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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
The New Day
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
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.
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