Critical Orientation

In August of 1999, The WWE , then WWF, premiered Smackdown on UPN. At the the time the WWE was in the middle of the “Attitude era” and was almost at the zenith of their popularity. Coasting of the momentum of the ratings juggernaut “Monday Night Raw”, the WWE decided to launch a new 2-hour weekly television show. So on Thursday, August 26th, 1999 Smackdown was born. One aspect that makes this show more unique compared to other shows is that when it premiered there were already storylines that people were invested in. Usually on premier episodes of tv shows we are introduced to new characters and settings and start to get a vibe of what the show is all about. In the case of Smackdown, the engines were already roaring.

This is the synopsis for the first episode of Smackdown,

On the Network Premire of Smackdown, newly crowned WWE Champion Triple H defends the title against The Rock with special guest referees Shawn Michaels and Shane McMahon. Earlier in the evening Shane McMahon battles Mankind. Big Boss Man and Al Snow battle for the Hardcore Championship. Stephanie McMahon answers the marriage proposal from Test. Michale Cole sits down for a one on one interview with the “Texas Rattlesnake”,” Stone Cold” Steve Austin to discuss a return to the ring to face Triple H.

As someone who is a consistent viewer of WWE programming, You would already know who everyone is and what’s going on. If you are someone who is watching the WWE for the first time, You can easily get a sense of who the main players are and can pickup the story lines relatively quickly.

The first episode of Smackdown starts off with a video package that recaps the main event storyline up to this point. The show then goes to the sold out arena in Kansas City, Missouri and kicks off with a short pyro display in order to get fans hyped up for the show. The first voice we hear is that of lead commentator Jim Ross as he welcomes the audience and introduces his broadcast parter Jerry “The King” Lawler. Then we hear the entrance music of the WWE Champion Triple H as he walks to the ring along with Chyna to cut a promo. As Triple H is talking in the ring, the camera then cuts backstage to The Rock who’s is watching Triple H on a monitor and looks very unhappy. Then the entrance music of The Rock hits and he walks out to the top of the entrance stage and says a few catch phrases and trades verbal blows with Triple H. The Rock starts slowly moving towards the ring has he is talking and then we hear the music of Shawn Michaels, The WWE Commissioner at the time, and sets up the main event between Triple H and The Rock for the WWE Championship and makes himself the special guest referee. Then Shane McMahon pops up out if no where and appoints himself the second special guest referee. Shawn Michaels then sets up a match between Shane McMahon and the man he screwed out of the WWE Championship, Mankind. Mankind then comes out and brawl between all four men ensues.

On this episode of Smackdown there are seven matches on the show. The first match is The Intercontinental Champion Jeff Jarrett taking on “Bad Ass” Billy Gunn. The match ends with Gunn rolling up Jarrett for the win. After the match we cut backstage to Lillian Garcia interviewing Al snow. One of the great thing about WWE shows is that there are multiple storylines happening at once. So in between matches there are short clips of wrestlers backstage and the commentators would fill the viewers in on the storylines that those particular wrestlers are involved in.

The next match on the show is a triple threat tag team match for the WWE Tag Team Championship pitting the tag champs The Undertaker and The Big Show against The Acolytes and Kane and X-Pac. The match ends with The Big Show choke-slamming X-pac and pinning him. The next match was a WWE Hardcore Championship match with the champion Al Snow facing the Big Boss Man. The match end with Big Boss Man defeated Al Snow and becoming the new Hardcore Champion. The next match on the show is The Road Dogg facing Chris Jericho in his WWE in-ring Debut. The match ends with the Road Dogg winning via disqualification after Jericho puts him through a tables. The next match was scheduled to be Ken Shamrock vs. Val Venus but was cancelled due to Chris Jericho attacking Shamrock. The next match on the show was Mankind vs. Shane McMahon. The match ended with Shane McMahon pinning Mankind after Triple H hit Mankind with a steel chair.

The next match was an evening gown match with Ivory taking on Tori and the only way to win this match is by stripping your opponent down to their underwear. This match is a good representation of the product at the time. Women’s wrestling wasn’t taken seriously and was way over sexualized. If you were to watch WWE today, you would to never seen anything like this. Today, women wrestling is taken very seriously and they are seen as equals to their male counterparts.

The next match was the main event WWE Championship match. This match is the longest match on the card. The WWE wanted a big match on the first episode of Smackdown so the had two of the biggest stars in the company go one on one for the WWE Championship. The match ended with Triple H retaining the WWE Championship after Shawn Michaels hit The Rock with sweet chin music and help his former D-Generation X co-founder win the match.