Written By: Mark Armstrong
(Read the original version on Pro Wrestling Journal at http://prowrestlingjournal.com/index.php/2018/10/17/wwe-smackdown-1000-review-analysis-10-16-2018/.)
This was the big night for SmackDown, as the show celebrated its 1000th episode (well, technically it’s the 1001st due to the original pilot, but WWE doesn’t mind that). A number of top names from the past were promised to appear, including Batista’s first segment on WWE television since 2014, along with the continuing push of storylines leading to Evolution and Crown Jewel. Let’s see how things went for the blue brand’s big occasion.
Truth TV w/ The McMahons
After a fun video package highlighting some of SmackDown’s biggest moments (ending with a Steve Austin clip, just as a similar video did for Raw 25 earlier this year), we had Truth TV episode 2, hosted of course by R-Truth and Carmella. Noting that we’d seen some great moments on the show over the years (Carmella reminded Truth that they had been cancelled after just one edition), Truth then brought out his guest, who turned out to be the original SmackDown General Manager, Stephanie McMahon. It’s always hard to tell if Stephanie runs things down in character or using her real opinions, but Steph tried to remind us that Raw was better than SD, and that she had been responsible for SD’s success, before Shane McMahon returned to TV to stick up for the “A-show” (Steph trying to interrupt Shane constantly, something that nobody else is allowed to do, leads me to believe that she takes liberties with her talking segments). Vince McMahon then made a surprise appearance, saying that nobody watches to see bickering, but he did point out that we needed a dance break, and everybody involved danced to end the segment (meaning that Vince didn’t have to take a bump for a change). Well that was something.
AJ Styles & Daniel Bryan vs. The Usos
The two men who will face off at Crown Jewel teamed here against Jimmy and Jey Uso, making their first appearance for a little while. AJ and Daniel seemed to get on famously, and it seemed like they had victory in their grasp when both locked their signature submission holds on each Uso. But the twins held on, and after accidentally sending Bryan onto AJ (following the recent miscommunication between Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose over on Raw), the Usos kicked AJ off the apron and then hit Daniel with a double superkick for the win. Though they’re the established team, it was a surprise to see The Usos win here; what wasn’t surprising was the first step towards building tension for the AJ-Bryan WWE Championship showdown.
Differing from the formula of a nostalgia show, this marked the first appearance for the four Evolution members as one faction on SmackDown. Batista returning to WWE in his hometown of Washington, DC was the big moment here. After comments from Randy Orton (who reminded us that he was a heel, in case anyone misread the situation given the occasion), Ric Flair and Triple H, Batista got to discuss how thankful he was to be back, in what felt a bit like a retirement speech. The tone was feel-good with smiles and jokes all-round (which Evolution were never really associated with, but that’s not the point), and Batista noted how HHH has done it all … “Except beat me!” Suddenly, the tone changed, as HHH’s smile dropped, and the camera showed a deadly serious Batista. As Flair tried to be a humorous peace-maker, and Orton’s facials were unintentionally hilarious in the background, Batista and HHH had a very tense stare-down until the music played to fade things out. Assuming that we’re getting the set-up for a Batista-Triple H match at WrestleMania 35 (something Batista has talked publicly about greatly wanting to happen), this couldn’t have been any better, making the most of the historic occasion to provide a memorable segment, while providing a great tease for what could be a huge match in 2019, most likely one final match for the often-unappreciated Animal. This was definitely the moment of the night for me.
We were then shown a tweet by The Rock congratulating SmackDown on 1000 episodes. No Rock appearance here, not for a lack of trying from WWE though, I’m sure.
WWE World Cup Qualifying Match
The Miz vs. Rusev
I’m not sure if it was due to the Sky Sports broadcast of the live show, which has been an issue as it pertains to commercial breaks in recent weeks, but we came back from break to see Kurt Angle at ringside commentating for this bout which was literally ready to start, no entrances whatsoever, and it literally ended within seconds following a distraction from Aiden English. Rusev pounded Aiden afterwards, but this was suddenly interrupted by a clip backstage of Edge rejecting Curt Hawkins’ offer to speak to his other former Edgehead Zack Ryder by telephone prior to the next segment. This was very rushed indeed.
The Cutting Edge w/ Edge, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair
After providing his own thoughts on memorable SmackDown moments that he had been involved in, Edge introduced Becky Lynch, and after noting how he can relate to her struggles in climbing the ladder, he explained how abandoning friends en route to success will only result in her being alone when reflecting title wins while hating the person she would become. Initially agreeing, Lynch instead said she loved her new self and told the Rated R Superstar to leave “her” ring, and adding that she hopes he doesn’t hurt his neck when doing so as a further insult. This brought out Charlotte, who blasted Becky’s attitude and then attacked her, resulting in a pull-apart (which gave us a Finlay cameo). I won’t class Becky as a tweener anymore; she is a full-on heel, who the fans simply keep cheering regardless of what she says or does. When you reach that level of popularity with the crowd, you know you’ve made it.
SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match
The New Day (C) vs. The Bar
Given the fast-paced nature of this particular show, it was surprising that this bout got three segments. The action was good, but more notable was the attempt to use Jerry Lawler and Booker T as guest commentators from New Day’s desk: because they weren’t given a segue by the usual announcers, they only became active when a mini-screen showed them watching. This meant that the first time, both were silent until Booker had to visibly nudge Lawler to speak; the second time, they finished speaking too early; and the third time, Lawler didn’t say a word. This was pure Botchamania material. Plus, their table was wrecked in the end, when Big Show surprisingly came out and – say it with me – Show turned heel by chokeslamming Kofi Kingston through said desk. This distracted Big E enough to take a Brogue Kick from Sheamus, resulting in new champions and, presumably, a new alliance between Big Show and The Bar.
A pre-taped promo from John Cena (probably filmed in Australia prior to Super Showdown) allowed him to give his two cents on SD’s milestone achievement. Also of note were a quick backstage segment earlier that saw cameos by several former General Managers (including Teddy Long, HOLLA HOLLA HOLLA, PLAYA!), and the use of images from past SD moments. I was going to say “classic” moments, but some of these seem to be remembered more fondly by WWE than the fans (though I did pop at the still of Heidenreich, erm, “getting comfortable” with Michael Cole).
WWE World Cup Qualifying Match
Rey Mysterio vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
This marked Rey’s first singles match in WWE since 2014, and the first match of his proper return (after appearances in both male Royal Rumble matches earlier this annum). With the exception of some timing or communication issues for headscissors moves at the beginning and end of the bout, this was a fun main event, which includes some painful-looking knees from Nakamura, and a sliding splash to the floor from Mysterio. Rey clenched victory with a 619 and a Frog Splash off the ropes for the three-count, allowing him to achieve the final spot in the field for the WWE World Cup. A good return here for Rey, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he has to offer in this latest run with the company.
Almost immediately after the match ended, we heard the GONG for The Undertaker to appear. The show was running close to the end of transmission, so having the slow-moving Taker have his long entrance hardly helped matters. With time rapidly running out, Taker only had the chance to repeat his money line from Raw: “At Crown Jewel, I have three words for DX: Rest In Peace!” (Fans booed the mention of Crown Jewel, for reasons that should be obvious if you’ve been following the news.) Taker left and did his usual pose at the top of the aisle to close the broadcast.
This was a really fun show. It was obviously a diversion from the usual SmackDown formula (hence why we only saw a small number of the current SD crew), instead allowing us to reminisce about the history of the show. Batista’s return and his teased challenge to Triple H was perfectly done, and The Cutting Edge segment was very effective. Rey vs. Nakamura was good, too, if only a glimpse of what they could do. The big issue was, ironically, what makes SmackDown more appealing to Raw for die-hards: two hours wasn’t long enough for both a ton of nostalgia and a focus on current storylines, which explains why some moments felt so rushed that it would have made Vince Russo proud. Other segments misfired a bit (I didn’t need to see Stephanie McMahon, despite her ties to SD), and one could feel slightly disappointed that WWE was unable to get The Rock to appear live (due to movie commitments, of course), and by the missable nature of Undertaker’s promo.
Overall, though, as a one-off show, this was a blast. I thought it was more consistent than Raw 25 (which had more bad/mediocre than good by a wide margin), and it was good to look back on a show that has at various times been the home of peak WWE in-ring activity and also a waste of two hours of TV time (the period between 2012 and 2015), so it was nice to see SmackDown treated as being important to WWE. If you’ve followed SmackDown all the way, or even if you’ve just started watching SD in recent years, this was a perfectly adequate nostalgia trip.