10 Most Iconic WWE SmackDown Live Moments Ever

Broken rings, burning Expresses, Arnold Schwarzenegger and more on the road to SmackDown 1000...

It's been a breath of fresh air later in the week. It's been a neglected space-holder where stories sit in suspended animation, but there are matches anyway. It's been a must-see complement to the zaniness of Raw in the Attitude Era. It's been the ideal alternative to the tediousness of Raw at other times. Over its near 20 years of life, WWE SmackDown Live has taken many forms.

There have been no shortage of memorable moments on the blue-tinted show of shows, as you kinda have to have some over the course of 19 uninterrupted years on TV. Some periods of the show were admittedly leaner than others when it came to producing unforgettable television, but SmackDown has had its share of historic moments in spite of that, even with its continued designation as WWE's "B-show".

To be an iconic moment is to have resonated deeply with the audience, to have been stamped with some sort of mark that puts you on a different plane than the events and moments that surround you. While some could debate the order of this list, as well as champion an omission or two, there is no denying that these 10 moments have come to define SmackDown over the years.

10. Hasta La Vista, Hunter (1999)


When you manage to involve the greatest action star in the history of time, you're grabbing a headline or two, that's for sure. The Thursday night property was only a dozen episodes deep when Arnold Schwarzenegger made a guest appearance to promote End of Days, an action/horror flick that apparently made quite an impression on a teenaged Baron Corbin. Of course, Schwarzenegger couldn't just chat up the crowd in Baltimore and leave it at that.

The future Governator provided guest commentary during the main event eight-man tag, and ended up in a skirmish with then-WWE Champion Triple H. Helmsley took a swing at Schwarzenegger, who evaded the blow and wildly swung back at the beak of The Game. The two would ultimately bury the hatchet when Hunter agreed to promote Terminator: Genisys during his WrestleMania 31 entrance.

9. Exit Wound (2009)


Rumours had been persisting in the summer of 2009 that Jeff Hardy was looking to take a sabbatical from WWE, and after dropping the World Heavyweight title to CM Punk at that year's SummerSlam, the out was written in. On the ensuing episode of SmackDown, both men wagered their careers in a steel cage match that would also see Punk defend his newly-won gold.

Punk narrowly won after a long, gruelling brawl between the mesh, and the heartbreak was thick enough to be cut with a knife. Hardy's fans around the venue didn't want to believe they were seeing their hero depart, and the mood was sombre. The outgoing received a massive ovation from the gathered crowd, and he waved his goodbyes...only for the callous Punk to drill him in the head with the belt on the ramp. Though most tend to remember Punk's mean-spirited cosplay of Hardy from the following week, the belt shot was an ideal parting shot.

8. One Friday At The Bank (2007)


Edge will be remembered as the first individual to cash in a Money in the Bank briefcase, as well as the first man to do it twice. It was going to be hard to top the magnitude of his gatecrash of John Cena at New Year's Revolution 2006, but the free TV sequel delivered on SmackDown in May 2007 was memorable unto itself. And yes, SmackDown got a cash-in before Raw did, interestingly enough.

After Undertaker drew Batista in a lengthy and brutal steel cage slugfest, Mark Henry appeared, sufficiently breaking down the remnants of the battered World Heavyweight Champion. This opened the door for Edge to devour the scraps and tatters in less than 90 seconds to capture yet another World title. In the moment, WWE demonstrated that they were willing to shock the audience with a cash-in outside of PPV confines (though an injury to Undertaker did necessitate the switch).

7. The Death Of Hulkamania (2002)


Man, I miss the old Brock Lesnar. That's not to say that part-time, scarcely-seen Brock can't be entertaining these days (throwing a briefcase at the entrance set from three miles away was awesome), but the 2002-03 version of Brock was a sight to see. WWE had such strong faith in their youthful creature that they fed Hulk Hogan to him.

Hogan was still in the midst of his glorious 2002 nostalgia run, and he even held two pieces of gold in that time, but at just shy of age 50, he had a dual purpose, which was to rubber stamp tomorrow's kings. He did that when, in a match where Lesnar wagered his title match at SummerSlam, Hogan bled from the mouth and passed out in a constricting Lesnar bear hug. The fans waited with bated breath for the big Superman comeback, only to realize it was never coming. Lesnar callously wiping Hogan's blood across his own torso was the wrestling equivalent of Bane flinging Batman's broken mask as he walked away.

6. Break Down The Set (2001)


There are some creative ways to transition from one era to another. In early 1993, the final episode of Prime Time Wrestling saw the set being deconstructed around Vince McMahon and his panellists, as they prepared to begin with Raw the following week. On SmackDown, there was a deconstruction of a more violent sort, and it gave way to a fondly-remembered era known for fisting.

In this case, the classic SmackDown set, with its ovaltron and ovular entrance way frame, were gutted in part by Rhyno goring Chris Jericho through the backdrop at the rear of the set. The brutal visual made Rhyno look like an absolute force of nature, and was a nice bit of destruction that involved something aside from the usual breakable furniture in WWE's bag of tricks.

5. Is It Good News? Yes! Yes! (2018)


For more than two years, WWE fans had to chew on the notion that Daniel Bryan was likely never going to wrestle in a company ring ever again. His retirement at the age of 34 was disheartening, the premature loss of a genuine inspirational and role model to apparently-insurmountable injuries. There existed a chance that he could leave WWE to wrestle once more, but would it come to that?

It came as an absolute shock this past March, mere weeks before WrestleMania, when it was announced that Bryan was officially cleared for an in-ring return. That same night on SmackDown Live, Bryan kicked off the show in grand fashion, graciously thanking the fans, his wife Brie, and his doctors, while personally confirming his wrestling return.

4. Upset Of The Century (1999)


Even with the events of Montreal painting him in a different light, it was still strange to see Vince McMahon begin playing the alpha and omega of evil bosses on WWE programming. He used to be the smiling company pitchman, after all. He was the Howard Cosell, the Vin Scully, of professional wrestling, and then he became the devil incarnate. Oh, and then he became WWE Champion.

Trying to reconcile the image of Jesse Ventura's commentary partner winning the biggest prize in professional wrestling, albeit with a helping hand from Steve Austin, was the sort of Wednesday morning spoiler that spreads like wildfire. "He beat Triple H?" we all cackled to our co-workers and classmates. And he did, albeit with the sort of chicanery you'd expect from Attitude in the fullest of swings. Vince McMahon, WWE Champion - who'da thunk it?

3. United They Stood (2001)

There were some obvious questions about running a live wrestling program less than 72 hours after the terror attacks of 11 September 2001, but in that moment, the need for normalcy was strong. Sporting events and other daily distractions were halted in the midst of mourning, confusion, and general bewilderment. Having SmackDown broadcast live out of Houston on that Thursday night was desirable comfort food for millions of Americans.

The night wasn't without its controversies (Stephanie McMahon's out-of-character speech, chiefly), but mostly, the two-hour broadcast was cathartic - a familiar diversion. Seeing idols like The Rock, Steve Austin, and others standing stoic and unified amid the surrounding uncertainty had a grounding feeling, a feeling that was wholly welcome to many.

2. Stone Cold Crushed (2000)


It had been more than five months since Stone Cold Steve Austin had played an active role on a WWE broadcast, and five more months would pass before Austin would officially return from spinal surgery. WWE fans starved of their Steveweiser-fueled mayhem would get a little two-part taste of vintage Austin mayhem, culminating at Backlash 2000. The first part, however, took place on the go-home SmackDown for that event.

Designated as The Rock's equalizer at the pay-per-view, Austin made his presence felt by putting D-Generation X's DX Express bus out of its misery. After reintroducing himself to the DX/McMahon coalition from the parking lot, Austin took the controls of a crane, dropping a concrete divider onto the vehicle's roof, facilitating an explosion somehow. But who has time to ponder science and all that stuff? The important thing is that Austin was there, and he was still happily breaking s**t.

1. Til It Collapses (2003)


WWE has recreated this visual on a couple of occasions, both of which would involve The Big Show. However, it's difficult to beat the charm of the original, a moment that has been replayed many times over the past decade-and-a-half, and is certainly an easy bet to be revisited once the 1000th episode goes down in Washington, DC in a matter of days.

You know it: WWE Champion Brock Lesnar snatched Big Show on the top rope, hooks his gargantuan foe up, and deposits him with a Superplex that collapses beneath the 800 pounds of both men. Tazz's bleeped swear and the astonished crowd response coupled to frame the moment perfectly, with both men laying motionless from the heavy impact. As noted, it's been redone since, but nothing tops the inaugural ring implosion.

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Justin Henry

Written by Justin Henry

In addition to writing lists and commentaries for Cultaholic, Justin is also a features writer and interviewer for Fighting Spirit Magazine, and is co-author of the WWE-related book Titan Screwed: Lost Smiles, Stunners, and Screwjobs.