Arena Report - Verizon Center
Tonight is a homecoming of sorts for several of WWE's biggest names, as SmackDown returns to the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. with only two days until SummerSlam.
Batista will be looking to make a statement as he returns to his hometown of Washington, D.C. The Animal has been on an absolute tear since returning to action at The Great American Bash, and just last week he thanked King Booker for holding his Championship for him, assuring the King that he'd want his gold back at SummerSlam. Batista will definitely have the hometown crowd behind him when he attempts to send King Booker one last message before Sunday's pay-per-view. What that message will be, and how King Booker will respond remains to be determined.
The nation's capital is also, in a sense, the home of WWE itself. Washington, D.C. is where Vince McMahon, Sr. cut his teeth in the sports-entertainment industry in the 1950s and 60s. The company that would eventually become WWE, the Capital Wrestling Corporation, had an office in the Franklin Park Hotel at 14th & I street in the District.
With only two nights before Hulk Hogan takes on the Legend Killer Randy Orton at the Biggest Party of the Summer, SmackDown appropriately arrives at the host venue of last year's SummerSlam, where the Immortal Icon was also the main attraction. Many of those in attendance tonight will remember being in the packed house one year ago when, in one of the most eagerly anticipated matches in SummerSlam history, Hogan narrowly defeated Shawn Michaels, escaping a sharpshooter, flying elbow, and Sweet Chin Music to emerge with a hard-fought, bloody victory. After the match, the two men shook hands with HBK telling Hogan he needed this match to find out for himself. What he found out was something that Randy Orton hopes to avoid finding out on Sunday -- that Hulkamania still dominates all comers.
In other SummerSlam history, exactly 10 years ago to the day, SummerSlam was in full swing at the Gund Arena in Cleveland. Fans will recall the tremor they felt when Yokozuna attempted a Bonzai Drop that collapsed the ring. The destruction allowed Stone Cold Steve Austin to roll-up Yokozuna and win the Free For All Match. Also that night, Shawn Michaels defeated Vader to retain the WWE Championship after Vader had technically won both by disqualification and count-out.
The last time SmackDown was at the Verizon Center was earlier this year. On February 27, both SmackDown and RAW were in the house for a Supershow that lived up to its billing. On RAW, Mr. McMahon and Shane forced Shawn Michaels to join the Mr. McMahon Kiss My Ass Club. Later, in what was billed as the greatest main event in SmackDown history, Undertaker took on Kurt Angle just two weeks removed from their epic World Heavyweight Championship Match at No Way Out. After hitting a Tombstone, the Phenom looked poised for victory when Mark Henry stormed the ring and attacked, resulting in a disqualification. In the aftermath, nearly 20,000 Verizon Center onlookers watched in horror as The World's Strongest Man delivered the World's Strongest Splash, putting Undertaker through the SmackDown announce table from atop the Spanish announce table.
On April 30, 2000, the Verizon Center hosted the Backlash pay-per-view, which saw a classic lesson in overcoming long odds. The Rock challenged Triple H for the WWE Championship, with Shane McMahon as special guest referee and Mr. McMahon in Triple H's corner. Shane attempted to quick-count Triple H's pin attempts and refused to count at all for The Rock. After a barrage of interference by the McMahons, Gerald Brisco and Pat Patterson, The Rock was down and out. All Triple H had to do was make the cover, but The Rock finally got a little help as Stone Cold charged in and cleaned house with a steel chair, making way for an epic People's Elbow from The Rock and a 1-2-3 to crown a new WWE Champion. In a spine-tingling moment of pure jubilation, The People's Champ then joined the Texas Rattlesnake in a beer-soaked celebration.
The Verizon Center is the premiere venue for sports and entertainment in the D.C. area, and hosts home games for the NBA's Washington Wizards and NHL's Washington Capitals. Formerly known as the MCI Center, the telecommunications connection has brought some to refer to the arena as "The Phone Booth." The SmackDown Superstars will be looking to dial in their final big performances before journeying north to Boston for SummerSlam, so be sure to tune in tonight at 8/9 CT on UPN.