Reviewing Biggest Hits and Misses of Historic WWE SmackDown 1000
SmackDown reached a historic 1,000th episode Tuesday night, and the celebration had its fair share of moments crammed into the two-hour time slot.
This milestone edition had big shoes to fill. WWE intended to pay tribute to the past while also making sure the current roster didn't get lost in the shuffle, and efforts were made to ensure the builds to Evolution and Crown Jewel were not lost among the nostalgia.
For the most part, the show was a success, but while there were some great parts of the night, some segments went down like a lead balloon.
Miss: Underwhelming Retrospectives and Superstar Appearances
On a special show like this, it's assumed some portion of it will be dedicated to looking back on the memories of the previous 999 episodes, but this was made to look like a burden on SmackDown 1000.
WWE condensed 20 years and 2,000 hours of content into a three-minute opening video that was mostly a slideshow of moments on fast-forward. This gave no time to dwell on what any of it meant to the company, merely providing a brief flash of nostalgia if you remembered the events spotlighted.
To compensate for having to rush so much, it would have been nice if there was a one-hour special on the WWE Network to look back on SmackDown's past as a lead-in to the broadcast, with this video recap being for those who didn't opt to watch the reflection piece.
But WWE didn't just skimp on that element. The ball was also dropped when it came to bringing back guest stars.
There was no appearance by The Rock—the man who coined the title of the show. Instead, one of his tweets was shown on screen for a few seconds. He couldn't have even filmed a quick video on his cellphone?
JBL, who had the longest world title reign on the brand until AJ Styles surpassed it with his current run, was absent from the festivities. It would have been nice for him to join the commentary table for at least one match.
The best example of how underwhelming these callbacks were was the backstage shot of Paige, Teddy Long, Vickie Guerrero and John Laurinaitis.
It lasted less than 30 seconds and was barely even a glimpse at their faces as they blurted out their catchphrases and did nothing more.
Would it have been so hard to have Long introduce the tag team title match or Guerrero interrupt the McMahon family dance party?
WWE didn't have much time to work with, but excuses don't change whether or not something is a failure. This episode sadly missed the mark on what could have been a fun look back on a lot of quality memories.
Hit: The Usos Defeating AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan
While the tag team match between AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan and The Usos had no bearing on the history of what came before on SmackDown, it was a fantastic way to set up what's to come.
Since Styles and Bryan are both babyfaces heading into Crown Jewel on Nov. 2, there is a limit to what WWE can do to work with that feud without painting either of them in a negative light.
Having them team together further illustrated how this isn't some bitter rivalry or blood feud, and seeing them square off against another group of babyfaces made for an even fresher dynamic than we regularly see in the traditional "good vs. evil" scenarios.
It was also nice to see WWE avoid the temptation to have the two win their match, as there has always been a higher credibility given to singles stars than tag teams. In the past, WWE would have had Styles and Bryan take out The Usos to establish how great they are, but since we already know that, it wasn't necessary.
Instead, by having Jimmy and Jey come out of this victorious, WWE managed to kill two birds with one stone.
Not only does this create tension between Styles and Bryan, but it also helps restore some credibility to The Usos, who will be one of the top contenders to the new tag team champions, The Bar.
This was the type of planning WWE needs to do more of in order to eventually yield the best fruits of its labors.
Hit: The Reunion of Evolution
On paper, it didn't make much sense for the Evolution stable to reunite here, just days before the Evolution pay-per-view, particularly when most of their run was on Raw.
However, none of that mattered, as this was still one of the best parts of SmackDown 1000.
Triple H and Ric Flair had it easy. They can almost do no wrong at this point. But WWE thankfully managed to avoid a major pitfall in how it utilized Randy Orton.
The Viper has been on a tear recently as a heel and could have easily fallen into the trap of celebrating the legendary stable as a babyface, yet he managed to turn things around for his portion of the promo.
Talking some trash about the other three members ensured that he would retain some of that heel heat so that his transition back to being evil again next week isn't jarring.
As great as Orton's jabs were, it was Batista who truly knocked this segment out of the park.
His impassioned words ran the gamut as he joked about Ric Flair's sex life for levity, boosted Orton's stock by mentioning how great he's always been, gave an inspirational nod to his roots for the hometown crowd and even teased a potential future match against Triple H.
Batista acknowledged his own legacy, including his problematic most recent run, and positioned himself well to be welcomed back with open arms if he ever chooses to give it another shot.
Miss: The Cutting Edge with Becky Lynch
Edge is always a welcome sight, especially if Tony Chimel introduces him, but his Cutting Edge segment with Becky Lynch was uninspiring.
It's clear the intention was to continue to force the narrative that Lynch is a heel, as evidenced by the dig at Edge's neck injury and her adamant refusal to apologize for her behavior of late, but that mission wasn't accomplished.
Instead of hate, The Lass Kicker stirred up more cheers. The WWE Universe likes her so much right now that even insulting a beloved legend and Hall of Famer like Edge won't be enough to convince fans to root against her.
Charlotte Flair's involvement was generic and did nothing much to upgrade the feud, especially since the spear through the LED board last week was a better visual than this brawl managed to be, so it was a step backward.
Imagine how much better this could have went down had Christian also been in the mix to make this a Cutting Edge Peep Show where he and Edge took opposing sides defending Lynch and Flair.
That would have played better into the reality of the feud, as fans clearly don't view this as a true "heel vs. babyface" situation.
Then again, Zack Ryder didn't even show up to join Curt Hawkins in a true Edgehead reunion, so having Christian make an appearance probably wasn't a priority for WWE. That's unfortunate, as Edge and Lynch on their own just weren't good enough with what they were given to do.
Hit: SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match
Admittedly, the SmackDown Tag Team Championship segment is something that can be viewed in both a negative and a positive light, depending on where you're coming from.
If you're not a fan of Big Show or title changes, this was likely a miss for you. But for those with a more optimistic perspective, there were a handful of things here to take note of.
First off, The World's Largest Athlete was a fixture of SmackDown for many years, and his involvement in this episode was a nice touch. Plus, true to his career, he managed to turn heel yet again for what feels like the 1,000th time, which is fitting and still somehow surprising.
This prompted a title change, with The Bar defeating The New Day to capture the tag titles.
The cynical point of view is to think this was manufactured just to have a title change hands on the show, much in the same way the Intercontinental Championship followed did during Raw's 25th anniversary.
However, there's just as much of a reason there are plans for the new champions going forward with Big Show alongside them, especially when thinking of The Usos as contenders.
Albeit brief, it's always nice to see Jerry "The King" Lawler and Booker T as an extra cherry on top.
In a show filled with a lot of disappointments, this was one of the more interesting things to make fans sit up in their chairs and pay attention.
Miss: The Undertaker's One-Sentence Promo
Perhaps nobody held SmackDown on their shoulders more over the years than The Undertaker, so it was essential to have The Phenom show up in some capacity for SmackDown 1000.
It's a shame WWE didn't manage to have anything for him to do other than the bare minimum.
In the final few minutes of the show, The Deadman slowly entered the ring to say one single sentence: "At Crown Jewel, I've got three words for DX: rest in peace."
That was it, and as the finale of the night, it was dispiriting to say the least.
This wouldn't have been so bad if The Undertaker hadn't already been part of a longer, more intense video package the previous night on Raw, which not only included those exact words, but also much more on top of it.
Had that promo with The Brothers of Destruction aired on SmackDown instead of Raw, it's likely nobody would be complaining or feeling unsatisfied, whereas this minute-long repeat managed to fall flat and disappoint.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.