– Hey, what’s shaking guys. Sorry I’m a couple of days late with the review of Judgement Day. I went down to South Florida to surprise my Dad for his birthday this weekend and didn’t get a chance to sit down with the tape until now. I wanted to watch live on Sunday Night, but after the drive, I just didn’t have it in me.
Incidentally, I listened to Game 7 of the Cavs-Pistons series on the radio while I drove back up. Hats off to Cleveland for taking it to 7, but if they could have just grabbed a defensive rebound or two, they could have closed it out in 6. And thank God for the Mavericks. I really thought we were looking at yet another Spurs/Pistons nightmare Finals. The kind were Hubie Brown declares before the game that “whoever gets 60 has a great shot of winning tonight.”
And because I’m already losing your attention, one more non-wrestling related sports note: Barry Bonds is ok by me. I don’t necessarily like him as a person (nor do I hate him), but to hear so many people just bashing the guy to pieces is ridiculous. Barry’s crime isn’t doping. If that were the case, then hundreds of other MLB’ers would be getting booed out of the building every time they stepped up to bat as well. Barry’s crime happens to be that a) he’s somewhat unlikeable, b) he might has used steroids, and c) he’s an unbelievable player.
The media irresponsibly bashes Bonds as if he’s actually been proven guilty by Major League Baseball or a criminal court, and Bud Selig and the owners sit idly by perfectly willing to let Bonds play scapegoat to the problem that they themselves created. You can’t turn a blind eye to steroid abuse for two decades, finally get yourself dragged in front of Congress, and then allow a great player like Bonds to bear the full weight of the media witch hunt. That’s not going to get MLB and its owners off the hook, and forcing Bonds out of baseball certainly isn’t going to ease doubts about guys like McGwire and Sosa, nor will it give baseball a fresh, sparkly, drug-free image.
From about 1980 until 2004, baseball’s unwritten rules clearly stated that ‘if you want to do steroids, keep your mouth shut about it, and knock yourself out.’ People are delusional if they view it any other way. Biceps and skulls were growing at the same rate that the ballparks were shrinking. Owners were signing slobs capable of hitting 40 HR’s a year for double the salaries of solid all-around players. Baseball’s anonymous random steroid tests were coming back positive 10% of the time. And nobody cared.
As far as I’m concerned, you can draw a line in the dirt when it comes to baseball history. From the first World Series until around 1980, the game was pure. And from 1980 on, the game has been largely performance-enhanced. If you want to give Bonds an asterick, fine. But give the other 50% of baseball that Ken Caminiti says used steroids an asterick as well. Whether you like it or not, Barry Bonds — even if he did dope — was playing within the confines of the current baseball climate.
And as the overused saying goes, “Don’t blame the player, blame the game.” Blame baseball for sitting on their hands, basking in the glory (and dollars) of the Sosa/McGwire home run chase, and facilitating the drug-ridden climate the game’s existed in for over two decades. With or without drugs, and regardless of his percieved ‘tude, Bonds is a legend.
– ON TO THE SHOW!
– We get a good opening video package from the WWE (as always), and the Judgement Day set looks absolutely killer. The official Judgement Day theme, “This Fire Burn” by Killswitch Engage (who are beginning to sound suspiciously like Hoobastank) is pretty damn catchy, and it sets a great tone for the opening of the show. I’m absolutely floored by the business that the WWE is doing as of late, and it certainly brings back memories of better days to see the U.S. Airways Arena in Phoenix absolutely packed to the rafters.
– MNM vs. Paul London & Brian Kendrick
I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve enjoyed a WWE tag match on PPV this much. I really can’t. Of course the 2003 Smackdown roster had some classic tag matches with Angle, Edge, Mysterio, Benoit, and the Guerreros, but since Los Guerreros and Team Angle went their seperate ways, I honestly can’t think of anything better than this.
MNM have been an absolute joy to watch since coming to Smackdown, and no matter how bad the show has gotten, I’ve still gone out of my way to see the MNM segments and matches. Kendrick and London were awesome here tonight as well, playing perfect babyface foils to the heelish MNM.
The match reminded me of a slightly modernized Midnights/Fantastics match, and even if guys like old bitter-puss Keller want to needlessly search for flaws, there just weren’t many to be found. The highspots were plentiful, the crowd was jacked, and the right team probably won.
Still though, I can’t help but be horribly disappointed that MNM was broken up. I would have happily followed this feud until Summerslam.
Equally stupid are all the goofy backstage politics that ruin the continuity and fun of the on-screen product. From most reports, yes, Melina is said to be a bit of a bitch. She reportedly talks down to the production people, insults the camera men, and on at least one occasion, started a fight with Mickie James. But there’s just got to be a better way to deal with it than to break up a tag team you’ve been investing in, time-wise and money-wise, for a year now.
It seems equally stupid to punish Johnny Nitro, if that’s the direction they intend on going in. Apparantly, the boys in the back weren’t happy that he was dating Melina. Instead of being ‘one of the boys,” he was tending to his relationship. Seriously, what a bunch of total tools the locker room must be full of if that is the case. It’s sad that the wrestling business has become a public, corporate-structured, mass-media giant, yet the “locker room” still wants to behave like it’s 1974.
A great — if bittersweet — match, and if we’ve seen the last of MNM as we knew them, the memories have been great.
– Fit Finlay vs. Chris Benoit
Man, the match hasn’t even started yet, and the scene is already awesome. Finlay is crouched down in the corner ready to charge, Benoit’s in the opposite corner, and the crowd is just going crazy with “Benoit” chants. I haven’t read the results of the show yet, but from what I’ve overheard, this match is going to be one to keep.
The match starts out with a brutal collar-and-elbow. Finlay and Benoit lock up, push for over a minute, hit the mat, and slide outside of the ring, all while still locked up in the collar-and-elbow. The push at each other more outside the ring, come back in, and go forehead-to-forehead. Just an AWESOME sequence.
Another great spot, as Finlay calls the referee over, complain about having something in his eye, and then just absolutely levels Benoit. After a couple more minutes of absolutely destroying Benoit, Finlay goes for the pin with his knee directly on Chris Benoit’s face.
When Finlay has Benoit in a stretch, the strangest f*cking thing happens. As Michael Cole is talking about the 15,000+ in attendance, they cameras suddenly cut to a long-haired woman in the crowd PUNCHING HERSELF IN THE FACE. If you’ve still got the show in the VCR or on your Tivo, you need to check this out. Truly a blink and you’ll miss it moment.
Fit Finlay is just absolutely amazing. Every single move he does means something. And he sells every move he does as if he’s literally trying to kill his opponent. Watching Finlay put so much effort and force into simple moves like elbow drops and covers brings a massive smile to my face. In this respect, Finlay actually reminds me alot of Ricky Steamboat.
Finlay’s Dragon Sleeper / Hammerlock combo is just absolutely brutal to even watch, and it’s reversed into a ridiculous club to Benoit’s back.Benoit makes a comeback with violent, violent forearm strikes to Finlay’s head, but Finlay is just TOO TOUGH.
Finlay’s clotheslines are just RIDICULOUS.
The replay reveals the secret to Finlay’s clothesline though:
He winds up and tries to KILL his opponent.
GERMAN SUPLEX BY BENOIT ON THE CONCRETE FUCKING FLOOR.
Chris Benoit hits the three amigos, does the Eddie chest-pound, and the crowd goes crazy!
Before Benoit even knows what hit him though, Finlay just LEVELS him.
Just past the 20:00 mark, Chris Benoit struggles to put on the crossface on Finlay. As soon as it’s on, Finlay taps.
KILLER match, and just seeing Finlay walk up the aisle and tell Benoit that “this isn’t over yet,” certainly gives me hope for a rematch (or ten).
Just an absolutely incredible match between these two. No one else in North America is capable of having a match like this right now, and if given the opportunity, I’m sure they’ll find a way to top themselves yet again.
– Jillian Hall vs. Melina
To set up the match, we get clips of the infamous makeup brawl that led to tonight’s brawl. I must say, I enjoyed that much more than I expected to.
When Melina comes out, she’s still selling the MNM breakup big-time, as if she’s pissed off and heartbroken about what happened earlier in the evening. It seems like a simple thing, but you’d be surprised how many supposedly “main event” wrestlers get beat down or insulted in the opening segment of the show, only to come back out for the main event with a big f*cking smile on their face, waving to the crowd like nothing ever happened.
This match was much better than it had any right to be. It was action-packed, stiff, and believable. Melina really plays the bitch well, and Michael Cole made sure to constantly hammer home the shootish fact that Melina’s “just not a very nice person.” Awesome action here for a WWE women’s match, and as much as I love Trish and Mickie, from a strictly in-ring standpoint, this was probably better than anything they’ve done recently (barring Wrestlemania). Jillian scored the pin with a roll-up, even though Melina technically had her hand on the rope. Really good little match.
In the context of current WWE women’s wrestling, I’ll give this ***1/2.
– Krystal came out to interview Melina, and Melina just went totally psycho bitch on her, calling her profane names and slapping her around. Krystal got in a few forearms of her own before the ref finally seperated them. I can’t wait for Summerslam. Hopefully they’ll be some kind of wacky interaction between Mickie James and Melina. That would totally steal the show.
– Speaking of women’s wrestling, if I had a money mark to back me, I would totally start an all women’s league. I’d train about 20-30 women, between the ages of 18 and 28 or so, give them killer, comic book like costumes and personalities, and form a couple of stables. Then, I’d find a way to get it on television on Saturday Mornings and market the shit out of it. Not to wrestling fans and men, but to young girls. Young girls desperately need young female heros. Stuff like the Power Puff girls and Sailor Moon has gotten widly popular in the states, and young girls are the ones driving the album sales of young female artists like Ashlee Simpson and Kelly Clarkson.
People always say that women’s wrestling can’t work in America. The problem is, they’re just not thinking about it from the right angle. A girl-power company full of pretty younger wrestlers that young girls could actually relate to would be absolute gold. All you would need is good music, good costumes, compelling characters, and a Saturday morning timeslot. It’d be like a live action Saturday Morning cartoon. If you could find a way to tap into that young female market, instead of densely assuming that women’s wrestling needs the support of men to succeed, you’d be gold.
ARSION is one of my favorite promotions of all time, and I think an American version, with a few tweeks, could just be wildly successful.
Here’s an awesome ARSION music video that someone made:
– JBL gives a quick, Spanish-laced promo backstage. According to JBL, he is the “feel good story of 2006.” JBL heelishly talks about what a hero he is, and the crowd just totally lets him have it. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that I was watching an old Mid-Atlantic event or something. Chavo Guerrero shows up during the promo, the crowd goes absolutely crazy, and Chavo politely asks JBL to stop living in the past. According to Chavo, there’s no way that JBL is walking out of Judgement Day with the World Title.
– Gregory Helms vs. Super Crazy
Tazz and Michael Cole spend the first minute or two of the match making fun of Super Crazy’s perm. The thing I love about listening to Tazz and Cole on commentary is the fact that they genuinely seem like they like each other. They sound like a couple of friends out there just discussing the action and joking around. It’s fun to listen to.
Shockingly, the match was given about 15:00 to develop. The crowd was way into Super Crazy, with numerous chants and pops for his near-falls. It was incredibly strange to see a cruiserweight match given so much time on a WWE PPV, but it was really refreshing to see as well. While the match wasn’t a classic by any stretch of the imagination, it was still worthwhile. Gregory Helms won with his feet on the ropes (I could have lived without that), ending one of the better WWE Cruiserweight matches in awhile.
– Melina and Johnny Nitro storm into Teddy Long’s office and scream at him because MNM lost the titles and because Melina had her hand on the rope when she was pinned by Jillian. Teddy Long tells Melina that he will not tolerate her marching in and telling him what to do. Melina pulled back and just slapped the hell out of poor Teddy. He’s upset, but he thanks Melina for finally pushing him over the edge. He fires her, and for good measure, he fires Johnny Nitro as well. They all scream and yell. “Nobody can fire us… we’re MNM.”
Mark Henry vs. Kurt Angle
Mark Henry is introduced first. Henry grabs a mic and cuts a promo on Kurt Angle, asking him, “Don’t you realize.. that I hurt people.” It’s absolutely amazing how much heat everything is getting tonight.
In an extremely scary spot, considering Angle’s health, Kurt Angle attempts an out-of-character flip from the second rope towards a standing Mark Henry. Angle’s back hits Henry’s chest, and Angle crashes head-first to the canvas. Kurt Angle charges Mark Henry and just bounces right off him. Michael Cole humorously chimes in with, “If you want to know what that feels like, just go out into your backyard and run full-speed into a wall.” Ha. Cole is awesome.
After about 8:00, Mark Henry splashes Kurt Angle against a ringpost outside, leading to a countout win for Henry. Kurt Angle snaps on Henry though, hitting him repeatedly with a steel chair on the outside, slapping in the ankle lock, and eventually Angle-Slamming him into the announce table.
When the table doesn’t break, Angle picks up the steel chair again and LEVELS Mark Henry right across the forehead. Henry falls like a sack of bricks, crashing right through the table. Angle screams at the top of his lungs, pounds his head, and raises his arms in the air. The crowd absolutely eats it up.
This was definitely worlds better than their strange, plodding, out-of-place Royal Rumble match. From an in-ring standpoint, it wasn’t anything spectacular, but the crowd was into it, the storyline advancement was nice, and Angle came out looking like a total bad ass. I’ll take it.
– Booker T cuts a slightly odd promo backstage, alternating between making out with Sharmell and screaming, “Kinnnnnnnng Booookeeeeeer.” What is with kissing in the WWE? I’ve never seen anything odder. Nobody kisses like WWE Superstars~! do in real life. Re-watch this. Booker just grabs the back of Sharmell’s head, pushes his face against hers, and starts wiggling his head in circles like he’s doing neck exercises. Strange to say to the least.
– Booker T vs. Bobby Lashley: King of the Ring Finals
Bobby Lashley has been improving by leaps and bounds in the past few weeks, thanks in large part to working with Fit Finlay. People weren’t expecting much from this match, but it was actually pretty damn good. After about ten minutes of solid action, Fit Finlay ran in and knocked Lashley out, leading to a Booker T win.
I wasn’t thrilled about having a month-long tournament end with a run-in, but the means probably justified the ends in this case. Booker T was absolutely awesome post-match, stumbling towards the throne and putting on his robe.
As Booker T was celebrating in his robe, Bobby Lashley came out NOWHERE and speared Booker through the throne. It was just a great spot, made even greater by the camera work and the surprise nature of the attack.
Sharmell screamed at the top of her lungs, Booker T repeatedly said “I’m hurt bad, baby, I’m hurt bad,” and eventually, Booker got back on his feet and celebrated. Booker’s facial expressions are just classic, and even though I’ve never been aboard the “Booker T is a great worker” train, I think the guy definitely deserves a good push.
Lashley continues to look strong, Finlay gets more involved in things, and Smackdown benefits all around.
A pretty decent match that the crowd, again, was really into.
The Great Khali vs. The Undertaker
Man, I was totally shocked by this one on so many levels. First of all, I was shocked to see the Great Khali completely squash the Undertaker. I was honestly expecting the Undertaker to pin Khali, sending him on his way for good. Instead, Khali just brutalized the Taker, selling none of his offense, before pinning him with a foot on his chest. Secondly, I was shocked by the fact that the match was actually watchable. It certainly wasn’t a good match, but it wasn’t bad either. It was watchable, interesting, and entertaining overall. That’s definitely ok by me.
Rey Mysterio vs. JBL
I haven’t really had a chance to read any outside opinions of this match, but personally, I thought it was absolutely awesome. It definitely exceeded my expectations. Rey somehow bladed underneath his mask, and the involvement of Rey’s wife and Chavo Guerrero certainly added another layer of emotion to the match.
Even though Rey Mysterio has been brutalized and buried for weeks on end, this win could actually go a long way toward undoing some of that damage. Vince McMahon has expressed some regret over having Khali bury Rey two weeks ago, so maybe they are going to try to salvage Rey’s title reign after all.
A great match, an intriguing ending with Chavo Guerrero in the ring celebrating with Rey, and a fitting conclusion to a great show.
I’ll be damned if Judgement Day wasn’t the best single-brand PPV since last year’s Vengeance. Like I mentioned earlier, I felt like I was watching an old NWA PPV at times with all the great wrestling that actually took place at this PPV.
Even though Smackdown has been a mess creatively, I think this show is definitely a step in the right direction. As has been proven over the years, Smackdown just cannot compete with RAW in terms of being a “sports entertainment” show. RAW has the tradition, the added production, and the inherent excitement of being a live show. But when Smackdown has tried to present itself as an alternative to RAW, with more old-school booking and actual wrestling, it’s been pretty damn successful for being the “B Show.”
With a solid core of wrestlers like Chris Benoit, Fit Finlay, and Kurt Angle, coupled with incredibly entertainers like Booker T, Bobby Lashley, and Big DAVE, Smackdown certainly has a lot of potential.
The key to making Smackdown a success though is cutting all the needless, stupid, immature politics out and focusing on business.
Johnny Ace seriously needs to get his head out of his ass. He never wanted Fit Finlay back on television, and he’s been trying to sabatoge the guy since the day he stepped back in the ring. Now, he’s decided to put him with a midget to make a fool out of him. What is this guy, eleven years old?
Matt Hardy routinely gets the biggest pop at Smackdown shows, but because of asinine politics, he’s repeatedly buried. Friday Night, Matt Hardy is the latest victim of the 30 second Great Khali squash. I’m sorry if I spoiled it for you, but let’s face it, I’m not really divulging any new information by saying that Matt Hardy is going to be squashed on Smackdown.
MNM, the single best real tag team that the WWE has built in years, was disbanded because of goofy politics. Out-of-touch wrestlers would rather put Melina through their carny “wrestler’s court” than deal with the problem like professionals. The common defense is that it’s just “part of the business,” but let’s face it, it’s antiquated, stupid, and has done more harm to the current state of wrestling than any other single factor.
My feelings of frustration with Smackdown are actually quite similar to my feelings of frustration with TNA. Smackdown already has the hard part taken care of. They’re overflowing with talent and packing buildings wherever they go. It’s the easy stuff they’re messing up.
Anyway, an absolutely awesome show. Benoit/Finlay is worth going out of your way to see, and as a whole, the show is well worth tracking down. Absolutely everything is done well, the crowd is into everything, and compared to RAW and TNA, it’s just so refreshing to see a complete PPV go by in which absolutely nothing actively stupid or destructive happens.
HUNT IT DOWN.
And while you’re at it, don’t forget to check out The Wrestling Blog. I edit the site with Jeremy, we’ve got a lot of good shit up, and we’d love to have you aboard.