WWE Smackdown: Tribute to the Troops 2003
by Scrooge Mc Suck
- The inaugural "Tribute to the Troops" show, from Baghdad, Iraq on December 25th, 2003. Actually, the show was called "Christmas From Baghdad", but we will allow revisionist history take its place, since I always have to stop and spell "Baghdad" like I’ve never spelled it before. Damn you, letter H! Michael Cole and Tazz are providing commentary, acting like they are at ringside, but clearly the commentary was dubbed in from a studio and no clips are shown of Cole and Tazz being with the rest of the roster.
- Vince McMahon comes out to welcome everyone to this special presentation. It’s not long until Santa Claus makes an appearance, handing out merchandise (likely the stuff left-over from the discount sections) to the crowd of troops. Tazz says Santa looks like he’s in the bag, possibly hinting at his true identity. McMahon is personally upset because Santa doesn’t have a gift for him and would always fly over his house and never give him a present when he was growing up. McMahon seriously has to go heel on Santa Claus of all people? He sucker punches Santa to really hammer it home. Santa reveals himself to be "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, and it wouldn’t be an Austin/McMahon moment without McMahon taking the Stone Cold Stunner. What, you were expecting Mick Foley? It only takes 30-seconds of a Stone Cold "What" Promo to really get on my nerves, but thankfully the promo is only 33-seconds long, so good thing for good timing.
The APA vs. The World’s Greatest Tag Team:
(Faarooq & Bradshaw vs. Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas)
Bradshaw comes out in a flak-jacket and helmet. Tazz actually gives credit to him for being a big part of the concept of Tribute to the Troops™. Give that man a Championship reign! No, I don’t need to specify which one, no one would give him a 10-month reign as WWE Champion. Faarooq and Benjamin start. Lockup to the corner, Shelton with a cheap shot. Whip across the ring, Faarooq gets an elbow up and comes off the second rope with a shoulder tackle. Bradshaw pounds away in the corner. Haas tags in and quickly takes a pounding, as well. Bradshaw goes for a Torture Rack, but lets go to boot an incoming Benjamin. Powerslam to Haas gets two. Haas escapes a Dominator and connects with a clothesline. WGTT with a double suplex for two. Faarooq takes Haas over with a back drop and tags out to Bradshaw. He runs over Haas with a shoulder tackle, followed by an elbow. Big boot to Benjamin and a DDT to Haas for two. Whip to the ropes and a double shoulder to Benjamin sends him to the floor. Bradshaw with a Super-Sized Last Call (fall-away slam) on Haas. Benjamin comes back to life and hits a Super-Kick. Faarooq hits him with a Power-Slam. Whip to the corner, Bradshaw avoids the charge and destroys Haas with the Clothesline From Hell for the three count at 4:37. ** Non-stop action.
- Steve Austin is "backstage" with Chris Benoit and is trying to hype him up for a match later tonight with Eddie Guerrero.
Rikishi vs. Rhyno:
"It’s rump shaking time in the desert!" I have a feeling that awful line from Michael Cole will be the highlight of what will likely be a very short match. 12 years later, Rikishi’s sons would be in the same match with Rhyno on Monday Night Raw. Useless tidbits! They have a shoving match, won by Rikishi and celebrated with a rump-shaking. Whip to the corner, Rikishi goes for a belly-to-belly suplex, but Rhyno fights free. He goes for a sunset flip, unsuccessfully, but thankfully avoids being squashed with a sit-down splash. Rhyno pounds away in the corner with rights and shoulders to the midsection. He tries it again and runs right into a Super-Kick. Rikishi drags him to the corner, and the Banzai Drop meets knees. Rhyno with a charge to the corner, meeting nothing but turnbuckle, and Rikishi finishes with the Samoan Drop at 2:28. Too quick to slap on a star rating, but it was short and inoffensive. Post-match, Rikishi gives Rhyno a Stink-Face for Christmas and dances for the troops.
- "The Doctor of Thuganomics" John Cena shows up for rhyming promo about his upcoming match with the Big Show. 12 years later, John Cena can still occasionally be seen wrestling the Big Show in Main Events.
- Steve Austin gives Eddie Guerrero a pep-talk and lies about what Benoit said, because it’s his job to start trouble between two best friends. Eddie’s response? "I’m gonna be his Scrooge." HEY! Do we need a reason to see Eddie vs. Benoit? It’s always guaranteed to be a good match.
Chris Benoit vs. Eddie Guerrero:
I don’t want to be that guy, but Eddie’s physique is just too much to ignore, but then we’ve got Benoit, so we’ll just stick to the match and not go into a detailed rant. Did anyone really expect both these men to have World Titles just a few months later? Seems more like fan-fiction than what we usually expected. Lockup to the corner and we get a clean break. Benoit with a side headlock and a hard shoulder tackle. Eddie grabs the arm and quickly transfers to a side headlock takeover. Whip to the ropes and Eddie connects with a tilt-o-whirl back breaker for a two count. Criss-cross sequence ends with Benoit launching Eddie across the ring with a monkey flip. He unloads with chops, sending Eddie hiding in the lap of referee Jimmy Korderas. Eddie puts on a flak-jacket to protect himself from the chops in a nice comedic moment. Eddie surprises Benoit with a dropkick and dishes out some vicious chops of his own. Benoit counters a back suplex, but his own attempt sends both men spilling over the top rope, to the floor. We return from commercial with Benoit stretching out Eddie’s arms. Eddie uses his momentum to throw Benoit face-first to the turnbuckle. Eddie with a flubbed Powerbomb from the second turnbuckle for two. Eddie with the Three Amigos, but Benoit interrupts the third suplex by countering with the Crippler Crossface. They trade chops again. Whip to the ropes and Benoit launches Eddie into the air for a face-first landing. Benoit with a pair of German Suplexes. Eddie escapes a third and goes for a Tombstone, but Benoit counters with a shoulder breaker. He goes to the top rope for the Diving Headbutt, but Eddie just barely moves away from the impact. Eddie goes to the top and misses the Frog Splash. They go through a series of counters until Eddie counters a Powerbomb with a roll-up, and yes, he uses the ropes for additional leverage to get the three count at 8:33. Post-match, they shake hands because that’s what it’s all about. ***1/2 I really think these two were incapable of having a bad match. I remember at the time some overly critical smarks complaining that they only gave this match 8-minutes and cried how it should’ve been a 5-star classic. It was a good match that was all about having fun.
- We trot out Torrie Wilson, Dawn Marie, and Sable for the obligatory eye-candy segment. We’ll just hit the fast forward button on this. Seriously, who in their right mind would’ve believed SABLE would be brought back after the ugly way she left the company in 1999? I guess the phrase "never say never" truly does apply to professional rasslin’.
John Cena vs. Big Show:
Big Show is the reigning US Champion, but don’t worry, this is Non-Title. He only defended the belt maybe three times during his six-month reign, but who’s counting? One of those was when he lost the belt, and another was against Mr. Ass. Cena runs down for a fight and quickly gets laid out with the Chokeslam. Show pulls Cena back to the apron by his head and gets hung across the top rope for it. Cena rushes back in and gets laid out with a clothesline. Show with a hip throw and a headbutt, as he appears to be borrowing from the Andre The Giant Move-Set™. Show grabs an abdominal stretch, since he’s ran out of moves to do. Show charges for a big boot, but ends up taking out referee Brian Hebner. Show with a side slam on Cena. He geabs Cena’s chain for some shenanigans, but Cena goes low, hits Show with the chain, wakes up the referee, and covers for only a two count. Show goes for another Chokeslam, but Cena counters and finishes with the FU at 4:10. * Mostly Show moving around with his slow offense until Cena hit his one move at the end.
- Post-Match, Stone Cold comes out and gives John Cena the Stunner. CENA VS. AUSTIN AT WRESTLEMANIA! This applies to every WrestleMania going forward.
- The entire roster used for this show, including Vince McMahon, comes out for some good times. Then Big Show eats a second Stunner because nobody likes the Big Show.
Final Thoughts: Fun show from start to finish. If you’re looking for nothing but great wrestling, this isn’t the show for you. Yes, we got a really good match from Eddie and Benoit, but they were also having fun with it, and the show was all about having fun and being entertained. For a throw-away show that had nothing to do with the storylines of the time, this was a decent way to kill about 60-minutes.
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