And it's all subjective - what's memorable to you may not be so much to me, and vice versa. But as someone who enjoyed the show more in its infancy than in later years (back before WWE made it clear that SmackDown was the B-show around 2004 or so), my fond recollections tend to go back to those earlier years of the show. You'll forgive me if the majority of the entries on this list are predominantly prehistoric.
But it is nice to shine a light on some of the SmackDown moments of yore, a few of which may have slipped through the cracks and out the bottom of our memory banks. So here now, a handful of SmackDown moments that could use a little more love. Hopefully, at the 1000th show, WWE gives some of them a quick shout.
10. The Best Firing Ever (2004)
Being fired by an angry, phlegmy Vince McMahon is something of a badge of honour. Any wrestling fan worth their oxygen would *love* to have the last day at their civilian job end with Vince coming in to "fire" them, just because there's no more epic exit imaginable. Hearkening back to 2004 when McMahon relieved Kurt Angle of his duties as corrupted SmackDown GM, we were treated to some truly hysterical visuals.
Because Vince never holds back, he first picked up a crutch (after proving that Angle wasn't crippled) and swung it like an absolute madman at Angle's head (narrowly missing). Then Eddie Guerrero arrived in his low rider, which inspired Vince to perform a rhythmless rendition of Eddie's shoulder-shimmy. To top it all off, Vince hopped into Eddie's ride, and was positively startled when the hydraulic bucked him up and down. Really, any trifecta of Vince silliness deserves a look or seven.
9. Champion Vs. Champion (2000)
This entry's a bit of a double-edged sword, with some fans and critics expressing displeasure over the end result (and even Vince McMahon himself admitted that this could have been handled a bit better). When Tazz made a surprise return to ECW in April 2000, he dispatched outgoing champion Mike Awesome at a random house show, meaning that a WWE wrestler beat a WCW wrestler to win an ECW belt, a historic moment typically unfathomable.
It was equally historic when Tazz brought the ECW Championship onto a SmackDown from Philadelphia, squaring off with Triple H in a non-title champion vs. champion battle. Tommy Dreamer would get involved in the finish (he would face Tazz the coming Saturday for the belt at the ECW Arena), and Helmsley would stand tall, prompting some to say that ECW was made to look weak by the ending. I mean, did you think Hunter was really going to lose?
8. Diving Right In (2002)
For weeks and weeks in the late-spring and early-summer of 2002, WWE hyped the impending arrival of likely the most daring and innovative high flyer in wrestling history, Rey Mysterio. He debuted shortly after Vengeance that summer, emptying his old bag of tricks on Chavo Guerrero in a spectacular TV debut. This Mysterio had clearly not missed a beat from his peak WCW performances.
He would make a greater impact at the end of the night, scaling a steel cage following an Edge/Chris Jericho battle inside the mesh. From more than 10 feet off the ground, Mysterio took to the air, flattening an interfering cadre of Unamericans with a diving Cross Body. From Jump Street, WWE had obvious plans for Mysterio and his undiminished talents. The SmackDown Six was beginning to fall into place.
7. Anything With Al Wilson (2002-03)
The best word that can be used to describe Torrie Wilson's doomed daddy would be "inexplicable". Al Wilson had all of the emotional range of piano wire, and seemed unaffected by the vast majority of adjacent stimuli. I mean, he'd react to an earthquake, but only with a vague eyebrow twitch or so. And yet, for about three months, he was the most interesting character on SmackDown, especially if you loved TV that was so bad that it ended up being good.
His awkward relationship with Dawn Marie (including showering with her while clothed), before marrying her in a state of undress, deserves more appreciation. He talked like a heavily-sedated Rip Torn, and damn it, we loved him for it. If Al Wilson's not at SmackDown 1000, then it proves that WWE doesn't really love us.
6. Heartbreak Kurt (2005)
Say what you will about Kurt Angle, but the man never half-asses anything. Put him in a match, and he works his hands to the bone trying to paint a masterpiece. Put him in a comedy skit, and all inhibitions fly out the window. The latter statement was true in the run-up to WrestleMania 21, when Angle set upon outdoing Shawn Michaels' career highs.
This included bringing Sensational Sherri to the ring one night for a duet of "Sexy Kurt", a delightfully-nutty sendup of Michaels' longtime theme music, which Angle, as noted, did not half-ass. Nine years prior to this moment, he was winning Olympic gold with an injured neck, and here he was slapping his own thigh while singing "all tap out" in full staccato. If you said Kurt Angle had no peer, I'd believe you.
5. Death And Destruction Foretold (2002)
If this were a list of most underrated Raw moments ever, I would have to include the aftermath of this entry here. When a detached, deranged Vince McMahon promised that the nWo was coming and sourly avoided eye contact with Ric Flair as The Nature Boy frantically tried to talk him out of it, before launching into his list of demands, it was truly dark and grim, as well as inspirational. The impetus for that tense moment came on the preceding SmackDown.
Throughout the night, McMahon, slipping further away from the tethers of sanity, ran the gamut of emotions as he waxed poetic about the death of WWE. Then he vowed to be the one to kill the company himself, administering "the lethal dose of poison," before revealing the nWo logo on the back of his chair in the final scene. It was so un-WWE-like that it caught your eye - too bad the nWo angle itself couldn't match the gravity of this entire spiel.
4. An Icon's Welcome (2003)
After a five-month hiatus following a beating at the hands of Brock Lesnar, Hulk Hogan returned to the WWE fold in January 2003. Over the years, icons and legends have come and gone, dropping in for a spell before departing once more. Hogan himself has come and gone plenty in his time in the business, but this was no ordinary return.
The response to Hogan in Albany that night went far and beyond what most industry icons receive, a wild ovation that surpassed 10 minutes by some accounts (necessitating it being edited down for TV). Much of the unending adulation would make the broadcast. You knew you were watching something special in the moment, as the screams, cheers, and chants seemed to have no end in sight.
3. Master Of Disguise (2002)
The Billy Gunn and Chuck Palumbo Commitment Ceremony seemed like unsteady ground for WWE to tread upon, as there appeared to be no positive endgame in sight. One part of the audience had no interest in such matters, another part found the entire idea to be demeaning ratings grab, and most agreed that WWE probably wouldn't inject any taste or dignity into the proceedings.
In practice, the entire deal ended up earning raves for a huge twist, in which the decrepit, trembling imp of a "justice of the peace" revealed himself to be Eric Bischoff under a heavy makeup job. Then came the Three Minute Warning siege and Rico double-cross, as suddenly the focus was no longer on how WWE was going to handle such delicate subject matter. As far as unexpected reveals go, this was masterful.
2. Mankind Names His Replacement (2000)
Triple H had done a number on longtime nemesis Mankind, drawing blood and battering the body of one of the better threats to his WWE Championship. One night in Chicago, Mankind made it clear to everybody that he was by no means ready to step back up to the plate and go toe to toe with The Game, which was music to Triple H's ears.
But Mankind knew a guy that *was* ready to battle the champ, and Helmsley knew him as well. With that, off came the leather mask, as well as the dress shirt and tie, revealing an unmistakably-familiar black-and-yellow t-shirt. His name was Cactus Jack, you see, and such a revelation caused Triple H's face to drop like an anvil from the sky. There are few pops that equal a Chicago pop, and Chi-town approved of this substitution.
1. Birth Of A Good Idea (2002)
Remember the SmackDown Halloween party in 2002? That was a fun show, with Matt Hardy playing his own theme music on a boombox as he entered the party, Ron Simmons dressed as a pimp, Eddie Guerrero as Zorro, Al Wilson as The Fonz (complete with almost-lifelike recitation of "ayyyyyyy"), etc. It was a charmingly-silly show with at least 15 genuine laughs throughout the night. But it was one costume in particular that would be a true gamechanger.
The erstwhile-directionless John Cena sprung into action as Vanilla Ice, dropping a brief freestyle on Stephanie McMahon. Cena's smooth delivery and confident demeanour - coupled with a now-infamous performance on a WWE bus while on tour - would lead to a transformation into the throwback-wearing, rhyme-spitting Cena that would blossom throughout 2003-04, and into the main event tier for good. Would you have guessed that precise turn of events back in 2002?