WWE then holds a free wrestling show for the troops, which it later airs along with videos of troop interaction and messages from soldiers to their families and friends at home, in a televised program of the same title.
WWE first held the event in December 2003, from Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq and aired it on Christmas Day as a special episode of WWE SmackDown. In the main event, John Cena defeated Big Show, and Stone Cold Steve Austin came out after the match, hit a Stunner on both men, and finally invited all the talent backstage to the ring to celebrate. For this Tribute to the Troops and all others until 2011, commentary was recorded at WWE headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, as commentators were not at ringside.
In 2006, the show was taped at Camp Victory in Baghdad, aired on Raw on Christmas Day, and had Carlito pin Randy Orton in the main event. A day before taping, a mortar attack happened near the camp, injuring 14 soldiers. Michael Cole reported details from the scene minutes later.
In 2007, WWE returned to Tikrit. D-Generation X members Triple H and Shawn Michaels defeated Umaga and Mr. Kennedy in the main event, which aired on Christmas Eve on WWE Raw.
2008's show from Camp Liberty, Baghdad was the first to air in a non-standard WWE timeslot, a one-hour December 20 special on NBC. 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.
WWE again travelled to Iraq in 2009. In the main event from Joint Base Balad, John Cena retained his WWE Championship from Chris Jericho. It aired on December 19, 2009 on NBC.
In 2010, WWE held its first domestically hosted Tribute to the Troops, from Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas on December 11. It aired on NBC December 18 for one hour, with a message from former president George W. Bush. A two-hour version of the show aired December 22 on USA Network.
WWE wrestlers during the 2003 Tribute to the Troops.
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 2006 show, Director of Air Force Morale, Welfare and Recreation Art Myers presented WWE Chairman Vince McMahon with the Secretary of Defense Exceptional Public Service Award. McMahon immediately presented the award to John Bradshaw Layfield, who had the idea for the show.
In 2007, the WWE received the first 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, President George W. Bush aired a message during the show, thanking WWE for giving US troops the gift of entertainment every Christmas. He did so again in 2010.
December 19, 2009 in Joint Base Balad, Iraq. WWE Diva Eve Torres served as ring announcer. Despite Cena defending his WWE title against Jericho at the event, at the time it aired, Sheamus had already won Cena's title at TLC.
On December 1, 2011, NBC and WWE announced the 2011 edition of WWE Tribute to the Troops would air December 17, 2011 on NBC. On the December 5 edition of Raw, it was also announced the show would also air on the USA Network on December 13, 2011. The event was taped December 11, 2011 in Fayetteville, North Carolina at the Crown Coliseum (though WWE said on-air that they were actually at Fort Bragg), the taping was performed in front of U.S. military service members from the nearby Fort Bragg military base and their families. This is also the first Tribute to the Troops that was taped indoors rather than outdoors. Lilian Garcia's performance of The Star-Spangled Banner was edited out of the USA Network broadcast.
The 2014 edition of the special was taped on December 9 in Columbus, Georgia (referred to on-air as Fort Benning) and aired on December 17 on the USA Network. The broadcast also aired on December 27, 2014 on NBC. The official theme song for the event is "This Is How We Roll" by Florida Georgia Line, who also performed live at the event. Hulk Hogan also made a special appearance.