You may or may not be aware that 2014 is the 15th anniversary of WWE’s Friday Night SmackDown. There have been many moments that have “wowed” us over the years, and many other moments that have left us scratching our heads. I’ve dissected SmackDown as best I could and over the next 15 weeks I’ll be bringing you my top 15 moments in WWE SmackDown history.
These “moments” could range from promo’s, to matches, to moments in matches, to achievements or even WWE Draft Lottery picks. There will be some moments that you’ll remember, some you might not and some you might not agree with, but I can assure you that all 15 of my picks will have a solid foundation to them to explain why I feel as though these moments belong in such a list.
The first moment at number 15 in my list is one that you might either not remember or ask why I’ve included it in the list. On the February 10th 2000 edition of what was then Thursday Night SmackDown, the opening bout of the show was a championship match. The European Championship in fact. The champion was Val Venis and his opponent was the 1996 Olympic Gold Medallist, Kurt Angle. Kurt was fresh off of his first defeat in the WWF as it was then known at the annual Royal Rumble Pay-Per-View when he lost to the debuting Tazz.
Before the match got underway, footage was shown from the Monday Night Raw earlier that week of Kurt Angle hitting Mae Young with what was eventually known as the Angle Slam, Kurt’s finishing move. In the ring, Kurt got on the mic and told the fans in attendance and watching at home that he was still a role model for children and the elderly despite the fact that he suplexed a pregnant, elderly woman. For those of you unaware or don’t remember, Mae Young was (kayfabe) pregnant with Mark Henry’s child, which eventually turned out to be a hand. Not WWE’s greatest ever storyline. Kurt passed off the assault by saying he thought Mark Henry was attacking him from behind and that in his match coming up, he would treat the fans by becoming the next European Champion.
Kurt delivered on his word and defeated the reigning European Champion Val Venis in a short match. As Val was doing his usual entrance of “touching himself”, Kurt went on the attack from behind and referee Jimmy Korderas got the match under way with Angle being the aggressor in the early goings, clubbing Val with a couple of elbows to the neck before attacking him in the corner with right hands. Korderas pulled Angle away from the corner and that gave Val time to come back at Kurt with a big clothesline, sending the Olympic Gold Medallist to the canvas. Val hit a few more big shots before Kurt turned the tables on The Big Valbowski and clotheslined him to the outside.
Kurt attempted to hit a Double Axe handle off of the apron, but Venis caught him with a big, clubbing blow to the mid section and Kurt went crashing to the floor. Val then turned into the aggressor and dropped Angle ribs first onto the barricade before throwing him back into the ring. With Val perched up on the apron, Kurt hit a Stunner type of manoeuvre to drop Val’s throat onto the top rope. Kurt then pulled Val back into the ring and hit more clubbing blows to the back of the neck and head area of Venis. Next, Angle dropped Val chest first onto the top rope and hit a big neck breaker. Kurt made the first pin fall attempt of the match, but Venis kicked out at two.
The crowd started to get on Angle’s back by chanting “Angle Sucks!” This was before the days of the “You Suck” being sung along to Kurt’s entrance music. Kurt attempted an Irish Whip to Val, but he countered it and caught Angle flush with an elbow to the face, which he then followed up with an elbow drop and a knee drop, but Kurt managed to stay in the contest by kicking out of Val’s attempted pin at two. Val then backed Kurt into a corner and whipped him across the ring, following him and hitting another clothesline, stunning Kurt who fell to his knees.
Val then hit a big Fisherman’s Suplex, but again Kurt kicked out at two. Venis landed with a big bodyslam to set up for his finisher: The Money Shot. I always remember Jonathan “Coach” Coachman used to love calling that move on Sunday Night Heat. Kurt used one of his “three I’s” (intelligence) and ran into the ropes and Val split the difference on the top rope before falling to the canvas. Kurt picked Val up and hit him with the Angle Slam to get the three count and the first of what would be many championships in the WWE.
Kurt celebrated the win as though he’d just become World Champion. The one thing I’ve never been sure of is if it was part of his character or if that was raw emotion coming out of Kurt. There’s an argument for both side where you could say that with the kind of competitor Angle has always been, he’d just won a championship for the biggest wrestling organisation of all time and he was enjoying his moment. On the other hand, Kurt’s character was that he had all the traits of a babyface, but he did his work with arrogance and that got him over as a heel. So his celebration of winning the WWF European Championship could’ve been perceived as arrogant.
Anyway, the reason this makes my list is because it was the first championship of many in the great career of Kurt Angle. When you look back through said great career of Kurt Angle, you can say that this was one match or moment that put Kurt on the map in the world of professional wrestling. This was one of the first rungs on the ladder which Kurt built up for himself in his debut year. Obviously, everybody knew Kurt was a very talented athlete from his amateur days. He won an Olympic Gold Medal with a “broken freakin’ neck” as he reminded us on so many occasions. Although, I think Kurt’s post match celebration is more likely to live in the memory of WWE fans that the match itself which lasted all of four minutes and wasn’t really all that memorable. In my opinion, though, this was a big moment, not just in SmackDown history, but in WWE history.
Throughout 2000, Kurt also went on to win the Intercontinental Championship, the 2000 King of the Ring tournament and also the WWF Championship. Kurt Angle is the only person to have won these championships in his rookie year and in 2002 he became the second fastest person, behind Chris Jericho, between championship wins to be known as a WWE Grand Slam Champion. If you are a Kurt Angle fan, stay tuned to this count down over the next few months as there are sure to be more moments that feature the Olympic Gold Medallist.