some of the vulnerability that made Big Match John so compelling in his later years. It takes a shocking turn at the end with a gnarly suplex, and Nakamura wins with the Kinshasa. It’s a strange artifact to be sure, and unlike some of Cena’s other dream matches, it truly is a once-in-a-lifetime affair.
The New Day debut
The New Day are one of the most popular, influential and legendary teams in the history of the industry. They’ve hosted WrestleMania, sold more merch than the law will allow and racked up the longest Tag Team Title reign of all time. Which makes it odd to consider that the first step of their journey began on a random SmackDown taping in Fort Wayne, Ind., in 2014 against Titus O’Neil, Heath Slater & Curtis Axel. Needless to say, the WWE Universe didn’t quite get The New Day at the start, and although they win in about five minutes, the product here remains decidedly unfinished. There are elements that remain (the Midnight Hour, that wheelbarrow-splash thing Big E and Xavier Woods do) and elements that have since been lost (Big E’s sweat towel!). Watching it, you’d never guess that these guys would soon take over the world, from sneaker deals to video game YouTube channels to a WWE Championship reign that will main-event the next iteration of the very show they debuted on. But in hindsight, maybe you should have.