Just got back from Judgment Day, and I’d have to say I had a really good time. Very good matches by most of the guys on the card, and the crowd (which had the Target Center about 80% full, I’d say, all the empty seats were on the camera side, however, and most were in the upper deck) stayed hot pretty much all night. Without having seen the show on video, I couldn’t tell you how well that came across, but the Target Center itself was pretty loud for everything the WWE wanted it to be, I’d think.
Gates didn’t open until Heat had already started, and the WWE sent a few cameras, Ivory, and Todd Grisham out to appease us. I couldn’t understand a word Ivory said, but she was saying it all VERY loud. Then they opened the doors, and everybody left poor Todd and Ivory to host The Experience all by themselves. Incidentally, it is at this point that I might have shown up on Heat for about five seconds, because the camera guy was standing right next to me. After that it was in and out of lines for Nachos, soda and a PPV T-Shirt, so I missed Tazz and Michael Cole coming out. Damn.
Sunday Night Heat
Nunzio d. Akio (Via Pinfall)
Nunzio gets a brief but loud, “HEY! It’s that one guy!” pop, somewhat diminished by the fact that Charles Robinson got pretty much as big a pop on HIS way out to the ring. Akio was met with mixed indifference. Short match, but fun for what it was. There were a few “Oohs” for the Sicilian Slice and the Yang Time, Nunzio won on a roll-up (with what my sister swears was a hand on the ropes, but I didn‘t see it), in what would be a trend of somewhat abrupt finishes on the night.
The set was huge. It took up almost one whole side of the arena, and the lack of an entrance ramp was somewhat odd. No opening pyro, which was too bad, because it probably would have gotten the next match off to a better start.
MNM d. Hardcore Holly and Charlie Haas (Via Pinfall) To Retain the WWE Tag Team Titles
MNM enters first because they need some mic time. Melina says that it’s MNM time, so I guess I’ll have to believe her. Inexplicably over? Bob Holly. He got a HUGE pop coming out. The crowd was, except for a hot tag in the middle of the match and a plancha later on, was largely indifferent. Haas and MNM meshed really well, I think. Well fought match with quite a bit of back and forth, especially with Haas. Melina’s attempts at interference were all for naught, but Nitro was able to sneak into the ring, and help Mercury hit the Snap Shot for the win. Crowd wasn’t happy. I guess they wanted more Hardcore?
A little bit of dead time here as everybody clears out from the last match. Apparently the WWE did something right with the “poison apple” storyline, because the video package got some cheers and laughter.
Carlito Caribbean Cool (w/ Matt Morgan) d. The Big Show (Via Pinfall)
Carlito goes for the CHEAP LOCAL HEAT~! by mentioning Randy Moss, which doesn’t get the crowd that riled up, probably because we’re all sick of hearing about it. Some laughs for Carlito’s riff on Matt Morgan. Big Show got a good crowd reaction coming out, and was able to sustain it pretty well. Show gets one really good spot of crowd interaction in as he shushes everyone so that we can hear him chop Carlito. The ref bump looked really obvious and weird live, but it allowed Matt Morgan to come in and hit a very impressive looking F-5 on Show, giving Carlito the win, which didn’t sit well with the crowd. It is worth noting, however, that it took a few minutes before it really clicked with the crowd that that was Brock’s old finisher that Morgan just pulled out, at which point it probably didn’t have the impact it should have. I guess absence makes the heart forget your finishing move. Very short match though. Less than five minutes and not much to it.
We are treated to a lovely video package of the Angle/Booker feud, to which, again, the crowd response was surprisingly positive. I mean, people were laughing at Angle’s bestiality comment, which isn’t what the WWE was going for I don’t think, but there were “oohs” for when Angle called Sharmell a gutter slut, so I guess this angle is selling to SOMEBODY and they all live in Minnesota. Go us! Booker says that he’s ready for his match, but just as he’s about to go get warmed up, Sharmell gets a bag of lacy thongs and a pair of handcuffs. My mind immediately goes racing about possible scenarios of Angle leaving Book locked up while he runs off with Sharmell. Booker says he’s going to settle this “right now”, and the crowd waits in anticipation for….
Paul London d. Chavo Guerrero (Via Pinfall) To Retain the WWE Cruiserweight Title
Chavo Guerrero. Not quite what we were expecting, but ok. Crowd wasn’t really digging this, except for a few spots towards the end (the teased 450s and Chavo’s Suicide Dive mostly, along with what looked like a Standing Shining Wizard from London). The match itself was pretty good though, with Chavo working London on the ground, while London tried to keep up a fast pace. London finally hit the 450 after two aborted attempts, and picked up the win. The crowd gave him a nice round of applause after the match, but was probably less into this match than any other tonight. Ten minutes-ish, but it seemed a lot shorter.
Booker T is wandering around backstage. Funaki gets a cheap laugh for just being there, I guess. He asks Hardcore Holly and, pointedly, Charlie Haas whether or not they’d seen Angle. They hadn’t. He did not ask them why they were in the Minnesota Lynx locker room. Shannon Moore shows up, and doesn’t know where Angle is either, but he gets a laugh for being goofy looking. Angle, of course, is in Booker T’s locker room, holding down Sharmell. Big boos for that. He claims that when he takes out Booker, nothing will stand between them, but he’s cut off by his entrance music.
Booker T d. Kurt Angle (Via Pinfall)
No pyro for either guy. Boo! Booker gets a big pop coming out, and is the strong fan favorite throughout the match. I heard nary a pop for Angle, except for the Angle Slam and the rolling Germans. One really great spot was Booker hitting a scissor kick as Angle was hanging over the top rope. Crowd was very impressed with that. Very good match from both guys, as they took all fifteen minutes they were given and ran with them. It really helped that they didn’t take a whole lot of time between moves, as both guys seemed very fluid, even transitioning in and out of the restholds. After a few teased finishes including one great moment where the guys ran through their finishers, and an awkward moment where it looked like Booker and Angle collided a little sooner than they’d anticipated, Booker got the win with a small package pretty much out of nowhere. There seemed to be some confusion amongst the audience and around the ring as to whether or not that was the finish, because it looked like Angle had gotten out of the pin too early. Another very abrupt ending to a very good match. Afterwards, Sharmell hit the ring, to celebrate with Booker, but silly girl, Angle wasn’t quite finished off yet. He tried to get Sharmell handcuffed to the ropes, but Booker came back and intercepted, handcuffing Angle instead. I can honestly say, I didn’t see that coming. Booker gave Angle a few punches, but ultimately it was all a set up for Sharmell to throw some slaps at Angle and one shot right to the balls. The crowd was just going nuts for Sharmell at this point. Its funny seeing how well some of these lame stories play out in front of a live crowd. One guy I talked to after the show explained it better than I probably ever could saying, “Hey man, I like Kurt Angle fine, but I wanted to see Booker’s wife kick his ass, man.” I guess most of the people at the Target Center were with him. Afterwards, Angle has a hard time getting loose from the handcuffs, while the crowd chants, “Leave Him There.”
Dead time as they set up the next match. The cameras were rolling on somebody at ringside, but I couldn’t see who it was, and they didn’t put it up on the Titan Trons.
Orlando Jordan d. Jon Heidenreich (Via Pinfall) To Retain the WWE United States Heavyweight Title
I’ll have to admit, I didn’t see a majority of the beginning of this match, because as soon as Jordan’s music hit, I was up the stairs heading for the rest room. The girl was cute, reacting to everything that was happening in the ring with theatrics. She’s got a career ahead of her in stage acting. Heidenreich, by the way? Also over with the crowd. I guess we love our big blonde stiffs. Jordan controls for most of the match with some restholdery, which the crowd proudly responds to with Hei-Den-Reich chants. It’s too bad the crowd wasn’t paying any attention to Jordan, because he seemed to be trying really hard to get a few boos for his own assholishness. The power of the fans and a little girl clapping compelled Heidenreich to make one last stand, hitting a few fairly crisp moves, before Jordan caught him off the ropes with a DDT out of nowhere. Crowd couldn’t believe that was the finish. Afterwards, the little girl got up and did the Heidenreich dance, which he dutifully tried to follow, much to the delight of the fans. Five minutes, if that.
Meanwhile, JBL was standing by with WWE Diva Josh Matthews (looking like he just got out of the salon). JBL says that Cena should just quit and hand over the title so that he can focus on his movies or rap career or running for governor. Big pop for that. Minnesotans still love our Jesse. Well…some of us do.
And then there was a lengthy video package about Eddie Guerrero and Rey Misterio. The video package may have lasted longer than the Heidenreich/Jordan match.
Rey Misterio d. Eddie Guerrero (via DQ)
Rey doesn’t jump in which makes me sad. Rey got in a flurry of punches to start, but the tide quickly turned to Guerrero who just manhandled Rey in about every way possible, tossing him around outside (before slyly sneaking back into the ring to break the count). The crowd was honestly about 60/40 in favor of Rey, and Rey’s support continued to climb as Eddie got more and more brutal (though Eddie got a big pop when they teased the brain buster on the stairs and off the top), but it tells me that fans aren’t quite ready to give up Eddie yet, no matter how much the WWE has done to turn him. Once Rey turned it loose later on in the match, it got really good. Some Rey acrobatics eventually led to Eddie spiking Rey face first, behind his back. Ouch. Then Eddie locked in the Liontamer (not the Walls of Jericho, mind, the actual Liontamer) and an STF. Rey fought back, and got to the outside, then in one of the best spots I’ve ever seen live, launched himself feet first into Eddie, using the ringpost as a swivel. It was really just fantastic. Rey set up the 619, which drew Chavo out from the back. Chavo’s entrance bought Eddie time to grab a chair, but Rey got to him quicker. He removed Chavo, hit the 619, but Eddie caught him with a chairshot coming up. It sounded wicked, the whole arena cringed. That was enough for the DQ. Crowd didn’t like the finish at all, however, there was a little mixed reaction again, as Eddie returned to the ring to deliver a few more quick chair shots. Part of the crowd loved it, part of it hated seeing poor Rey like that. Me? I cheered Eddie. I’m a sick bastard, I know. The whole thing went about twenty minutes.
Fantastic video package to hype the Main. I love how they had a JBL promo slowly creep into Cena’s music video.
John Cena d. John Bradshaw Leyfield (via JBL saying “I Quit”) In an “I Quit” Match to Retain the WWE Heavyweight Title
JBL comes out in a limo, so what is Cena to do to steal the thunder, but come out in a semi. Guess that makes sense. Cena knocks the horns off the limo to start, which pisses JBL off to no end. I actually really like this pairing, as their characters run so contrary to each other that it can make little interactions like that entertaining. Nick Patrick holds up the JBL version Heavyweight title, which Cena doesn’t like. For a minute I get excited because I forget the stips of the match, and think Nick Patrick is going to cut a promo. Sigh. That’d be so dreamy. JBL has control early, as he brawls with Cena around the outside of the ring, introducing a belt to the proceedings as well as the standard ringpost and ring steps. At one point, Bradshaw goes for the pin, which is met with some laughs. JBL also nails him with the microphone when Cena won’t give up despite his verbal tauntings. I think that must have come off way better live, because of how well the sound system picked up the mic feedback. It sounded like it hurt really bad. Cena back dropped JBL through the Spanish Announce table to a huge pop. I cannot explain to you enough how over Cena was. I didn’t hear one boo, and everybody in the arena was on their feet and cheering whenever he did just about anything. JBL caught Cena with another just brutal chairshot, right in the face. Cena came up bloody. However, JBL launched one insult too many, and Cena sprung back to his feet, hitting an FU and a Five Knuckle Shuffle. They show a shot of Cena on the Titan Tron, and he is just gushing blood. There’s actually a gasp from the crowd. That’d probably rank pretty high on the old Muta scale. They fight back towards the limo, and I kind of lose them for a little bit. In any event, Cena ends up bouncing JBL off the limo a few times, but Bradshaw eventually pulls Cena back towards the production area and chokes him out. However, Cena uses the leverage of the wires he’s choked with, and rams JBL through a TV. JBL comes up bloody. Short brawl back to the limo, where Cena unsuccessfully tries to throw JBL through the open door, before he just rips it off himself. They fight onto the Semi, where JBL tries to hang Cena. However, recalling the earlier spot, Cena grabs the cables and pulls Brashaw clean off the semi to the floor. Cena knocks off one of the exhaust pipes from the Semi and chases Brashaw down, but before anything can happen, JBL grabs the mic and quits. Weird, weird ending. It takes the crowd a moment to work out what happened, and cheer. Then, Cena rams JBL through the plexiglass window of the set anyway. Cena poses with both the title belts for a little while, goes up on top of the semi to celebrate for a few minutes, and then leaves. Weird ending, but as good a hardcore style match as the WWE has done in about five years, and easily the best match either guy has ever had. A little under 25 minutes. The show ended at 9:40, which seems to suggest they had a lot of time they could have thrown in the direction of some of the other matches.
Overall, a fantastic show, that was slow in some spots, but picked up the slack in a big way in time for the main event. It’s probably the best live show I’ve ever been to (not that that’s saying a whole lot), and one of the better “brand” Pay Per Views, I’ve seen in a while. I’m still probably a little bit biased on the matter, and it could very well be that the only way to enjoy the show was to see it live, but for my money, Misterio/Guerrero and Cena/JBL were more than worth my time and money, and everything else was fluff. Some of it, like London/Guerrero and Angle/Booker was really good fluff.
I wouldn’t go out of my way to check it out in replays this week, especially if you’re not a Cena or Bradshaw fan, but it’d do you some good to try to get a copy of the main at some point, just to see what both guys can do if they’re really “On”. I suspect Misterio and Guerrero will have at least one more, better match this Summer. One that has a finish. It was funny though, to see how well the crowd was taking to some of what I, and many of the other people in the IWC thought were some of the inferior storylines. Angle/Booker and Heidenreich (and just because I don’t “get it,” Hardcore Holly) were among the most popular angles of the night, outside of John Cena himself. It was definitely odd to see, and I’m not sure if its because the WWE hasn’t swung a big show through here in a while, or if we just have weird tastes, or if the WWE is right on about these things, and we’re just slow on the uptake.
Whatever it is, it was certainly a great time. I won’t go out of my way to suggest the show to anybody, but if you’ve got a chance, Angle/Booker, at least half of Chavo/London, Eddie/Rey, and JBL/Cena are all worth your time and effort to take a look at, I think. So it’s a definite thumbs up from me, with the caveat that if you’re already predisposed to hating Smackdown and/or the wrestlers involved, this will do nothing to change your mind, with the possible exception of Cena/JBL who found, I think, the perfect environment for their skills to mesh.
As I was coming out, I was chatting with a few fans about the show, when I almost ran smack dab into three smallish guys in suits. Sure enough, it was Spike Dudley, Theodore Long, and Nunzio. A line quickly developed to see them, and I while I was fiddling with my camera, I missed a really GOOD picture of them, but this one should give you an idea:
Spike Dudley was not at all what I expected, not because he looked ridiculous in a suit (which he does), but because he just stormed out of the arena without even acknowledging the fans. I can understand not wanting to be bothered, but really, Spike. It’s not like he’s such a huge star as to have a superiority complex, and it’s not like he couldn’t be bothered to shake a few hands or something instead of storming in the other direction. I’d always heard he was more approachable than that.
In what was quite possibly the third greatest moment in my life, Theodore Long walked next to me, looked at me, and said, “Holla Holla, Playa.” It was like a dream. He left rather quickly too.
Nunzio was far more personable, signing autographs for everybody in line and snapping a few pictures
He was amazingly personable, talking with fans about the ECW PPV as he signed and constantly looking up and apologizing because he had to leave, but then never actually leaving. Finally, he did go, and everybody ran over to the other side of the building where some cheering was heard. It turns out Paul London had been spotted in his rental car. Hurray!
After all that excitement, we decided not to stick around and watch the wrestler’s cars leave, so we headed home. Quite a bit poorer, but a whole lot happier.
Tonight I wanna ruin my life, I wanna throw it all away, In a spectacular way
Slight delay this time around, but the SmackDown Lines for Thursday are now up and ready for viewing. SmackDown Lines: January 15, 2004 Once again, to all readers, if you require explanation of the Lines, you can find it here.