Sunday, 10 June 2018

Retro Review // WWE Judgment Day 2004

May 2004 – The Frankie/Eamon debacle was dominating the music charts, Friends aired its last ever episode and WWE's SmackDown brand was promoting Judgment Day. The show was promoted around three singles matches, with a lot of big name talent...and Rene Dupree. Dupree was set to challenge John Cena for his newly won United States Championship, whilst Booker T went head to head with The Undertaker and the newly rechristened John “Bradshaw” Layfield found himself with an opportunity for Eddie Guerrero's WWE title. Whilst the undercard didn't appear to offer all that much, there was potential for a good PPV if the top matches could deliver...but did they? Lets take a look. 

So, yeah, the show begins with the traditional video package...but this one takes on a much darker tone in retrospect and actually becomes a little hard to watch as it focuses on the theme of Judgement (because it's Judgment Day obvs). You're probably wondering what makes this dark, that would be the heavy focus on Eddie Guerrero as the voice over says “Is there actually life after death? Or are the memories we create here the only true after life?” In May 2004, this wouldn't have meant all that much (although I still feel it would've felt unnecessarily over-the-top), but considering Guerrero passed away less than a year and half later, watching the footage in May 2018 is a little uncomfortable. The open also included John “Bradshaw” Layfield, Booker T, The Undertaker, Rene Dupree and John Cena.

Our commentary team of Michael Cole & Tazz welcomed us to the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, after some pyro and what have you. Hugo Savinivich & Carlos Cabrera were there to provide Spanish commentary, good lads. 

Tag Team Match - Rey Mysterio & Rob Van Dam vs. The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray & D-Von)

This was a fun, well-booked opener, that played to it's strengths and despite going a little too long in this reviewer's opinion, managed to keep the Staples Center hot and behind the ultra babyface duo of Rey Mysterio & Rob Van Dam throughout. The Dudley Boyz dominated the majority with plenty of intensity and heely tactics, with Bubba Ray in particular shining as he repeatedly distracted the ref to do something dastardly. Bubba's character work was on point here, as he showed glimpses of what would become his Bully Ray character in TNA many years later and it was clear from this that he had the most potential for a singles run. Mysterio & RVD are a fun team and the brief flashes of offence from them provide just enough to buoy the bout at the right times, whilst also both selling the beating they take from the Dudleyz well. There's a couple of instances of awkardness, like a poorly conceived monkey flip from RVD to Bubba Ray and an overall lack of cohesion from the Dudley Boyz, who appear to operate as two singles wrestlers rather than the well-oiled machine that you'd expect at this point. However, the finishing stretch features a couple of nice near falls and the highlight of the match as RVD pops Mysterio straight up into a frankensteiner to D-Von. Probably not quite good enough to go out of your way to check out on it's own, but it works as the curtain jerker and the Staples Center loved everything Mysterio & RVD had to offer.

Next Pay-Per-View – At Great American Bash on 27th June, Rey Mysterio defended the Cruiserweight Championship (which he won on the 17th June SmackDown) against Chavo Guerrero, Rob Van Dam got a shot at John Cena's United States Championship in a Fatal Four-way, whilst The Dudley Boyz battled The Undertaker in the one and only Concrete Crypt match as the main event. 

A very young and oddly dressed Josh Mathews hosted a weird interview in Booker T's lockeroom, that for some reason was filled with candles, concluding with Booker revealing that a mysterious pouch will help him beat the Undertaker in their match later on the show. Booker's performance actually wasn't all that bad, but the gimmick is stupid and has very little to do with anything that he said.

Some shots of the outside of the Staples Center, which was bathed in sunlight on what looks like a lovely afternoon all round.

This show continues to get weirder as SmackDown General Manager Kurt Angle arrived in what I can only describe as a contraption, pushed out by Luther Reigns, with Angle rising up into the air whilst sitting in a wheelchair with a French flag on the back. Angle proceeded to cut a cheap heat promo on Los Angeles, ending by wishing an earthquake on the city, before calling out Torrie Wilson and telling her if she lost her match with Dawn Marie she'd be fired...this was apparently because Angle had blamed Wilson for the injury he'd suffered at the hands of the Big Show. I'm not familiar with the angle, but it sounded pretty lame. 

Singles Match – Torrie Wilson vs. Dawn Marie

This match is trash, pure and utter trash. Apart from swathes of sloppy strikes and awkward reversals, the “highlight” of the match was Wilson attempting to hold the tights on pinfall (despite being a babyface) and “accidentally” revealing Marie's arse to the Staples Center. This gets a massive pop. Despite their being a clear storyline to be told, with Wilson being thrown straight into a career-threatening match against a woman who had previously shagged her Dad to death, the only thing that garners a reaction is the sight of woman's (almost) bare backside. Someone should let this crowd know about the internet or indeed actual women. If you ever want to show someone an example of how far women's wrestling has come in WWE over the last 15 years, this is probably a good place to start. 

Next PPV – The Great American Bash would see Torrie Wilson's momentum halted as she lost to Sable, whilst Dawn Marie wouldn't return to PPV until October's No Mercy where she'd tag with The Dudley Boyz in a losing effort against Charlie Haas, Miss Jackie & Rico. 

Whilst surrounded bottles of champagne, John “Bradshaw” Layfield cut a promo on America, with strong xenophobic overtones, before ending by claiming that he will be victorious over Eddie Guerrero later on. 

Singles Match – Mordecai vs. Scotty 2 Hotty

The ludicrously dressed Mordecai's first of just three broadcast WWE bouts saw the 6 foot 3 Memphian squash former WWF Light Heavyweight Champion Scotty 2 Hotty. If this had been on an episode of SmackDown it would've been a decent introduction to Mordecai as he looks pretty impressive at points, showing good intensity and has a couple of inventive spots like a sneaky submission hold around the ring post. But this is PPV and a match like this really has not place on an event that people are paying for. The highlight was a short Scotty comeback that got a massive pop from the crowd as he hit a superkick that busted open Mordecai's lip. The Crucifix powerbomb that Modercai wins with is a lame choice as finisher and nowhere near the best incarnation of the move. 

Next PPV – Mordecai took on Hardcore Holly at The Great American Bash, whilst Scotty 2 Hotty wouldn't be back on PPV until January as he took part in the 2005 Royal Rumble, with this bout being his final PPV singles match.

Jacqueline presented Chavo Guerrero with some underwear backstage, whilst Chavo Classic was seen with his trousers around his ankles for some reason. 

WWE Tag Team Championship Match – Rico & Charlie Haas © (w/ Miss Jackie) vs. Hardcore Holly & Billy Gunn

This really was a match of two halves, beginning with some dated homophobic comedy and concluding with a rather good closing sequence. The first six minutes of the match was bad comedy, which with 2018 vision is not a lot of fun to watch, as everyone seems afraid of the effeminate Rico, who constantly feels up his opponents. Basically, Rico was rehashing the Goldust gimmick and not doing so all that brilliantly, but it has to be said that the Staples Center seemed to lap up all the various sexual positions that the competitors fell into. 2004 was a world away in more ways than one it seems. Also why was Billy Gunn so afraid of Rico now? It's like Billy & Chuck has been retconned. The beginning is made all the more frustrating by the fact that the finish features some of the best work on the show so far, with all four men delivering high quality back and forth action, as the momentum changes repeatedly, before Rico nails Holly with a superkick just before Holly can hit an Alabama Slam on Haas. If the company had been more focused on putting on good wrestling than telling a bad joke, then this could have been a very satisfying ten minutes. 

Next PPV – After dropping the Tag Team titles to the Dudley Boyz on 17th June SmackDown, Charlie Haas would compete in a singles match with Luther Reigns at The Great American Bash, whilst Rico would wait until No Mercy in October for the aforementioned six person tag match, which would turn out to be his final PPV match with WWE. Billy Gunn and Hardcore Holly would both compete in singles matches at Great American Bash, against Kenzo Suzuki (Gunn's last ever one on one match on a WWE PPV) and Mordecai respectively. 

A quick backstage promo from The Undertaker and Paul Bearer that really offered up nothing of note.

The commentary team discussed how much “voodoo” Booker T would have to bring in order to defeat The Undertaker later on. Fuck off. 

Highlights of Chavo Classic beating Jacqueline on SmackDown and Jacqueline pulling Classic's trousers down after the match. Fuck off. 

WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match – Chavo Guerrero (w/ Chavo Classic) vs. Jacqueline (C) 

This was lame. I hated pretty much everything that happened here, from the counterproductive gimmick of Guerrero having one arm tied behind his back to the presentation of Jacqueline to the multiple interference spots from Classic in the finish. No one came out looking good, no one got any extra heat, the Cruiserweight title looked like a joke and I wanted to scratch my eyes out with a rusty spoon. I don't want to talk anymore about it. 

After the match, Chavo Guerrero cut a short promo about something, before Chavo Classic kicked Jacqueline in the gut. Brilliant. Well done.

Next PPV – Chavo Guerrero would drop the Cruiserweight title to Chavo Classic on the SmackDown following this PPV (in a three way that also included Spike Dudley), with Classic later dropping the belt to Rey Mysterio. At The Great American Bash, Guerrero received a shot at Mysterio's title. Jacqueline would be released by WWE the following month, eventually resurfacing in TNA in November, facing Trinity at Victory Road.  Jacqueline would make her WWE PPV return 14 years later at the 2018 Royal Rumble. 

A quick package lets us know that Rene Dupree and John Cena are feuding because Dupree hates the United States and also for some reason, Torrie Wilson. The highlight of their feud seemed to be Dupree powerbombing Cena through the announce table. 

John Cena got to do a little rap before his match, which was not great and pretty much buried Dupree, but was over with the LA crowd. 

WWE United States Championship Match - John Cena © vs. Rene Dupree

Not a classic at all here, as Rene Dupree showed us why this was his one and only one on one WWE PPV match. The French Phenom looked sloppy when taking and receiving offence for pretty much the whole bout, whilst the early exchanges were particularly poor as Dupree struggled to get over the top rope on a clothesline spot, before taking a weird looking bump into the turnbuckle off an Irish whip. Whilst Dupree would later hit a number of big moves, including a spinebuster, DDT and a clunky neckbreaker, the Frenchman either didn't cover Cena or was slow to the cover, which made the then 20 year old grappler come out of the match looking like a bit of chump. Whether this was purposefully done to help John Cena, I'm not sure, but it certainly didn't help the match. For his part, Cena looked competent, but it would be stretch to say that the Massacusettsan appeared to have anywhere near the star potential that he'd develop in coming months and years, although he was notably over with the LA audience (although they appear to be happy with what has been a pretty awful PPV so far, so lets not trust their reactions anymore). The highlight was a big spot that saw Dupree dodge a crossbody while on the apron, sending Cena over the top and to the floor and even this didn't make a whole load of sense if you thought about it for more than half a second. It looked cool though, so there's that.

Next PPV – Both Cena and Dupree would be involved in a Four-way match for Cena's US title at The Great American Bash. 

Kenzo Suzuki is coming to SmackDown and he tells us so in Japanese, I imagine. 

The package for The Undertaker vs. Booker T showed once again how inept the SmackDown creative department was at the time as whilst the storyline appeared to initially be run of the mill as Booker attempted to establish himself after jumping from RAW to SD, it quickly devolved into Booker enlisting the help of a voodoo priestess and putting dirt from a graveyard into a bag. Why? 

Singles Match – The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer) vs. Booker T

This would be a poor match if anyone was involved, but considering you have two top level talents in here, it makes for an even more painful watch. The gimmick that Booker has a bag of dirt that he keeps rubbing on himself for somekind of advantage is bad enough, but when you consider that it gives Booker absolutely no help, even when he resorts to lobbing the dirt into the Deadman's eyes it produces some of the most mind-numbing action either man has ever been involved in. It's clear that neither guy gives a shit about the match, with The Undertaker in particular half-arsing his performance, no-selling his leg after Booker spent some time on it, whilst also struggling with his ring positioning on a number of occasions. Both men do shit looking version of their signature holds for the finish of what must be considered some of the least inspired work of either man's career.

Next PPV – At Great American Bash, The Undertaker would face The Dudley Boyz in the main event, the first ever and indeed only, Concrete Crypt match, whilst Booker T would be involved in the four-way bout for the United States Championship. 

John “Bradshaw” Layfield's rise up the card was the main thrust of the promo package for the main event, until the despicable angle that saw Eddie Guerrero's mother “suffer a heart attack” at a live event after being confronted by JBL. Fuck off. Who is booking this shit? SmackDown was a pile of shit at this point and I'm glad I'm only watching this PPV and not sitting through what looks like a terrible time to be a fan of the blue brand.

JBL proceeded to cut a promo about Mexico being a shithole and wanting to put Eddie Guerrero on a raft back home (despite Guerrero being from El Paso, Texas), whilst also offering Guerrero's mother a job as his maid. Eugh. This doesn't make me hate the character or want to see him get his comeuppance, it just makes me cringe and want to watch anything else. 

Singles Match for WWE Championship – John “Bradshaw” Layfield vs. Eddie Guerrero © 

Okay, so this match is remembered for one thing and one thing only. Which is, of course, JBL nailing one of the dirtiest chair shots in WWE history and Eddie Guerrero slicing his head to fuck in a horrendous bladejob. More on that in a moment, lets skim over the rest of the bout first, even if it is pretty inconsequential stuff. There was some firey brawling early on and a botched spot in the mid-way point that leads to some awkwardness as the two, quite surprisingly, struggle to improvise their way back to where they need to be. That botch adds a lot of time that the match really doesn't need, as I feel a quicker match that escalated quickly to the chair shot would have been more fitting to the rivalry that had been built around JBL hating Mexico and almost killing Eddie's Mom, rather than JBL whacking on about six chinlocks. I guess the reason this had to go so long is that neither of the other featured matches went much over ten minutes and the pair were forced to kill time.

Let's talk about that blood baybeeeeeee. Because it is fucking horrific and super uncomfortable to watch at various times, meaning that this match is not one for anyone a little squeamish. That's without mentioning some of the nastiest chairshots that the WWE has ever seen being thrown by both men. The blood however does create some wonderful visuals, improve the strength of any near fall that JBL has on Latino Heat and make Guerrero's comeback an absolute experience to witness. Seriously though, Guerrero hulking up after kicking out of a Clothesline from Hell and a JBL bomb, whilst covered in, and dripping, blood is a moment that is so ridiculous that somehow it works. The crowd goes absolutely nuts for their hero as he refuses to lie down for a men who has criticised his heritage and people. Therefore, it's difficult not to say that the finish of the bout itself comes across as more than a little lame, as after multiple ref bumps, Guerrero nails JBL in the goolies and then clobbers him with the WWE title belt for a DQ finish. It makes logical sense that Guerrero couldn't see another way out, but couldn't bare to lose to JBL, but the fact that Eddie would never manage a victory over the man that basically caused his Mom a heart attack really doesn't sit right. 

The post-match attack makes up for the crappy finish somewhat as Guerrero went mad on JBL, with a pair of brutal unprotected chair shots and a Frog Splash, before the two are eventually separated by a number of WWE officials, including Fit Finlay, Arn Anderson, Dean Malenko and Steve Keirn.

Next PPV – Layfield would get a second chance at the WWE Championship as he got a rematch with Guerrero at the Great American Bash, this time in a Texas Bullrope match. 

This is not a good PPV, not a good PPV in the slightest. The only match I'd recommend going and checking out is the main event, because I think there's more merit to that bout than simply seeing the chair shot and brutal bladejob in a YouTube clip. There's moments in both the opening tag and the Tag title bout, but outside of that there's nothing on this show, as two of the top three matches fall flat, especially The Undertaker vs. Booker T clash. However, match quality isn't my biggest problem with this show. My biggest problem is that beyond the opening match, every single match on the card has an element of sexism, racism, homophobia or xenophobia, that (according to the crowd reactions from LA in 2004) has not aged very well at all. It feels like the only way the creative team knew how to get heat was to alienate elements of their own fanbase and the only way they knew how to get a reaction was to use lazy poorly conceived stereotypes. There's stuff on this show made me cringe and will I'm sure make others feel even more uncomfortable. Don't waste your time with Judgment Day 2004, lads. 

For an alternative look at this event, check out our good pal Marc Pearson's review from his 10 Years Ago series. 

Next time - WCW Slamboree 1993 

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