And it wasn't just those six that earned Match of the Year consideration for their exploits amidst the blue, black, and silver aesthetic. SmackDown may have been deprived of prime resources at times in its de facto designation as WWE's "B-show", but there's always been space for any two wrestlers to deliver awing performances between the ropes at Tuesday tapings. And listing off every great match in SmackDown history would be quite a task.
This list narrows down SmackDown's in-ring greatness to 10 entries, meaning that some genuinely special matches were victims of the numbers game. But what remains is SmackDown at its absolute finest. You shouldn't be too surprised if most entries skew toward a certain era in history, as some of the best TV matches in WWE history happened in that era, whether SmackDown or other.
10. Kurt Angle Vs. The Undertaker (4 September 2003)
This was pretty much the dividing line between Undertaker manhandling the oblivious dork version of Angle at Fully Loaded 2000, and their Match of the Year candidate from No Way Out 2006. The match in question is quite on par with the latter, with Angle and Undertaker both babyfaces in this WWE Championship match. The only difference between this and that No Way Out war is that this one didn't have an ending.
While a satisfying conclusion would've been preferable, the non-finish doesn't detract from such an intense battle predicated on a little bit of wrestling/MMA fusion, some dramatic false finishes, and general valiance from two men booked to be convincing supermen. It's the best one-on-one match that Undertaker would ever have with his biker gimmick.
9. AJ Styles Vs. Dean Ambrose (31 January 2017)
The WWE Championship match between the two at Backlash more than four months earlier rates among each man's better WWE efforts, although this rematch two nights following the Royal Rumble is in the same residential area, quality-wise. If you can get past some of the unrelated gabbing of The Miz and Baron Corbin as guest announcers, then you're watching one of the better SmackDown matches post-second split.
The finish would be compromised with Ambrose having to fight off the ringside guests, but up until that point, the match saw no wasted motion, with an incredible series of near falls, and back-and-forth action worthy of being put on display as a competitive TV main event. With a less-screwy finish, it's a worthy pay-per-view main event.
8. Rey Mysterio Vs. John Morrison (4 September 2009)
This Intercontinental title match was presented under rather strained circumstances, as Mysterio was on the verge of leaving for 30 days to serve a wellness suspension and had to drop the belt on the way out. The rough situation didn't deter from Mysterio's performance any, as he fellow future Lucha Underground star Morrison composed an athletic whirlwind heavy on aerial assaults.
The counters to the springboards and other highspots could only come from two men who have a flair for taking to the air, and Morrison looked every bit the cultured daredevil that the peerless Mysterio was (and is). It might have been Morrison's greatest match ever, and even if it isn't, it's certainly in the conversation as you couldn't ask for a better showcase of the unimaginable.
7. Kurt Angle & Chris Benoit Vs. Los Guerreros (17 October 2002)
Now we start seeing the SmackDown Six file in en masse. The winners of this bout would go on to face Edge and Rey Mysterio at No Mercy to crown the inaugural WWE Tag Team champions (and what a match *that* would be). Just from reading the names, you know that they could cram a ton of awesomeness into a little more than 10 minutes, which is what happened.
The crowd was absolutely nuclear for the final minutes, with elaborate sequences, counters, and a nifty bit of cheat-prevention on the part of Benoit, who suckers poor Chavo into thinking that he's gonna desert frienenmy Angle and help their cause. There's a lot going on here, all of it superb, and it's a fine example of why SmackDown ruled the roost in these days.
6. Eddie Guerrero Vs. Rey Mysterio (18 March 2004)
You almost can't go wrong with Guerrero vs. Mysterio, can you? The two were on opposite sides of one of WCW's greatest matches ever, when they famously warred over the Cruiserweight title at Halloween Havoc 1997. More than six years later, they were competing for the WWE Championship, a feat that perhaps few would have predicted in '97. Yet fewer would've said they were unworthy.
While a shade off of that Havoc all-timer, Guerrero and Mysterio's hero-vs-hero battle for the top prize was everything you could expect from the two and more, with near-falls down the homestretch that had you believing in Mysterio to dethrone his longtime rival. It wasn't to be, but the match itself was some high-class grub that helped us through our post-WrestleMania XX hangovers.
5. Kurt Angle & Chris Benoit Vs. Edge & Rey Mysterio (7 November 2002)
You're getting sick of the SmackDown Six yet, are ya? Hey, they were given the forum to go out and tear the house down on a weekly basis, and all they did was make the most of the space. Weeks after the four aforementioned names delivered one of the greatest tag matches in WWE history at No Mercy, we were gifted this rematch for the gold, 2-out-of-3 falls.
Near as I can tell, it's the first time that Mysterio ever used the ring post to swing his legs around with a crude application of the 619. About 60 per cent of the match is the final fall, and you know that all four men wedged some true ring mastery with each passing minute. Maybe it was a little soon to change the belts, but if we get matches like that, such piddling details don't matter.
4. Edge Vs. Eddie Guerrero (26 September 2002)
It may be the best ladder match of all time that wasn't actually a ladder match. Edge and Guerrero battled through SummerSlam and Unforgiven, trading victories in some very good matches, but they saved their best efforts for this No DQ match shortly after the latter pay-per-view. This match was WWE's pick for best SmackDown match of the last 19 years, and it at least deserves its high placement, if nothing else.
As noted, a ladder would play a significant role in the match, with Guerrero being Backdropped hard into the object, and Edge taking an intense Powerbomb off of it. Edge would ultimately finish with a DDT off of the ladder, but it was Guerrero who earned the fans' respect afterwards, being applauded as he struggled to his feet.
3. Steve Austin Vs. Chris Benoit (31 May 2001)
Well, you could understand why this wouldn't top a list that WWE themselves commissioned, though others are apt to remember what Benoit accomplished as a performer. His match with Austin was definitely one for the ages, something akin to an old NWA Title defense by a heel, against a babyface with the territorial advantage. Austin may well have been Flair, with Benoit having all of Edmonton behind him.
Austin would recall that he and Benoit went old school, calling much of the match in the ring. Said match would see the WWE Champion take 10 consecutive German Suplexes on his surgically-repaired neck, yet narrowly retain the gold with a little chicanery. Austin's heel run gets mixed reviews, but seeing Austin play the villainous champion in matches like this made it worth it.
2. Kurt Angle Vs. Brock Lesnar (18 September 2003)
Pound for pound, you're looking at two of the greatest athletes that have ever graced a WWE ring, combining strength, quickness, endurance, coordination, and agility that men their respective sizes rarely possess. As undeniably impressive as each man had been in the ring, sticking them between the ropes for an hour still had the potential to disappoint. It's number two on this list, so you know that it didn't.
It's perhaps WWE's best Iron Man match ever, waged over Angle's WWE Championship, with Lesnar finding his element as the grinning bully who understood that few mortals could truly test him. But Angle could, nearly posting a heroic comeback bid on his leading challenger, before falling just short as Lesnar rode out the ankle lock. For wrestling at its best, with no BS or fuss, this is the pure stuff.
1. Chris Jericho & Chris Benoit Vs. Edge & Christian Vs. The Dudley Boyz Vs. The Hardy Boyz (24 May 2001)
Not even 24 hours had passed since Jericho and Benoit upset Austin and Triple H to become WWE World Tag Team champions, a match marred only by Triple H's unfortunate quadriceps tear. WWE seemed to be in a giving mood at that point, as their weekly shows were a haven for Match of the Year candidates. Sticking the new champions in there with the TLC Six in said gimmick match was Christmas come early.
It must be said that Benoit did mess up his neck pretty badly during the match, the impetus for him having surgery that would bench him for about a year. As far as the match goes, it's on par with the SummerSlam 2000 and WrestleMania X-Seven car-crashes, which says a lot. The forgotten TLC match holds its own with its famous siblings, and rates as the tops of SmackDown's two decades of output.