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December 29, 2003 Observer Newsletter: SmackDown from Iraq, New Year's events in Japan

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In a show that really only came together about three weeks ago, WWE took 15 performers and 19 technicians to Baghdad, Iraq, over the weekend for a three-day, two-night trip which culminated in the company’s first television taping in a war zone.

The heavily pushed Christmas edition of Smackdown was originally the brainchild of John “Bradshaw” Layfield, who has gone on numerous USO- sponsored tours of military bases in both Afghanistan and the Middle East since the U.S. was involved in military actions. Layfield presented the idea to the Armed Forces Entertainment, which approved the event. The rules were that WWE could bring only 33 people on the tour (there were actually 34 as Layfield was already in Iraq on a USO tour). McMahon himself picked the talent that would be going, not all of whom were thrilled about the idea going in because of safety concerns.

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