Superstars Salute the Troops: 18th Annual WWE Tribute to the Troops

WWE Tribute to the Troops 2020
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This year’s 18th annual WWE Tribute to the Troops was, as per most things in 2020, a little different than years past. However, the intention and spirit remained the same: to show the United States Armed Forces, at home and abroad, that they are appreciated and give them a riveting show. The event, like RAW and SmackDown, was broadcast from the Thunderdome at Amway Center. Furthermore, the house was virtually packed with servicemen and servicewomen from all four branches of the Armed Forces.

Tribute to the Troops opened with an exuberant 10-man tag match staffed by Daniel Bryan, the Street Profits, Rey Mysterio, and Jeff Hardy on one team; the other team stood King Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, Robert Roode, Elias, and Sami Zayn. The divide between faces and heels was clearly drawn, and the troops were lively and engaged at the display. The match opened with Ziggler and Mysterio trying to get hold of each other. Ziggler was aggressive, but Mysterio was in command of his signature wily evasions and ropework. Both Ziggler and Mysterio tagged in teammates, Roode and Hardy, respectively. As Rey was leaving the ring, Jeff Hardy used his teammate as a launchpad for his poetry in motion maneuver on Roode; not done digging into his arsenal, Hardy also utilized an atomic drop and dropkick on Roode. After inflicting his share of damage, Hardy tagged in Daniel Bryan, who came in hot, with a punch to Roode.

Bryan delivered a flying kick to Roode and got a cover, but Roode kicked out in time. Roode recovered, managed to get a cover on Bryan, who made it out alive. Roode tagged in Elias, whose pursuit Bryan evaded swiftly until Elias caught him with a blow as he meant to deliver a kick. Elias covered Bryan, who kicked out, proving himself once again to be one of the most resilient superstars on the current roster. From there, the bout turned to pandemonium, to raucous Thunderdome applause and virtual cheers, superstars stormed the ring, trading blows or sparred around the apron. As Daniel Bryan suicide dived over the ropes into Elias, Montez Ford of the Street Profits mounted the ropes and flew into Roode, Corbin, and Ziggler standing ringside.

The athletes continued to take turns sparring and delivering some of their trademark maneuvers at their athletic finest, to the delight of the watching warriors. It all came down to Ford and Zayn, the last men left in the ring. The former Marine gave a salute to his brothers in arms on both sides of the Thunderdome, as he mounted the ropes for a frog splash, covered Zayn, and won the day.

At Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, another former Marine turned WWE Superstar, Lacey Evans, graciously beat some Marine corporals in a pushup contest but congratulated their worthy efforts to keep up with the Southern Belle. This segment was followed by a performance by country singer-songwriter Hardy, and a montage of WWE athletes virtually greeting members of the Armed Forces and their families. Even long-distance, the mutual appreciation of both parties seemed to delight and inspire each other.

The second match of the program was a women’s tag team match, pitting Bayley, partnered with Natalya, against former partner and best friend Sasha Banks, with the babyface du jour of the women’s division, Bianca Belair. Belair and Bayley have had heat on SmackDown, trading barbs and taunts, and the two seem to be escalating to a full-blown rift. Sasha and Bayley went for each other first, grappling for dominance. Sasha quickly got Bayley into a cover; though the Role Model kicked out, the Boss didn’t relinquish her grip, and put her former friend into a side headlock. Bayley escaped, and Sasha tagged in Bianca.

Bayley aggressively launched at Bianca, and quickly got her into the corner, and tagged in Natalya. The B.O.A.T. and the EST of the WWE faced off, with Natalya getting a shoulder tackle courtesy of Bianca. She continued to show off her athleticism, leaping over Natalya, and lifting Sasha and launching her into Bayley and Natalya.

Sasha Banks was energized by her partner, and delivered some of her best, as well: double knee strikes and meteoras to Bayley, and finishing the match by forcing Natalya to submit, locked in her finisher the Banks Statement. Banks and Belair made a formidable team, and one can only hope that they will face off with Bayley and Natalya again on SmackDown.

The final match of Tribute to the Troops pitted the current WWE Champion, Drew McIntyre, against Mr. Money in the Bank, the Miz. The two champions came at each other hard from the ring of the bell, trading hard punches. When John Morrison tried to interfere on behalf of his tag team partner, the Scottish Warrior had none of it, throwing him over the barricade. Miz used the distraction to his advantage and knocked McIntyre down. They battled it out back into the ring, moving to the ropes. McIntyre used his impressive core strength to flip Miz inside the ring, and issued a clothesline, belly to belly throw, and neckbreaker in rapid succession. Morrison interfered once again, and Miz used the ropes to balance himself into a pin on McIntyre. Miz once again seized the moment and held McIntyre into a shoulder hold. McIntyre broke free, threw Miz, and though Miz managed to get a cover on McIntyre he rebounded and issued a Future Shock DDT on the Miz.  McIntyre finished with a signature Claymore, delighting the cheering virtual audience.

The Tribute to the Troops was virtual, but the connection was palpable. The audience, made up of those who volunteer and sacrifice to keep the U.S. safe, were visibly entertained, and the tradition was kept, even in these uncertain times.

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