The 10 most memorable WWE Tribute to the Troops moments
Since 2003, WWE Tribute to the Troops has been the most patriotic show of the year and always provides unforgettable matches and inspiring moments for the U.S. Armed Forces and their families.
WWE.com celebrates 10 of the most memorable moments from the past decade of WWE Tribute to the Troops that made us smile, presented by Cricket Wireless.
Maj. General William Grimsley arm wrestles Kane (2010)
In Fort Hood, Texas, the U.S. Army’s Maj. Gen. William Grimsley issued an open Arm Wrestling Challenge to any WWE Superstar. Maj. Gen. Grimsley expected to test his power against perhaps John Cena or even The World’s Strongest Man, Mark Henry. But Kane answered the officer's challenge.
Grimsley was unfazed by the demonic and daunting task standing in front of him, grinning at Kane and flexing his muscles. Few Superstars would even think about taunting The Big Red Monster, but Grimsley offered Kane a chance to back out. As the challenge commenced and the two struggled for victory, the major general continued to taunt the demonic Superstar. The battle ended without a victor as Edge made his way to the ring to confront Kane, much to the delight of the WWE Universe at Fort Hood.
Santa Claus helps a soldier break the Master Lock (2006)
In 2006, one of the most difficult tasks for any Superstar was successfully completing Chris Masters’ Master Lock challenge. No one had broken the hold of The Masterpiece’s patented Master Lock maneuver, and at WWE Tribute to the Troops 2006, Santa Claus was hoping to be the first to accomplish the task. As Santa handed out gifts to the men and women of Iraq’s Camp Victoria, The Masterpiece approached him to issue the challenge.
With Kris Kringle unsuccessful in breaking the hold, Masters then challenged a soldier named Jose Avila to attempt to break his patented submission. As The Masterpiece applied the hold, Santa made his way back into the ring, revealing his true identity: JBL! The self-proclaimed “Wrestling God” attacked Masters, loosening the hold and giving Avila the advantage he needed to become the first person to successfully complete the challenge and break the Master Lock.
The Shield arrives in a tank (2013)
The Shield quickly established themselves as one of the most dominant groups in sports-entertainment history. Months before Seth Rollins’ shocking betrayal of his brothers in arms, The Hounds of Justice stood united at Joint Base Lewis-McCord during WWE Tribute to the Troops 2013. Facing the formidable trio of Rey Mysterio & The Usos, The Shield added a twist to their familiar entrance by coming out of a tank.
Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns were masters of psychological combat — their presence was enough to intimidate even the most stalwart of competitors. Seeing them emerge from a tank on a military base and ready for in-ring battle was truly a sight to behold.
Although they came up short in a hard-fought contest, The Shield still had the coolest entrance in the history of WWE Tribute to the Troops.
John Cena, Rey Mysterio and Batista form a superteam (2008)
For the sixth annual WWE Tribute to the Troops in 2008, Superstars descended upon Baghdad’s Camp Liberty to honor the men and women of the U.S. military and to spread holiday cheer. The event included two Six-Man Tag Team Matches, the second of which featured then–World Heavyweight Champion John Cena joining forces with Rey Mysterio & Batista to battle Randy Orton, Chris Jericho & Big Show.
The contest was one of the most star-studded in WWE Tribute to the Troops’ history, and Cena, Mysterio and Batista co-existed magnificently to dispel their foes. All three Superstars have been at odds with each other throughout their careers, but their alliance was strong in Baghdad, and the WWE Universe members of the military witnessed an unforgettable trio.
Sgt. Slaughter leads the Pledge of Allegiance (2011)
WWE Tribute to the Troops 2011 was held at one of the United States military’s largest installation — Fort Bragg, N.C. Fort Bragg is one of the Army’s major facilities and houses Special Operations Command and the elite Green Berets. During a battle between Zack Ryder and Jack Swagger, then–United States Champion Dolph Ziggler joined Swagger at ringside. But Long Island Iced-Z had a special surprise in his corner for the men and women in uniform: former U.S. Marine drill instructor and WWE Hall of Famer Sgt. Slaughter!
Ryder successfully defeated Swagger, and following the bout, Slaughter entered the ring and applied the Cobra Clutch to The All-American American. The true highlight of the evening, though, came after Ryder and the former WWE Champion cleared the squared circle. Sgt. Slaughter grabbed a microphone and led Fort Bragg in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
“Good Santa” vs. “Bad Santa” (2005)
Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan hosted the third annual WWE Tribute to the Troops in 2005, when a pair of dueling Santas collided. During the event, someone dressed in a combat-fatigued Santa suit came to the ring and claimed he was canceling the holidays. Suddenly, another St. Nick emerged — dressed a bit more traditionally.
As the “Good Santa” confronted the “Bad Santa,” the brave men and women serving in Afghanistan knew a contest was brewing. A No Holds Barred Match erupted in Bagram, and during the bout, “Bad Santa” was revealed to be JBL. By contrast, the air base’s makeshift arena erupted in excitement when Mick Foley was revealed as “Good Santa.” Foley defeated his opponent and continued to spread holiday cheer to the U.S. Armed Forces in Afghanistan.
Shawn Michaels and Triple H brawl in a Boot Camp Match (2005)
History will always remember Shawn Michaels and Triple H as best friends, members of The Kliq and the co-founders of D-Generation X. Following Michaels’ return to the ring in 2002, though, HBK and The Game were bitter enemies. They had a number of classic confrontations — an Unsanctioned Match, a Hell in a Cell Match, the Elimination Chamber and more — but their Boot Camp battle in Afghanistan is an oft-forgotten classic.
Coming at the height of their intense rivalry, the bout went down at Afghanistan’s Bagram Airfield to the thrill of the U.S. military serving overseas. Both Superstars pulled out all the stops, including utilizing sandbags and a mop as foreign objects, in an intense brawl that ultimately saw Michaels emerge victorious.
Santa Claus delivers an Attitude Adjustment for Mr. McMahon (2007)
At the fifth annual WWE Tribute to the Troops in Tikrit, Iraq, Mr. McMahon brought some bad news to the men and women in uniform: Santa Claus would not be making an appearance at the event. Though The Chairman delivered the info to America’s bravest, their disappointment was soon quelled as Kris Kringle made his way to the ring. There was something strangely familiar about St. Nick, though.
Santa began taunting Mr. McMahon and revealing embarrassing stories about The Chairman. Irate about St. Nick’s revelations, Mr. McMahon ripped off Santa's hat and beard to reveal John Cena, who had been injured and out of action. The troops stationed in Tikrit went wild as The Cenation Leader hoisted The Chairman on his shoulders a delivered an impactful Attitude Adjustment.
Soldiers assist The Undertaker (2004)
The Undertaker made his first WWE Tribute to the Troops appearance at the second annual event in 2004 when he descended upon Tikrit, Iraq, to battle his nemesis, Heidenreich. The men and women in uniform attending the event were ecstatic to see The Phenom in action and cheered him on throughout the entire contest. As the legendary Superstar took the fight right to Heidenreich, the WWE Universe roared loudly with every strike landed, anxiously awaiting a Tombstone.
The contest raged on and Heidenreich soon became visibly frustrated that he could not build momentum against The Deadman and left the ring. The former Legion of Doom member tried to leave the makeshift arena entirely by climbing through the crowd. The military members in attendance had alternate plans, however, shoving the cowardly Superstar back toward the ring to face his opponent. Heidenreich tried numerous times to get through the wall of soldiers, and each time, he was rejected. In his quest to escape The Phenom, Heidenreich didn’t realize he was being counted out, and ultimately lost the contest as the brave men and women of the U.S. military refused to let him pass.
John Cena meets The Texas Rattlesnake (2003)
The first-ever WWE Tribute to the Troops featured Superstars and Divas visiting America’s armed forces in Tikrit, Iraq. The event was historic and showed WWE’s commitment to supporting the United States’ men and women in uniform. The main event of the first Tribute to the Troops featured John Cena battling Big Show during the early days of their storied rivalry.
The Cenation Leader — still putting his degree in Thuganomics to good use — defeated The World’s Largest Athlete, but in the fallout of the contest, the U.S. military and the WWE Universe witnessed an extra special surprise, as WWE Hall of Famer “Stone Cold” Steve Austin made his way to the ring. For the first time in history, The Texas Rattlesnake stood face to face with Cena.
The Cenation Leader waved his hand in front of his face taunting Austin with a defiant “You can’t see me!” and “Stone Cold” responded with the only way he knows how: a kick to the gut and a Stunner.