WWE's 15th annual Tribute to the Troops event took place at Naval Base San Diego earlier this month and aired on the USA Network on Thursday night.
Ring announcer and songstress Lilian Garcia sang a rousing rendition of the national anthem to start the show off, with her seeming to put a little extra emotion into the song for the live, outdoor crowd of men and women in uniform.
The event began in 2003 and has been hosted in places such as Baghdad, Iraq and Bagram, Afghanistan. Michael Cole, Byron Saxton, and JBL were at ringside for commentary. Cole called Tribute to the Troops the “most patriotic and heartwarming show on television.”
The Shield (Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose) defeated Samoa Joe, Cesaro & Sheamus
JBL said The Shield are the best faction in wrestling history, “with all due respect to the nWo, the Four Horsemen, and the Freebirds.”
Joe was hugely over with the crowd, which shouted “Joe, Joe, Joe,” through his entrance and during the match. Rollins and Ambrose did most of the heavy lifting in the match, including double dropkicks on Joe. Once Reigns finally got the hot tag from Rollins, he beat up on Cesaro with right hands, kicks, and a Samoan drop. JBL called Reigns “a once-in-a-generation athlete.”
Rollins hit a Rainmaker on Sheamus, Ambrose a Dirty Deeds on Cesaro, and Reigns pinned Cesaro with a spear.
After the match, Rollins, Ambrose, and Reigns each thanked the crowd for their sacrifice and everything they do to keep the country safe. Rollins said the military members were the most dominant forces in the world and Reigns grabbed the mic and said “you can believe that,” to a mild pop.
- John Cena wasn’t there, but they showed clips of him from previous appearances.
SmackDown Women's Champion Charlotte Flair defeated Carmella and Ruby Riott in a triple threat match
Charlotte received her own TV entrance and was accompanied by Naomi. Charlotte was the star here. Riott and Carmella teamed up on her for most of the match. Carmella mocked Charlotte with exaggerated chops and Ric Flair-like struts. Little Naitch (Charles Robinson) was the referee and Natalya watched from the entrance aisle.
Riott worked a stiff match with Charlotte, hitting her with forearms and kicks. She tried a superplex from the top rope, but Carmella pulled her down from the top, and then caught Charlotte with her split-legged headscissors from the top rope. At one point, Charlotte delivered a suplex to both Riott and Carmella, popping the crowd big. Charlotte eventually got the win with a Figure Eight on Carmella.
After the win, Charlotte grabbed the mic and said she was inspired by the true independent women on the base and that they were the “true champions.”
- Machine Gun Kelly, Bebe Rexha, and Sam Harris from X Ambassadors and his band sang “Home,” a song from the movie Bright.
SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos & The New Day defeated Shelton Benjamin, Chad Gable, Rusev & Aiden English
This had lots of action all around, with New Day doing their typical comedy spots. The Usos hit each one of their opponents with superkicks to make The Young Bucks jealous. Jimmy Uso hit a splash to the outside on Gable, English, and Rusev, then Jey connected on a 619 in honor of Rey Mysterio and the fact that they were in San Diego.
The New Day got the win when Big E and Xavier Woods hit the powerslam and The Big Ending.
Absolution (Paige, Sonya Deville & Mandy Rose) defeated Sasha Banks, Bayley & Mickie James
Bayley, dressed in red and yellow, came out sans the giant puppets and streamers. Banks was more over than Bayley. James and Deville had a great exchange of forearms outside the ring. James carried the match for her team early and the crowd loved her.
The highlight of the match was when Banks and Paige both got tagged in at the same time and Banks hit Paige with a series of clotheslines. Paige looked great in her role and doesn’t appear to have missed much in her near-year-long layoff with a neck injury and suspension. James hit a Lou Thesz press off the top rope on Paige and then an awesome dive to the outside on the Absolution members, but that gave Paige time to recover.
Paige rammed James’ head into the bottom turnbuckle and then pinned her with her finisher, the Rampaige. Absolution were the first heel team to get a win on the evening.
- We got another Machine Gun Kelly song, “Let You Go.”
- The show also featured various vignettes from celebrities, such as Terry Bradshaw, Stephen Colbert, and Clint Eastwood.
WWE Champion AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura & Randy Orton defeated Jinder Mahal, Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
Orton was over like Hulk Hogan in MSG in 1985. Nakamura was over like Stone Cold in the late-1990s. AJ Styles was over like AJ Styles in 2017. This was a hot crowd who loved all three of these guys.
Owens kicked off the match with a kick to the stomach and then a headlock on Orton. Owens was very verbal, taunting Orton until Orton hit him with a powerslam. He tried an early RKO, but Owens slipped out. Orton looks like he turned back the clock a bit with his new haircut, nixing the bald look.
The match slowed when Mahal got in, but Orton then tagged Styles to a massive pop. Styles hit a dropkick and then tagged Nakamura, who lit up Mahal with his knee drop and kick in the corner. Mahal tagged Zayn and Nakamura hit a roundhouse kick on him, before making the tag to Styles.
Styles lit up the ring with his flying forearm and arsenal of aerial moves. He applied the calf-crusher, but it was broken up by Mahal. The Singh Brothers were at ringside to cause momentary distractions until Orton grabbed them both and delivered a double DDT on top of the second rope.
Nakamura and Zayn exchanged forearms, and then Nakamura hit Zayn with a wicked kick to the chest. Owens broke up a pin attempt, but Styles delivered a Phenomenal Forearm off the top rope. Mahal jumped in to apply a Cobra Clutch, but Orton broke it up and hit the RKO. Mahal rolled out of the ring, allowing Nakamura to connect with his Kinshasa on Zayn for the victory.
The crowd ate it up and the WWE production crew played Nakamura’s music in victory before moving to Styles’ music as he held up the championship belt and gave the "Too Sweet" symbol to the crowd.