Farewell Gonzo SmackDown…

Tomorrow will be the end of the world as we know it. It will be the final SmackDown with the entire WWE roster on it.
The E will hold its live roster draft next Tuesday on SmackDown. From there on out Raw and SmackDown will each have unique rosters.
WWE of course had 2 separate rosters on Raw and SmackDown from 2002-2011.
When the roster walls initially broke down on August 20, 2011 SmackDown was labeled a Super Show. Once the magic wore off (I would say probably late 2012-early 2013), SmackDown entered what I like to call The Gonzo Era.
SmackDown openly alternated  between being Raw’s forgotten ugly duckling sibling to being a legitimately beautiful showcase for wrestling.
Who could forget the Tag Team Turmoil Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan had to go through in February 2015? In classic booking fashion, two future opponents (Reigns and Bryan) were forced to team against other actual teams one after the other. That was literally the entire show that night. 
Daniel Bryan also wrestled a Casket Match against Kane in January 2015. It was his first match back since May 2014 and he was being built as the face of SmackDown at the time. Bryan would ultimately wrestle his last match ever on SmackDown in a tag team match with John Cena  against Tyson Kidd and Cesaro. 
Also, who could forget March 2015’s brutal contest between Sheamus and Bryan when Sheamus threw his foe all over the place. The Celtic Warrior even bloodied Bryan up badly by sending him flying from the edge of the ring all the way to the Announcers Table.
Speaking of Announcers Tables, who could forget the revolving door of commentators during SmackDown’s Gonzo Era. There have been 25 different commentator pairings on SmackDown since 2011. TWENTY-FIVE! Check out the full list here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_WWE_Smackdown_on-air_personalities
Here are my top 4 pairings in random order: 1) Michael Cole, Josh Matthews and JBL 2) Tom Phillips, Jerry Lawler and Jimmy Uso 3) Rich Brennan, Jerry Lawler and Jimmy Uso (#NeverForget the Summer of Uso on SmackDown)  4) Mauro Ranallo, Jerry Lawler and Byron Saxton.
No matter the pairings, whether it was all faces, guys who had never worked with one another or just random personalities stepping up to the plate for commentating duties (Jimmy Uso, David Otunga, Booker T, Alex Riley, The Miz, Brad Maddox, etc.) it always worked.
SmackDown has always been the destination for glitzy one-of-a-kind matches. Just last week we had Jey Uso vs. Seth Rollins, Enzo Amore vs. AJ Styles, and Sami Zayn vs. Chris Jericho. Where else could you see that?
SmackDown often felt like WWE if it were an independent wrestling promotion.
SmackDown has never shied away from bizarre, awkward, surreal backstage segments that would never make it on Raw. Here are 2 recent examples:
Nikki Bella’s Divas Championship Celebration gone wrong
Kevin Owens trolling Chris Jericho over his scarf
SmackDown is certainly not without its flaws. You never knew when the show would consist of Raw highlights only, unnecessary multi-men tag team matches or pointless talking segments.
Also there were cringe-worthy Roman Reigns promos to spare including the infamous “Suffering Succotash”
You know what? Even SmackDown’s lows can be forgiven and to a certain extent they are what made it great in the first place. Sometimes I’d watch the program to see how low it would go. Sometimes it was so awful one week that if the show managed to be a 5/10 the next week it felt like a triumph. Part of the excitement was the unpredictability of the quality.
The show was imperfect, but it was always there. No matter if it was Tuesday, Thursday or Friday, SmackDown was guaranteed to be must-see.
At the minimum, over the Gonzo-Era, SmackDown was always my must-watch show of the week. It truly was the only show I would build my schedule around.
SmackDown has a dedicated, cult following who like it for a variety of reasons. With the draft coming up and the show going live plenty of new fans will jump aboard. I hope management does not abandon the long-time fans.
With Shane McMahon acting as the Commissioner, the show should have all the bases covered in terms of in-ring action and entertainment. Rumors are abound that Daniel Bryan will become the General Manager, so that further emphasizes the positive direction of the show.
I just hope SmackDown continues to blossom as the unique, post-modern, avant-garde, weird masterpiece it developed into over the years.
Before SmackDown goes serious and competitive on us…for one more night let’s cherish this revelatory wrestling program that’s unlike anything else on television.
by: Kevin D’Hooge

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