5 Superstars that were made on SmackDown
When WWE split its roster into two unique brands in 2016, SmackDown Commissioner Shane McMahon declared that Team Blue would be a “land of opportunity.” That’s wasn’t a new concept for SmackDown, which introduced the WWE Universe to a new generation of Superstars during the original brand extension in 2002.
As SmackDown approaches its historic 1000th episode, have a look back at the Superstars who took advantage.
Matt Hardy often wonders how they did WWE.com lists without him.
At the dawn of the original brand split in 2002, Matt and Jeff Hardy went their separate ways — Jeff to Raw and Matt to SmackDown — leaving the WWE Universe to wonder who would be the bigger breakout Superstar. Many pundits placed their bets on Jeff, wowed by his unique energy and daredevil tendencies. Hearing this, Matt realized that he needed to go back to square one … Version 1, that is.
Completely retooling his attitude (or, Mattitude as it would come to be known) and demeanor, Hardy endorsed this relatively new thing called the internet and created Version 1 — a brand that was all about embracing two things: Everything cutting-edge and telling the world how stinking great Matt Hardy was.
Matt would develop “Matt Facts” (little nuggets about him that appeared on the screen during his dialup-inspired entrance), gain Mattitude Followers (shout-outs to Shannon Moore and his Moore-Ons), and become one of the most dominant Cruiserweight Champions in SmackDown history, even main-eventing an episode with a title defense against Rey Mysterio.
Version 1 catapulted Matt up the blue-brand ranks and saw him take the internet by storm long before it was really even possible to do so … it would be far from the last time The Sensei of Mattitude pulled that off, though. — RYAN PAPPOLLA
Edge was on a roll in 2001. He started a slow split from longtime tag team partner Christian and found immediate success as the King of the Ring and WCW United States Champion, so the 29-year-old was a hot commodity in the 2002 Brand Extension Draft.
He was long considered a Superstar ready to breakout, and Edge quickly proved he was worthy of the 11th overall pick. He found himself in a series of instant classics against one-time friend Kurt Angle that saw him cut off The Olympic Hero’s hair as well as defeat him in a gory Steel Cage Match. Edge followed that up by forming a dream team with his childhood idol Hulk Hogan, and by the end of the year, he was a Paul Heyman interruption away from defeating Big Show to become WWE Champion. An injury put an early end to his SmackDown tenure , but the blue brand turned Edge from prospect to star. — JEFF LABOON
Leaping onto the SmackDown scene — literally — on July 25, 2002, Rey Mysterio scored an impressive early win when he defeated Chavo Guerrero in his debut WWE match. However, that same night, the masked marvel quickly cemented himself as a Team Blue standard-bearer when he helped John Cena and Edge repel The Anti-Americans by ascending a steel cage and, with catlike speed and agility, soaring off the structure to nail Christian and Lance Storm with a stunning cross-body before leveling Test with a hurricanrana. From that moment on, it became impossible to take your eyes off the blue brand’s superheroic luchador.
Rey stayed on the blue brand for six straight years, during which time he held the WWE Cruiserweight Title three times, the WWE Tag Team Championship four times, claimed an astounding Royal Rumble Match victory and scored a World Championship victory over Randy Orton and Kurt Angle at WrestleMania 22. Inspiring legions all over the world by conquering seemingly insurmountable odds against much larger Superstars, Mysterio more than lived up to his Ultimate Underdog moniker. — JAMES WORTMAN
Sure, you know him as the world-beating 16-time World Champion who came to Monday Night Raw in 2005 and almost exclusively cemented his legend on Team Red, but what lit the fuse was Cena’s stint on SmackDown, which saw him progress from a gritty upstart with what could be charitably described as a funny haircut, to the snarky, provocative stint as The Doctor of Thuganomics that cemented him as something far more unique than lightning in a bottle. The kid was the whole storm. — ANTHONY BENIGNO
There is, perhaps, no better example of SmackDown’s star-making capability than Eddie Guerrero. After returning to WWE in April 2002, Guerrero jumped to Team Blue in the summer, forming a tag team with his nephew Chavo. Their unashamed lying, cheating and stealing endeared them to the WWE Universe as they took part in an era of incredible tag team wrestling and twice captured the WWE Tag Team Titles.
But once he ventured back out on his own, Latino Heat reached new heights. Though many underestimated him because of his size, Guerrero defied all expectations. He captured the WWE Championship by slaying The Beast, defeating Brock Lesnar at No Way Out 2004. While detractors counted him out, Eddie Guerrero knew what he was capable of and took advantage of every opportunity, making himself a role model for every SmackDown Superstar. — BOBBY MELOK