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WWE Tribute To The Troops - Christmas From Baghdad

by Scrooge McSuck

- It's Seasons Beatings time on WWE Classics on Demand, so let's take a look back to one of the earliest Tributes to the Troops. I'm assuming 2003 won't be shown, ever, thanks to the most high profile match on the show featuring Chris Benoit.

- Originally broadcasted on December 23rd, 2004 (a typical Thursday night), but taped about a week in advance. This was back when I still cared about watching Smackdown. Now, I barely remember it's even on the air. Michael Cole and Tazz are calling the action. I doubt if they're actually there, as we never see them on camera. This was back when WWE filmed the show in in the middle of a military camp, with nothing but troops in uniform as the crowd. It sure makes for a different atmosphere, but an outdoor show always gets me interested.

- Vince McMahon comes out to the ring to open the show. He plays face for a while, kissing up to the troops, then introduces Lilian Garcia, who sings the National Anthem. Remember when they had her singing it on the Smackdown After 9-11? Anyway, nice way to open the show. I should note that in between all the matches are videos of the WWE Superstars on this trip, as well as videos and messages from the Troops themselves. No disrespect to the American troops, but I won't be covering all of these. Forgiveness, please.

Booker T vs. Rene Dupree:

What ever happened to Rene Dupree? When he first came up in 2003, he was only 19 years old, so even now, 5-6 years away from WWE, he's STILL under 30. I couldn't honestly tell you what Booker T was doing at the time. I guess he was doing some time filler main event stuff with JBL, but I can't honestly tell you one thing from that program. Lockup into the corner, and Booker gives a clean break. Dupree with an elbow to escape a hammerlock, followed by right. Whip to the ropes, Booker with a hip toss, followed by a scoop slam. Whip to the ropes, and Booker connects with a clothesline. He sets for the Scissors Kick, but Dupree runs to the corner, then catches Booker with a low-blow, behind the back of the referee, of course. Dupree with a snapmare and fist drop. It's French Tickler time, and he drops an elbow for two. Dupree hooks a chinlock, but that doesn't last long. Booker fights free with elbows, then sends Dupree in the air with a one-man flapjack. Whip to the ropes, Booker with a forearm, followed by a jumping heel kick. Booker catches Dupree off the ropes with a spinebuster, and it's spin-a-rooni time! Booker with a boot, and the Scissors Kick finishes it at 3:38. Brisk match. It was pretty much all Booker T, with Dupree doing very little. Yes, even in a 4-minute match, I can tell who's working the hardest.

- Santa Claus comes out, and not to ruin the surprise, but it's Mick Foley. He trots out Torrie Wilson, Dawn Marie, and Jackie Gayda as eye candy for the troops. They toss out some clearance stuff from WWEshop.com, and a few kisses as well. Santana then gives out some random presents, like a half-bottle of Gatorade for Dawn Marie for being naughty. I'm sure Kamala would agree with that present for her (that's going to be a dated joke in about a year). We end up getting a cat-fight over some lingerie between Marie and Jackie, who had something to do with Charlie Haas at the time. Don't ask, Smackdown was really bad at this point.

The Undertaker vs. Heidenreich:

Remember when this was supposed to build to a 'Taker/Kane vs. Heidenreich/Snitsky match at either the Rumble or WrestleMania 21? Thank goodness that never came to be. Very, very surprised that the Undertaker made the trip. His entrance doesn't quite have the same effect without dimmed lights and his trenchcoat, but no big deal. Undertaker attacks with clubbering blows and stomping in the corner. Whip to the corner, Undertaker follows in, only to meet a boot. Heidenreich comes off the ropes and takes a boot, in return. Undertaker grabs the arm, and it's time to go Old School. Undertaker with an awkward inverted DDT (as called by Cole, I couldn't tell you what it was). Heidenreich takes control and connects with a lunging clothesline for two. We take it outside the ring, with 'Taker regaining control. Undertaker off the apron with a leg drop across the chest. Whip to the corner, and Undertaker rolls snake eyes. He hits the ropes, only to be taken down with a sidewalk slam. Heidenreich with stomping now, followed by choking. Whip to the ropes, and a diving clothesline gets two. Undertaker fights back for a slugfest, but gets caught in a sleeper hold. He quickly counters, taking Heidenreich off his feet with a back suplex. Undertaker with clubberin' rights, followed by his signature diving clothesline for a two count. Undertaker with a charging clothesline into the corner. Undertaker with snake eyes for the second time, followed by a running boot. Undertaker with a leg drop for two. Heidenreich escapes a chokeslam, and tries to take a hike, but sells not being able to climb through the crowd of Troops. Instead, he's simply Counted-Out at 7:38. A lame, cop-out finish for the Troops? WWE Smackdown is there for you!

Hardcore Holly vs. Kenzo Suzuki:

Whatever happened to Holly? He seemed like he was an employed for life guy, much like Steve Lombardi. I draw the comparison because, honestly, what the fuck has either done in wrestling to earn that much tenure with a company where the average life span is 3-4 years? Holly grabs a headlock, then comes off the ropes with a shoulder. What was Kenzo's name supposed to be? Miamoto or something? Quick resarch (Wikipedia) points it out as Hirohito. Holly with chops in the corner. Whip to the ropes and Suzuki surprises Holly with a Hot Shot. Whip to the corner, and Suzuki follows in with a clothesline. He grabs a chinlock, because it's the heel thing to do. Holly makes a comeback and connects with his signature dropkick for a two count. Holly to the top rope, and a clothesline gets another two count. Holly with the Alabama Slam, and it's over at 2:39. Wow, that was a total squash match. 'Cause, you know, in the era of 21st century wrestling, HARDCORE HOLLY needs to squash people. Nothing match.

- JBL comes out for some goofing off. He's decked out in a bio-hzzard suit, and yes, he DOES have the cowboy hat on, too. This leads into a confrontation with the Big Show, who I guess was the Challenger of the Month™ for JBL's title. Honestly, name the PPV's and the opponents for JBL. It's hard to remember since nothing was memorable. I much prefered a show in Japan where JBL picked a fight with Godzilla, and no, I'm not making that up. I think it was a few months after this show.

Eddie Guerrero & Rey Mysterio vs. Kurt Angle & Luther Reigns:

In another "whatever happened to..." question, what about Luther Reigns? He left WWE in mid-2005, and I don't recall him showing up anywhere, since. Odd having Eddie and Rey together, since Rey was working as a regular partner with Rob Van Dam at the time (and were the reigning Tag Team Champions). Maybe he was caught with something in his luggage. Mysterio and Angle start. Angle goes for a waistlock, then quickly starts working on the arm. Mysterio uses the ropes to counter, but gets taken over with an arm drag, and it's back to the armbar for Angle. Reigns tags in, pounding away. He connects with a back breaker for two. Angle with a suplex for two. Reigns sends Rey to the corner, then meets the boots on a charge. Mysterio takes him down with a DDT, and tags out to Guerrero. He drops Angle with a pair of clotheslines. Guerrero with a dropkick on Reigns, followed by a double-team arm drag and head scissors. Eddie with the Three Amigos on Angle, but before the third could be completed, Angle hooks the Ankle Lock. Guerrero counters with a drop toe hold, but the 6-1-9 is interrupted by Reigns. Angle Slam on Guerrero, and there goes the straps. Rey takes Angle to the floor with a head scissors, leaving Reigns in the ring with Guerrero. Eddie thumbs the eyes, and a double-team from the good guys ends with the 6-1-9. Eddie to the top rope, and the Frog Splash gets two. Angle breaks the cover, gets dumped again, and Mysterio with a springboard leg drop to finish Reigns off at 6:02. Very rushed, but considering location and weather conditions, I'm not going to complain too much.

Final Thoughts: Match quality isn't important here. Yes, it aired in the regular Smackdown rotation, and there was some minor involvement between feuding opponents, but this was obviously just a "let's do something for the troops" and get some good publicity for once, and it became a tradition every year. It's a fun waste of time, and I'm sure some people would appreciate the videos in-between matches with stories from the soldiers and the WWE Superstars making the rounds around the camp. Watch if you're interested, but don't go in looking to criticize the lack of quality wrestling.

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