Six of the Best – WWF/E Judgment Day

Hello You!

For a while there I didn’t think I was going to get this one posted before the end of May, but I just about got it all put together before the month reached it’s conclusion, like Indiana Jones sliding under a closing drawbridge right before it closes whilst still having time to reach back and grab my hat…

Or maybe not…

Anyway, Judgment Day was an event held by the WWF/E in the month of May from 2000 to 2009 (There was also a show from 1998 using the name that happened in October). It tended to be an event that advanced or began storylines rather than paying them off, and ended up feeling like a “B Show” most of the time as a result.

Despite that though, it was also a show that usually had at least a couple of good matches every time out, and that meant that I struggled somewhat whittling the list down to six. There were some really good matches that I really enjoyed that I had to leave on the cutting room floor, but I’m generally happy with what eventually made the final list.

As always, these are just my own personal picks. This isn’t supposed to be some sort of objective list or anything. If I leave out a match that you think warrants inclusion, then please feel free to put it down in the comments section below. As with previous lists, I’ll be listing the matches in chronological order.

So without further to do, let’s take a look at Six of the Best for Judgment Day!

Judgment Day 2000
Submission Match
Chris Benoit Vs Chris Jericho

This match is about both men trying to physically dismantle the other in the quest to force the other to submit. Jericho enters the match with an injured shoulder whilst Benoit comes in favouring his left knee, meaning that both men have clear targets to go after, and they both do so viciously. Submission matches of course take away the possibility for near falls, but both men make up for it by substituting submission teases for pin fall attempts and they manage to keep the crowd invested as a result.

Benoit and Jericho were both renowned for leaving it all in the ring, especially when it came to working snug, and they chop the absolute nonsense out of one another in this one. Rather than focusing on having a smooth technical classic, both me instead take a page from the Bret Hart/Steve Austin book by presenting the match more like an aggressive fight that just happens to have some technical wrestling holds interspersed within. The match is actually quite ugly, but ugly in a good way if that makes sense? You can feel the hate and desperation between the two men as the fight, because that’s what it is, escalates more and more.

Benoit getting a last gasp counter to the Walls of Jericho by waffling his opponent with the knee brace for his injured appendage mirrors Bret desperately braining Austin with the ring bell whilst being choked with a cable actually. I don’t think it’s an intentional call back from both men, but it certainly is a form of symmetry between the two matches. Even the finish is similar, with Jericho passing out in Benoit’s hold rather than submitting, just as Austin did in Bret’s Sharpshooter.

This match is an intense fight between two men in a heated program and its well worth a watch if you’ve never seen it.

Judgment Day 2000
60 Minute Iron Man Match
Triple H Vs The Rock

If proof was ever needed that The Rock was actually a good wrestler and not just a charismatic guy with a body, this match would likely be Exhibit A. Both The Rock and Triple H were at the height of their powers during this period, and this was one of the two classic matches that defined their rivalry, with the first being the month prior at Backlash.

What I like so much about this Iron Match is that both men aren’t afraid to actually drop some falls to each other during the hour long contest, which in turn makes it far more interesting than the hour long battle between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart at WrestleMania XII. What’s so great as well is that some of the pins come off non-finishing holds from both men such as DDT’s Piledrivers and Sleepers. This has the effect of fans actually caring about pins off innocuous moves, as it is established early on that these moves can actually lead to falls.

Indeed, at one point Triple H hits the Rock with his regular running high knee, a move he has never beaten anyone with ever as far as I can recall, and people actually buy the resulting pin attempt as a possible near fall due to both men already establishing that literally anything can lead to someone getting pinned or submitted. There’s also really clever stuff in there as well, such as Triple H getting himself intentionally disqualified via chair shot, only to pin the still groggy Rock following it. Stuff like this is why the “Cerebral Assassin” nickname for “The Game” was sometimes apropos.

Judgment Day 2000 was actually a pretty heel heavy show, as villains or tweeners won all but the opening contest, with the biggest heel win coming in the main event as Triple H once again claimed the WWF Title. At the time this felt like a bit of a pointless Title switch, especially as the belt ended back up on Rock again a month later at King of the Ring. However, the crowd goes insane for the return of The Undertaker and Rock gets some firm some revenge the following night by laying out Triple H and The McMahon Regime, so the fans got over all the heel wins pretty quickly.

The biggest compliment I can give this match is that when I went back to watch it for this feature it didn’t feel like it lasted an hour. In fact, when Jerry Lawler stated that they’d reached the half hour mark my first thought was that he must have made a mistake because it did not feel like the match had been going for that long and with long matches that’s what you want. You don’t want it to feel like it’s dragging, and thankfully it doesn’t here.

Judgment Day 2002
Hair Vs Hair Match
Edge Vs Kurt Angle

Edge and Kurt Angle tore the house down more than once in 2002, as they had crazy good chemistry together as opponents and the resulting feud between them really elevated Edge up the card. Edge was actually my favourite wrestler during this period in time, so I was really hoping that he wouldn’t lose and face the humiliation of having his long longs cut. Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, Edge going bald would have probably given him a much meaner look and could have led to him becoming more of a bad ass babyface, but ultimately I think having Angle lose was the right decision as his receding hairline was getting dangerously close to 1998 era Paul Gascoigne by the time this match came along.

This is the usual great match between the two, as they both punch, kick and suplex the heck out of each other in a quest to claim the right to shave the other bald. Being the handsome sod he is, Edge of course has the female contingent behind him, and they subsequently freak out whenever it looks like he might be defeated. The finishing sequence is probably the best bit of the match, as they tease the crowd with some believable near falls until Edge manages to catch Angle with an inside cradle before The Olympic Hero can properly cinch in his dreaded ankle lock submission hold.

And unlike on other occasions, they actually deliver on the promised stipulation here as well, as Edge legitimately shaves Angle bald, a look he’s kept since. Sadly Edge’s attempt to get the fans chanting “You’re Bald” instead of “You Suck” didn’t catch on, but he tried at least. If you’ve never seen this one then I strongly suggest seeking it out. It doesn’t seem to get mentioned that much when it comes to great matches from 2002, but it really is a cracking contest.

Judgement Day 2004
John Bradshaw Layfield Vs Eddie Guerrero

As Cody and Dustin Rhodes showed recently at AEW Double or Nothing, the introduction of blood can go a long way to making a match feel more dramatic, and this is definitely a match that benefits from the flow of some claret. Eddie Guerrero bleeds in a match here like few men have bled before. It really is a testament to just how hard Eddie was trying to justify his place as Champion at the time, as he busts his backside to do everything he can to get the feud with JBL over.

Is this match any good without the blood? Yes, I think it’s a decent intense brawl, with Eddie coming into the match with the goal of avenging his mother after JBL caused her to have a heart attack. JBL has kind of always been an upper mid card wrestler with a main event gimmick, but he steps it up here knowing that his future run on top relies on him delivering. Eddie helps a lot by really selling how much he hates JBL, switching almost immediately from his usual jovial entrance to staring a hole through his hated enemy the moment he locks eyes on him.

I’d be lying though if I didn’t say that the blood plays a big part in making the match feel special, almost certainly more special than it would feel without it. That all being said, I still really enjoy this one and it certainly held up for me. I dig the intensity between the two men and it does eventually feel like a pay per view main event, with the crowd absolutely losing their minds when Eddie finally gets to lay a whupping on the unrepentant heel following an unsatisfying DQ finish.

This match is a bit of an acquired taste, but I like it and I think it’s actually one of Eddie Guerrero’s better performances, as he takes an unproven guy at main event level and essentially makes him in one night.

Judgment Day 2005
I Quit Match
John Cena Vs John Bradshaw Layfield

This match is notable probably because it was one of the last pay per view main events where Cena was actually cheered by the crowd. Indeed, by the time Summer Slam rolled round three months later crowds were actively booing him for the most part. It’s amazing really, as it’s not like they did anything especially different with him from a character perspective, but just a couple of months after being greeted like a conquering hero he was getting booed out of pretty much every building he walked in to. Could it be that JBL was such a hated figure that he managed to keep the fans dislike of Cena at bay for a few blessed months?

Regardless of the reasons why, Cena is over like nobody’s business here, which really adds to the match. At its heart though, this is just a good solid garbagy brawl with all the classic I Quit spots that people have become accustomed to, such as JBL whomping Cena with the microphone and yelling at him to say the two magic words. Watching the flaccid bout between the two men at WrestleMania 21 only to then watch this one is like night and day, as everything is amped up from the violence, to the intensity to the crowd investment. By the end of things both men are bloody messes and have torn apart large chunks of the arena, as well as JBL’s trademark limousine.

This is a match that plays to both men’s strengths, with Cena getting to be gutsy and defiant in refusing to Quit whilst JBL gets the insufferable overbearing bully who is trying to beat the fan favourite into submission. I do watch great matches like this sometimes and it does make me wonder about just why people turned on Cena. One reason that gets brought out is that he was booked too strong. Indeed, comments of “Cena Wins LOL” and “Super Cena” always come up, but the fact that Cena overcomes a gory bladejob to finally rally and defeat the hated villain is exactly why the crowd cheer him here.

Considering the dearth of strong babyfaces these days in the modern WWE, watching Cena take a vicious beating only to rally and stand tall at the end makes this era feel like a halcyon age.

Judgment Day 2008
Shawn Michaels Vs Chris Jericho

These two had an incredible series of matches in 2008, with this one being the first in that series. At this stage Jericho was still ostensibly a babyface, but the seeds were being sown for an eventual heel turn. The build-up for this match was actually kind of weird, as Jericho had been accusing Shawn Michaels of faking an injury for a month, something Michaels initially denied, only to then reveal that, yes, he was faking all along. What was the Ninth Commandment again?

From that build you would expect Michaels to be the heel of the piece, but it turns out they went with Jericho going heel in the end instead. Oh well, the fans bought into it eventually, although this was an odd way to start off the storyline. The match itself is an excellent display of technical counter wrestling, as both men have a counter for the other wrestler’s counters, meaning that you can’t take your eyes off the action for even a second.

The story centres around Michaels getting in Jericho’s head and trying to wind him up so that he can catch him unawares, which again would normally be a heel technique, but Michaels does a good job at playing the likable wily veteran, which means it is still possible to cheer for him despite him essentially trying to con a fellow babyface. Jericho gets more aggressive as the bout progresses as he grows tired of Michaels’ antics and it all leads to a fantastic home stretch which has the fans on the edge of their seats. Jericho even gets to catch Michaels with a Code Breaker after feigning injury, which is a fun twist considering the storyline, but Michaels manages to kick out at two from the resulting pin attempt.

This really is an absolutely fantastic match and I strongly recommend watching it if you’ve never seen it before. These two just made magic together in 2008.

Honourable Mentions

Christian Vs TAKA Michinoku (Judgment Day 1998), X-Pac Vs D’Lo Brown (Judgment Day 1998), Ken Shamrock Vs Mankind (Judgment Day 1998), Too Cool and Rikishi Vs Edge, Christian and Kurt Angle (Judgment Day 2000), Kurt Angle Vs Chris Benoit (Judgment Day 2001), Stone Cold Steve Austin Vs The Undertaker (Judgment Day 2001), Eddie Guerrero Vs Rob Van Dam (Judgment Day 2002), Triple H Vs Chris Jericho (Judgment Day 2002), Eddie Guerrero and Tajiri Vs Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin (Judgment Day 2003), Brock Lesnar Vs Big Show (Judgment Day 2003), Rey Mysterio and Rob Van Dam Vs The Dudley Boyz (Judgment Day 2004), John Cena Vs Rene Dupree (Judgment Day 2004), MNM Vs Charlie Haas and Hardcore Holly (Judgment Day 2005), Paul London Vs Chavo Guerrero (Judgment Day 2005), Booker T Vs Kurt Angle (Judgment Day 2005), Rey Mysterio Vs Eddie Guerrero (Judgment Day 2005), Brian Kendrick and Paul London Vs MNM (Judgment Day 2006), Chris Benoit Vs Finlay (Judgment Day 2006), Rey Mysterio Vs JBL (Judgment Day 2006), Ric Flair Vs Carlito (Judgment Day 2007), The Hardy Boyz Vs Cade and Murdoch (Judgment Day 2007), Mickie James Vs Melina Vs Beth Phoenix (Judgment Day 2008), The Undertaker Vs Edge (Judgment Day 2008), Triple H Vs Randy Orton (Judgment Day 2008), Rey Mysterio Vs Chris Jericho (Judgment Day 2009), Edge Vs Jeff Hardy (Judgment Day 2009)