POLLOCK’S NEWS UPDATE: The History of SmackDown heading into Episode #1,000

A brief history of SmackDown since the show launched in 1999, the evolution of the show, changes along the way, and the pending move to Fox in 2019. Plus, all the latest news of the day.

POST IT NOTES

**Monday’s edition of Rewind-A-Raw is up with Wai Ting and I reviewing Raw from Philadelphia and going over the WWE’s handling of the Crown Jewel amidst the criticism running the event next month. We also discussed the various updates regarding the larger story involving Jamal Khashoggi, the coverage of the WWE, and more. Plus, we announced the winner of the #POSTHaiku contest for a copy of the “Creating the Mania” book by Jon Robinson from ECW Press.

**We announced on Monday’s show that Wai and I are going to have a show covering the Crown Jewel event on Friday, November 2nd. This is going to be a free show and Wai and I are going to donate $5 for each minute that our show lasts to the Committee to Protect Journalists (http://www.cpj.org). We are not seeking donations from anyone, but we encourage you to check out the CPJ and donate if you choose to. This is going to be a regular review show as Wai and I will be covering the handling of the event and discussing the larger issues at play and some potential guests stopping by.

**Wai Ting and I will be back late tonight with Rewind-A-SmackDown to review the 1,000th episode of the series from Washington. We will also have the Double Shot out for members of the POST Wrestling Café. On this week’s Double Shot, we will have reviews of Total Divas, Lucha Underground, and the WWE’s Untold feature on Eddie Guerrero from this past week. The Double Shot is available for all members of the POST Wrestling Café.

**On Wednesday evening, the British Wrestling Experience will have a full review of the debut episode of NXT UK, which was taped in July.


WRESTLING NEWS

**The 1,000th episode of SmackDown takes place tonight from the Capital One Center in Washington, D.C. Beyond teaching a generation of wrestling fans yet another word with a capitalized letter in the middle, SmackDown has a big impact on the WWE’s television presentation since premiering in 1999.

The launch of the show coincided with the company being on fire that year at the height of Steve Austin and The Rock’s popularity. The fledgling UPN began talks with the WWE and ran a pilot episode in April 1999 with the series added as a mainstay on Thursday nights. In the fall of 1999, network competition for SmackDown included Friends, Will & Grace, Frasier, and the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire game show at its peak. In the wrestling bubble, it meant that WCW did not have that night to themselves as Thunder had hardly been a priority, but the addition of SmackDown would eventually force TBS to move the show to Wednesdays the following year.

It’s funny that the WWE is promoting the first all women’s pay-per-view because the original idea was that SmackDown was going to be an all women’s show. The presentation of the female performers in 1999 was a stark contrast to today as the division was built around Sable and Debra and there were no illusions over what was being sold. The concept would have been nearly impossible to pull off, especially in a two-hour format and the outcome would have probably been a change to include everyone on the roster to save the show or would have died like Super Astros.

UPN was looking for eyeballs and the WWE provided them and while the first year saw extra criticism of the WWE product because of their network status, numbers were terrific.

The first two casualties of the SmackDown era played a big part in the final years of the war with WCW. Lead writers Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara were already responsible for three hours of programming, as Sunday Night Heat was thriving on Sunday nights on the USA Network as the WWE’s secondary program prior to SmackDown. With the addition of two extra hours, the two were extremely overworked and Russo has maintained they were expected to add SmackDown with no extra compensation. Justified, Russo explored his options with a secret meeting with WCW officials in October and gave his notice to the WWF. The final show he turned in was for the October 11th episode of Raw, interestingly enough from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Russo and Ferrara were not under deals and were free to leave with Ferrara joining Russo, who had been his writing partner since 1998 when he entered the company. In their absence, Terry Taylor assumed their duties, but he too would make his way to WCW shortly afterward to join Russo and Ferrara.

The temperature among wrestling media and fans was that WCW had scored a coup with the hiring of the WWF’s secret weapons and that the balance in momentum could shift. As much as WCW had fallen by October 1999, the company was still drawing strong television numbers for a cable property, had modest house show business and pay-per-view numbers had not fallen off a cliff. At their core was a strong talent base that quickly eroded when they lost Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Perry Saturn, and Dean Malenko collectively in January 2000.


The WWE didn’t skip a beat with the loss of their writers and had their best year in 2000 from a financial standpoint with Raw and SmackDown doing large viewership figures that were astounding for the era. Assisted by the overrun on the USA Network for Raw, there were some weeks when the WWF would hit 9-10 million viewers for their main event match and the next few years would see periods that SmackDown was their most-watched show.

In 2001, SmackDown started to gain the rep as the show that would have a heavier focus on wrestling matches. Raw was always the flagship, but in 2000 the roster was bolstered by the tremendous talent on the undercard with The Radicals adding so much depth and bolstered with performers like Edge, Christian, The Hardys, Chris Jericho, and Kurt Angle looking to break out as the top talent. It was natural that the in-ring would escalate on television. In 2001, Steve Austin had a career year, including one of the best WWE television matches of the year with Chris Benoit in Edmonton that year. SmackDown threw out a TLC match the same month, which led to Benoit’s neck injury that would eventually take him out for a year.

It was also in 2001, that the company received a lot of attention for their live program on September 13th following the terrorist attacks and promoting it as the first public gathering of that size. The response was polarizing as the concept of the event was noble to some, yet certain speeches received a critical response, especially from Stephanie McMahon. She compared the attack on the U.S. to the government coming after her father over the steroid distribution charges that led to a trial in 1994.

The next era for SmackDown featured Paul Heyman taking a role with the most influence he had with WWE programming as he became head writer for the show during the first brand split. This was the period that Raw and SmackDown were most distinct. The draft separated the talent with the idea that it would avoid overexposure and create new stars with more main slots on both shows instead of spreading your limited stars among both. The key talent drafted to SmackDown were The Rock, Chris Benoit, Hulk Hogan, Chris Jericho, Edge, and Kurt Angle. Shortly after, Jericho was moved to Raw and compared it to a member of the Detroit Red Wings being traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets, which wasn’t a compliment in 2002. This gave way for the “SmackDown Six” of Benoit, Edge, Angle, Rey Mysterio (who signed with the company and debuted in July), and Los Guerreros. The combinations out of those six presented some of the best wrestling matches on television throughout the fall of 2002.


Heyman was removed from his role in February 2003 with Bruce Prichard taking over and assisted by David Lagana among the lead writers. Lagana would be the lead writer of SmackDown through 2006 when he was moved to ECW. In 2006, Alex Greenfield was named lead writer and would give his notice before the end of the year.

SmackDown underwent a change in 2005 when UPN opted to move the show to Friday nights, a night it would remain on for years. I remember speaking with John Cena days after the announcement of the move and Cena being critical that UPN didn’t provide them the proper notice ahead of time. UPN made the move because of Chris Rock’s new series, “Everybody Loves Chris” on Thursday nights.

Unlike Raw, which has largely stayed in the same slot Monday nights with one major move from USA to Spike and back to USA, SmackDown has gone all over the place. When UPN and the WB Network were consolidated into the CW Network that is where SmackDown remained until going to My Network TV in 2008. The emphasis of moving to My Network TV led to the company moving Triple H to SmackDown temporarily and used the network move as their reasoning for blindsiding Jim Ross on a live draft special and moving him to another show that presented logistical issues for Ross and was an embarrassing moment of television.

SmackDown was brought into the NBC Universal family in 2010 with SmackDown being placed on Syfy, which was the same cable network that had previously aired the WWE’s version of ECW. It was on Syfy that the show returned to Thursday nights in January 2015 and then elevated to the USA Network in January 2016. The move to USA also led to the hiring of Mauro Ranallo as the new voice for the show, where he called SmackDown until early 2017.

The brand split was reintroduced in the summer of 2016 and was reportedly a call by USA to have Raw and SmackDown more distinct. The second attempt at the brand split also led to SmackDown becoming a live program on Tuesday nights, which is the format it remains today.

As they hit their 1,000th episode tonight, it is not hyperbole to say the show is at its most valuable today for the WWE. In an era where the WWE has seen their business go from one dependent on live events and pay-per-view with television as the driver, today television rights are the core of their revenue streams. Next October, SmackDown will move back to Friday nights and to network television with two hours in prime time on Fox. The new deal with Fox will net the WWE $205 million per year for the franchise and over $1 billion over the five-year pact.

**Here are the matches and appearances that have been announced for tonight’s episode of SmackDown at 8 pm Eastern on the USA Network:
*Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rey Mysterio in the World Cup Qualifier – this will be Mysterio’s first WWE match since the Greatest Royal Rumble in April and his first match on SmackDown since 2014
*Rusev vs. The Miz in a World Cup Qualifier
*The Cutting Edge segment with Edge
*The reunion of Evolution with Triple H, Dave Bautista, Randy Orton, and Ric Flair
*The Undertaker and Michelle McCool are being advertised to appear

**John Layfield was on Varney & Co. on Fox Business on Tuesday and defended the WWE’s decision to hold the Crown Jewel event in Saudi Arabia. Layfield cited past examples of the WWE going overseas to hold shows for the troops, the post 9/11 edition of SmackDown and that you don’t change a region of the world by isolating it.


The difference is that change is not the objective of this deal and it’s not the reason the WWE is doing this show. As complex a story as we can make this, it’s very black and white and if there wasn’t a lucrative deal in place this would be a non-issue. The WWE is not addressing this story on their broadcasts or even presented a public statement to defend their decision to run this show.

**Here is the updated card for the WWE’s Evolution event on Sunday, October 28th at NYCB Live on Long Island, New York:
*Ronda Rousey vs. Nikki Bella for the Raw women’s title
*Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair in a Last Woman Standing match for the SmackDown women’s title
*Trish Stratus & Lita vs. Alexa Bliss & Mickie James
*Kairi Sane vs. Shayna Baszler for the NXT women’s title
*The finals of the Mae Young Classic
*Battle Royal for a future women’s title shot feat. Nia Jax, Ember Moon, Asuka, Carmella, Alicia Fox, Billie Kay, Peyton Royce, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, Tamina, Dana Brooke, Lana, Naomi, and Torrie Wilson

**Tonight’s episode of the Mixed Match Challenge at 10 pm Eastern will feature the following matches on Facebook Watch:
*Bobby Lashley & Mickie James vs. Natalya & Bobby Roode (replacing Kevin Owens)
*Rusev & Lana vs. The Miz & Asuka

**This week’s episode of 205 Live will feature a fatal five-way with Cedric Alexander vs. Gran Metalik vs. Lio Rush vs. TJP vs. Tony Nese that will be taped tonight in Washington, D.C.

**Impact Wrestling is at the Melrose Ballroom for the third and final night for their television tapings. This week’s tapings will air through November 8th and their next tapings are November 11th – 13th at Sam’s Town in Las Vegas.

**The Wall Street Journal covered the WWE’s upcoming show in Saudi Arabia and features quotes from Chris Harrington of the Wrestlenomics podcast.

**Tamina Snuka, Samir Singh, and Sasha Banks all returned to television Monday during Raw. Tamina had been out with a torn rotator cuff since January, Singh suffered a torn ACL in January while Banks had been off television the past few weeks but we were told she was expected to be back this week.

**New Japan Pro Wrestling has announced that Will Ospreay is off the current Road to Destruction tour due to a rib injury. Ospreay suffered the injury this past weekend during a match with Chris Ridgeway for Revolution Pro Wrestling. New Japan has announced that Ospreay and Taichi are both off the tour that runs through November 1st with both scheduled to have their NEVER Openweight title match at Power Struggle in Osaka on November 3rd.

**Ring of Honor has announced that Tetsuya Naito is the first name for the Global Wars events in November. Naito will be part of all four shows, which are scheduled for November 7th in Lewiston, Maine, November 8th in Lowell, Massachusetts, November 9th in Buffalo, and November 11th in Toronto.

**New Japan’s Super Junior Tag League continues Wednesday morning with another show at Korakuen Hall. The show will be streaming at 5:30 am Eastern on New Japan World with the following card:
*Tomoaki Honma, Shota Umino & Ren Narita vs. Ayato Yoshida, Yuya Uemura & Yota Tsuji
*Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe & Toa Henare vs. Kota Ibushi, Yujiro & Chase Owens
*Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano & Best Friends vs. Jay White, Guerrillas of Destiny & Bad Luck Fale
*Volador Jr. & Soberano Jr. vs. Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask in the Super Junior Tag League tournament
*Ryusuke Taguchi & ACH vs. Taiji Ishimori & Robbie Eagles in the Super Junior Tag League tournament
*KUSHIDA & Chris Sabin vs. Shingo Takagi & Bushi in the Super Junior Tag League tournament
*Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado vs. Roppongi 3K in the Super Junior Tag League tournament

**Lanny Poffo has stated on his podcast that he will be receiving a tryout with New Japan Pro Wrestling on the English broadcast team. He is being flown to Japan on October 23rd and will be there through November 4th, so presumably, he will be calling Power Struggle in Osaka with the some of the Super Tag League shows.

**Stu Hart passed away on this date in 2003 at the age of 88, only two years after his wife Helen died in 2001. The patriarch of the Hart family was presented with the Order of Canada in 2000. He is a member of numerous Halls of Fame, including the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame (1980), Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (1996), the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Iowa (2008), WWE Hall of Fame (2010), Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame (2014), and presented with the Iron Mike Mazurki Award at the Cauliflower Alley Club Reunion in 2001.

**Kenny Omega turns 35 years old today, Pete Polaco is 45, and Xia Brookside turns 20 years old.

**Chris Jericho cut another promo on EVIL to build up their Intercontinental title match on November 3rd at Power Struggle in Osaka:

MMA NEWS

**ONE Championship out of Asia has signed former Bellator and UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez to a multi-fight deal. ONE Championship’s C.E.O. Chatri Sityodtong posted a video message from Alvarez, showing off the signed contract and an empty spot on his shelf for the championship he is coming for in ONE. Alvarez has been fighting since December 2003 and is most of the most exciting lightweight fighters in MMA history. He began his career fighting at welterweight and moved down to lightweight following a loss to Nick Thompson in 2007.

After fighting for BoDog Fight and DREAM, he moved to the upstart Bellator organization and was on their inaugural show in April 2009. Alvarez became the franchise of Bellator, winning the first lightweight tournament and becoming their first champion defeating Toby Imada in the finals in June 2009. He dropped the title in November 2011 to Michael Chandler in one of the best fights of the past decade and Chandler became his top rival with a rematch in November 2013 that Alvarez won by split decision. Chandler nearly left Bellator in early 2013 for a big opportunity with the UFC where he would have received a title fight on the UFC 158 card underneath Georges St-Pierre and Nick Diaz. Bellator fought and it ended up in court with Alvarez having to remain with Bellator for one more fight and then left for the UFC.

Alvarez debuted for the UFC in September 2014 with a decision loss to Donald Cerrone before winning his next three that culminated with a championship win over Rafael dos Anjos in July 2016. The biggest fight of his career was in November 2016 where he lost the title to Conor McGregor at UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden. The card set the UFC’s all-time gate record with $17.7 million for their debut card at The Garden that saw McGregor stop Alvarez in the second round. Alvarez finished out his UFC contract this past year with a TKO loss to Dustin Poirier in July on Fox.


**Daniel Cormier appeared on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show on Monday to address the decision to fight Derrick Lewis on short notice next month at UFC 230. Cormier stated that his broken right hand has healed, although he cannot make a fist because of the scar tissue where the break was. Cormier noted that he must work on his cardio for the fight with Lewis but believes Lewis only has one way to win and that is by knocking Cormier out. The heavyweight champion is optimistic he can defeat Lewis on November 3rd and fight Brock Lesnar in March before his retirement. He would not rule out fighting Jon Jones but was not keen on the idea that Jones would dictate his retirement and push it back from Cormier’s March deadline.

**USADA has announced that UFC middleweight Brad Scott has accepted a two-year suspension following a positive drug test from this past May. Scott tested positive for benzoylecgonine, which is a metabolite of cocaine, from an in-competition test on May 27th when Scott fought Carlo Pedersoli, Jr. in Liverpool and lost by split decision.

The suspension is retroactive to July 3rd and will be eligible to compete again after July 3rd, 2020. Scott is 29-years old and is 11-6 having fought with the UFC since December 2012. Scott advanced to the finals of TUF Smashes and lost to current middleweight champion Robert Whittaker in the finals. Scott has gone 3-5 during his UFC career and is coming off losses to Jack Hermansson in August 2017 and to Pedersoli, Jr in May.

*****
REWIND-A-RAW 10/15/18: WWE avoids Saudi Arabia mentions, Rollins & Ziggler qualify for World Cup

John Pollock & Wai Ting review Raw from Philadelphia, how the Crown Jewel show was handled amidst mounting criticism, two more qualify for the World Cup, your feedback & an announcement about a fundraising show.
https://www.postwrestling.com/2018/10/16/rar-10-15-18-wwe-avoids-saudi-arabia-mentions-rollins-ziggler-qualify-for-world-cup/
*****
BOUND FOR GLORY 2018 POST SHOW

John Pollock & Nate Milton review Impact Wrestling’s Bound for Glory card featuring Austin Aries vs. Johnny Impact for the title, Allie enters the “Undead Realm”, a Concrete Jungle Deathmatch, plus we chat Impact’s time slot move, the state of the company & your feedback.
https://www.postwrestling.com/2018/10/15/bound-for-glory-2018-post-show-w-john-pollock-nate-milton/
*****
EGGSHELLS PODCAST COMPANION: 2005 with Matt Charlton

Episode 17 sees Chris Charlton and Matt Charlton look at 2005. NJPW reaches their lowest ebb, business-wise, with extremely poor attendance in the Dome, but some bright spots as Shinsuke Nakamura and Hiroshi Tanahashi begin their rivalry. Meanwhile, NOAH holds another classic show with a legendary bout between Kensuke Sasaki and Kenta Kobashi standing out.
https://www.postwrestling.com/2018/10/13/eggshells-podcast-companion-2005-w-matt-charlton/
*****
REWIND-A-WAI: NXT Arrival (Patreon)

John Pollock & Wai Ting review the first NXT special on the WWE Network from February 2014 with Bo Dallas vs. Adrian Neville for the NXT title in a ladder match, Paige vs. Emma for the women’s title, Sami Zayn vs. Cesaro & a big discussion on the legacy of this show and where the key people went.
https://www.patreon.com/posts/22007383
*****
upNXT & Forever Young 10/11/18: Three’s Company
Braden Herrington & Davie Portman chat this week’s episode of WWE NXT featuring Ricochet vs. Pete Dunne vs. Adam Cole for the North American title. Plus, this week’s episode of the Mae Young Classic and lots more.
https://www.postwrestling.com/2018/10/11/upnxt-forever-young-10-11-18-threes-company/
*****
DOUBLE SHOT 10/10/18: Recap of Ed Nordholm interview, Matt Hughes & PCO docs, Being the Elite, Total Divas
John & Wai review docs on Matt Hughes & PCO, a recent interview with Ed Nordholm, Total Divas, Being the Elite, Ten Pounds of Gold & more.
https://www.postwrestling.com/2018/10/10/double-shot-10-10-18-state-of-impact-wrestling-bte-total-divas-pco-matt-hughes-docs/
*****

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About John Pollock 539 Articles
Born on a Friday, John Pollock is a reporter, editor & podcaster at POST Wrestling. He runs and owns POST Wrestling alongside Wai Ting.