Tribute To The Troops was arguably the best TV version of the annual show to date. We had storylines continue, big segments and it made for a great TV product. However, was the show what it should have been?
Tribute To The Troops has become an important event on the WWE calendar over the past decade-plus. When it started, it was an extremely unique event, with a company going to the Middle East to directly thank our troops for their service. Setting up a ring in the Middle East, with troops completely surrounding it as the wrestlers spent the better part of a week interacting with them, was nothing short of amazing.
Even as the United States withdrew from the Middle East, and the WWE started to air the event from places like Fort Hood, Joint Base Lewis-McChord or Fort Bragg, with a majority of the tickets going to troops who surrounded the ring, it was a great visual and felt like a special thing that WWE was doing.
As I sat there at the event at Verizon Center on Tuesday, I asked myself ... was this the best that WWE could do? Where was the event that WWE touted for so long?
Yes, there were some troops there, but overwhelmingly, the crowd was people who had paid for SmackDown tickets and just happened to have Tribute To The Troops tacked on. Many of the people who were there didn't even realize the event was going to happen beforehand. Hell, I was there, and I wasn't a guest of anybody in the military. This was a far cry from what made Vince McMahon an annual nominee for Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year.
I get it to an extent. This was an easy way to do it. It's tough enough to schedule around the holidays, and with two distinct touring brands, it can be tough to make a special trip somewhere. And if you were ever going to not do it at a military base, then Washington, D.C., is the perfect place to do it.
This isn't trivializing what WWE did either. Going around to Walter Reed hospital and Arlington National Cemetery are important. But what it felt like was the WWE doing the bare minimum. If it had planned ahead of time, WWE could have filled the entire floor section with troops. Instead, most of the floor was filled with people who had paid for SmackDown.
That being said, it was a great show. Other Tributes have felt like glorified house shows, and were shows that you could skip as a viewer and not miss anything. This was different. The No. 1 contenders to the RAW tag titles were crowned, as Cesaro and Sheamus earned their shot at Roadblock.
And one of the best egments of the year happened backstage, as The New Day celebrated its record-setting reign, and was confronted first by The Club with AJ Styles, and then by all three members of The Shield. You couldn't even hear what The Shield said in the arena as the crowd popped. Throw in a great cruiserweight match, a fun main event and some Bayley, and the result was overall a fun show.
So, was the show great for a television product? Absolutely. For the viewers, they got the best Tribute To The Troops yet. But for the troops? Well ... if Major League Baseball can build a $5 million ballpark at Fort Bragg and play there, then why can't WWE do better than comping 10% of an arena for troops and calling it a tribute?
Questions? Thoughts? Leave them in the comment section here, email me, or find me on Twitter: @TheAOster. You can also hear my podcast, Jobbing Out, at https://soundcloud.com/jobbingout.