The SmarK Rant for WWE Tribute to the Troops – 12.20.08
There’s actually the entire run of these from 2008-2020 on the Network, so here on Remembrance Day in Canada we might as well go back to the first one on there as appropriate viewing for today.
Taped from Baghdad, Iraq, in a cool outdoor set that was apparently a repurposed parking lot in the former palace of Saddam Hussein, back when doing shows in the Middle East had much different connotations than today, and they were entertaining soldiers rather than taking blood money from murdering Saudi princes. This one was produced by the Armed Forces Network and aired on NBC at the time, although I can’t remember how long that relationship lasted. I think they moved to USA after a while.
We start with a message from President George W. Bush, back when we thought THAT was the lowest possible point for the Republican party.
Your hosts are Michael Cole & Jerry Lawler, who admit that they’re doing the commentary from Stamford. Oddly, the overlay says “Presented in HD” but it’s still in 4×3 aspect ratio. I actually thought Royal Rumble 2009 was the first HD show anyway.
Jeff Hardy, CM Punk & R-Truth v. John Morrison, The Miz & JBL
Jeff was fresh off winning the WWE title, and Miz & Morrison had just won their first tag team titles. And here we are 12 years later and they’re basically in the exact same spot. JBL, never afraid to look like a dork that no one could possibly cheer, has a cowboy hat over a helmet. JoMo beats on Truth in the corner to start, but Truth puts him down with a spinkick and hiptoss and clotheslines him to the floor, and then Jeff hits the heels with a dive and we take a break. Back with Miz hitting Punk with a corner clothesline for two and he goes to a chinlock, but Punk fights out and Morrison has to cut off the ring, but Jeff Hardy gets the hot tag and runs wild, clearing the ring. Mule kick in the corner on Miz gets two. Whisper in the Wind gets two. Jeff goes for the finish, but JBL breaks it up with the Clothesline from Hell and boots him down. Another try at the lariat misses and Jeff hits him with the Twist of Fate and finishes with the swanton at 6:41. A very fun opener. 1 for 1.
Meanwhile, various wrestlers pay tribute to the troops.
Cryme Tyme joins us in Santa suits, as Michael Cole assures us that they like to borrow things and have fun. Now this was an act that Vince McMahon did not get at all. So they bring out various Divas in Santa suits and throw out t-shirts.
Big Show, Chris Jericho & Randy Orton v. Batista, Rey Mysterio & John Cena
Well you knew Cena would be all over this. Orton slugs away on Batista as they try to get over this “Viper” nickname for him. Once again the announcers specifically stress that this is broadcast in HD, so I’m wondering if they’re using a different master than the NBC broadcast version because it’s absolutely not in HD on the Network. Rey tries the 619 on Jericho and gets yanked to the floor by Show and we take a break and celebrate more military people. I know it’s literally called “Tribute to the Troops” but at a certain point it just becomes paid propaganda from the Armed Forces Network. Speaking of which, the announcers say that this is “the biggest and most important show of the year, bigger than Wrestlemania!” It’s not even being financed by Saudi princes, how can it be bigger than Wrestlemania? Back with Jericho toying with Rey Mysterio, which annoys Big Show to the point that he chokeslams both of his teammates and walks out on them. Cena gets the hot tag and hits the FIVE MOVES OF DOOM on Orton, but Jericho breaks up the AA. Orton comes in and sets up for the RKO, but Cena shoves him into Jericho and they both land on the ropes in position to take a 619. Wow, physics is really something. And Cena and Batista hit their finishers on the heels at the same time for the double pin at 10:09. This was pretty dull. 1 for 2.
And George W. wraps it up for us with more words for the troops as we say goodbye for another year.
The setting is certainly neat and different, but they go SOOOOOO over the top with the flag-waving “god bless our troops” stuff that it’s really hard to watch by the end. It’s interesting on a curiosity level, but there’s nothing here for people outside of the very specifically targeted audience who want to watch WWE celebrate themselves yet again. I seem to recall that they moved far away from the heavy-handed jingoism in later years and it just became more of a “good guys winning matches to entertain military audience” show, but this isn’t that.