World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and Armed Forces Entertainment have been teaming up for Tribute To The Troops events since the early 2000s. It was originally presented as a way to honor troops who were serving in Iraq or Afghanistan at the time. The wrestlers would travel there, hang out with the troops for a few days, and then put on a free show for the troops which would air at a later date. John “Bradshaw” Layfield is credited for first coming up with the idea, and WWE has received several awards for their amazing service to the troops.
This year was the 15th version ofTribute To The Troops, and it did not disappoint. It started with a battle between The Shield, Samoa Joe, and Raw Tag Team Champions Cesaro and Sheamus.
Following an all-out brawl between The Shield and Samoa Joe & the Raw Tag Team Champions, the trios battled each other in singles competition on Raw. Although Seth Rollins defeated Sheamus, and Roman Reigns successfully defended the Intercontinental Championship against Cesaro, Samoa Joe managed to defeat Dean Ambrose – no thanks to Jason Jordan – only intensifying the rivalry further.
Despite The Big Dog being set to defend the Intercontinental Title against Samoa Joe on Raw, The Hounds of Justice were ready for a fight, and the USS Dewey provided the perfect backdrop to a Six-Man Tag Team battle pitting The Shield against Samoa Joe and the Raw Tag Team Champions.
There was certainly no love lost between the trios, but The Shield maintained a strong wave of momentum throughout the contest. Although Samoa Joe and the Raw Tag Team Champions did their best to slow The Hounds of Justice, the relentless offense and teamwork of Rollins, Ambrose and Reigns proved to be too much, as the Intercontinental Champion picked up the victory with a ring-shaking Spear to Cesaro.
After the match, The Shield took a moment to thank the brave men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces in attendance.
On Smackdown Live, Charlotte Flair, daughter of Rick Flair, competed in a three-person match against Carmella and Ruby Riott. It did not disappoint.
Before Charlotte Flair defends the SmackDown Women’s Championship in a Lumberjack Match against Natalya at WWE Clash of Champions, The Queen battled Ruby Riott and Carmella at Naval Base San Diego. On SmackDown LIVE, Natalya helped The Riott Squad initiate a 3-on-1 assault on Charlotte until Naomi sprang to the rescue. Wisely, Charlotte entered Naval Base San Diego with Naomi at her side, as The Riott Squad and other Lumberjacks-in-waiting Lana and Tamina surrounded the ring.
While Triple Threat rules were in play, Riott and Carmella found it to be mutually beneficial to team up against The Queen. Displaying the true spirit of a champion, Charlotte not only managed to keep her opponents at bay, but also regained her focus following a distraction from Natalya, who was observing the match.
Although Ms. Money in the Bank and Ruby Riott showed a team effort, Carmella saw the opportunity to score a pinfall against Charlotte, first throwing Riott out of the ring and kicking her after a near-fall. Unfortunately for Carmella, the shift in attention allowed The Queen to recover and apply the Figure-Eight Leglock for the win.
Following the match, Charlotte addressed the service members in attendance, thanking them for their service and acknowledging they, especially the women who serve, are the true champions.
The tribute show also featured a spectacular matchup between The Usos, The New Day, Chad Gable, Shelton Benjamin, Rusev and Aiden English.
The New Day honored the U.S. military by leading the servicemembers at Naval Base San Diego in a “New Day Rocks” chant, modified to say “USA.”
Although The New Day and The Usos will be at odds at WWE Clash of Champions in a Fatal 4-Way SmackDown Tag Team Title Match, they joined forces with the SmackDown Tag Team Champions to face a quartet made up of the other two teams in the battle on Sunday – Aiden English & Rusev and Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin.
The highly competitive matchup offered a glimpse of the type of action and athleticism that will be on display at Sunday’s pay-per-view. While the team of English, Rusev, Gable and Benjamin put forth a valiant effort, the teamwork of Jimmy & Jey Uso and The New Day created a nearly unstoppable force as the Power of Positivity reigned supreme, and Xavier Woods and Big E picked up the victory for their squad.
Above quotes all credited to WWE’s website.
As much as this event is a wrestling show and the wrestlers are doing what they do best, when they take time out of the show to thank the troops for their support, you can tell they truly mean it and see how much the event matters to each and every one of them.
Earlier in the week, Dolph Ziggler caught up with ForTheWin and talked about how special the event makes them feel.
“You get that special feeling because it’s not one of the normal shows. It’s not one of our live events, it’s not a pay-per-view. You get really excited because you know you’re doing something special for the men and women who are protecting us every single day. So it’s really exciting for all of us. It’s a long day, but we look forward to it every year.”
FTW: Take me back to your first Tribute to the Troops in 2010. Did you feel any extra pressure performing for the troops?
“Oh, of course. It was a special moment for me. I remember walking down the ramp, I think I might have been Intercontinental champion at the time. It’s one thing when you know that your character’s a jerk, and you’ve got to go out there and kind of act like an idiot. But you still get a wink and a nod [in], let them know that you support everything that they do, and you really appreciate what they’re doing for you. But it feels great walking down that ramp knowing that you’re doing just a little bit to give back to these brave soldiers.”
Honoring the troops is a time-honored tradition that the WWE takes very seriously, something you could see in all of the performances this year.