The 15 best SmackDown matches of all time
Time sure goes by fast when you’re having fun. For nearly 20 years, SmackDown has been the home of, arguably, WWE’s best in-ring action. From top-notch technical masterpieces to unruly Parking Lot Brawls, the blue brand’s nonstop pace has left the WWE Universe breathless for 997 episodes.
SmackDown has been the site of The Undertaker’s return to dominance, Brock Lesnar’s Undisputed Championship reign and the only Buried Alive Match in the history of broadcast network TV. As SmackDown LIVE's historic 1000th episode on Oct. 16 draws near, take a look back at the greatest matches to ever take place on the blue brand.
Jeff Hardy vs. Triple H – Intercontinental Championship Match: April 12, 2001
For most of their early years in WWE, The Hardy Boyz were known as tag team specialists. However, after he, his brother Matt and Lita suffered a vicious assault at the hands of Triple H, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Stephanie McMahon, Jeff Hardy took matters into his own hands days later on SmackDown, introducing a steel chair to The Game and The Texas Rattlesnake.
The Charismatic Enigma infuriated Triple H to the point where The Cerebral Assassin demanded a match with Hardy, even putting his Intercontinental Championship on the line. The two rivals didn’t even wait for the bell, as Triple H charged into the ring to trade blows with the high-flyer. With no one expecting him to survive the match, Jeff Hardy used his speed and agility to stay one step ahead of The Game, until Triple H caught him in mid-dive and powerslammed him into the arena floor.
That gave The King of Kings the opening he needed to pummel The Rainbow-Haired Warrior until Hardy landed a jawbreaker out of desperation. Hardy had Triple H in perfect position for the Swanton Bomb, until the champion knocked the official into the ropes. The referee admonished The Game and was shoved to the mat, allowing Matt Hardy to sneak in and clobber Triple H with a chair. Jeff followed up with a picture-perfect Swanton to capture his first singles championship as the WWE Universe exploded in elation. — BOBBY MELOK
Team Angle vs. Eddie Guerrero & Tajiri – WWE Tag Team Championship Match: May 29, 2003
So its tag team wrestling you want, is it? Well, look no further than this unheralded gem from 2003, in which Eddie Guerrero & Tajiri put their WWE Tag Team Championships on the line against the star-spangled villains of Team Angle, Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin.
With the Olympic goons having dispatched Chavo Guerrero weeks earlier (leading to Tajiri becoming his replacement), they looked to similarly negate The Japanese Buzzsaw by targeting his legs with brutal submission holds. Eddie held his own, leading to one of his most elaborate Lie-Cheat-Steal ploys to seal the match when he rang the bell to distract the referee, then did his patented foreign-object fake-out, framing Haas for striking him in the head with one of the twin titles.
Watching Eddie & Tajiri bounce away in their low-rider was one of the more satisfying post-victory visuals in SmackDown history. Man, we miss all of these guys. — ANTHONY BENIGNO
Alexa Bliss vs. Becky Lynch – SmackDown Women’s Championship Steel Cage Match, Jan. 17, 2017
Becky Lynch’s journey back to the SmackDown Women’s Championship wasn’t easy. There was a time, however, when the WWE Universe thought The Irish Lass Kicker’s return trip to the top of the mountain would be a shorter one.
After losing the title to Alexa Bliss in December 2016, Lynch found herself locked inside a Steel Cage with Little Miss Bliss in the main event of SmackDown LIVE. With nowhere for Five Feet of Fury to run, Lynch hurled the champion around the cage to the delight of the WWE Universe. Lynch nearly had her second title won when she locked Bliss in the Dis-arm-her, until the masked La Luchadora barged into the cage and kicked her square in the jaw, allowing Bliss to retain the championship. A frustrated Lynch went after the masked woman, revealing herself as the returning Mickie James in one of the most shocking conclusions in SmackDown LIVE history. — BOBBY MELOK
Triple H vs. The Rock – WWE Championship Match w/ Shawn Michaels & Shane McMahon as special guest referees: Aug. 26, 1999
They say first impressions count. And WWE took that to heart as a blockbuster main event was scheduled for SmackDown’s official series premiere. The Rock challenged Triple H, who had ascended to the top of the mountain by finally winning the WWE Title earlier that week. To make things a little more special, The Game’s old pal and then-WWE Commissioner, Shawn Michaels, was brought in as referee.
HBK ejected Chyna from ringside, but Shane McMahon scurried down to take Chyna’s place. After The Boy Wonder attempted to interfere one too many times, The People’s Champion had enough and blasted Shane with a big right hand.
With the champion’s allies seemingly out of the picture, The Great One planted Triple H with a Rock Bottom and prepared to deliver The People’s Elbow, but HBK shockingly connected with a vicious Sweet Chin Music to Rocky’s jaw. A Pedigree later and The Game retained his title, reuniting the DX founders and continuing Triple H’s first title reign. — ZACH LINDER
Kurt Angle vs. Booker T – WCW Championship Match: July 26, 2001
Could a WWE Superstar actually capture WCW’s premiere championship? It happened on SmackDown on July 26, 2001, when WCW Champion Booker T was defeated by WWE’s Kurt Angle in a historic match that turned the tides of the Invasion. But for the defending champion, it was about more than just titles.
“Coming to WWE, I had to prove myself all over again,” Booker T told WWE.com. “To be able to go out there and do it against Kurt Angle was like icing on the cake.”
The eventual five-time WCW titleholder knew stepping into the ring with an Olympic Gold Medalist meant having to elevate his game in unprecedented ways. And while Booker did his very best, Angle was just that much better to bring the WCW Championship to WWE’s side of the fence.
“Kurt was one of those guys that if you didn’t work up to his level, he’d run over you. I knew my intensity was going to have to go up another level,” Booker explained. “I always compared myself to the great wrestlers, and I thought Kurt was great.” — ZACH LINDER
Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match – June 27, 2017
History was made with the first-ever Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match, but the outcome was tainted for many when James Ellsworth retrieved the briefcase and dropped it to a waiting Carmella. So, the call was made to re-contest the bout on SmackDown LIVE one week later.
The women of SmackDown LIVE once again engaged in thrilling high-stakes battle. Ellsworth once again tried to make his presence felt, only for Becky Lynch to shove him off a ladder into the ring ropes. The Irish Lass Kicker seemed to have the contract within reach, until The Princess of Staten Island bashed her with a steel chair and confirmed her place in the history books as the first-ever Ms. Money in the Bank. — BOBBY MELOK
Eddie Guerrero vs. John Cena – United States Championship Parking Lot Brawl: Sept 11, 2003
By the time they were finished tossing each other through windshields and onto car hoods during their Parking Lot Brawl, the battered bodies of Eddie Guerrero and John Cena could’ve easily passed for crash-test dummies. The unorthodox bout, inspired by Cena’s theft of Latino Heat’s low rider, saw the combatants encircled by cars inside a parking garage, with both Superstars making ample use of their surroundings.
“If anyone were to question whether I was all style and no substance, matches like that certainly deaden the conversation,” John Cena told WWE.com. “It showed everybody that not only could I talk the talk, but I could walk the walk.”
WWE Hall of Famer Guerrero, well known for his ring presence, even proved to have parking garage awareness, slyly slamming doors into Cena’s skull, spraying windshield wiper fluid into his eyes and burning him with a car cigarette lighter. Despite the bizarre environment, there’s honest-to-god wrestling to be found, too, like Cena’s delayed vertical suplex (onto a car hood) or Eddie’s match-winning Frog Splash delivered from the roof of a minivan onto Cena, who was on the hood of an adjacent vehicle. The real winner here, besides WWE fans? The Brisco Bros. Body Shop, of course. — JOHN CLAPP
Rey Mysterio vs. Matt Hardy – Cruiserweight Championship Match: June 5, 2003
Perhaps no Superstar is as closely associated with the now-defunct Cruiserweight Title as eight-time champion Rey Mysterio. But when The Master of the 619 challenged extra-large cruiserweight Matt Hardy for the crown in June 2003, with his family in attendance, The Ultimate Underdog was looking to reclaim the title for the first time in nearly four years. Hardy wasn’t all Mysterio had to worry about, either, as the champion had Mattitude Followers Shannon Moore & Crash Holly prowling around ringside, and Mysterio was battling a nagging groin injury.
The injury might’ve hamstrung Rey’s trademark, fast-paced offense slightly, but the lucha king still managed to use his speed and creativity to launch himself into crazy moves like an insane springboard senton to the floor. No matter what Hardy threw at Mysterio — a second-rope Side Effect, a top-rope legdrop — The Ultimate Underdog wouldn’t stay down. After a series of steadily heightening high-risk moves, Mysterio scored the victory and the championship gold in the most unlikely fashion: a double-leg takedown and quick rollup. — JOHN CLAPP
John Cena vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, Aug. 1 2017
Calling the first-time-ever battle between John Cena and Shinsuke Nakamura a “Dream Match” almost seemed to downplay the epic battle between two of sports-entertainment’s biggest Superstars. Yet here it was on a Tuesday night in August – a 16-time World Champion clashing with one of Japan’s most famous exports, with a WWE Championship Match at SummerSlam hanging in the balance.
Cena used pure strength to counter the precision striking and ruthless submissions of WWE’s Rockstar, but The King of Strong Style emerged victorious after clobbering Cena with a Kinshasa knee strike in an all-out war that had the WWE Universe dreaming of a rematch as soon as the final bell rang. — BOBBY MELOK
JBL vs. Eddie Guerrero – WWE Championship Steel Cage Match: July 15, 2004
Following Bradshaw’s stunning transformation from barroom brawler to Wall Street tycoon JBL, the newly crowned WWE Champion engaged in a heated rivalry with cult hero Eddie Guerrero that culminated in a brutal Steel Cage bout. Always known to top himself, Eddie ascended the structure and performed his signature Frog Splash onto a prone JBL lying on the canvas.
“Doing the Frog Splash off the top of the cage was pretty spectacular, but people don’t realize that the guy he landed on is where the problem came in,” JBL recalled. “I thought he broke me in half. I couldn’t feel the entire right side of my body for about 45 seconds. Nick Patrick, the referee, leaned down and said, ‘Are you OK?’ And I said, ‘I don’t think so.’”
JBL managed to recover and retain his title with the help of Kurt Angle who appeared under a Mexican luchador mask. But the sight of Eddie torpedoing down from the cage has remained one of the most indelible images in SmackDown’s history for both fans and for JBL. — ZACH LINDER
Edge & Rey Mysterio vs. Los Guerreros – No. 1 Contender Match for WWE Tag Team Championship: Oct. 24, 2002
This match is fast, fast, fast. Every Superstar involved moves like they got shot out of a cannon. Edge, especially, is a house on fire, sprinting pell-mell across the ring and spearing opponents with such reckless abandon you think he’s going to break himself in half. Eddie and Chavo put on an acrobatic display worthy of a Cirque du Soleil. Chavo in particular is a revelation to those who only know him from his latter, more methodical style during his WWE career. And Rey? Well, The Ultimate Underdog legitimately dazzles in his limited action during the eight-minute contest, scurrying around like Sonic the Hedgehog and executing a standing moonsault that takes your breath away.
It’s four innovators at the height of their powers. The only disappointment is that Kurt Angle interferes before the match can reach a conclusion that would have surely been as epic as the rest of it. — ANTHONY BENIGNO
The New Day vs. Bludgeon Brothers – SmackDown Tag Team Championship No Disqualification Match, Aug. 21, 2018
Yes, The New Day may love to have fun (and scarf pancakes while doing it), but they can certainly throw down when the time comes. After being pummeled by The Bludgeon Brothers in a vicious mallet attack at SummerSlam, Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods knew that they would have to get extreme to end Harper & Rowan’s reign of terror.
It did not look good for The New Day in the early goings of the match, as The Bludgeon Brothers slammed Kingston into a steel ladder splayed between two chairs. But as the battle wore on, Harper & Rowan’s lust for wanton destruction was their undoing. Kingston & Woods used speed to their advantage, evading a charging Rowan and sending him crashing through the ringside barricade. Kingston used Harper’s fearsome mallet against him, then held him on a table as Woods soared through the air, planting an elbow into Harper’s sternum and driving him through the table to secure The New Day’s fifth tag team championship. — BOBBY MELOK
The Shield vs. Randy Orton & Team Hell No: June 14, 2013
It’s hard to imagine Daniel Bryan, Kane and Randy Orton coexisting, but the trio somehow cooperated to give The Shield their first Six-Man Tag Team Match loss in June 2013. At the time, The Hounds of Justice were unstoppable, having won the WWE Tag Team Titles and the United States Championship by way of their military precision and a ruthless disregard for their opponents. After dominating throughout the match, The Shield were forced on the defensive when Kane unleashed on Dean Ambrose with a fiery barrage. With a blind tag, Bryan continued the assault by sending all three Shield members outside the ring and then throwing himself at his dazed opponents with reckless abandon. After Kane took out Reigns and Orton stunned Rollins with an aerial RKO, Bryan made The Architect tap out.
“They caught us that night, what can I say?” Rollins told WWE.com. “It was actually a little bit of a relief to get that first loss out of the way, because there’s a lot of pressure that comes with being undefeated.”
Even though Rollins admits that The Shield was off its game that night, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more exciting and competitive Six-Man Tag Team Match. — JAMES WORTMAN
Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle – WWE Championship Iron Man Match: Sept. 18, 2003
Arguably one of the greatest matches ever to have taken place on a SmackDown telecast happened on Sept. 18, 2003, as then-WWE Champion Kurt Angle took on the challenge of the upstart Brock Lesnar in an Iron Man Match. Whoever scored the most falls within a one-hour time limit would be declared the winner.
There was no love lost between these two combatants, which was evident in the first decision, as Lesnar got himself disqualified for nailing Angle with a chair. With the Olympian now somewhat incapacitated, Lesnar evened the score at 1-1 with his F-5. As the match progressed, the challenger built what appeared to be a commanding 5-2 decisions lead. But Angle came roaring back, and had narrowed the gap to 5-4; the momentum had clearly shifted.
With less than four minutes remaining, a desperate Lesnar hit Angle with a lowblow. But the champion quickly recovered and applied his patented ankle lock to try to win a fall and take the match to sudden death overtime. But it was not to be, as time had expired, and a very fortunate Brock Lesnar won the match, and became the new WWE Champion. — HOWARD FINKEL
Edge vs. Eddie Guerrero – No Disqualification Match: Sept. 26, 2002
On Sept. 26, 2002, San Diego, Calif., was the setting for the culmination of a bitter rivalry between two consummate Superstars: Edge and Eddie Guerrero. Having suffered a loss to Guerrero at the Unforgiven event only days prior, Edge wanted Guerrero anew at the earliest opportunity possible, so a No Disqualification Match was booked, where anything and everything goes. And did it ever!
This was a closely contested bout, especially when ladders and chairs were introduced. Each man was hell-bent on capitalizing with the additional in-ring hardware. From an amazing sunset flip off the ladder by Guerrero, to the match-winning “Edge-a-cution” from the rungs by the talented Canadian, this match undoubtedly set the bar for matches of this type — not to mention matches on SmackDown — going forward. — HOWARD FINKEL