March 3, 2016 by gorillapressonline
In the first of a new series right here on Gorilla Press, we delve into the vast pool of archived wrestling for some Retro Recaps, covering all aspects of pro-wrestling content, from various companies and time periods. To kick things off, Mark Pidgeon takes a look at:
WWF Smackdown Episode #1 August 26th 1999
Wrestling at the turn of the millennium was enjoying a serious boom period; the product was becoming edgier, shifting towards a mature audience and the weekly programming from WWF, in particular, reflected this change.
On April 29th, 1999 American television company UPN commissioned a pilot episode for a new weekly wrestling block called Smackdown, to capitalise on this boom period and to rival the current stack of WCW programming on TBS.
It wasn’t until August 26th 1999, however, that the Smackdown television series would actually begin airing, on Thursday nights in a 2 hour slot. This time-slot was specifically chosen in order to rival WCW Thunder and to keep the ratings war alive.
The show, which was taped in Kanas City, kicked off with highlights of Triple H winning the WWF World Heavyweight championship from Mankind on Monday Night Raw. The Smackdown stage set up was radically different from the familiar Titantron of RAW, with a sleek, oval design.
Triple H and Chyna open the show, much to the chagrin of the WWF Universe who unanimously chant “Asshole” at The Game. The Rock soon interrupts, challenging HHH to a title match to close the show.
The dynamic between these two is evident from the get-go with Rocky getting a white-hot reaction from the crowd as they hold onto every word out of his mouth. It’s evident he has them firmly in his control throughout this exchange.
The intro to the show has a big fight feel to it despite it not being a PPV, this feeling is reinforced when Shawn Michaels (who was Smackdown Commissioner at the time, fact fans) makes the match legitimate and announces that he will also referee the bout.
Shane McMahon butts in on proceedings, appointing himself as the second guest referee to keep an eye on Michaels. HBK continues this game of one-upmanship by thrusting the owner into a match of his own against Mankind.
Mick Foley is in his prime here; his ring-work and promo work were outstanding and it’s testament to how much he shone in such a stacked roster. Chaos ensues in the ring as this opening segment comes to a close with The Rock and Mankind clearing the ring.
Jeff Jarrett Vs Billy Gunn
Jeff Jarrett has an exhaustive work rate and the early pace in this match showcases how much talent he possesses. Jarrett comes out aggressive and this short bout is an one sided heel exhibition, when Miss Kitty, who is stood ringside, attempts to give double J the guitar the 9th wonder of the world, Chyna thwarts this plan and smashes the valet with the guitar, allowing Billy Gunn to steal a win with a roll-up pin.
Then, once the match is over, Chyna low blows the celebrating Gunn.
A backstage interview follows with Al Snow addressing The Big Bossman who has stole his dog, Pepper (spoiler: he cooks and feeds the dog to Snow in a later episode). This type of angle was prominent in the era, with each moment becoming more ludicrous than the last as Vince McMahon and his creative team pushed the boundaries of taste – much to our collective delight.
Tag Team Titles Triple Threat: X-Pac/Kane Vs The Acolytes Vs Undertaker and Big Show(c).
As the match kicks off The Undertaker takes to the commentary table leaving The Big Show to fend for himself as a lesson. Big Show was in tremendous shape at this point in his career and pairing him with Taker was a wise move.
This is another showcase for the big guys with Kane using his usual chokeslam repertoire on everyone in sight, while elsewhere a surprisingly agile double clothesline from The Big Show takes out The Acolytes.
Unsurprisingly Big Show and The Undertaker retain the titles. And, with Taker doing precisely zero ring work, this was a great way to get him over with the crowd.
Big Bossman Vs. Al Snow
The heel Bossman hams it up as he taunts Al Snow over his missing dog, using this as leverage to get the Hardcore Title from the champion Snow. Bossman promises to hand over the dog win, lose or draw as long as Al Snow puts the title on the line.
Pans, ladders and chairs are in abundance here as the champion takes it to the Big Bossman in some gaudy, over the top garbage wrestling. Another quick affair as Big Bossman levels Al Snow with his nightstick, winning the Hardcore Title in the process. And, in typical heel fashion, he rebukes his word once again, taking Pepper with him.
Road Dogg Jesse James Vs Y2J Chris Jericho
After coming to the aid of Howard Finkel on the previous episode of Monday Night Raw, stopping D-Generation X member Road Dogg from assaulting the veteran, Jesse James challenged Y2J.
Chris Jericho made huge waves with his countdown début, and he gels well with Road Dogg in this entertaining bout. He’s comfortable in his role as a heel and, as the short match comes to a close, Y2J power-bombs his opponent through a table before applying the Lion-tamer on the wreckage.
After a pep talk backstage from Y2J, Finkel runs to the ring to the Ultimate Warrior theme and attacks Tony Chimel to try to regain his job back. Things don’t go accordingly and the Fink gets beaten up.
The former UFC Champion Ken Shamrock pushes past Jericho as he comes down to the ring and once again he sends Howard Finkel to do his dirty work, this time using the confrontation to hit Shamrock with a chair, laying the foundation for an exciting feud between the two.
Mankind Vs Shane McMahon
Stephanie McMahon and Test take to the ring to reveal the answer to his wedding proposal, this being WWF shit hits the fan as soon as she says yes; her brother Shane and the Mean Street Posse attack Test leaving Mankind to rush once again to the rescue.
Mankind throws a chair to the ground and offers Shane O Mac one free shot with the steel chair. The match then starts proper with Mankind leaving bodies littered around the ring.
Shane McMahon had a reckless abandonment for his own well-being in the ring back in the day, taking insane bumps and hitting gnarly spots to appease both the “boys in the back” and the crowd. This was a man who thought nothing of absorbing chair shots, DDTs from the outside and taking crazy risks -everyone has seen that King of the Ring 2001 spot with Kurt Angle, for reference.
As Mankind applies the mandible claw, forcing the break from Shane McMahon and looking to take the victory, Chyna and Triple H once again come to the aid of the boss with yet another steel chair attack.
Evening Gown Match: Ivory Vs. Tori
Another relic of the period; the Evening Gown match, the premise of which is simple: win the match by stripping your opponent. This was about the extent of Divas content in the late 90s – with the exception of Chyna, of course – and looking at the modern era thankfully the women are treated with a lot more respect and are actually hired based on the merit of their wrestling abilities (for the most part…). Jerry Lawler gets over excited and pervy in these segments, which shouldn’t surprise anyone at all.
WWE Heavyweight Title Match: The Rock Vs Triple H (c)
An excellent main event to close what was a chaotic début show. The Rock and Triple H had such a great rivalry, which evolved in stages and was always entertaining. The Game takes it to The Great One from the get-go, controlling the pace as the match quickly spirals out of the ring.
The Rock shifts momentum with a Spinebuster to the steel stage area, and as Chyna gets involved the guest Ref Shawn Michaels evicts her upholding his authority.
The Rock hits a beautiful DDT, covering the champion, as Chyna distracts HBK on the outside, forcing Shane McMahon to come oversee things at ringside. Triple H applies a sleeper hold forcing The Rock to exert more energy kicking out and getting the upper hand, as he does, while once again HBK is distracted, this time by Shane.
The Rock overcomes this obstacle and hits a Rock Bottom, but as he runs the ropes for the People’s Elbow he eats a super-kick from Shawn Michaels, allowing Triple H to win the match with a Pedigree.
The show closes with the champion and his cronies celebrating in the ring and putting the first episode of this long-running series to bed.
It’s interesting re-watching this now, as we are a few years into a PG era of the WWE, chair shots and low blows are presented as normal moves and there is a sense of one-upmanship in the mid card.
Sadly there was too much packed into this 2-hour slot and it would have benefited from allowing some of the matches time to breathe, especially the Chris Jericho and Triple Threat matches.
That being said, this premiere sets the series up nicely, particularly considering that, over the years, Smackdown had some great moments and matches.
This episode is available to watch on the WWE Network now