There are few television programs as consistent as the WWE when it comes to weekly airings throughout the year, and while there have been rare instances where postponements were necessary for Monday Night Raw and/or SmackDown, it's never taken long for Vince McMahon to get the show rolling once again. Such was the case when SmackDown was supposed to film in Houston on the day of the September 11, 2001 attacks, but was postponed. Over 20 years later, Matt Hardy reflected on McMahon's decision to wait only two days before announcing tapings would resume, resulting in one of the first mass gatherings following the deadly attack.
Current AEW superstar Matt Hardy was on the WWE roster and present for the SmackDown that followed the World Trade Center attack, and recently spoke about the experience on his podcast The Extreme Life Of Matt Hardy. Host Jon Alba asked the Team XTreme vet if Vince McMahon's push to return to action so soon after the attacks was more to be the first return to public events at a time when sports orgs had shut down, or if the head honcho was truly inspired to make a stand against terrorism after witnessing the attacks. Hardy explained that he felt the answer was a bit of "both," and he went into more detail regarding McMahon's mindset and the show, saying:
Vince is a fearless human being. He wasn't afraid of stuff. There were so many people that were just worried, like, 'If we're the first big public gathering, does that make us a target?' I felt like that. It was very strange. I was very concerned and worried during that day, you know, but Vince had his mind made up. He was like, 'Nobody stops me, nobody stops World Wrestling Entertainment, and we're going to do the show, dammit.'
Longtime pro wrestling fans shouldn't be surprised by Vince McMahon's attitude. McMahon rarely stops any amount of forward progress for the WWE, and superstars have shown up on television for live events in the aftermath of all manner of tragic events. The same would be true following one of the most challenging days in United States history, and those who came out to Houston, Texas, were treated to a show in which Stone Cold Steve Austin took on Kurt Angle in an eight-man tag-team match.
Matt Hardy mentioned above that various people, including Superstars themselves, had concerns about performing on SmackDown. Hardy can be seen in the clip below speaking in more detail about what happened when the roster learned of the attacks, and some of their thoughts after first heaving about Vince McMahon's instructions for them to remain in Houston rather than return home.
Full credit to the WWE stars for staying and performing because that couldn't have been an easy decision. The months following September 11 were full of fear, so it's easy to understand there were probably many people nervous about attending that SmackDown episode two days later. Fortunately, the show went off without a hitch, and slowly, more events began to return to normalcy as time went on. Over twenty years later, SmackDown is still rolling strong and giving fans something to be entertained by no matter what is going on in the world.
Those wishing to watch the SmackDown episode from September 13, 2001 can do so with a Peacock Premium subscription. In many ways, it remains a solid and somewhat touching episode to watch for anyone hoping to see a window into where wrestling fans' emotions were at during the hectic and scary days that followed such an awful, society-changing event.