It’s hard to believe that it has been twenty years since WWE launched its second weekly show (we’re not counting Sunday Night Heat). Despite the ludicrous name coined by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Smackdown has had more than its fair share of huge moments over the years, especially from an in-ring point of view. IN fact, often while Raw has been positioned as the “sports entertainment” product, Smackdown has ben it’s polar opposite offering a more sports orientated style, and a bigger focus on what actually happens in the squared circle. This is still WWE, so I’m not suggesting there hasn’t been a myriad of bizarre, ridiculous, and even sublimely stupid moments on the blue brand, because there definitely has been. However, Smackdown has delivered so many different things over the years that it is only right that WWE have marked the occasion by releasing a collection of the very best or certainly most memorable matches and moments from the show’s history.
The first disc of the this set focuses on the chaotic first five to six years of Smackdown’s history, which is a fitting representation of how absolutely chaotic this brand was during those years. This is a very attitude-era heavy collection, with The Rock vs Triple H on the very first show featuring Shawn Michaels as guest referee a particularly memorable bout, and the inclusion of the Crash Holly 24/7 hardcore title defences feel timely given how hard they’ve tried to replicate that concept with the modern-day 24/7 belt. Chris Jericho vs Rhyno has the iconic spot that everyone remembers, before we move into the post-Invasion era. There is a heavy focus on some of the respective rises of Brock Lesnar, John Cena and Eddie Guerrero who all had major roles in the most iconic segments and matches in Smackdown history. Of course this time period also encapsulates the much loved “Smackdown Six”, but naturally a lot of that is glossed over due to the involvement of Chris Benoit. Unfortunately, Benoit was a huge part of Smackdown in its first few years and having to moat him, for obvious reasons, limits what can be included. The historic post-9/11 episode is also covered, which I’m sure was very much expected by anyone watching this release.
Disc two, by contrast covers a much longer period of time, but the moments that have been chosen are farther apart. CM Punk vs Jeff Hardy in steel cage from 2009, Randy Orton vs Christian from 2011, Edge’s retirement, and the first ever non-PPV women’s Money in the Bank Ladder match are all highlights for different reasons, but the tone is less frantic than those early years. I did enjoy that the big unexpected title changes featuring Jinder Mahal, AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan all made the cut as those were genuinely exhilarating snippets from a Smackdown brand that has produced lots of good matches, but not so many stand-out segments or matches over the past few years. It’s more consistent, but it lacks some of the crazy energy of the past.
WWE’s Smackdown 20th Anniversary DVD set is pretty much what you would have come to expect from the company. I could have done with more from The Undertaker’s stellar, if not sometimes bonkers run from 2004 to around 2010, but I appreciate the time constraints a two-disc DVD creates. However, the three-disc 10th anniversary set contained a far greater variety, perhaps unburdened by the wealth of choice cuts available. It’s definitely enjoyable, and nothing on this set feels out of place or as though it has been inserted as filler, but I can’t help but feel the company could have done a bit more. Still, if you want a potted history of Smackdown, you could do far worse.