15 greatest Superstars in SmackDown history

15 greatest Superstars in SmackDown history

Over the years, SmackDown has played host to sports-entertainment’s biggest names. The Rock, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, John Cena, Triple H, Hulk Hogan and countless others have, at one point or another, taken their talents to WWE’s blue brand. Whether it’s been Tuesday, Thursday or Friday nights, SmackDown has been a regular ratings juggernaut since debuting in 1999, thanks in large part to the show’s seemingly never-ending supply of legendary competitors.

Watch SmackDown replays on WWE Network | Full SmackDown coverage

WWE.com decided to take a look back and rank the 15 Superstars who laid the smackdown on WWE’s blue brand better than anybody else.

15

Michelle McCool

Maria vs. Michelle McCool: SmackDown, December 5, 2008

Maria mixes it up with Michelle McCool at the Times Union Center in Albany, NY on December 5, 2008, with Maria hitting the splits to keep her chances alive against the reigning Divas Champion.

Arguably, few SmackDown Superstars have been as entertaining as Michelle McCool. From the Teacher’s Pets to the “All-American Diva” to “SmackDown’s Top Diva” to the first Divas Champion and first “co-Women’s Champions,” McCool made SmackDown her own.

In her time on the show, she had numerous rivalries against the likes of Victoria, Maryse, Mickie James, Beth Phoenix and Natalya, participated in a slew of specialty contests — from Bull Riding to Diva Dance-Off Contests to Lumberjill Matches — and formed Team LayCool with Layla, an alliance as dangerous as it was hysterical. — MIKE BURDICK

14

JBL

John Bradshaw Layfield reintroduces himself: SmackDown, March 25, 2004

John Bradshaw Layfield sheds his tag team roots at the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich., on March 25, 2004 as JBL reintroduces himself to the SmackDown crowd as tyrannous tycoon.

John Bradshaw Layfield transformed himself from APA brawler to self-made millionaire right before the WWE Universe’s eyes. And it happened on SmackDown.

On March 25, 2004, the financial tycoon arrived while sporting a suit and tie, ushering in a new era for the tough Texan. The Loudmouth Longhorn would go on to overtake SmackDown’s main event stage, competing in unforgettable battles with Rey Mysterio, John Cena, Big Show and other top competitors.

The self-proclaimed “Wrestling God” captured the WWE Championship from Eddie Guerrero in 2004, proudly carrying the coveted title on SmackDown for a remarkable 280-day title reign and becoming one of the show’s defining champions. — SCOTT TAYLOR

13

John Cena

Relive John Cena's legendary debut: SmackDown LIVE, Nov. 15, 2016

The Cenation is born when John Cena steps up to go head-to-head against Kurt Angle.

Although The Champ spend a great deal of his career as the Raw staple, he wouldn’t have gotten there if not for his breakout success on SmackDown during the early years of his WWE career.

It was on the blue brand where John Cena answered Mr. McMahon’s call for “ruthless aggression,” putting on a stellar first performance against Kurt Angle. Proving not to be a one-trick pony, Cena would thrive as “The Doctor of Thuganomics” shortly after, continuously taking on the likes of Angle and Brock Lesnar. Cena’s first championship opportunities would also come while a member of the SmackDown roster, as he represented the brand by overcoming Big Show for the U.S. Championship at WrestleMania XX. A year later, he became WWE Champion following an epic rivalry and bout against JBL at WrestleMania 21.

Watch: Greatest John Cena SmackDown moments

Cena’s excitement and intensity made him a star and also made SmackDown must-see TV. — MIKE MURPHY

12 

Randy Orton

The Viper unleashes an assault that leaves Tye Dillinger as The Painful 9: SmackDown LIVE, Oct. 2, 2018

Before his match against Tye Dillinger can get off the ground, Randy Orton ignites a brawl with his opponent that ends in excruciating fashion.

Randy Orton broke into WWE as a blue-chip, can’t miss SmackDown prospect in 2002. After going to Raw, killing legends and evolving alongside some of sports-entertainment’s greatest mentors — Ric Flair and Triple H — Orton returned to SmackDown in the 2005 draft. Gone was the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed rookie. Orton was now a vindictive schemer Superstar who always had a backup plan for his backup plan.

His bitter rivalries with the likes of The Undertaker, Christian and Bray Wyatt brought out the best and worst of The Viper and created moments we’re still talking about to this day, from burning down the Wyatt Compound to winning the World Heavyweight Title.— JEFF LABOON

 11 

Becky Lynch

Becky Lynch basks in her Championship Coronation: SmackDown LIVE, Sept. 18, 2018

Two days after Becky Lynch overcame Charlotte Flair to lay claim to her second SmackDown Women's Championship at the WWE Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, The Queen interrupts The Irish Lass Kicker's special SmackDown LIVE Coronation.

In the 19-year history of SmackDown, only a handful of Superstars have elevated themselves to becoming synonymous with the brand itself: The Rock, Edge, Rey Mysterio and now, arguably, Becky Lynch.

The Irish Lass Kicker was the first female Superstar ever drafted to the blue brand, and in the two-plus years since that landmark moment, Lynch has become the heart, soul and, most recently, the (straight) fire of Tuesday nights.

Whether becoming the first-ever SmackDown Women’s Champion, carrying the torch for the division since that moment, or using that torch to ignite a rivalry of the year contender with former best friend Charlotte Flair, the current SmackDown Women’s Champion has become one of the blue brand’s must-see Superstars.— RYAN PAPPOLLA

10

Rey Mysterio

Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio - Steel Cage Match: SmackDown, Sept. 9, 2005 (WWE Network Exclusive)

Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero clash in a Steel Cage Match: Courtesy of the award-winning WWE Network.

There are certain Superstars who will always belong to the blue brand. This is the case with Rey Mysterio.

After making his WWE debut on the blue brand on July 25, 2002 — an episode so great that WWE.com hypothesized it could be the best SmackDown show ever — The Master of the 619 went on to win multiple WWE Tag Team and Cruiserweight Championships on SmackDown’s stage. The Ultimate Underdog made a career of overcoming the odds in legendary battles against much larger foes such as Big Show, Batista and JBL.

Some of the former World Champion’s most heated rivalries played out on Thursday and Friday night’s, including a controversial victory over JBL on May 26, 2006, that sent the self-proclaimed “Wrestling God” into semi-retirement as a SmackDown color commentator. — SCOTT TAYLOR

9

The New Day

The New Day rock their own announce table as The Bar battle The Usos on SmackDown LIVE: WWE.com Exclusive, Aug. 1, 2018

Big E, Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods unleash pancake-fused hilarity at ringside as Cesaro & Sheamus take on Jimmy & Jey Uso in a First-Round Tag Team Tournament Match to determine who will challenge The Bludgeon Brothers at SummerSlam.

Kofi Kingston, Big E & Xavier Woods arrived on Team Blue in the 2017 Superstar Shake-up, ready to bring the Power of Positivity to Tuesday night and add to their already impressive resume.

They’ve done exactly that. The trio has had pancakes aplenty for themselves and the WWE Universe before their matches, but when the bell rings, The New Day show exactly why they deserve to be considered among SmackDown’s greatest. They’ve captured the blue brand’s tag team titles on two occasions, contested the championship inside Hell in a Cell for the first time in history, stood up to The Shield and brought The Bludgeon Brothers’ reign of terror to an end in a vicious Street Fight.

Just one of those accomplishments would be enough for a tag team. But for The New Day, they’re just the latest on a long list of accomplishments that will put them among the best to ever compete between the blue ropes.— BOBBY MELOK

8

The Usos

It's not paranoia, it's The Usos: SmackDown LIVE, Feb. 21, 2017

The Usos know why American Alpha are afraid.

Remember when The Usos weren’t on SmackDown? You’d be forgiven if you had trouble doing so, and not because Jimmy & Jey’s Siva Tau, war-paint era wasn’t memorable or exciting in its own right. But because, by their own admission, the twins didn’t come into their own until they came to the blue brand, grabbed hold of a microphone and willed themselves to the greatest heights of their career, including a 2017 series with The New Day so good it defies description and their first WrestleMania match ever. It happened so fast it’s understandable the rest of the division might have thought their come-up was paranoia at first. Now, their dominance is just reality. — ANTHONY BENIGNO

7

Kurt Angle

Kurt Angle wins 20-Man Battle Royal: SmackDown, January 13, 2006

Mark Henry thinks he has a 20-Man Battle Royal won before Kurt Angle unexpectedly re-enters the match and surges to a World Heavyweight Title victory on SmackDown.

Kurt Angle had some of his greatest squared circle showdowns on Thursday and Friday nights. If you want to look back at the effect The Olympic Gold Medalist had on the blue brand, look no further than his epic 60-minute WWE Iron Man Match for the WWE Championship against Brock Lesnar on Sept. 18, 2003.

WWE Network: Watch the entire Iron Man WWE Championship Match

Your Olympic Hero is also one of just a few Superstars in SmackDown’s 15 year-plus-history to win a World Championship on the show, when he outlasted 19 other Superstars in an impromptu 20-Man Battle Royal for Batista’s vacant World Heavyweight Championship on Jan. 13, 2006.

The Wrestling Machine not only can lay claim to being John Cena’s first-ever WWE opponent, but is also one of the few Superstars who can say they were in charge, considering he was SmackDown’s General Manager. Simply put, Angle is one of the blue brand’s top Superstars. It’s true, it’s damn true. — SCOTT TAYLOR

6

Batista

Batista vs. Mark Henry: No Disqualification Match - SmackDown, November 16, 2007

Batista brawls with Mark Henry at the Coliseum in Wichita, KS on November 16, 2007 until Batista gives The World's Strongest Man a good look at the World Heavyweight Championship belt.

Since making his WWE debut on SmackDown in 2002, Batista used the blue brand as a backdrop for some of his most notable rivalries, engaging in epic clashes against main event Superstars such as Rey Mysterio, The Undertaker, JBL and others as a consistent headlining force on Thursday and Friday nights for many years.

The six-time World Champion had his fair share of significant SmackDown moments, including winning the WWE Tag Team Titles with Rey Mysterio in tribute to the late, great Eddie Guerrero. In fact, it was the then–World Heavyweight Champion who led Team SmackDown to brand supremacy over Team Raw at Survivor Series 2005. When it comes to the top SmackDown Superstars, Batista bleeds blue. — SCOTT TAYLOR

5

Eddie Guerrero

Eddie Guerrero vs. John Cena - United States Championship Parking Lot Brawl: SmackDown, Sept. 11, 2003

Eddie Guerrero throttles John Cena, connecting with a Frog Splash off a minivan.

Being viewed by some as the “B-show” of WWE for many years has one advantage: You can be as outrageous as you want to be. It was under this umbrella that the “lie, cheat and steal” mantra of Eddie Guerrero thrived on SmackDown.

Watch: Eddie Guerrero's Steel Cage Frog Splash on JBL

Whether Latino Heat was disarming the Divas or harming the competition, Guerrero always left the WWE Universe screaming “Viva la Raza!” His quest to push the show where it had never gone before created countless SmackDown moments from a Frog Splash off the top of a steel cage to steamy shower scenes to United States Championship Parking Lot Brawls. — MIKE BURDICK

4

Edge

Edge tells Vickie Guerrero he's calling off their wedding: SmackDown, July 4, 2008

Edge calls off his wedding with Vickie Guerrero, leaving her an emotional wreck.

When Edge made history in 2006 as the first Superstar to cash in the Money in the Bank contract, his career rocketed ahead with no end in sight. The Rated-R Superstar raised eyebrows with his in-ring shenanigans with Lita on Raw, reached new heights of greatness with heart-pounding Ladder Match performances, and found a home on SmackDown.

From his epic battles with The Undertaker — as well as an emotionally charged on-again, off-again relationship with Vickie Guerrero — Edge made SmackDown must-see TV for the WWE Universe for years. An injury forced him to suddenly retire in 2011, but Edge continues to live on in WWE history after taking his rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame in 2012. - MITCH PASSERO

 3 

AJ Styles

AJ Styles unleashes painful retribution on Samoa Joe: SmackDown LIVE, Sept. 4, 2018

After enduring week after week of physical and personal attacks from Samoa Joe, WWE Champion AJ Styles unleashes an all-out assault on his adversary.

The Face That Runs the Place isn’t just a fun nickname “borrowed” from John Cena: It’s an apt descriptor for what AJ Styles has become for SmackDown LIVE since the 2016 WWE Draft, during which The Phenomenal One was a first-round draft pick (No. 4 overall). Since then, Styles earned decisive victories against the likes of Cena, Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler and Randy Orton en route to two WWE Title reigns and the distinction of becoming the longest-reigning WWE Champion in SmackDown history, surpassing JBL’s record of 280 consecutive days.

With a kinetic, varied offense — including his dazzling Phenomenal Forearm — Styles embodies the fast-paced, hard-hitting attitude and seemingly limitless charisma of modern-day SmackDown LIVE, a.k.a. “The House That AJ Styles Built.” — JAMES WORTMAN

2

The Undertaker

John Cena vs. The Undertaker: SmackDown, June 24, 2004

An icon faces off against an icon in the making as The Undertaker battles John Cena.

If WWE is The Undertaker’s home, then it could be argued that SmackDown became his personal house of horror. For it was from the big blue staging ground that The Demon of Death Valley carried all three of his World Heavyweight Championship reigns and launched epic rivalries against everyone from Randy Orton to Mark Henry to Batista to Edge to CM Punk — showdowns that, in many cases, evolved into crucial portions of The Phenom’s WrestleMania Streak. — MIKE BURDICK 

Watch: Biggest Undertaker SmackDown moments

1

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson

The Rock & Mankind vs. New Age Outlaws: World Tag Team Championship Match - SmackDown, October 14, 1999

The Great One is not a happy camper as The Rock 'n' Sock Connection get a fortunate break and wind up with the World Tag Team Championship on SmackDown.

Did you really expect anyone else? After all, it was one of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s popular catchphrases that led to the show’s name and “smackdown” becoming an official word in Webster’s Dictionary.

The Great One not only appeared on the program’s very first episode on Aug. 26, 1999, in Kansas City, Mo., but he made it clear in the opening segment that SmackDown was his show. Now, 1000 episodes later and no other Superstar is more synonymous with WWE’s blue brand than The People’s Champion.

WWE Network: Watch The Rock on SmackDown's very first episode

From his WWE Championship Match against Triple H on the program’s premiere to his return in 2013, The Rock has electrified Thursday and Friday nights while checking countless competitors into the SmackDown Hotel. It’s only fitting that The Brahma Bull was also the blue brand’s first-ever Draft Pick in March 2002.

No one, and WWE.com means no one, can layeth the smackdown like The Rock. That’s why he is the greatest SmackDown Superstar ever. — SCOTT TAYLOR

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