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Everything to Know About The History of WWE's SmackDown

SmackDown returns to USA Network in 2024; we've compiled answers to all your SmackDown-related questions!

By Chris Phelan
Wide view of the SmackDown ring during an 8 man match

To paraphrase The Rock: "Finally, SmackDown is coming home."

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As reported last week, October 2024 signifies an important milestone in WWE history, as it's when SmackDown moves from FOX to USA Network and finally returns home to the network that gave the show its start.

Although the move is still well over a year away, it's the perfect time to give the WWE Universe a refresher on all things SmackDown! We've assembled a list of the most-asked questions revolving around the hit show and answered each one – it's us doing our part to celebrate the return of one of the most beloved shows in USA Network history.

Here's everything the WWE Universe needs to know about WWE SmackDown.

When Did WWE SmackDown Begin?

A wrestler stands on the edge of the Smackdown ring

Here's the answer to a low-key challenging WWE trivia question: SmackDown debuted on USA Network on Thursday, April 29, 1999!

Time flies, doesn't it? It seemed like only yesterday the WWE Universe's unbridled late-90s enthusiasm for WWE was rewarded with a second weekly television show. Say what you want about the Attitude Era – that it was too vulgar, too obscene, and entirely too bloody – but it did give the world WWE SmackDown! 

Which WWE Superstars Are on the SmackDown Roster?

Roman Reigns with his two title belts

Thanks to the 2023 WWE Draft, the current SmackDown roster reads like a who's-who in sports entertainment. Of course, you can't talk about any SmackDown Superstar without mentioning Roman Reigns, the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion. The Tribal Chief is the undeniable locker room leader on Friday nights, and for as long as we can remember, SmackDown has revolved around him and The Bloodline, which includes Paul Heyman, Jimmy Uso, and Solo Sikoa.

But the star power doesn't end with The Bloodline. AJ Styles, Sheamus, Karrion Kross, Austin Theory, and Bobby Lashley help round out the upper echelon of SmackDown men's talent. Over on the women's side, Bianca Belair, WWE Women's Champion IYO SKY, Bayley, Asuka, and Zelina Vega are the cream of the crop. 

Oh, and let's not forget about the hottest WWE Superstar in recent memory: LA Knight calls SmackDown home!

Has SmackDown Always Been on Friday Nights?

The SmackDown arena

Interestingly enough – no, SmackDown hasn't been broadcast on Friday nights for the entirety of its illustrious history. Although Monday nights have been the primary home of Raw for well over 30 years (with the occasional – and very temporary – move to other nights due to broadcast scheduling conflicts), SmackDown has actually jumped around quite a bit over the years.

Originally a Thursday night show, SmackDown moved to Fridays in 2005, when it nestled into its now-familiar broadcast night until 2015, when the show was moved to Thursdays. Older members of the WWE Universe know that SmackDown didn't stop moving – in 2016, SmackDown Live was born and moved to Tuesday nights, effectively giving WWE a one-two punch of back-to-back epic weekly events on Mondays and Tuesdays. However, in late 2019, SmackDown moved back to Fridays, cementing its status as the official kickoff to the weekend in the eyes of the WWE Universe!

Although we're partial to the Superstars seen on Monday nights, we have to hand it to the guys and gals over on SmackDown: Some of the most unforgettable matches in recent WWE memory have involved SmackDown Superstars!

Why Has SmackDown Moved to Different Nights So Much?

Wide view of the SmackDown ring as a fight takes place inside of it

With most television shows, conventional wisdom says it's never a good sign when a TV show gets moved around – it's usually a death knell for a series. Fortunately for WWE, that's never been the case for SmackDown; in fact, the opposite holds true! It's a testament to the staying power of countless WWE Superstars, who never fail to deliver memorable entertainment.

Each time SmackDown has switched nights, it has been the result of extensive bidding wars between broadcasters. SmackDown – for over 25 years – has been so successful that networks routinely bid against each other for the rights to broadcast the programming and routinely place it in a time slot designed to boost the rest of their lineup. So, although SmackDown may move around at times, it's only because your favorite Superstars are too good at entertaining the WWE Universe! The more immersive and entertaining SmackDown becomes, the more enticing it is for other television networks – and they're clearly willing to pay big money to boast that they have WWE programming on their schedules!

What's the Difference Between Raw and SmackDown?

Wwe Raw Moments4

We'll be honest: There were days when there were significant differences between Raw and SmackDown. From different set designs to differences in presentation and match style, there was once a reasonably significant experience between watching the two shows.

However, in 2023, thanks to the effects of the WWE Draft, it's best to think of it the same way Major League Baseball views the National League and American League – different, but the same in many ways. In fact, it's simpler than that: Many fans (and those within WWE) regard Raw and SmackDown as simply the "red brand" and the "blue brand" due to the use of those colors during the shows. But in the end, the vast majority of WWE Superstars can only be seen on the show they are on – meaning that come October 2024, USA Network will be welcoming fan favorites like LA Knight to Monday nights! 

What's the Greatest SmackDown Moment in History?

Summer Slam Brock Lesnar3

There have been countless unforgettable twists, classic matches, and jaw-dropping title changes throughout SmackDown's nearly 25-year history. But here at USA Insider, nothing lives rent-free in our heads as what happened on June 12, 2003. Brock Lesnar and The Big Show squared off in the night's main event – and well, see for yourself:

Up until that point, the WWE Universe had seen approximately 15,000 superplexes. None have had the impact – literally – that Brock Lesnar suplexing The Big Show off the top rope did. We don't even know how to describe what happened; the ring imploded (exploded?), and everyone from the fans in the cheap seats to the referee was in disbelief! For the first time ever, a wrestling move was so powerful that the ring collapsed under the force of the two Superstars. It's been over 20 years since it happened, and we're still thinking about it. 

(To be fair, though, we have a soft spot for Brock Lesnar doing ridiculous things in main-event matches.)

Is SmackDown Really Named After The Rock's Catchphrase?

The Rock walking to the ring

This is one of the most often asked questions by the WWE Universe, and the answer may seem unbelievable, but yes, SmackDown is named after one of The Rock's most popular late-90s catchphrases!

In 1998, The Rock unveiled yet another iconic catchphrase to an unsuspecting WWE Universe, promising to "lay the smack down" on the WWE locker room. The rest is history – and if you don't believe us, here's The Rock directly referencing the genesis of "SmackDown" in a social media post in 2018:

We would've loved to see Vince McMahon's reaction when The Rock casually told him he'd invent an entirely new verb! That's the kind of performer The Rock is – always ready, always prepared, and always entertaining. (Of course, nostalgia like this makes us yearn for the official in-ring return of The Rock even more these days.)

Now that these pressing questions have been answered, there's only one thing left for the WWE Universe to do: Simply wait.

Because SmackDown returns home to USA Network in October 2024.

You can tune in to Peacock to watch WWE's Fastlane on October 7. In the meantime, catch up on all things WWE Universe on Peacock.

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