WWE is airing a documentary on the first post-9/11 episode of SmackDown, providing a look at the company while the nation was engulfed in sorrow.
Never Forget: WWE Returns After 9/11 provides an inside look at the company’s decision to run SmackDown on Thursday, Sept. 13, only two days after the terrorist attacks on the United States. SmackDown had originally been scheduled to run on the 11th, and moving it to that Thursday at the Compaq Center in Houston was complicated given the timing, national mood and security risks in gathering a large crowd at a public event.
The 34-minute special features a plethora of interviews, including Vince McMahon, Paul Heyman, Steve Austin, The Undertaker, Edge, Booker T, Kurt Angle, D-Von, Sean Waltman, Stephanie McMahon and Bruce Prichard. Considering it is an in-house project, it is no surprise that McMahon is portrayed as the central figure, but some of the most fascinating moments occur as members of the talent roster discuss the decision to hold SmackDown.
Raw had taken place on Monday, Sept. 10 in San Antonio, and with SmackDown already scheduled for Houston, the roster remained in a hotel during the anxious moments immediately after 9/11. Adam Copeland, who is Edge in WWE, shared his belief that the people in the company should have been sent home to be with their families, and it was also interesting to hear Steve Austin weigh out the positives and negatives of working the show.
The doc also provides a look at McMahon’s speech to the crowd in Houston, as well as Lilian Garcia’s phenomenal rendition of the national anthem. Paul Heyman plays a critical role, voicing his feelings as a proud New Yorker who was broken after the attack on the World Trade Center. Heyman perfectly articulated WWE’s intrinsic connection to New York, as well as expressed the confusion, fear and vulnerability that enveloped the nation following the attack. Heyman, who was only 35 at the time, had recently joined the WWE broadcast team, and Never Forget allowed him the opportunity to share what that broadcast meant to him as he advocated for New York City on SmackDown while sitting beside Jim Ross. Ross was the lead broadcaster on that SmackDown, and his voice would have played an important role had he been part of the documentary. (Ross now works for AEW.)
The most compelling parts of Never Forget were the honest and raw opinions from the talent about the unknown of a post-9/11 world, with Devon Hughes (D-Von Dudley) giving a gripping account of how the cast was full of nerves. The roster took great pride in entertaining the nation’s first public gathering since the attack, which is a snapshot of their lives that is important to note. While so many people are home with their loved ones during times of crisis, the willingness to perform under such distress showed a different side of the WWE roster.
Available on Peacock, as well as WWE’s YouTube channel and Facebook page, the special is worth watching for an inside look at the WWE roster.
Justin Barrasso can be reached atJBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.