Torch Flashbacks TORCH FLASHBACK 10 YRS. AGO: WWE airs Smackdown following 9/11 - was it the right decision?, plus Sept. 13, 2011 Smackdown TV report
Sep 13, 2011 - 1:02:24 PM
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PWTORCH NEWSLETTER COVER STORY #671
Cover Dated September 22, 2001
HEADLINE: While most events cancelled, WWF airs Smackdown
SUBHEADLINE: WWF changes format to "patriotic tribute," defends decision as being much-needed escape
By Wade Keller, Torch editor
The WWF's decision to broadcast Smackdown rather than cancel the event went against the trend of most major touring acts. Most notably the NFL and Major League Baseball, but also much of college sports and many races and golf tournaments cancelled or postponed any events until after the weekend.
The WWF's decision internally was based largely on the fact that their entire crew was stranded in Houston, Tex. and that they felt they could do a good job creating a diversion for their fans and a tribute to those who were directly involved in the tragedies. Smackdown, postponed from Tuesday to Thursday, consisted of straight-forward matches with babyfaces beating heels, plus a "patriotic" show-opening speech by Vince McMahon, a singing of the National Anthem, and out-of-character comments by wrestlers regarding how Tuesday's tragic events affected them.'
"After much deliberation and discussions with local officials in Houston, we have decided that the show should go on," said Linda McMahon in a press release. "We do this to support the call by President Bush and other political leaders to get Americans back to their everyday routines after this barbaric act of terrorism, and for many Americans, WWF SmackDown! on Thursday night is part of their regular routine. This week's WWF SmackDown! will depart from our traditional format, and will be a special tribute to the spirit of the American people and our democracy, both of which have shone brightly during this terrible tragedy."
The mainstream media didn't acknowledge the WWF's decision to air Smackdown, although it was likely mainly because the WWF flew under most radar screens last week. Phil Mushnick wrote a Sunday column in the New York Post cynically wondering when sports would return to normal. He mentioned Smackdown in passing, but didn't seem to be aware that the WWF had already "returned to business as usual" three days before his column ran.
In the Washington Post, Thomas Boswell wrote about what went into the decisions to cancel events. "For Americans, a month from now, it won't matter whether games were played this weekend. It truly is trivial... The real message for terrorists -- and not just those who struck on Tuesday -- is that the cancellation of all these silly, meaningless American games is one of the worst pieces of news they could get. When Americans are ready to put down their games, they are ready to take up arms. Just one day ago, every sport seemed to be on a different page. Now, in a blink, everybody agrees. Nobody's breaking step. We see this galvanized unity in Congress, in the media, in the military and intelligence communities. And now we see it in sports, too." The WWF was not in step with everyone else.
Most of the WWF crew had driven from Raw in San Antonio to Houston on Monday night, so they had just fallen asleep a couple hours before the Trade Centers were attacked. They were either awakened by cell phone calls from family and friends, or from fellow wrestlers knocking on their doors. Smackdown was officially cancelled by the WWF around noon. They immediately stated their plans to air Smackdown live on Thursday instead. They confirmed that decision on Wednesday afternoon, never publicly hedging on their intent to broadcast the show one way or another. Had major additional events occurred that threatened security at the arena, or had local officials stepped in and recommended the show be cancelled, WWF management was prepared to do so.
Wrestlers were mixed in their thoughts, and many struggled with whether it was the right decision to go on with the show. Adam Copeland (a/k/a Edge) said during his segment on Smackdown that he wasn't sure it was the right thing to do, but ended up agreeing with the decision. Management, however, put up a united front.
Jim Ross, on WWF.com on Friday, defended the WWF's decision to run Smackdown: "President Bush, along with other political leaders, have encouraged us all to attempt to get back to normal, as soon as possible, with our everyday lives. I agree. We cannot allow these barbaric animals to think for one second they can bring us to our knees and keep us there. It is in this spirit that we decided to air Smackdown live Thursday night... After speaking with company officials, TV executives, and local politicians, the decision was made Wednesday afternoon to do Smackdown live Thursday night. Talent and crew were given the option of not working if they chose not to. No one exercised that option, even though many probably had reservations about performing their functions.
"Doing the event/program was the right thing to do. I applaud Vince McMahon's decision. Those who may have been reluctant prior to Smackdown were, to a man and woman, happy they were able to return to work and provide entertainment for those who chose to watch our broadcast. I truly feel it was therapeutic for all involved. It certainly was for me. My eyes filled with tears as our superstars entered the arena for Lillian Garcia's stirring rendition of our National Anthem.
"I hope those of you who watched Smackdown enjoyed the presentation, and I hope we were able to entertain you for a couple of hours in your challenging day. Pure and simple, that was the goal. Our decision to run the event, which was filled to capacity at the Compaq Center, will no doubt draw criticism from some. That certainly is their prerogative, but if they could have seen the faces of the fans who packed the arena who wanted to be there, and the faces of every talent and staff member in our company, perhaps they would change their minds."
The WWF had only one house show scheduled over the weekend. The Sunday event in Kentucky was cancelled supposedly in part due to uncertainty over flights and so wrestlers would have a chance to be at home with family and friends. However, some wrestlers were told that it might be best to drive from Houston directly to Nashville, Tenn. for Raw on Monday if they felt there was a good chance of airport delays which could them to miss the event.
Everything was back to business as usual on Monday, with television content shifting gears back to hyping Sunday's PPV. The WWF opened Raw with a TitanTron full of American flags, and a screen underneath the TitanTron broadcast a graphic of a waving flag throughout the rest of the show. The WWF successfully and admirably stayed away from even giving off the image of incorporating the events of Sept. 11 into their hype for the PPV or into building babyface sympathy or heel heat.
WWF Smackdown Report
September 13, 2001
Live in Houston, Tex.
Hosts: Michael Cole and Tazz... Vince McMahon opened the show with a speech praising America's resilience. Vince stated that "the spirit of America is still alive" and thanked the fans of Houston "for the honor and privilege of performing before you tonight." The entire locker room of WWF wrestlers and road agents walked onto the entrance ramp. Moments later, the Alliance wrestlers joined the WWF wrestlers on the ramp... Lillian Garcia sang the American national anthem as some wrestlers wept, while others waved American flags. Once she finished singing, Garcia began crying in the ring...
(1) The Hardys (w/Lita) beat Lance Storm & Hurricane Helms in 3:00. In the end, Jeff hit a Swanton Bomb and scored the pin... Video clips aired of Terri and Rock making separate comments regarding the terrorist attacks...
(2) Rob Van Dam beat Spike Dudley (w/Molly) in 2:00. The match was short and sweet and ended after Van Dam hit a frogsplash... Video clips aired of Chris Jericho and Michael Hayes's separate comments regarding the attacks... After a commercial break, a video clip aired of Lita's comments...
(3) Chris Jericho beat Christian in 2:00. Before the match, Jericho cut a promo mocking Christian's new entrance music. Late in the match, Christian argued with the ref, which enabled Jericho to roll him up for the win... Chris Kanyon's comments regarding the tragedies aired. Kanyon said his cousins were "cops helping out in the rescue effort" in New York... A video clip aired of Tazz's comments regarding the attacks... After a commercial break, separate video clips aired of comments made by Torrie Wilson, Hurricane Helms, and Bubba Ray Dudley regarding the attacks... Rock walked to the ring and issued an open challenge to defend the WCW Title. Shawn Stasiak walked onto the stage and accepted the challenge as Stacy Keibler stood next to him. Stasiak charged the ring, but Rock threw him over the top rope and back to the floor. Rock took the mic and mockingly re-issued his open challenge. Stasiak got upset and ran at Rock again, but Rock threw him over the top rope for a second time. Rock re-issued his challenge. Stasiak charged at Rock again, but Rock asked him to stop. Rock assumed that Stasiak had to be embarrassed and in pain. Rock also asked Stasiak if he likes pie. After Stasiak told him no, Rock assumed that Stasiak likes strudel. Rock asked Keibler if she liked "The People's Strudel." Stacy smiled on the ramp and nodded yes in approval.
(4) The Rock beat Shawn Stasiak in 0:05. Rock offered to shake Stasiak's hand. Stasiak accepted, but Rock gave him the Rock Bottom and scored the pin, which was counted by heel ref Nick Patrick... A video clip aired of Debra's comments regarding the attacks... After a break, Ivory commented on the attacks...
(5) The APA beat Albert & X-Pac in 3:00. In the end, Bradshaw hit the Clothesline from Hell for the win... A video clip aired of Kurt Angle comments regarding the attacks...
(6) Booker T beat Big Show in 3:00. Late in the match, Booker hit two scissor kicks and a spinning leg drop for the win... Separate video clips aired of Lance Storm and D-Von Dudley commenting on the attacks...
(7) Lita beat Ivory in 4:00 with a moonsault... A video clip aired of Stacy Keibler's comments on the attacks... Steve Austin commented on the attacks, calling the terrorists "cowards"... After a commercial break, Booker T offered his comments on the attacks... Stephanie McMahon commented on the terrorist attacks. Steph used her father's earlier court battle as an analogy, stating that her family, like America, only came closer when times were tough...
(8) Test & The Dudleys beat William Regal & Tajiri & Scotty Too Hotty in 4:00. In the end, Test hit the Big Boot on Scotty and scored the pin... Brief video clips aired of Regal and Albert commenting on the attacks...
(9) Kurt Angle beat Rhyno in 6:00. Late in the match, Rhyno Gored Angle for a nearfall. Moments later, Angle came back with the Olympic Slam for the win... After the match, Angle led the crowd in chanting "USA" to close the show...
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