If there’s one thing WWE loves, it’s blind-ass patriotism. This company was built off the idea of the big, strong American fighting off the evil foreigner (or, in the case of Sgt. Slaughter, something even worse — a defector). So it’s no surprise that its annual Tribute To The Troops has existed in one form or another since 2003.
Originally, WWE would send its stars to military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, then in 2010, they realized, “Oh, hey, we’re sending our A-list talent to actual war zones, maybe we should slow our roll a smidge.” It was at that point that the idea of special musical guests entered the equation. And hoo boy, have some of these performances been special.
With the 2017 edition of Tribute To The Troops, featuring MGK (presumably not being powerbombed off the stage by Kevin Owens, so who cares), airing this Thursday on USA Network as part of the annual WWE Week, what better time to revisit every musical performance in the show’s history? We’ll start off with the best and (very quickly) move onto the worst.
Mary J Blige, 2011
This song is, as the teens say, a bop. Furthermore, there’s no way I’m gonna say a bad word about the queen of hip-hop soul. Anyone who collaborated with the Notorious B.I.G. is A-OK with me. Plus, her live band here has a killer groove going on. Congrats, MJB, you’re far and away the best musical guest in the history of Tribute To The Troops.
Diddy ft. Dirty Money, 2010
Speaking of Biggie Smalls, here’s a man who literally wouldn’t have a career were it not for his friend’s success and untimely death two decades ago. Despite how weird it is that Puff Daddy continues to profit off Biggie’s life and death, this performance of “I’ll Be Missing You” (featuring Dirty Money vocalists Dawn Richard and Kalenna Harper instead of Faith Evans) is still good enough to keep him out of the cellar on this list.
Kid Rock, 2012
I mean, listen: Artistic merit and street cred of one Robert James Richie aside, if you’re gonna pop a crowd full of enlisted men and women, there’s probably no better way to do it than by playing “Born Free.” So sure, Kid Rock sucks, but it’s a pretty manageable amount of suckage, especially considering what’s to come on this list.