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The WWE Tribute to the Troops is an annual event held by WWE, together with Armed Forces Entertainment in December around Christmas since 2003 as a way of honoring the men and women of the United States armed forces at first for those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Selected WWE wrestlers and employees travel to the said countries and interact with the members of the US Military for at least three days. The WWE Superstars regularly visit military camps, bases and hospitals, including Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Hospital, during their travels to bolster the morale of the troops.
WWE then holds a special wrestling show in an open field, with the troop members in attendance for free. The show features matches involving selected Superstars and Divas from Raw and SmackDown. The company then airs this, as well as videos highlighting their interaction with the members of the military, in a special televised program of the same title.
WWE first held the event in December 2003. Select WWE Superstars (including Layfield and McMahon) held a wrestling show at Camp Victory, Baghdad, Iraq and was aired on Christmas Day as a special episode of WWE Smackdown. The main event of the show saw John Cena defeating The Big Show, with Stone Cold Steve Austin coming out after the match, hitting a Stunner on both men, and finally inviting all the talents and Vince McMahon to the ring to celebrate.
In December 2004, WWE traveled to Camp Speicher in Tikrit, Iraq. The wrestling show, dubbed Christmas in Iraq, aired on December 23 as another special SmackDown episode. Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio defeated Kurt Angle and Luther Reigns in the main event.
In 2005, Superstars held the event in Bagram, Afghanistan. The wrestling show taped there on December 9, 2005 was dubbed Tribute to the Troops and was aired on December 19 on WWE Raw. For the main event, Shawn Michaels beat Triple H in a Boot Camp match.
In 2006 it was another Raw episode that aired on Christmas Day. The show was taped in Baghdad, Iraq, and had Carlito pin Randy Orton for the win at the main event. A day before the show's taping in Camp Victory, a mortar attack happened near the camp. Michael Cole reported from the scene minutes after the attack, which injured 14 soldiers.
In 2007, they returned to Tikrit, Iraq. D-Generation X members Triple H and Shawn Michaels defeated Umaga and Mr. Kennedy in the main event of the wrestling show, which aired on Christmas Eve on WWE Raw.
2008's Tribute to the Troops was not aired on any regular WWE programming. Instead, for the first time, the wrestling show in Camp Liberty, Baghdad, Iraq aired on NBC on December 20 as a one-hour special. In its main event, John Cena, Batista and Rey Mysterio defeated Chris Jericho, The Big Show and Randy Orton in a six-man tag team match.
In the 2009 main event, John Cena defended his WWE Championship by defeating Chris Jericho in that year's main event. That match was recored prior to the WWE pay-per-view "Tables, Ladders and Chairs" event where Cena lost to Seamus.
Two editions of the show aired in 2010 from Fort Hood, Texas. John Cena, Randy Orton and Rey Mysterio beat the team of The Miz, Alberto Del Rio and Wade Barrett in the main event. Also, for the first time, celebrties were part of the festivities, including Cedric the Entertainer, Sherri Sheppard, and musical performances by Diddy Dirty Money and Trace Adkins. A one-hour version aired on NBC December 18, while a two-hour extended version - with additional matches including an eight-Diva tag-team match and a 15-man battle royale - aired on USA Network on December 22nd.
The 2011 event was taped December 11th at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, North Carolina, located near Fort Bragg and the Pope Air Force Base with the two-hour version airing at 9 PM ET/PT on USA December 13th, as well as a condensed one-hour version on December 17 on NBC, also airing at 9 PM ET/PT. The main event was a six-man tag team match pitting Mark Henry, Alberto Del Rio and The Miz against John Cena, CM Punk and The Big Show, with Cena pinning Henry thanks to a right-hand cross from The Big Show. The show also had musical performances by Mary J. Blige and Nickelback and some comedy by George Wallace.
The 2012 edition was broadcast from Norfolk, Virginia at the Scope Arena located near the Naval Station Norfolk and the Joint Base Langley–Eustis among others, with taping on December 9th and airing on USA Network in a two-hour format December 19 and NBC in a condensed hour-long edition December 22. In the main event, Cena defeated Antonio Cesaro, the United States Champion in a non-title match. Performers included The Muppets, Flo Rida and Kid Rock.
In 2013, the show took place at Joint Base Lewis-McChorg in Washington state. NBC televised the one-hour event, where Daughtry performed and a six-man tag with John Cena, CM Punk and Daniel Bryant defeated The Wyann Family (Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper and Eric Rowan) in the main event.
The 2014 edition was shown in a two-hour format in USA Network December 17th, and a condensed hour-long version December 28 on NBC, with the show taking place near Fort Benning in Georgia at the Columbus (GA) Civic Center. The main event saw John Cena, Dolph Ziggler, Eric Rowan and Ryback beat Seth Rollins, Kane, The Big Show and Luke Harper in an eight-man tag-team match, and Dean Ambrose defeated Bray Wyatt in a Boot Camp Match. The country group Florida-Georgia Line provided musical entertainment.
Awards and Honors
- In 2004, the United Service Organizations (USO) of Metropolitan Washington awarded WWE with the first-ever Legacy of Hope award "for its extensive support of our troops and the USO’s Operation Care Package program."
- In 2005, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service awarded WWE the first-ever Three-Commander Coin Award "for WWE’s support of its partnership with AAFES to improve the quality of life for our troops by supporting service members and their families worldwide."
- During the fourth Tribute to the Troops wrestling show on December 8, 2006, WWE received the Secretary of Defense Exceptional Public Service Award. The award was presented to WWE Chairman Vince McMahon by the Director of Air Force Services, Art Myers. McMahon immediately presented the honor to John "Bradshaw" Layfield, the brainchild of holding such event for the troops in Iraq.
- In 2007, the WWE became the recipient of the inaugural Corporate Patriot Award at the annual GI Film Festival in Washington, D.C., "in recognition of its ongoing support and appreciation of the U.S. military and their families, particularly its annual holiday Tribute to the Troops tour to entertain troops in war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan."
- In 2008, George W. Bush issued a special message in thanks to the WWE for giving America's Troops the gift of entertainment every Christmas.
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