Well, when you’ve done the last “WWF” pay-per-view what could be next to the first “WWE” pay-per-view. Unlike Insurrexion 2002 this is a “proper” worldwide PPV so it should be better. Shouldn’t it? It’s Judgment Day 2002! And they’re still spelling it wrong!
Things start as they did there with an Intercontinental title match between Eddie Guerrero and Rob Van Dam. Conspiracy theorists might note that this match and the Backlash match were both a ton better than the UK match that slotted in-between them but I couldn’t possibly comment. This is a great back and forth opener that the crowd are fully into to start off Judgment Day 2002.
We then get history with Batista’s debut appearance on PPV. As the much loved and much missed Deacon Batista, Reverend D-Von’s muscle. Vince is there too with his latest on-screen squeeze Stacy Keibler. They probably wouldn’t do it today (or, hell, maybe they would) but Vince’s expressions as he, erm, eyes up Stacy are mildly amusing.
It’s followed by Stacy (with D-Von and Batista) against WWE Women’s Champion Trish Stratus (who has Bubba Dudley at her side). There’s effort there from both women but it’s not great. And it’s just here to tease a post-match Dudley’s reunion and then for D-Von and Batista to dump Bubba through a table.
Following a pointless backstage segment where Vince McMahon and Ric Flair make up after months of feuding in the most in-sincerest way possible we get more Brock Lesnar tag team action, this time as he teams with Paul Heyman to take on The Hardy Boyz. It is what it is really. The Hardy’s try, but it’s all to no avail, Brock smashes them and tags in Heyman who gets the pin.
A handicap match is up next as Stone Cold Steve Austin must take on the dastardly duo of Ric Flair & The Big Show. This would be Austin’s last PPV match for nine months or so and if this wasn’t the actual reason that he walked out on the company you couldn’t have blamed him if it was. It’s a plodding, slow brawl that at all times feels like something that is beneath Stone Cold Steve Austin. Austin vs Authority had been done to death and as daft as it sounds to say it, Flair was no Vince McMahon in that respect. Big Show is in one of those periods where he’s slow, has no motivation and seemingly can’t be arsed. And even with all that, it takes X-Pac coming down and accidentally kicking his nWo team-mate Show to get the ball rolling on an Austin win.
At least things take a vast upswing in terms of quality next as Kurt Angle and Edge clash in a “Hair vs Hair” match. This is REALLY great match, even better than their clash a month earlier at Backlash. There never seems to be a second of the fifteen minutes wasted and it’s a thrilling back and forth with a dramatic finish. And yes, Kurt loses. Although he takes off before his head can be shaved and by the look on the face of the barber they’d got in to perform the cut no-one had clued him in on that part of it.
After an interlude where Booker T ends up in a hotel bed with Goldust (if you really want to know, you’ll have to watch the show) we get a forgotten Hell in a Cell match with Chris Jericho and Triple H. No one really wants to see them go at it again and the Cell seems overkill considering Jericho has been buried as a top-liner at this point. And things start off really slow and ponderously and you fear this could be another of those half-hour snoozefests that HHH has to put on because his hero Ric Flair wrestled an hour a night, five hundred times a year or something. But then, whether by design or accident, they seem to realise this and start to crank up the violence and brutality. Referee Tim White takes an insane bump (which would end his refereeing career) which means they have to open the cage to go and help him. This means the two can battle around the ring and climb up top as well. Back in the ring, a Pedigree ends things. It’s a great effort but you can’t really ever shake the fact that it all seems a little pointless. As if it’s a bone thrown to HHH for having to drop the title to Hogan last month…
The tag team titles are next as Billy & Chuck defend against Rikishi and…Rico. Rico is still the champ’s stylist but Vince is toying with them all or something. It’s a nothing match and the odd couple wins. It’s clearly only a buffer between Hell in a Cell and our main event.
And after Edge finally catches up with Kurt Angle and we see the head-shaving we get to that main event as Hulk Hogan defends his Undisputed World Title against The Undertaker. Yes, on Judgment Day 2002 we have the main event from 1990.
The warm nostalgia for Hogan’s return has already worn off and it was clear that whilst WWE fans wanted to see Hogan they did not want to see him in the World Title picture. At any other time, putting the belt on Taker here might have been seen as a backwards step (the great in-ring worker Taker was yet to appear) but it was about all they could do here. It wasn’t very good (although neither was it embarrassingly bad or anything like that) and by the time Vince McMahon distracts Hogan and Taker takes advantage to pick up the win we’re glad it’s over. A rare WWE Championship for Undertaker at Judgment Day 2002.
This is very much a middle of the road event but with twists and turns along the way. “Mid-carders” Kurt/Edge and Eddie/RVD provide the best (only good) in-ring action and whilst the Hell in a Cell match is a good match in itself it’s hurt by the fact that it feels pointless and is only killing off a feud we’ve already been glad to see the back of it… There are plenty of other big names on here (Flair, Austin, Hogan, Taker) which means it’s interesting viewing but hardly essential when all is said and done. A strange time in 2002 WWE, for Judgment Day 2002.