This week Throwback Thursday, with a bit of help from the WWE Network, celebrates the debut of one of WWF/E’s most enduring and popular television programs, SmackDown!, which taped its weekly debut edition 18 years ago today!
By August of 1999 the World Wrestling Federation had not only retaken the lead in the Monday Night Wars with World Championship Wrestling, they were slowly killing off their competition. SmackDown! would not only allow the WWF more TV time to flush out stories and characters, it would give the WWF another front from which to fight WCW, taking on WCW Thunder head-to-head.
Unlike Thunder, SD! would use top talent and main storylines to fill out the show. A test pilot on April 29, 1999 garnered a whopping 5.8 rating and proved that SmackDown!, if done right, would be a huge boon for the WWF.
As far as context is concerned, it’s all there. All previous editions of Monday Night RAW (and the SD! pilot from April) as well as all prior PPVs are currently on the Network for you to enjoy.
WWF SmackDown! #1 (WATCH)
Date: August 26, 1999 (TAPED: Aug. 24, 1999) – Location: Kemper Arena, Kansas City, Missouri
Attendance: >16,000 – TV Rating: 5.7 (5.74 million homes)
Commentators: Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler – Interviews: Lilian Garcia & Michael Cole
CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME
WWF Champion: Triple H
WWF Intercontinental Champion: Jeff Jarrett
WWF Tag Team Champions: The Undertaker & Big Show
WWF European Champion: Mark Henry
WWF Women’s Champion: Ivory
WWF Hardcore Champion: Al Snow
WWF Light Heavyweight Champion: Gillberg
The show, the first at the Kemper Arena since Over the Edge ’99 PPV where Owen Hart tragically passed away, begins with a vignette highlighting Triple H’s journey to the WWF Championship, which Triple H won from Mankind on the previous edition of Monday Night RAW, followed by the old school SD! opening. The Botchamania “Su-per Dra-gon!” staple is (unfortunately) missing. In the arena the pyro goes off and Jim Ross welcomes us to the show.
Triple H’s music hits and the new WWF Champion, with Chyna, make his way to the ring. Triple H calls out those who held him down and says he “did it” and “crammed it down all of your throats” and that he’s proven he’s “The Game”. Triple H says he’ll take out everyone in the WWF from “the very bottom all the way up.” Suddenly The Rock appears on the stage and, after his usual shtick, says he plans on challenging Triple H for the WWF title and beating his “monkey ass”. After some more back and forth Shawn Michaels’ music hits and the WWF Commissioner comes out to make the Triple H/Rock WWF Championship match official for later in the night. Then, to ensure there’s no “shenanigans”, HBK names himself the special referee for the match. Shane McMahon runs in next and tries to name himself as second referee when HBK tells Shane he’ll be busy wrestling Mankind later in the show. Mankind then comes out and soon enough it’s a brawl with Rock and Mankind taking out Shane, Triple H, and The Mean Street Posse.
At ringside JR and Lawler talk about the main event and give a brief rundown of the rest of the card. Backstage we see Jeff Jarrett dragging Miss Kitty and Debra to the hallway and Mr. Ass getting ready for his match.
As Jeff Jarrett makes his way to the ring we see footage from the past week’s RAW of Chyna signing the open contract to face Jarrett, screwing Billy Gunn out of his title shot, before Chyna and Jarrett were each laid out with guitars.
— “Non-Title Match” (WATCH – 20:17)
WWF Intercontinental Champion Jeff Jarrett w/Debra & Miss Kitty vs. “Mr. Ass” Billy Gunn
This is a fun little battle while it lasts but it’s by no means a clinic. Though it’s better than most, it’s still a typical WWF TV match for the era. For the finish, Chyna comes to the ring and grabs the guitar away from Miss Kitty before she can give it to Jarrett. Chyna swings for Kitty but hits Debra instead. In the confusion Billy Gunn school boys Jarrett for the pin at 2:55. After the match Billy Gunn attempts to moon Chyna when Chyna hits him low and leaves him laying.
WINNER is “Mr. Ass” Billy Gunn (Pin, 2:55)
In the back Lilian Garcia interviews Al Snow about WWF.com reports that Bossman was going to show up with Al Snow’s dog Pepper. Snow, in an ECW promo on WWF TV, begs Bossman to leave Pepper unharmed.
Next we see Chris Jericho criticizing Howard Finkel’s shoe shining. Then, after a break, we see Test pacing in the back as he awaits the arrival of Stephanie McMahon, whom Test proposed to on the last edition of RAW.
As Bradshaw and Faarooq make their way to the ring we see highlights from three weeks ago on RAW where X-Pac and Kane won the Tag titles from the Acolytes and then footage from SummerSlam ’99 where Big Show and Undertaker won the Tag Team gold from X-Pac and Kane. Lastly we see the war that broke out on the previous RAW between these three teams that setup the following “triple threat”.
— WWF Tag Team Championship – “Tag Team Triple Threat Match” (WATCH – 26:50)
Special Guest Commentator: WWF Tag Team Champion The Undertaker
X-Pac & Kane vs. The Acolytes (Bradshaw & Faarooq) vs. The Undertaker & Big Show(c) w/Paul Bearer
As the match gets underway Undertaker joins JR and Lawler at the commentary desk. Undertaker says making Big Show go it alone is his version of “hard love”. After Big Show gets dumped over the top Undertaker slaps Show and tells him to act like he wants Undertaker’s knowledge. Big Show goes back to the ring and eventually fights off the attack from the other four men and plants X-Pac with a crushing chokeslam for the 1-2-3 at 3:47.
WINNER and STILL WWF Tag Team Champion, The Undertaker & Big Show w/Paul Bearer (Pin, 3:47)
After replays we cut to Test still pacing in back. Stephanie shows up, all smiles, and tells Test she has an answer for him.
Big Boss Man comes to the ring and calls out Al Snow. Snow comes out and asks where Pepper is and Boss Man says the dog is safe. But, “if that little S.O.B. bites me again I’m gonna send him straight to hell.” Boss Man says that Snow will get Pepper back when Boss Man gets his Hardcore title shot. After a break Snow is in the ring with the Hardcore title and Boss Man returns to the ring with a muzzled Pepper in his arms, leaving the dog with JR and Lawler.
— WWF Hardcore Championship – “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 35:14)
The Big Boss Man vs. Al Snow(c)
This one isn’t much of a match or a fight. The two spend more time battling over a ladder than doing anything else. Out of nowhere Al Snow goes to get Pepper when Big Boss Man brains Snow with his nightstick and makes the pin next to the announcer’s table at 2:20 to win his third WWF Hardcore Championship and end Al Snow’s second reign as Hardcore Champion at 4-days (since the match didn’t air until the 26th). After the match Boss Man grabs Pepper and bad mouths an unconscious Al Snow before walking off.
WINNER and NEW WWF Hardcore Champion, The Big Boss Man (Pin, 2:20)
In the back X-Pac is leaving the arena without Kane, telling Kane he’s tired of being the weak link in the team and that Kane is better off alone.
In another part of the building Chris Jericho is walking to the ring, fluffing his hair, and saying it’s “time to save this show. My people are waiting.” Meanwhile, back at ringside Al Snow wakes up, realizes Boss Man swerved him, and takes off running to the back.
After a break we see The Rock and Triple H getting ready for their match later in the show before cutting to Al Snow going berserk looking for Big Boss Man and his dog Pepper. Jerry Lawler tells us that Boss Man has already left the building, though.
As Road Dogg poses in the ring we see footage from the previous RAW of Jericho attacking Road Dogg, which set up the following match. In the ring Road Dogg does his usual routine before telling Jericho he wants to whip him.
— Singles Match (WATCH – 43:09)
Road Dogg vs. Chris Jericho
This match marked Chris Jericho’s in-ring debut with the WWF, and it shows. From the difference in ring size to the pacing of the matches Jericho seems out of sorts. Even the comedic moments of the match involving Howard Finkel fall flat. For a first match, however, it isn’t all that bad. Jericho brings a table into the ring and tries to put Road Dogg through it only for Road Dogg to block it and start taking the fight to Jericho. Eventually Jericho hits a powerbomb on Road Dogg before driving Road Dogg through the table with a second powerbomb, giving Road Dogg the win via DQ at 4:30. After the match Jericho puts Road Dogg in the Walls of Jericho in the wreckage of the table.
WINNER is Road Dogg (Disqualification, 4:30)
After a commercial break we see replays of the end of the Dogg/Jericho match followed by Jericho talking to Howard Finkel about being dominant in the WWF and how ridiculous Tony Chimel is compared to Howard Finkel. Jericho revs Howard up and Finkel runs to the ring, to the music of the Ultimate Warrior, to confront Chimel and the two end up “fighting” in the ring with Jericho watching from the back utterly unimpressed. Soon enough Chimel disposes of Finkel and Jericho comes to the ring to check on Finkel. Ken Shamrock (supposedly ready to face Val Venis) comes to the ring and he and Jericho bump into one another on the ramp. Jericho sends Finkel to confront Shamrock and, while Shamrock has Finkel by the finger, Jericho hits Shamrock in the back with a steel chair before running to the back with Finkel.
Next Stephanie McMahon comes to the ring and calls Andrew (Test), to the ring. Stephanie says she wanted everything to be right before giving Test an answer to his proposal. Test stops her and tells her he’ll make it right before kneeling, pulling a ring out of his pocket, and asking Stephanie to marry him. Stephanie immediately says yes and the crowd in Kansas City eats it up as JR cheers and Test and Stephanie eat each others faces! The Mean Street Posse and Shane McMahon jump Test until Mankind makes the save and tells Shane to leave Test and Stephanie alone and to get in the ring and fight.
— “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 56:56)
Shane McMahon vs. Mankind
Shane sneaks in the ring and thumps Mankind with a chair, knocking Mankind to the mat. As Shane celebrates Mankind pops back up and starts taking it to Shane. When Shane tries to escape through the crowd the match turns into a street fight on the outside. A referee finally comes out but there is no bell to start the match. It’s all Mankind until the Posse gets involved. Test makes the save, kicks Pete Gas’ tongue to Albuquerque, and takes out the rest of the Posse with a little bit of help from The Stooges and Stephanie. In the ring Shane is taken out with Mankind’s double arm DDT and Socko when Triple H and Chyna run to the ring. Chyna distracts the referee as Triple H hits Mankind in the leg with a steel chair. Shane makes the cover and scores the win at 3:54.
WINNER is Shane McMahon (Pin, 3:54)
After the match we cut to the back where Chris Jericho is fleeing from Kemper Arena with a tottering Howard Finkel in his wake. They run to Jericho’s conveniently parked rental car but Finkel’s door is locked. Jericho drives off and leaves Finkel holding the bags (literally). Shamrock shows up, grabs Finkel, and yells at Howard until Finkel poops on himself, which causes Shamrock to flee from the stink.
After a break we see footage of Triple H injuring Stone Cold Steve Austin’s knee at SummerSlam ’99 before cutting to a pre-taped sit-down interview between Michael Cole and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Cole says that Austin had tendon and ligament damage in the knee but Austin says he had a torn tendon going in and the attack made it worse. Austin says he’ll get even with Triple H and that it’s “bulls*it” for Triple H to say Austin would never be the same again. Cole wonders of it’s Austin who has brought the “mean streak” out of Triple H. Austin thinks it’s fine, that it takes being a mean S.O.B. to get to the top of the WWF.
As Ivory heads to the ring for the next match we see footage from SummerSlam ’99 of Ivory stripping Tori after their match.
— “Non-Title Evening Gown Match” (WATCH – 1:08:52)
WWF Women’s Champion Ivory vs. Tori
This one, thankfully, doesn’t last long. Tori’s wearing a WWF shirt from Tony Garea while Ivory is wearing a dress. The match is almost entirely Tori who rips the last of Ivory’s dress off at :58 to win. After the match Luna Vachon runs in to get Tori off of Ivory.
WINNER is Tori (:58)
Next Lillian Garcia interviews Triple H who says The Rock better bring everything he’s got, but it won’t be enough. Triple H then says HBK had better call it down the middle or Triple H will make sure Michaels “never walks again.” Next we see The Rock and Triple H getting ready for the main event.
After the break we see Al Snow looking all over the place for Pepper while in another part of the building a slew of WWF employees stop Stephanie and Test to congratulate them on getting engaged.
— WWF Championship – “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:11:37)
Special Guest Referee: WWF Commissioner Shawn Michaels
The Rock vs. Triple H(c) w/Chyna
The match is a fight from the start with both guys looking to end it early and becomes a street fight once the action hits the floor with The Rock and Triple H throwing each other around the staging. After a low blow on Rock, Shawn Michaels throws Chyna out of the match, much to Triple H’s chagrin. Shane McMahon comes down next and tells HBK that Michaels can’t throw Chyna out. Meanwhile Triple H takes control of the match and looks to have The Rock on the ropes. Rock nails a Stun Gun but Shane distracts HBK, who can’t make the count in time. When Rock hits the swinging neckbreaker Shane jumps on the apron until Rock takes him out. Rock hits the Rock Bottom on Triple H and goes for the People’s Elbow when Shawn Michaels hits one of the great Sweet Chin Music kicks of all-time on Rock. Triple H takes advantage, hits the Pedigree, and scores the pin at 9:42 to retain the WWF title.
WINNER and STILL WWF Champion, Triple H w/Chyna (Pin, 9:42)
After the match Triple H celebrates with Shane McMahon, Shawn Michaels, and Chyna as we see replays of the Sweet Chin Music and Pedigree. The Rock is left in a heap in the ring as the four continue to celebrate and the show goes off the air.
The debut edition of SmackDown! is a non-stop frenzy of activity, action and promos; almost too much. In all reality the only match that still holds up as a solid match is the main event.
Even if it’s full of overbooking and the standard “Attitude Era” gaga, SmackDown! #1 is a fun trip back in time when the show itself was the show.
If you’re already subscribed to the WWE Network you too can re-live this classic edition of SmackDown! or see it for the first time ever right now. And, as always, after viewing let us know what you think in the comments section below!
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Thanks for reading – until next week, see ya at ringside!
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