Smackdown – December 25, 2003

Date: December 25, 2003
Location: Camp Victory, Baghdad, Iraq
Commentators: Michael Cole, Tazz

This is a very special show as it’s Christmas in Iraq for the first of a series later called Tribute to the Troops. Back in the day they actually went overseas for the shows, giving this a very special feeling indeed. The focus isn’t going to be on the wrestling tonight but rather the atmosphere as a whole, which is how things should be going for something like this. Let’s get to it.

We open with the National Anthem, though not by Lilian Garcia for a change.

Here’s Vince McMahon to get things going and he’s staying in character with the scowl. That’s gone pretty quickly though as on behalf of freedom loving people around the world, WWE is hear to say thank you. Vince thanks everyone for their sacrifices and for protecting our great nation. Oh and thanks for catching Saddam. Vince wants to say one more thing….but here’s a rather rotund Santa Claus with bags of presents.

The presents aren’t for Vince though, because they’re for the troops. Santa starts handing out shirts from the bags but Vince wants him to come back in for one more thing. Vince wants his present and thinks it’s somewhere in Santa’s stomach. And why didn’t Santa come visit him when he was a kid? Vince shoves Santa over and the hat comes off….to reveal a bald head. There’s the Stunner and let’s drink some beer.

Austin isn’t done though and, while still wearing the furry Santa boots, says he’s going to go backstage and drink some more beer instead of hurting us by trying to sing Christmas carols. He thanks the troops and talks about how much WWE supports them before having the troops throw up the middle fingers to Saddam. Perfect way to open things up with one of the few timeless segments that will never stop working.

We see some of the wrestlers being told what to do if terrorists attack. That’s a rather sobering discussion.

Clip of the ring and arena being set up. The troops who helped got to sit in the front row.

World’s Greatest Tag Team vs. APA

Bradshaw is in a helmet and flack jacket. Shelton takes Faarooq into the corner to start but gets taken down by a middle rope shoulder. Bradshaw comes in to forearm Haas in the back for two but has to let go of an early torture rack as Shelton tries to make a save. The Dominator doesn’t work on Haas and Shelton gets in a cheap shot to take over. Faarooq shoves Haas away and brings in Bradshaw to clean house. Everything breaks down and Shelton superkicks Bradshaw down. Not that it matters as Faarooq tosses Shelton to the floor, leaving Bradshaw to Clothesline Haas for the pin.

Rating: C. I’m going to be a lot nicer to the wrestling here as that’s not the point to a show like this one. This match was about letting the APA, a popular team, come in and get a quick win and to have Bradshaw, who was one of the big names behind the whole idea, out there as he should be. If nothing else, Bradshaw hitting a Clothesline that hard is going to get a reaction.

Austin gives Chris Benoit a pep talk before his match with Eddie Guerrero. That’s kind of an odd segment as it’s not like they’re great friends or anything.

Some troops say hi to their families.

Rikishi vs. Rhyno

Rhyno gets shoved away to start as the announcers talk about this being in the middle of an active war zone. Some kicks to the, ahem, thong arena, have Rikishi in some trouble but he stops a charge with a superkick. The announcers actually act like they’re there (commentary is being recorded in Connecticut), even talking about their clothes in the desert for a little flavor. The Rump Shaker hits raised knees but the Gore misses. Rikishi grabs a Samoan drop for the fast pin.

Post match, Rhyno takes a Stinkface and dancing ensues with some (armed) troops coming into the ring.

Video of wrestlers meeting troops.

Some wrestlers went up on a helicopter to another camp to meet more troops.

Here’s John Cena for a chat. He wants to give Torrie Wilson a pearl necklace for Christmas but tonight he has to deal with Big Show. Sure he’s wrestling a giant but the real big show is in his crotch. Show is picking the wrong day to fight when Cena has all of the troops behind him and Saddam should be buried in a hole.

Now Austin gives Eddie Guerrero a pep talk. Apparently Benoit promised to lie, steal and cheat tonight. Eddie: “THAT’S MY STUFF!”

More troops say hello.

Wrestlers signed autographs and met troops at the other camp. Cena even had some battle raps.

Eddie Guerrero vs. Chris Benoit

Feeling out process to start as Cole and Tazz go over the history between these two. Eddie starts in on the arm and gets two off a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Benoit comes back with some forearms and Eddie grabs the referee’s waist for security. Hang on as a security helicopter flies over the ring so Eddie puts on a flack jacket. As you might expect, Eddie throws the jacket at Benoit and takes over with a dropkick.

They fall out to the floor and we take a break. Back with Benoit cranking on both arms as the fans chant for Eddie. That seems to do him some good as he sends Benoit into the corner to take over again but falls off the ropes on a sunset bomb attempt. The Three Amigos are countered into the Crossface but Eddie rolls over to the ropes.

Some rolling German suplex soften Eddie up a bit more and a shoulder breaker has the arm banged up even more. Benoit barely misses the Swan Dive but avoids the frog splash for another double knockdown. Back up and Eddie gets in a rollup with feet on the ropes for the fast pin.

Rating: B-. That’s all you can ask for her with the two guys who know each other well enough to have a good match in their sleep. There were a few botches here but wrestling in that kind of heat in this kind of atmosphere isn’t the easiest thing in the world. The fans were more into Eddie anyway and it’s not like a win or a loss on this show means much.

Post match Eddie puts the jacket and helmet back on for a handshake.

We look at the opening segment again.

More soldiers say hello.

Another video on wrestlers meeting troops.

More soldiers say hello.

Wrestlers shoot guns with Big Show being the best shot.

It’s time for a Santa’s Little Helper’s contest between Torrie Wilson, Dawn Marie and Sable as Cole tries to figure out the rules. Thankfully Tazz points out the obvious that the rules really aren’t likely to mean much here. Cole: “I’d like to be the Crocodile Hunter and Dawn Marie be the crocodile.” I…really don’t know what that means and I think I’ll keep it that way. It’s a dance contest, they all look great, and Torrie wins. A brawl breaks out, which is rather difficult as Torrie is in lingerie. Sable gets stripped and the villains bail. This was exactly what you would expect.

Wrestlers visited wounded troops.

One more video of the wrestlers with the troops.

One more video of troops saying hello to their families.

John Cena vs. Big Show

Say it with me: non-title. Cena gets chokeslammed about five seconds in and rolls to the floor for a breather. Back in and Show hits the overhand chop in the corner, followed by a hard headbutt to put Cena down. It’s off to the abdominal stretch for a few seconds but the ref gets kicked down. Show grabs the chain but gets kicked low, allowing Cena to hit him with the chain for two. Another chokeslam is countered into the FU to give Cena the pin.

Rating: C. I remember watching this match with my dad, who is one of those people who tends to not think much of wrestling because it’s fake. When Cena tossed Show onto his shoulders and flipped him over like it was nothing, my dad’s jaw dropped for a second. There’s nothing to the match of course and it’s not like Show losing means anything to his title reign, which is as unnecessary as any I can ever remember.

Post match Austin comes out to Stun both guys. Austin calls out the ladies and the locker room for one last celebration. One more Stunner to Big Show and beer consumption ends the show.

Overall Rating: B. As mentioned, the wrestling really isn’t the point to something like this. The wrestling is secondary to entertaining the troops and that’s what happened. It did exactly what it was designed to do and felt important, unlike what this show would eventually become. This had nothing to do with storylines and nothing was advanced, which didn’t need to be the case. It was a fun show and having Austin as a big star was the right call. Just let it be fun and come back home for the real stuff later on. And be glad La Resistance didn’t get squashed.

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