Aaron Wood's Recap of The First Smackdown - The Pilot's Coming In For Landing
By Aaron Wood
As part of the celebration of Smackdown’s 400th show this week, here is a review of the pilot episode of Smackdown, which aired on Thursday April 29th 1999, but in my 2007 style-ee…
LAST WEEK ON SMACKDOWN: NOTHING! I just told you, this is the pilot episode! However, just to give some historical context, this was the first WWE TV show (i.e. three days after) after the "Black Wedding". It also has person significance for me, as this was the very week that I got into wrestling again after leaving it for a period of some time in my younger childhood. So was it really any good, or was I duped by, what in hindsight was, the "Stink Of Russo"?
We start with a recap of previous events, which included Triple H beating down The Rock when he and Shane were Wrestling, Taker's kidnapping of Stephanie (with the "Where to?" line), Taker wanting Austin to deliver ownership papers and then the Black Wedding with a ton of babyfaces getting beaten up before Austin squashed all those present (the more things change, the more things stay the same, huh?) before untying Steph.
Shane's first balls-droppage...
Michael Cole and
Vince got on the stick and said he was proud to be there, and even prouder that Stephanie was with him, as, for whatever reason, the crowd started up an "asshole" chant at the poor, downtrodden babyface (Aaron note: They could see what was coming...) (JG Note: Stop ripping off my notes bit.) as he wished to address some of his business decisions, which he wasn't that proud of. In his business life, he's been ruthless and uncaring, and sometimes he's done it at the expense of his family. He planned on taking back control of his company. He said that he'd become mellower and give thanks. He started off by thanking Ken Shamrock and Big Show for helping Stephanie. That despite them failing miserably to actually help her. They only helped by allowing Austin enough time to finish his beer before he got out there. But the especially thanked Austin.
Stephanie got the mic, and she thanked Shamrock, Show & Austin. She said that she was taken against her will, stripped of her clothes (Big cheer) and dressed in black for an unholy wedding. She felt powerless and violated. Taker kept touching her and whispering in her ears. Should she not being seeing some sort of psychiatrist instead of speaking to the nation? Vince was about to promise Stone Cold something, but Shane McMahon (with the Corporation) came to the ring. Shane said that he said that last Monday, Shane & his group would have been there for Stephanie. Shane cut off Vince when he tried to reply. Shane wondered what had happened to Vince, and it made him sick that Vince was thanking Austin. He said that , when it came to business he didn't give two poops for any of his family. Vince went to slap his chops, but HHH and Chyna (the latter looking the more muscular of the two, stood in the way). Shane instructed Vince & Steph to get out of the ring. Vince called him petulant before they left.
Shane got to "bidness". He said there had been 2 thorns in his side. The Rock & Austin. So, Shane was making them team up against. Well any volunteers? Trips was there front and centre. That's one guy. Anyone else? Somehow, Shane couldn't see Chyna, Pete Gas, Rodney or Boss Man with their hands up. Was there anyone else? Were there any Takers? Well, there was an Undertaker! The head of the Ministry told the head of the Corporation via the TitanTron that since Austin stuck his nose where it had no business and played the role of the spoiler. Tonight, Taker would play three roles. Judge, jury and executioner...
Shane confirmed the match and that was that. Cole & Cornette pimped some matches for later. You’ll read about them in a minute. Jeff Jarrett & Debra walked backstage wondering where Owen was, when we then saw the mysterious Blue Blazer ran in possibly the same direction...
The Blue Blazer def. Val Venis in a "I wouldn't be able to concentrate if Nicole Bass lusted for me either..." match
Val headed to the ring, as we were reminded that Nicole Bass was stalking him. Val got on the mic (remember when he used to get mic time???) and hit a couple of innuendos. Jarrett & Debra came out next, although Cole tells us that Owen was supposed to be the one facing Val. We see that Debra & Val had been making eyes at each other over the last few weeks. Jarrett said that he didn't know where Owen was, so he was gonna be his replacement.
Just before the bell rang though Blazer tripped up Venis from behind and started to pound away. A scoop slam by the Blazer (which the announcers aren't even thinking about pretending that it's not Owen) saw him head up top and hit a missile dropkick. Venis got rammed into the corner, where the Blazer stomped away. An Irish whip to the corner was reversed, but Venis missed the charge. Owen didn't keep him off for long though, as Venis pounded on Blazer in the corner. Another Irish whip to the corner saw Venis charge in with a clothesline. An Irish whip off the ropes saw Val hit Owen with a back elbow, followed by an elbow drop. After hitting a delayed vertical suplex, Val headed up to the middle rope and hit an elbow drop. Debra climbed on the apron to distract Venis, but he caught Owen coming with a fisherman suplex. With the referee still distracted, Jarrett came in and gave Val a swift punt to his prone bollocks. Owen floated over for the three.
To make Val's night worse, Nicole Bass came out again. Val high-tailed it. But Val swapped out for The Godfather. The Pimp came out, as we were reminded that Debra was supposed to now be under Godfather's employ. Suffice to say Godfather rather inexplicable run into the ring didn't entirely work as Jeff and Owen beat him up.
Thoughts - 5/10 - OK match, but it was FAR, FAR too short. And let's just review. Short match. Three issues taken up in one segment. A stipulation not being adhered to and a dumb gimmick in The Blazer. You'd think this were Impact...
When did Rock have a schizophrenic gimmick?
We cut backstage as The Rock paced back and forth seemingly having a conversation with himself, as we took a break. Seriously. A completely un-noteworthy bit that just made Rock look cuckoo...
Sorry Owen, Hogan was better at it...
One of WWI's own, Kevin Kelly, was in the back with Owen. Blazer said he was needed back in the WWE (well, F, but I don't want sued). Kelly called Owen out, but Owen denied it's him. He called the WWE deplorable, and they needed a superhero. He then told his Lil' Blazers to say prayers, take vitamins and drink milk. Owen really seemed to struggle with his words here...
Big Show def. Test in an "Or should that be Paul Wight vs. Andrew Martin, since they're post "slave-name"..." match
We saw highlights of Test getting booted from the Corporation on RAW by Boss Man (that had to suck for Test...getting booted by Boss Man) before the match began. Test hit a boot to the face followed by rights as Boss Man sauntered to the ring area. An Irish whip is reversed with Test running into a RUNNING DROPKICK! I may have to gif that... Big Show called for and got the chokeslam, and that was all she wrote.
Boss Man got in the ring, but left when Big Show laid eyes on him. Once Big Show left, Boss Man got back in the ring, and started beating on Test. Big Show ran back and made the save. Boss Man took off.
Thoughts - 2/10 - Absolutely nothing to the match, other than the dropkick.
Either separate or together, it was still full of jobbers...
The Rock made his way out as Cole & Corny tried to persuade the viewer that this wasn't planned (Just remember who's booking...) Rocky ran down Shane & Hunter for beating him down on RAW, although he couldn't finish the sentence, as the crowd finished it for him. He turned his attention to Austin. He said that they would fight the fight, but they sure as hell weren't friends, so he warned them not to get in the way.
This drew out Austin. He hit the corners, flipping the bird at Rock as he passed each time. Austin got a mic and said that Rock would always be a "punk kid" spitting out nursery rhymes. Before he got too much further though, Shane headed out to the stage. Alone. Shane said that them not getting along was perfect, as his plan was getting bigger. The lights went out and Taker's music hit again. Taker came out and joined Shane on stage. Can you guess where this is going? Shane asked if they understood yet. Then the rest of the Corporation and the rest of The Ministry came out. Shane underlined it, by welcoming them to the Corporate Ministry
X-Pac and some burnt guy in a mask who couldn't speak. I bet he can't even drive a car. Then again, why would he need to? It's not as if he'd ever been to a party where he picked up cheerleaders...
Kevin Kelly was with X-Pac & Kane with the topic being the chokelsams that Pac got on RAW, first of all after a Blood Bath by The Brood (which on a nearly fully covered guy was a bit redundant, don't you think?) and then again later on when Pac wanted answers. Kevin wondered that, since they were facing Pac's fellow DX members, were his loyalties torn. X-Pac wondered what Kelly was asking him. Seemed kinda obvious to me. Anyway, the man who sucks said that things were going to be unpredictable, which is apparently how Kane likes it. That made no sense, really.
D'Lo Brown (w/ Ivory) def. Droz (w/ Prince Albert) by DQ in a "World Wrestling Insanity-mania a go-go!!!" match
First out came Droz, along with recent RFI guest, Matt Bloom, a.k.a. Prince Albert, followed by the co-host of "The Lo Down", D'Lo Brown, who was accompanied by the Co-Host of "Smack Talk", Lisa "Ivory" Moretti! And it has to be said, she looked rather gorgeous in her boob tube...
They locked up to start, with Droz hitting a knee to the midsection. A hiptoss was blocked by Brown, taking Droz over with one of his own. Brown whipped Droz into the corner, but Droz charged out with a spinning back elbow. Droz hit a nice looking powerslam before mocking D'Lo's head jiggle in the corner. However, Brown caught him and hit a running Ligerbomb. I'm not saying more on that. Brown whipped Droz off the ropes, but ate kick to the face and a clothesline.
Brown nailed a standing side kick before hitting his signature leg drop. Droz came back with an eye poke but D'Lo hit the Sky High out of nowhere. Brown went up top, allowing Albert to toss him off behind the referee's back. Not in the biblical sense... Droz got whipped into Albert on the apron, so Brown nailed a plancha on both men. Back into the ring, Brown did a scoop slam, but Albert came in the ring and hit a cool sit-out powerslam, drawing the DQ.
Ivory headed for the hills, as Albert got out his piercing kit. Albert went to pierce the nose, when Mark Henry sprinted (yes, sprinted) out and made the save. This was Henry's return from injury. Again, the more things change...
Thoughts - 6/10 - They got a pretty good match going there, even though it was, again, woefully short, and again, had a DQ finish. But that's, well, you can finish that thought...
Yeah, this was worth the time...
First we get a profile on Sable appearing on various chat shows and so forth. Basically the stuff that prompted her to think she was far bigger and better than she really was. And frankly, she is and always has looked like a road-kill moose.
Then, after a break, Kev Kelly (You don't know how many times I've typed Kelly Kelly when typing this...) had the New Age Outlaws. They said that, well, I'm not too sure. Road Dogg just babbled on in rhyme. Suffice to say that, though, the future "VKM" were on the verge of a split here, as Kip turned on BG (or was it the other way around?) not so very long after this.
Kane & X-Pac def. The New Age Outlaws to retain the Tag Team Titles in a "I preferred the joint-entrance..." match
The Champions came out first, and they came out separately. I liked the entrance they did together. The NAO followed, but Gunn really wasn't in the mood for the usual shenanigans on the mic. X-Pac and Road Dogg started the match. They locked up with X-Pac applying a side headlock, turning it into a hammerlock. Road Dogg hit a series of elbows to the face, but he ran into a spinning heel kick. Both men threw crotch chops at each other, so Gunn tagged in for some face-to-face, shoving X-Pac into the corner. Kane pulled X-Pac's hair and tagged himself in. Gunn threw jabs in the corner, but Kane threw Gunn into the corner for his own punches. Kane hit a clothesline, followed by a leg drop for a two count.
Kane continued the beating on Gunn, who did a very half-assed Flair Flip in the corner. Gunn ducked one clothesline was hit by another one as Kane (reluctantly) tagged out to X-Pac. Gunn dropped him with a shoulder block and connected with a pathetic looking dropkick. Dogg and Gunn argued over whether or not to do some double teaming. Road Dogg applied an armbar to slow things down. Gunn came back in and nailed a diving splash in the corner, but missed a second attempt, eating ring post. Kane got the hot tag and continued making Gunn his personal bitch. Road Dogg came in with the Shake, Rattle & Roll, and the NAO hit a double dropkick. before D-O-Double G hit the "shaky" knee drop. Kane got up quick though, booting Gunn, before getting Dogg and X-Pac primed for chokeslams! Gunn prevented that, but Kane double clotheslined the Outlaws off of an Irish whip. The Bronco Buster on Road Dogg missed. Kane whipped Gunn to the ropes, but took a low blow from Dogg, allowing Gunn to hit the Fameasser for a two count. Kane knocked Dogg down, right in Billy's way as he was in the middle of press slamming X-Pac. X-Pac fell on top of Gunn for the victory.
Thoughts - 5/10 - Sloppy at times. Finish wasn't that good. They had the right idea here, but it was off in practise.
After a break, the NAO argue as officials break them up.
One of these men is not like the other two...
Doc Hendrix (a.k.a. Michael PS Haynes) was in the ring as he introduced The Brood. Man, that was a kick-ass entrance. Haynes said that The Brood could finally break their silence. The Brood said that Undertaker stopped them from speaking. I would continue with what Gangrel said, but it was just silly gothic/emo-ish nonsense about the mystery of life and crap like that. Haynes pondered about what others thought of their lifestyles. Edge jumped in and said they would understand. They were the unholy trio, and they would "become what they become". Yeah, complete nonsense. Haynes said that they were just trying to get attention and that it was all fake. Gangrel then called Doc Hendrix "Michael" (I don't even need to start that thought, let alone finish it at this point), and they gave Haynes a blood bath. What it would lead to though is the emergence of the Hardyz, so it's not all negative.
Billy Gunn strode the halls looking for the "chicken" X-Pac.
Ken Shamrock def. Bradshaw in a "You know it's bad when they trot the Sarge out there..." No Holds Barred match
A pointless gimmick matches between 2 guy no-one truly cared about. First we saw Kevin Kelly interview Ken Shamrock as we saw pictures of an Acolyte beatdown of Shamrock. Bradshaw came out first with a ball bat that was supposedly significant. Shamrock got the jump on Bradshaw form behind. He missed with a bat swing allowing Bradshaw to send him into the steps. Into the ring we went, with Shamrock sent to the corner. Clotheslines by Bradshaw were followed by the fallaway slam for a two count.
Shamrock took out Bradshaw's knee before hitting what looked like a half-assed sunset flip into a grapevine ankle-lock but Bradshaw got to the ropes. Bradshaw ate the ring steps and Shamrock whipped him into the timekeepers table. Shamrock stomped away before getting the bat again. He missed again though, and Shamrock was sent into the ring while Bradshaw got the bat. Bradshaw smacked it across Shamrocks back. Irish whip, but Shamrock ducked a swing and managed to crack Bradshaw with the bat Shamrock started choking Bradshaw with the bat and the referee called it.
After the match, Shamrock kept the choke on, as officials and refs ran in to try and separate them. Shamrock then started beating on Sergeant Slaughter.
Thoughts - 5/10 - It was alight, but nothing special, and no weapons barring the ball bat. It was really just a bunch of stuff joined together.
Kevin Kelly had made his way down to the boiler room to shoot the breeze with Mankind. Mankind said he wondered about forgiving and forgetting, but then they wouldn't have a show. Mankind then went over what his gimmick was in case anyone didn't know. We could hear Gunn in the background, still seeking X-Pac. Foley called him a whiner as they took a break.
Back from break, Shane has his new group gathered, with Shane on a power trip.
Mankind def. Big Boss Man in a "UP YOURS...UP YOURS indeed..." match
Boss Man attacked Foley before the bell and nailed the second rope sit-down splash right out of the gate. Mankind connected with a double arm DDT and called for Socko. Wow, they aren't going long tonight... Boss Man bailed, but Test came out and threw Boss Man back in. Mankind rolled him up for a two count. Boss Man pounded away on Mankind, but went flying over the top rope after missing a clothesline. Big Show this time came out to put Boss Man back in. Mankind applied the Socko-assisted Claw for the win. 2 minutes, if that.
Thoughts - 2/10 - You'd think that Test & big Show's interference would have resulted in DQ's, but this is Russo, so we'll just carry on. This was the basic formation of UP YOURS, a.k.a. Union (of) People You OUghtta Respect Shane (Acronyms clearly not Vinny Ru's strongest suit either...), that was basically shortened to The Union. All they were missing here was Ken Shamrock.
DX break up...what price one in 2007?
Billy Gunn finally found X-Pac and beat him up, but Kane made the save. That was that.
Steve Austin & The Rock def. Triple H & The Undertaker by DQ in a "Finish is ©®™ Vince Russo Inc." match
And despite coming together earlier in the show, HHH came out with Chyna and the Mean Street Posse, while Undertaker came out with Paul Bearer and Shane McMahon. The Rock went for Triple H, but a 2-on-1 occurred until Austin played saviour and cleaned Triple H's clock on the ramp. The Rock controlled the Undertaker inside while Austin worked over HHH outside the ring. Austin went for the Undertaker but was dropped with rights. Thesz Press by Austin, and he nails the F-U elbow drop for a two count. Triple H stomped on Austin in the corner, but that didn't last long. Austin came back with rights followed by a Stunner attempt. However, HHH blocked it and nailed the running high knee. Scoop slam on Austin, but Trips missed a knee drop. Irish whip, and Hunter with a knee to the face for a two count.
Triple H set Austin up on the top turnbuckle, but got shoved down, Austin hitting a double axe-handle. The Rock tagged in, as did Taker. UT got clotheslined down, but came back with a DDT after an Irish whip for a two count. A Taker Irish whip saw Rock return the favour for a two count as well. All hell broke loose as everyone and his dog even mildly related to the storyline came out and had a fight.
Taker chokeslammed Austin, but Vince ran down and down Shane with a punch, before sacrificing himself to take a chair shot for Austin by Undertaker. As Taker stood over him, he turned around right into a stunner. Shane crawled on and pounded on Vince, but Austin approached. Shane promptedly pooped himself and ate a Stunner. The show ended with both McMahon's laid out in the ring and Austin drinking beers.
Thoughts - 5.5/10 - Today, that would have gotten at least 15 minutes on TV. If this broke 5, they got lucky. Nothing of any significance to a match that would have had significant written all over it.
OVERALL - 5/10 - I wanted to review this and have happy nostalgic memories of the beginnings of such a great show. Personally, I've always had more of an affinity with Smackdown than RAW. So believe when I say I desperately want this to be good again. But in all honesty, I can't call this a good show. Time & knowledge haven't helped this show. And it's funny. For all the types of booking that Russo is currently taking the blame for in TNA and the news that Russo is apparently not behind as much as some would like to think, this had all of the same markings of what people call TNA out for. You just have to watch it and see it. I mean, I saw this show via DailyMotion, so you all can too.
I personally am upset that here I am talking about Russo & TNA, when I should be talking about the wonderful genesis of Smackdown, but it just slaps you in the face like a fish watching this. It was an entertaining show in a weird kind of way. There have certainly been worse shows, but in this case, it's possibly best put with the phrase "never meet your heroes".
Well, I’ll be back soon enough with ECW direct for Italy, and I will also have another Smackdown-related column and a Smackdown-related audio this week too. But for now, I believe I’ve fulfilled my contractual obligations. For reading this, And continuing to support World Wrestling Insanity, you’re cooler than the other side of the pillow…
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