JUDGMENT DAY

May 22, 2005


Quite the fitting name for this show, there are several judgments that will be made by the time the show ends. Are MNM the real deal, or simply flashes in the pan? Can Eddie Guerrero once again find the greatness that led him to the WWE Title? Is John Cena doomed to a title reign of mediocre matches, like his big title win at WrestleMania was?


Booker T . . . shows how far he’s regressed since his days of being WCW TV Champion.

Eddie Guerrero . . . reminds the world why the shirt is true: “Eddie Guerrero Is My Favorite Wrestler.”

John Cena . . . has his final Smackdown PPV match, and makes sure to go out with a bang.


JOHNNY NITRO/JOEY MERCURY © vs. CHARLIE HAAS/HARDCORE HOLLY (WWE Tag Team Titles)

Considering that MNM are a relatively new team, and were given the WWE Tag Titles right off the bat, Bob Holly is the last person they need to be working against. You’d think that a team who won the titles so fast would have something to show on their first PPV, but that’s rarely the case here. Holly and Haas control most of the match and it’s mostly a punch and kick type of affair, and when the champions do get control of the match, Holly isn’t interested in selling or doing anything that might give them credibility as a team. Both times that MNM get control of the action it’s from a cheap shot from the illegal man. That’s not so bad, since they’re heels, but with them getting to do very little, and not doing much with the time they do get to do stuff, they look more like goons with gold, than the best team on the brand. Look no further than the finish to see that. Melina needs to trip Haas, Nitro has to do a knee to the back from the apron, and hotshot him off the top rope, so that they can hit the Snapshot and retain the titles. The team that won the titles in their first match, from two of Smackdown’s most decorated superstars, barely got by a career midcarder and a guy who’s constantly rotating between partners. Makes lots of sense to me.


CARLITO vs. THE BIG SHOW

At least this match told a story concerning the heel not doing anything and winning by underhanded means. Carlito doesn’t have any offense that’s effective against someone Show’s size anyway, aside from the kick to the grapefruits. What Carlito does very well though, is sell for Show while he’s doing his standard offense of slaps and headbutts. And Carlito’s reaction to Morgan giving Show the F-5 is hilarious. For his part, Show takes a couple of good bumps from Morgan in the tumble over the top rope and the F-5 that lets Carlito get the win. The F-5 doesn’t look very good, but it didn’t look that good when Brock was doing it either, and Morgan looked like he picked Show up a whole lot easier than Brock used to pick up Show.


PAUL LONDON © vs. CHAVO GUERRERO (WWE Cruiserweight Title)

There are several things to like about this match, even though it’s far from perfect. With London’s ribs being hurt in a TV angle previous to this, Chavo singling out London’s midsection was a given. However, Chavo doesn’t show the mean streak or inventiveness that you’d expect out of a Guerrero while targeting a specific area. Kicking London in the ribs is a fine way to get the ball rolling on the assault, but aside from the abdominal stretch and the reverse suplex across the top rope, that’s all Chavo brings to the table.


London’s midsection being singled out also makes the high-risk and high-impact style that he uses work against him, as much as it does for him, and London makes sure to illustrate that. The first time it shows up is London’s attempted 450 which gets met with Chavo getting up the knees. London also does a beautiful plancha, but merely grazes Chavo, and hits the floor with a fairly audible thud. London’s selling of his ribs is mostly good. It’s best when Chavo is actually working over the area, and London has a few lapses of selling when he’s on offense, the Dropsault he does shortly after taking over is a good example of that. London finishing Chavo off with the 450 seems a bit odd, granted, the move is London’s finisher and he’d have been a fool to not attempt it, especially after he’d stunned Chavo with the super back body drop. But Chavo having controlled a good 80% of the match and working over London’s ribs, makes it seem like a given to go with something else. A fluke cradle would have worked nicely, or even turning the tables on Chavo with a dirty tactic like using the ropes. Of course the storyline going into this match was that London was unable to beat Chavo, winning the title in a battle royal when Chavo (the former champion) was injured, and losing by count out and pinfall to him on TV prior to this match, so London using his finisher also adds a sense of finality. ***


BOOKER T vs. KURT ANGLE

Angle vs. Benoit produced good matches. Booker vs. Benoit produced good matches. This pairing on the other hand, doesn’t. It’s not just the creepy storyline surrounding Angle’s obsession with Sharmell either, although that certainly doesn’t help matters much. It’s what they do (and don’t do) here that makes this so bad. For starters, Booker ought to be on a mission to send Angle to the back on a stretcher. But Booker rarely shows any real intensity or hatred. He also opts to simply work his usual match, using his sometimes sloppy kicks as his main offense. There are times he’ll dig out something unique, like the Tajiri-style seated dropkick, and the scissors kick over the ropes (complete with a nasty bump on the apron from Kurt). But Booker’s idea of following up on his advantage is to walk around and play to the fans, even stopping to do the Spinaroonie at one point. Bad News Brown, he isn’t.


Booker isn’t only limited to doing silly things that make him look bad. He does his share of things to do that to Angle as well. Kurt’s main offense surrounds Booker’s midsection, which plays to Kurt’s love for suplexes, and also the bonus of Kurt shying away from spending too much time goofing around with the Ankle lock. Kurt doesn’t go overboard with the suplexes either. His first pin attempt comes after a vertical suplex, after wearing down the midsection. He uses Booker’s (horribly telegraphed) missed sidekick for a backdrop suplex, and of course the Rolling Germans. Kurt also uses a chinlock with body scissors to wear down Booker, a technically sound and unique, if somewhat dull strategy, used on two separate occasions. And on both of those occasions, does Booker decide it’s time for a superhuman babyface comeback. He also does that with the Rolling Germans, taking two of them, before escaping Kurt’s grip. The finish has both of them throwing out bombs, Angle slam, Bookend, overhead belly to belly, and the scissors kick. And the match ends with Booker getting the win with a roll-up, just in case anyone thought they were building to something by throwing out their various big moves. If these two never have another single match, it’ll be too soon.


ORLANDO JORDAN © vs. JOHN HEIDENREICH (WWE United States Title)

Why is this match taking place on PPV? If I hadn’t seen Rick Steiner vs. Randy Savage from 1/4/00 I’d consider this to be the worst match to ever take place on a major show. Both Jordan and Heidenreich throw loads of punches, most of which look awful, and OJ is constantly taunting the crowd, while Heidenreich does his ridiculous march. The only notable spot that Heidenreich does is his sidewalk slam, which also looked ugly. OJ supplies a sick backdrop driver, and does a few other things that work the neck over, and finishes with a DDT. You’d figure that since Heidenreich got this match due to pinning Jordan in a non-title match on TV, they’d somehow play off that, by either OJ outsmarting him or cheating to win. But I get the idea that I’m thinking about this match more than anyone who was involved with it.


EDDIE GUERRERO vs. REY MYSTERIO

Considering the WWE’s previous failed attempts at turning Eddie into a heel, he does an excellent job with his character here. It’s ironically quite similar to that of Brock Lesnar in February 2004. When he’s going after Rey’s midsection, it’s pretty much vintage Eddie. He’s got the intensity, creativity, and mean-streak that was noticeably lacking in the previous match with a Guerrero. The two spine busters on the announce table, and the sick reverse powerbomb that cut off Rey’s comeback are both shining examples of why fans have a hard time booing him. One of the best moments of the match was Eddie’s superplex, it’s far from an original spot, but what makes it work so well is Eddie’s long pause before he does the move. The only area that Eddie seemed to be a bit lax in is submissions. The match isn’t lacking in submissions in the least, Eddie busts out an old school Liontamer, an abdominal stretch, and the lasso, but Eddie doesn’t really work them, and they’re more for him to get a rest, than to further inflict damage on Rey.


As great as Eddie is at actually taking the fight to Rey, he’s equally as great when he’s got to put over Rey. The ratio of actual offense from both of them isn’t even close, but Eddie does such a good job as making it seem like Rey can put him away, that you forget that he never went for the coop de grace, the Frog splash, when he finally just gave in and clocked Rey with the chair for the disqualification. Even though it’s Rey who’s got the hurt ribs (and Rey does do a fantastic job selling the punishment), it’s Eddie who does the best individual sell, when Rey punts him in the midsection. Eddie’s KO sell job for the enzuigiri is fabulous, and his bumping and selling both times that Rey connects the 619 is just about perfect. It’s almost heart warming in a way. Eddie was basically cast aside after he lost the WWE Title, dealing with undercard and midcard feuds, but didn’t let that stop him from reminding everyone why Eddie Guerrero is their favorite wrestler.


And even though he doesn’t get near as much to do as Eddie. Rey is pretty damn good too. He’s good at taking the openings that Eddie gives him, and adds a few nice offensive touches to the match, in the form of his springboard swan dive headbutt, his diving body scissors, and his block of Eddie’s attempted suplex on the stairs (which injured Rey’s ribs initially). Where Rey really shines though is in his selling of his ribs. While Eddie is the cold-hearted bastard dismantling his good friend, Rey plays the perfect foil for him, in the heroic underdog who won’t stay down. The only thing that the match seems to be a bit short on is near falls. With the idea being that Eddie can’t beat Rey, there should have been a few more instances of Eddie trying to unsuccessfully finish him off before resorting to the chair. Leaving the Frog splash behind makes sense, but there were several other things Eddie could have done before getting the chair. The Gory Special would have been a great way to punish the ribs, and the Splash Mountain reversal is a spot that they’re both familiar with. Rey doesn’t have the offensive depth that Eddie has, so it’s more tolerable that he only got in a couple of near falls, and was going for his big one when he got hit with the chair. If this had a clean finish for Rey to go over, it’d be exactly how Rey’s match at WrestleMania 22 should have gone. ***3/4


JOHN CENA © vs. JOHN BRADSHAW LAYFIELD (WWE Heavyweight Title - “I Quit” Match)

If one enjoys the spectacle aspect of pro wrestling, then this is something they’d not want to miss, buckets of blood, elaborate spots, and prop shots galore. However, it’s also telling when those are the things needed to get a decent match out of Cena. At first it looks a lot like the WrestleMania match they had when Cena won the title. There’s lots of punching, and none of it looks very good. The little bit of actual wrestling that Cena tries, such as the hip toss, looks like it belongs in OVW or a pre-show student match in ROH. JBL adds a lot of color to the match with the way he puts the bad mouth on Cena, and clocks him with the microphone on several occasions. He also provides a couple of nice spots in the attempted pin early in the match, and the pair of lariats when Cena rolls into the ring after JBL’s big chair shot.


Until it’s time for the big elaborate spots with all the props, all Cena does for the most part is bleed. It’s just as well, considering how little Cena is able to do well, but the blood also goes a long way in giving the match a big match sort of feel to it. Which was something it really needed as the headlining match, and considering the fact that Cena’s title win was only eleven minutes long. The things that Cena does, though, make this look to be a WWE equivalent of a Misawa/Kobashi NOAH match. The only thought that seems to go into things is how can they top the last big production of a spot. One of Cena’s first offensive spots like that is clocking JBL with the monitor, which honestly isn’t bad. But after that it just goes way overboard, with Cena doing things to JBL that should by all means end his career. Freddy Kruger *killed* someone in one of his movies by sending them into a TV headfirst. But the only effect it has on JBL is drawing some blood (and Cena used a lot more force than Freddy did). The ending, with JBL quitting in order to (unsuccessfully) stop Cena from using an exhaust pipe as a weapon, doesn’t come off nearly as well as it was probably intended to. Sure, Cena was doing some crazy spots, but it was just that. Cena doing spots. He wasn’t showing any real mean streak the way Eddie was, and Eddie was actually wrestling one of his close friends. The spectacle and at-times brutality of the match make it something enjoyable to watch, and it’d be easy to get swept up in the action. But Smackdown has always been the WWE brand known for the good wrestling, and watching Cena here is a good reason why he was soon moved over to RAW.


Conclusion: An enjoyable main event, and a couple of good matches, along with most of the bad matches being kept short, make this something worth checking out.