Wednesday, October 17, 2018

WWF Smackdown (Apr. 29th, 1999): The Pilot Episode

I swear to God, if that name isn't already a regular feature on some website or web show somewhere, you're all just a bunch of geeks.

In any event, in lieu of another TNA PPV, I decided to go back in time and check out the original pilot episode of WWF Smackdown from 1999. With Smackdown having aired its 1000th episode ever - and yes, I'll offering some quick thoughts on that show when I get around to watching it - I thought it'd be pretty neat to give this show a watch and see where it all began.

Fun fact: This is the only episode of Smackdown to garner a TV-14 rating, which is the usual television rating for most WWF/E television programming until the full-on shift to PG programming. Other than this one show, Smackdown has always - ALWAYS - maintained a TV-PG rating and managed to produce some of the best wrestling and sports-entertainment weekly shows in the 2000s, thus curtailing any arguments that the TV-PG rating is an issue with modern-day WWE. It never was.

And because this is April 1999 and because it's TV-14, this is a Vince Russo-penned program. Given that the second show came along and was a strictly PG show, I wonder if that had more to do with Russo leaving than just the second show and nanny comment in general.

The show opens with a recap of the Black Wedding angle from that week's episode of RAW, where the Undertaker was about to black wed Stephanie McMahon before Stone Cold Steve Austin came along to save the day or something. Boy, was that a fun segment.

God, that's a great title sequence with a catchy theme song... and then it's ruined by announcer Michael Cole, who is every bit as bad as I remember 1999 Michael Cole being. God bless him; the guy got better over time (before eventually get worse again), but Cole on commentary early on was painful to endure. Thankfully, we have Jim Cornette on color in one of the few instances he could be bothered to show up on WWF television in 1999... probably because of the shitstain writing these shows... but I digress.

For those wondering, they're using the RAW set instead of the cool Ovaltron thing that would be a standard for a couple years when Smackdown becomes a weekly television series.

We open with Vince and Stephanie in the ring talking before Shane and the Corporation show up. Shane punches Vince and takes over the segment, booking the main event of Stone Cold and the Rock teaming up against Triple H and the Undertaker.

So now we have Val Venis vs. Owen Hart... except we don't because Jeff Jarrett doesn't know where Owen is at and it pisses him off. So he offers to be Val's opponent and then the Blue Blazer shows up to attack Val and now it's Val Venis vs. Blue Blazer and... how the fuck is Cornette not losing his mind on this shit because this is making my head hurt. Even back in 1999, I thought this whole Blue Blazer thing was pretty fucking stupid and it's only more depressing when you consider what it led to.

I don't remember how the match ended... I don't give a shit.

Big Show beats Test in a minute with a chokeslam. Meh.

Rock shows up to cut a promo, then Austin shows up to cut another promo, and then Shane shows up to announce the formation of the Corporate Ministry... because sure, why not?

Look, I dismiss it now, but at the time, I thought it made sense to join these two together. They're both bad guy stables, they both have common goals and common enemies. Why not pool their resources together? It actually made a bit of sense... until Vince was revealed as the "greater power" and then nothing made sense.

D'Lo Brown defeated Darren Drozdov via DQ when Albert interfered. The match was nothing special; though I cringed when I saw D'Lo hit Droz with a Sky High since I recall that being the move that paralyzed him... then realized that that match wouldn't happen until later that year. (For those wondering, said match is NOT on the Network for about the same reasons why there's no Owen Hart bits in that one PPV where he died or why there's no Benoit tribute.

WWF Tag-Team Champions X-Pac and Kane (who don't trust each other but they're champs... a regular occurrence for Kane, it would seem) defeated the New Age Outlaws due to Kane knocking Dogg into Gunn while Gunny has Pac in a gorilla press, causing Gunn to fall over and Pac to quickly cover Gunn for the win. That's actually a nice little finish to an otherwise average match and it planted the seeds to the split of the Outlaws and the cementation of the Kane/Pac team that wouldn't last long either.

Michael PS Hayes interviews the Brood (Gangrel, Edge, and Blue Circle Face) and gets a bloodbath. Thus ends the story of Doc Hendrix.

Ken Shamrock defeated Bradshaw via chokeout with a baseball bat because apparently, that's a legal thing to do here. Refs try to pull Shamrock off of the future JBL and Ken snaps because that's a thing he does. This was a thing that happened.

Mankind beats Big Boss Man in a short match that saw Bossman try to run but get cockblocked by both Test and Big Show. Test, Show, and Mankind would eventually form the Union... because sure, why not?

The match between Stone Cold/The Rock and Triple H/Undertaker ended in a no-contest when everybody started running in and then Taker grabbed a chair, only to be taken away by Vince, who loses the chair back to Taker and gets an UNPROTECTED HEAD SHOT for his troubles. And then Stone Cold KICK WHAM STUNNERS Undertaker to end the show.

For what it did for the time, it sold UPN on a series in the fall of 1999. And that series has endured numerous networks and is soon slated to be a major fixture on the FOX network in the future. However, when you go back and watch this pilot episode, it just feels like another episode of RAW. Aside from the formation of the Corporate Ministry, nothing of note really happened here and it's completely and utterly skippable.

Still, the show has come a long way. And eventually, we'll look at Smackdown's 1000th episode later this week.

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