Jump in a time machine with me, forget about this year and travel back to 2004, a time where Ruthless Aggression and throwback jerseys were the only things we cared about.
14 years ago to this very day, WWE hosted a now defunct PPV in Judgement Day 2004. Emanating from the famed Staples Centre in Los Angeles, the first Smackdown exclusive show after Wrestlemania XX had some pretty brilliant matches on the card. There were faces you could easily place on the Smackdown version of Mount Rushmore and some up and coming stars in the world of WWE.
On this little trip down memory lane, I will review the show for your reading pleasure. Something I won’t cover is the pre-show, a match where Mark Jindrak, accompanied by Teddy Long, defeated Funaki. The immediate thing I’ll say about the main show is that it’s refreshing to watch a WWE show with a unique set design that includes proper old school pyro.
Rob Van Dam & Rey Mysterio vs The Dudley Boyz
First off: since when was Rob Van Dam on Smackdown?
I always related him with RAW but I digress. Four men who made their names in ECW, less so Rey but definitely the other three competitors. As makeshift teams go, no one really fit as well as Rey and RVD, both being extremely athletic and proficient in high flying. They also both know what you do in a tag team: wear matching gear, both men wearing black with white detailing. The Dudleys heeled it up beautifully in this match, even going as far as Bubba to shout ‘I don’t like you’ at Taz who was on commentary.
It complimented the super babyface team of RVD and Mysterio in an interesting opening contest where The Dudleys do what they do best, keep control of a tag team match. This match was given time, 15 minutes in fact, allowing all four men to display their offence and allowing both teams to do what they do best; Rey & RVD to get hot tags and show displays of babyface fire and The Dudleys to control the pace and outsmart their opponents. Rey took an absolute beating in this match; Rey did get a tag to RVD but the referee never saw it after being distracted by those damn Dudleys.
After a slow start, the match picked up and had some brilliant near falls from both teams. After a 3D attempt was thwarted, Rey hit a double 619 on both Dudleyz before RVD finished it off with a Five Star Frog Splash to D-Von. A well worked tag match from four extremely reliable performers with a big babyface win to set the night in motion.
Prior to the next match, the General Manager of Smackdown, Kurt Angle, is brought out to the ring by an interesting contraption which brings him to the top in a wheelchair decked out in red, white and blue. After berating the fans in LA, he blames Torrie Wilson for him being in the wheelchair and orders her to come out to ringside. He ups the ante for Torrie and informs her that if she loses to Dawn Marie, she’s fired.
Torrie Wilson vs Dawn Marie
Torrie controls the early portions of the match, now with the huge weight on her shoulders to keep her job. The match is relatively scrappy between two women who were never really known for their wrestling abilities but did as well as they could in the time they were given and in the era the match took place.
Dawn eventually controls the match after a failed crossbody, Torrie does brilliantly to sell the beating Dawn puts on her as well as selling the fact she could be jobless at the end of this. Shock to see Dawn Marie’s tights rip in 2004 and her underwear to be exposed, after a failed roll up from Torrie which does lead to Torrie winning, taking advantage of Dawn’s rage, pinning her with a backslide pin.
Scotty 2 Hotty vs Mordecai
The debut of the man in white, a character that had only a handful of matches in WWE and this was the first, against good old reliable Scotty 2 Hotty being the jobber to put over an extremely failed experiment.
Mordecai comes down to the ring in an all-white gown and a large crucifix cross with barbed wire symbol. Scotty sells his fear very well as Mordecai takes off his hood and reveals his pretty terrifying eyes. Interesting gear for Mordecai, basically a reverse to what a reverend would wear, all white with a little black strip on his neck.
Mordecai takes control, brutalising Scotty with the ring post and some heavy knees to the head. Scotty gets some offence in, attempts The Worm but is thwarted by the future Kevin Thorn. As squash matches go, Scotty sold every bit of offence Mordecai put to him and attempted to put him over.
In just three minutes, Mordecai hits his version of the Razors Edge and gets the win but as it’s a squash to put over a new gimmick, you can’t expect much else.
WWE Tag Team Championship Match: Hardcore Holly & Billy Gunn vs Rico & Charlie Haas
What I love about WWE in 2004? Makeshift tag teams. The uber serious Charlie Haas and the flamboyant Rico defending the titles against the Hardcore Holly and the fun-loving Billy Gunn, but Holly does show he has a fun side with Rico’s platform he has in the aisleway. The challengers bicker slightly at the beginning of the match at who was going to start the match against Rico before Rico comes over and grabs both of them causing them to jump out the ring. It was some lovely light hearted comedy that neither Holly nor Gunn wanted to face Rico but both would happily face Haas.
The match starts with some mat wrestling between two great competitors; Haas and Holly, two men with similar styles but never really locked up that match. This match served as a bit of a palette cleanser after the more serious matches that preceded it and it worked. Rico was underrated for his comedy abilities which rubbed off on the other three men in the match. The match had a double dynamic – any time Rico was in the ring, we got comedy, when it was the other three, we got some proper old school wrestling.
It was also something WWE didn’t really do back in 2004, have two face teams compete against each other. However, Holly and Gunn would assume the heel team despite high fiving fans on their way into the ring. Rico & Haas would retain after Rico superkicked Holly, allowing Haas to roll up Holly for the win. This match served a purpose and allowed all four men to show off their abilities in a pretty decent and fast paced tag title match.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Chavo Guerrero vs Jacqueline
The final shorter match before we get to the serious three matches on the show as Chavo looks to win the Cruiserweight Championship from Jacqueline, a real trailblazer for the women of WWE today.
The stipulation of this match was Chavo had to have one arm tied behind his back during the match, which Jacqueline didn’t need because she had beaten Chavo before. Chavo did control the match, despite being one armed, but Jacqueline got some good offence in on Chavo Jr. Chavo was accompanied by his dad who did help and hinder his son, first distracting the referee but would result in Chavo being low blowed. Secondly, he untied Chavo’s arm and distracted the referee allowing Chavo to use both arms.
The final distraction from Chavo Classic allowed Chavo Jr to hit a Gory Bomb and win the title. More a comedy match but made Chavo look weak, only able to beat his opponent with the help of his dad. Jacqueline did well selling the offence and attempted to make Chavo look strong. It was on the show to make the title seem somewhat important, which it was in the early 2000’s.
WWE United States Championship: John Cena vs Rene Dupree
This match alone makes me happy writing this article, I can never knock a bit of the Doctor of Thuganomics.
This was the time of Cena’s slow rise in the WWE, winning his first title two months prior to this show at Wrestlemania XX. This match had a great backstory to it in the usual foreign heel hating the US but going after the US title and the proud American champion. Cena got the fans on his side like always, freestyling on him and pandering to the LA fans. Dupree had a lot of promise being only 20 years old in this match and it shows, he kept up with the megastar on the rise. Dupree had Cena on the ropes for most of it, being one step ahead of the champion and showing his ability was ahead of his years.
Cena sold the attacks extremely well, including a brutal bump to the floor, putting over the younger and newer talent as a viable contender and a great competitor. Dupree wrestled a slower paced match, focusing on the midsection of Cena after his spill outside the ring, holding Cena in a bearhug for multiple minutes. It may not be the flashiest style of wrestling but it’s effective in multiple ways; the main one is getting Cena the fan support who are constantly chanting his name and ‘USA’.
Dupree even reversed the Five Knuckle Shuffle by moving before attempting his own version of the move but to no avail. Cena was still up against it and this match massively put a huge spotlight on the 20-year-old French competitor. It was also making Cena look desperate, going for any pin he could before he reversed a move by Dupree into the FU and got the win.
Dupree was made to look so smart in this match; and Cena, well he looked like he always does, determined and a fighter.
The Undertaker vs Booker T
This is a match I didn’t think I’d ever see, it’s also a version of Booker T I wouldn’t expect to see. Booker had a pouch of something on his way to the ring which was meant to combat the ‘dark’ spirits of The Undertaker and assist him in winning, which is a pretty great way of reminding everyone of what Taker is capable of. What do you expect when you put two of the very best in the ring together? A spectacle.
Booker was trying his best to play mind games with the Deadman but didn’t really work. This is 2004 Undertaker, a dominant human being. However, in terms of physicality, Booker did get some solid offence in on the Deadman before taking advantage of a ref bump and throwing the contents of the pouch at Taker. Taker looked so dominant in this match and it was needed – he had only returned to the company two months prior, and what better man to put the return over than Booker T.
Booker never really needed a win at this time and was a great person to put over people who needed it. Even though Taker was a legend of the business, they needed to get the Deadman gimmick over again. Booker got offence in and controlled Undertaker after the ref bump, giving us the classic resilient Undertaker we all know and love with him sitting up after Booker’s finisher.
Eventually, we get a Chokeslam (slightly botched) and a Tombstone Piledriver for an Undertaker win.
WWE Championship: JBL vs Eddie Guerrero
Something WWE fans had been clamouring for, Eddie Guerrero as the WWE Champion. What better heel for him to face than the pompous and egotistical JBL, following his feud with Kurt Angle. This match was extremely emotionally charged after JBL would mock Eddie’s mother who was recently ill and we got that Latino fire from the champion off the bat, going as far as to choke JBL with a cable outside the ring.
Eddie was on absolute fire in this match, pandering to the fans as much as possible whilst keeping JBL on the defensive. WWE wanted to put Eddie over as a credible champion by taking on the best heels they had to offer and we know JBL wasn’t always the best competitor, but his gimmick and ability to pull that gimmick off is next to none.
JBL used his size and power on Eddie, as well as some dirty tactics outside the ring. This included a brutal chair shot to the head, cutting Eddie open and causing him to bleed profusely. Even during parts of this match where Eddie is on the backfoot, all it did was get him more over with the fans and get JBL even more heel heat which is all WWE needed to do for both men.
The two styles from each man did compliment them brilliantly as Eddie can sell the big power moves and JBL cowers away from the fiery attacks from Eddie. Both men can hit hard, this was a proper slugfest and it was brilliant viewing, especially knowing each men’s stock in WWE at the time.
The result of the match didn’t even affect either man; it fitted with Eddie after all the things JBL put him through relating to his mother and her heart attack and JBL still looked like a credible challenger after the disqualification finish. I do think my absolute favourite spot in this was when JBL powerbombed Eddie so hard, it woke up referee Brian Hebner, who was down in the ring.
Looking back, classic WWE is brilliant – it was the era I grew up in. It’s a brilliant nostalgia trip because I forgot about things like Rico & Charlie Haas’ tag team and how brilliant Rico actually was. I hope you all enjoyed the read and choose to go and watch this show.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @George_Geal_. Thanks for reading!