PPV REVIEW: WWE Judgement Day 2004

WWE Judgement Day 2004 Review - Event poster

May 16, 2004,
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
Judgment Day 2004 begins with a warning that says there is offensive content. I’m writing this right after the two-hour tour-de-force of misogyny and homophobia that was TNA’s second PPV, so I’m really not all that concerned about how offended I’ll be. 

Also, this took place on my 20th birthday, and I can’t for the life of me remember how I spent it, which probably means I was drunk.

19 years later, and with my sober hat well and truly on, it’s time to go back to xx and see what I missed.

Is There Life After Death? 

Tonight’s opening video primarily featured black-and-white shots of the Smackdown roster and their recent rivalries with one another.

All the while, a somewhat whistful voice-over lamented the nature of mortality, its consequences, and the eternal struggle between good vs. evil.

Was there really an afterlife?
If so, how would we would be judged when we get there?
Does it even matter if we do good or bad on our journey through this mortal realm?

The video package didn’t actually answer these questions.
However, it certainly asked them in a way that attempted to lend a certain solemn gravitas to tonight’s proceedings, as if what we were about to witness really was a day of judgment on the souls of WWE’s Smackdown roster and not just, you know, a bunch of dudes pretending to fight one another.
WWE Judgement Day 2004 - Michael Cole and Tazz
Following the usual crowd shots, pyro, and a greeting from Michael Cole & Tazz, it was our first match of the evening.

Rey Mysterio & Rob Van Dam vs. The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray & D’Von Dudley)

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned this, but I never look at the card of any show or want to review so that hopefully retain some sort of element of surprise.

Sometimes, it pays off.
Sometimes, like today, it didn’t.

See, there I was, enjoying the thrill of thinking I was about to watch a Rey Mysterio/Rob Van Dam singles match, when out came The Dudley Boyz in what I can only describe as a major let down.
WWE Judgement Day 2004 - Rob Van Dam

You see, The Dudley Boyz has been stale for a long time, and as much as they’d perfected the art of being in the opening PPV match their act was tired and their matches mediocre at best.

So I wasn’t looking forward to this one at all until it became apparent that The Dudley’s were now heels, something which really seemed to have lit a fire under the duo.

In a surprising twist, the two had their best Pay Per View match in ages, going at it in a spirited performance with their fellow ECW alum.

It was RVD who kicked things off for his team, getting the better of both Dudleys before tagging in Mysterio to fill the ‘face in peril’ role for which he was so perfectly cast.

Mysterio absorbed his punishment before finally making the hot tag, leading to an exciting finishing sequence which ended with Rey taking down both opponents with a 619 and Van Dam sealing the deal with a Five Star Frog Splash.
Your Winners: Rey Mysterio & Rob Van Dam

As Mysterio and RVD celebrated, Michael Cole mentioned some “strange” noises coming from behind Booker T’s dressing room door.

Don’t worry though, folks, Josh Matthews was on the case. 
He burst into the dressing room expecting to find Booker up to something, but only found the Five Time Dubya See Dubya champion standing around waiting for him.
WWE Judgement Day 2004 PPV Review - Josh Matthews interviews Booker T

As entertaining as ever, Booker was now a fully-fledged heel who claimed to be the biggest star on Smackdown, bigger than RVD, bigger than Rey Mysterio and, yes, even bigger than his upcoming opponent, The Undertaker.
With that solid promo over, Matthews left the room, providing us with a parting shot of a candle-lit prayer circle set out in the corner.

Kurt Angle is Mad

Up next, Luther Reigns and his giant earring came through the curtain pushing a giant box which was soon revealed to be housing a wheelchair-bound Kurt Angle.
WWE Judgement Day 2004 PPV Review - Kurt Angle in a wheelchair

Elevated to the top of the box (which I’m sure Vince McMahon would want me to call a “box-like structure.”),  Smackdown General Manager drew major heat for first attacking LA and their sports teams and then throwing his support behind John Bradshaw Layfield in tonight’s main event.

He wasn’t done there.

Angle, who was legitimately out of action due to surgery on his freakin’ neck, had been kayfabe injured by The Big Show as a means to write him out of active completion for a while.
WWE Judgement Day 2004 PPV - Torrie Wilson

However, it wasn’t Show that Angle was mad at. It was Torrie Wilson.

The GM demanded she make her way to the ring where he told that, as punishment, she’d be fired if she lost our next contest.

Torrie Wilson vs. Dawn Marie

I’m not one to dismiss a match simply because it’s a “divas” match, but even judged on its own merit, this one was horrible.
WWE Judgement Day 2004 PPV - Dawn Marie
Sloppy and uncoordinated, the two girls struggled to deliver even the most basic match, resulting in a poor showing in which the only genuinely exciting moment was Dawn Marie’s pants coming undone, exposing her bare ass.

Undeterred, Marie and her booty continued the assault, only for Torrie to narrowly escape with a victory thanks to a roll-up.
Your Winner: Torrie Wilson

Well, at least Wilson got to keep her job.

Scotty 2 Hotty vs. Mordecai

Someone who wouldn’t be keeping his job for too long was Mordecai.
WWE Judgement Day 2004 Review - Mordecai Debuts
After weeks of vignettes, the spooky Druid dude made his debut here in a short-but-effective squash against veteran Scotty 2 Hotty.

With his dramatic, Undertaker-esque entrance, commanding presence and strong commitment to his character, Mordecai made light work of his opponent.

It was far from a great match, but that wasn’t the point.

The point was to make the newly debuting star  look like a formidable force, and to that end, this works.

Unsurprisingly, the much-hyped Mordecai went over thanks to an impressive Razor’s Edge.
Your Winner: Mordecai 

Back in the locker room, Chavo Guerrero Sr was quite literally caught with his pants down by Jacqueline.
WWE Judgement Day 2004 Review - Chavo Guerrero & Jacqueline

The reigning Cruiserweight champion  was here to offer Chavo Guerrero Jr. a gift, a consolation prize of sorts that she insisted would make him feel better after losing to a woman again in their upcoming rematch for the title. 

The gift turned out to be a set of lingerie, a gesture which angered Guerrero so much he proceeded to yell at Jackie. As he did so, his pops, Chavo Sr, could be seen in the background examining the lingerie, even going as far as to hold it against his body as though seeing whether it would fit.

We’d see those two later. Until then, we had a different Jackie to contend with:

WWE Tag Team Championship
WWE Tag Team Champions Rico & Charlie Haas (w/ Jackie Gayda) vs.Hardcore Holly & Billy Gunn

The story here was that all the men were uncomfortable with Rico’s overly flamboyant acts of blatant homoeroticism, including his own partner, Charlie Haas.
WWE Judgement Day 2004 - Charlie Haas, Jackie Gayda, and Rico

As the duo made their entrance, Rico and Jackie Gayda stepped up onto a raised ramp way to cavort and frolic around while Haas stood by looking deeply aggrieved. 

They were soon followed by the makeshift duo of veterans Hardcore Holly and Billy Gunn, who were even more perturbed by Rico to the point that both were reluctant to even lock up with him.

And yes, this was despite the fact that Gunn himself had once pretended to be gay and has even aligned himself with Rico. 
Of course, this was never mentioned by the announcers, presumably because it would highlight how little this story made sense.

The match started horribly, with far too much time devoted to Gunn & Holly’s unwillingness to be groped and fondled by the overly sexual Rico.

Eventually, the challengers got Charlie Haas in the ring and cut him off from his corner, partly to wear him down, but mostly to avoid having to deal with Rico again.

The champs eventually got the hot tag, at which point Rico abandoned the whole “look at me, I’m gay” shtick and ran rampant on his opponents.

The challengers regained the advantage, but when Holly set up Haas for the Alabama Slam, he was kicked in the face by Rico.

Charlie rolled through, made the cover, and this one was over.
Your Winners and Still Tag Team Champions: Rico & Charlie Haas 

Out in the back, Paul Bearer warned Booker T that his judgement day had finally come in a short promo with a delightfully old-school feel.
WWE Judgement Day 2004 Review - The Undertaker & Paul Bearer

This one ended with The Undertaker uttering a classic “rest in peace” and rolling his eyes in the back of his head.

WWE Cruiserweight Championship
WWE Cruiserweight Champion Jacqueline vs. Chavo Guerrero Jr (w/ Chavo Classic)
Chavo must have one hand tied behind his back

Look, I’m a big fan of both competitors here, but this match was an embarrassment to watch.
PPV REVIEW - WWE Judgement Day 2004 - Jacqueline vs. Chavo Guerrero

Even with one hand tied behind his back, the challenger was able to quickly overpower his much smaller opponent and spent most of the bout beating her up.

Jackie did, of course, get in some offense, though it consisted almost entirely of a head scissors into the corner and a few clubbing shots to the back, followed a little bit later by a low blow behind Charles’ Robison’s back.

The whole thing played out to total silence from an audience who I have to believe were just as embarrassed as I was to watch this whole thing.

Having long overstayed its welcome, this lame match ended when Chavo Classic helped his son free the arm thag was tired behind his back. He then distracted Little Naitch so that Chavo Jr could hit the ring, destroy poor Jacqueline with a big time Gory Bomb, and regain his title.
Your Winner and New WWE Cruiserweight Champion: Chavo Guerrero 

Afterwards; the new champion took to the microphone to bask in his own glory and lambast the Smackdown fans for laughing at him when Jacqueline had originally beaten him for the gold.
PPV REVIEW - WWE Judgement Day 2004 -  Chavo Guerrero

“And now none of you will ever laugh at me again!” He declared.

Oh, Chavo. Just wait until you hear about Hornswoggle.

French People Are Terrible

Up next, we got a video package recapping the feud between US Champion, John Cena and Evil Frenchman, Renee Dupree.

The deal here was that Dupree was foreign, and thererore profoundly evil. 

He was so evil that he disliked MURICA, which as everybody knows is the worst possibly thing anybody could ever do.

He had shown his disdain for the US by parading a bunch of French stereotypes in the ring and being mean to all-American gal, Torrie Wilson.

Cena had rescued Wilson, kicking off their rivalry. However, he was later powebombed through the announce table, presumably in an effort to establish that Dupree had credibility beyond the Evil Foreigner gimmick.

WWE United States Championship
WWE US Champion John Cena vs. Renee Dupree

Cena hit the ring full of vim and vigor, grabbing the microphone and demanding that LA “make a little noise up in this biatch.”

The crowd acquiesced, filling the, um...biatch...with a loud ovation. 
PPV REVIEW - WWE Judgement Day 2004 -  John Cena
The self-styled Doctor of Thuganomics, who rewarded their applause with one of his spoken-word raps in which he promised to give his jersey to someone in the crowd.

Before he could, however, Dupree made a bombastic entrance and the match was on.

Far better than anticipated, this one was made all the more excited by a rapid crowd who lapped up the action with gusto as the challenger took the fight right to his opponent.

Dupree dominated, solidly establishing himself as a viable threat to Cena’s title and elevating himself beyond a cliched gimmick.
PPV REVIEW - WWE Judgement Day 2004 -  Rene Dupree mauls John Cena

Not that it was enough.
Cena eventually battled back, securing the win with a trusty FU.

After a mostly mediocre show so far, this one stood out by a mile as the most exciting thing on the card to this point.
Your Winner and Still WWE US Champion: John Cena 

Post-match, Cena spent several years teasing the crowd with the jersey he promised to give them, then ventured among the masses to hand it to some dude holding up a Cena sign.

A quick vignette then aired, promoting the arrival of newcomer Kenso Suzuki, after which Michael Cole promised us a “rare” appearance from a man who had made multiple appearances on television since returning at Wrestlemania.

A video package showed us Booker T moving to Smackdown in the draft, and immediately declared himself to be the brand’s biggest star.
The Undertaker, in an apparently rare appearance, took umbrage with that and set his sights on the five time Dubya See Dubya champion.

Booker responded by going to see a voodo woman who gave him a small bag of powder that would supposedly give him the same powers as The Undetaker, after which The Dead Man made a few more “rare appearances” to flesh out the feud.

Booker T vs. The Undertaker

Despite the aforementioned video package showing us how frequently ‘Taker had appeared in recent weeks, Michael Cole reiterated his stance that this was a “rare” appearance once the Phenom had hit the ring.
PPV REVIEW - WWE Judgement Day 2004 -  The Undertaker vs. Booker T

As ‘Taker ran through his usual lengthy entrance and Cole continued lying his ass off, Booker paced up and down with the little bag of powder.

Eventually, after much hype and build-up, the match was on, and it was…

Well, it was alright I suppose.

There was nothing notably wrong with the match, nor did Booker and T have any trouble working together, but it lacked that certain quality, that intangible ‘it factor’ that elevates a decent match to a truly good one.

Alas, that’s about the best I can say about this one.

I even did something I’ve maybe only done once or twice over the course of the 11 years that I’ve spent writing over 200 pro wrestling reviews:

I watched the match twice just because I was convinced that it had to be better than I’d initially perceived it to be.

It wasn’t.

Even on repeat viewing, it was clear that this one got by on the strength of its star power rather than any extraordinary effort from the men involved.

At one point, Booker T used the bag of powder as a weapon to try and blind his opponent, but it was no use.
Judgement Day '04 - The Undertaker and Paul Bearer leave the arena

The Phenom eventually got the better of Booker and put him away with a tombstone pile driver, after which Michael Cole once again told us what a rare appearance this had been for ‘Taker.
Your Winner: The Undertaker
After all that, a final video package recapped John Bradshaw Layfield’s recent heel turn, gimmick change, and subsequent feud with Eddie Guerrero.

With all that over, it was time for our main event. 

WWE Championship
WWE Champion Eddie Guerrero vs. John Bradshaw Layfield 

I don’t care what’s been said about him over the years. John Bradshaw Layfield was a consummate heel, and this must surely go down as the best match of his career.
WWE Judgement Day '04 Review - Eddie Guerrero vs. JBL

Things started off ins explosive fashion, the two heated rivals lunging at each other with violent aplomb right from the opening bell.

Guerrero quickly got the upper hand, rattling his opponent around the ring and hurling him to the outside for more punishment.

The crowd lapped it up, but their cheers soon turned to groans as the challenger seized control and began wearing Eddie down with headlocks and chin locks.

Of course, this was nowhere near as flashy or dramatic as Guerrero’s wild offense, which made it the perfect way for JBL to say f-you to the audience and establish himself as a hated bad guy.

Besides, with Bradshaw laying it on thick and Guerrero selling as though his life depended on it, the two proved that even these basic moves can contribute to a dramatic and exciting match.

Heading into the bout’s final act, the referee took a tumble, and the match spilled to the outside, where JBL blasted Guerrrro over the head with a chair.

The audible gasp from the audience as the camera cut to a shot of the WWE Champion drenched in his own blood was the kind of moment you never forget.

I mean, Eddie wasn’t just bleeding in the sense that we’re used to in mainstream pro wrestling, the stuff was literally pouring out of him, thick, dark red drops that spilled from his flesh like a heavy rainfall.

You’d think that would be enough to keep Guerrero down for the count, but you’d be wrong.
JBL continued his asault, destroying the champion with the ringsteps and knockign him down with a clothesline from hell, but the cocky challenger took too long to make the cover and only got a two count.

When he attempted the move a second time, however, Guerrero reversed it into a drop toe-hold, sending Bradshaw into the referee.

Recovering quickly, JBL smashed Eddie with a brutal powerbomb, but still the champion refused to die, kickng out of two pin attempts and even countering a sleeper hold.

By this stage, the ring was covered in Guerrero blod, but as it continued to poor from his face like a crimson waterfall, the champ channelled his inner Latino Heat and made a Hulk Hogan like comeback, delighting the fans by taking the fight back to his adversary.

Alas, Guerrero missed a frog splash attempt, giving JBL the opportunity to bring the title belt into the ring. The move backfired, Eddie grabbed the belt and lamped JBL in the face with it in front of the referee.

With that, the match was thrown out.
Your Winner Via Disqualification: JBL (Eddie Guerrero retains the title)

The crowd were deeply unhappy with that decision, yet their jeers soon turned to cheers as Eddie Guerrero pounced ontop of the champion, reigning down on him with blows and smashing him in the face with the title multiple times and a chairshot to the face that left the former APA member almost as bloody as the champ.

Finally, Guerrero landed a frog splash, ending this massacre once and for all.

WWE Judgement Day 2004 was one of the company's better brand-only PPVs.

Although Undertaker/Booker T underwhelmed, the opening tag match and US title matches were fine bouts for what they were.

Yet this show will always be remembered for one match and one match only; that brutal, bloody war of destruction between Eddie Guerrero and JBL.

It was an absolutely intense and fantastic bout well worth repeat viewing.

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