PHANTASM review
Published September 2022

May 19, 2002

Nashville, Tennessee USA

Gaylord Entertainment Centre

(Attendance: 14,500)

Judgment Day 2002 takes place at a time when the federation is literally searching for a new identity. The ‘Attitude era’ had long gone, the ‘Invasion era’ thankfully in the rear vision mirror. “Ruthless Aggression” had yet to be coined by Vince McMahon and the company were forced to get the ‘F’ out, officially changing all name and branding to World Wrestling Entertainment.

The roster in May of ‘02 was as stacked as it has ever been. Even with The Rock leaving for Hollywood, names like Hogan, Flair, Austin, Undertaker, Triple H, Jericho and Angle were headliners. The undercard ran deep, superstars such as Edge, Eddie, Big Show, RVD, The Hardyz, the Dudleyz, Booker-T, Rikishi, Bradshaw, Regal, Goldust, Nash, Trish Stratus, Christian, Billy Gunn, Lita, and Kane making up the roster. The next crop of megastars, Batista, Randy Orton and Brock Lesnar, had graduated the OVW experimentation lab and had made their way to WWF television, John Cena was 6 weeks away. 

The brand split in March was fresh and had potential in it’s initial inception, but had not yet had time to define itself. The booking team in 2002, were seemingly smoking some righteous chronic, generally throwing shit at walls to see what would stick.

Hulkamania was running wild with a world title farewell tour, Vince was kayfabe fooling around with his hot personal assistant and Steve Austin’s cup of happiness, had not only dried up, it had a big old crack in it. The dust from the infamous ‘plane ride from hell’ had not yet settled, the world title belt was a game of hot potato, ratings were down, criticism was up. Judgment Day is upon us and the jury is out in regards to the future of the company. 

The first PPV under the WWE banner did not disappoint. 


Intro: Judge, jury and executioner. Violent imagery…wicca chanting, dangling nooses and a man being hanged…is it lost footage from Wrestlemania 15?

The show kicks off with J.R and the King introducing us to the show, which features the largest tombstone ever created. This could be an omen.


WWE Intercontinental championship

Eddie Guerrero(c) vs Rob Van Dam


Above : Guerrero and Van Dam open the show

Latino Heat! The intercontinental champion saunters ringside, the strap proudly around his waist. RVD pops the crowd on arrival, looking his usual chilled vibe, grass-smoking, self. The battle of the frog splash. Straight out of the gate, silky-smooth work from both men to kick things off, the contrast between the hot tempered Eddie bounces off the ultra cool, f’n show.  EG simultaneously portrays such a loving, yet somehow despicable heel. The fans simply love to hate him. Rob is over like rover, the guy can’t do much wrong as far as the people are concerned. 


Above : Bow and arrow submission

A rare bow and arrow from RVD stretches Eddie. The move doesn’t faze Guerrero, as he attains heel assertion for the middle portion of the match, slowing down the pace, robbing Rob’s momentum. Van Dam rolling thunder = applause. Eddie counters, RVD counters! RVD stiff power-bomb off second buckle, misses frog splash. Guerrero misses his version of the top rope splash, back to square one.


Above : Battle of the frog splash

Both guys are smack in the middle of their prime. At age 34, Guerrero is approximately 21 months away from achieving world heavyweight gold, by conquering the beast at No Way Out 2004. 31 yo Van Dam has a way to go, with his big world title victory over 4 years away from transpiring. They are both top guys in the making here at JD, Van Dam would be held back from the top of the card with concerns of his “limited emotional range” being the catalyst holding him back.


Above Van Dam with the kick

The two battle back and forth with slick ‘catch-as-catch-can’ sequences at the conclusion, opposed to the beginning. A nice change. The hot crowd appreciate it.

Eddie ducks and dives to score a rope-assisted, sneaky surprise backslide for the victory. Latino Heat retains.


Above: Eddie cheats to win

Great urgency in RVD’s offensive game, strong realism in the way EG tries to slow down and search for a cheap way out. Excellent chemistry, amazing contrast in counter points to each other’s characters. 

The devil in the details makes this match so enjoyable, like how EG tried to fight off being placed in the surfboard submission , or how RVD pump fakes his split legged moonsault and Guerrero falls for it. Too short to be great, but well timed for a hot opener. Crafty Eddie, was the difference, cheating by using the ropes and stealing a win.

Winner- Eddie Guerrero (10.47)

6.1/10 ~ Thumbs up


Backstage:

Reverend D-Von, Deacon Batista, Stacy Kiebler, Vince McMahon

Vince McMahon checking out a woman’s ass unbeknown to her during a prayer is the most Vince McMahon thing ever. The highlight of this sordid affair coming from the 11/04/02 Smackdown- a mainstream meme in recent years.


Above left: Testify! | Above right: Vince meme

Looking back on the era where Vince was utilising Stacy’s sexy services, having her as his hands on, personal assistant, is as relevant as ever in 2022.

As for Reverend D-Von, a thin grasp at character, just lazy writing. Just because the guys catchphrase is “testify”, doesn’t mean it should be his character.

“Get the ‘F’ out”, ad


WWE Woman’s Championship 

Trish Stratus(c) w Bubba Ray vs Stacy Kiebler w D-Von/ Deacon Batista

Yes, this is Batista’s PPV debut. Everyone has gotta start somewhere. But ‘Deacon’ though? It feels like occupational ‘95 again, scraping the bottom of the “box of gimmicks”. Why not just stick with Leviathan? Speaking of bone-headed booking, the Dudley Boys are the first victims of the brand split, 8 weeks prior. These guys are absolutely one of the greatest tag teams in the history and definitely at their strongest together, splitting them is counter productive to an already bloated roster. The booking in this time period often criticised for being sparatic, reactional and at times, non-sensicle. In fact, the booking team did not seem to have any direction, or an on screen explanation to the reasoning behind booking the fantasy football inspired decision to split brands. She’s got legs! Or does she?


Above left: ‘Deacon’ Batista slams Trish Stratus | Above right: Bubba through the table

The high point of this womens title match, (or low point for some) is Batista, or Deacon rather, body-slamming poor Trish, who is at the beginning of her great singles career run. Stacy, pre ‘Testicles’, had only a “handful” of matches in her life and this shows, especially after she lands a side-kick that misses by about 4 feet, Trish sells it like she’s Ric Flair taking a Sting comeback. Note- former woman’s champ Jazz tore her ACL days earlier, Kiebler tags in as replacement. Reactional booking. The former Miss Handcock, currently has a hand on Vince cock, goes down in a few minutes. T-Strat gets the win after a miss-timed face-buster. The former Dudley Boys face off, Bubba eats some wood, “Deacon- get the tables!” Organ music plays. With a 50 foot gravestone in the background, D-Von reads his white brother his last rights: “As I lay thee down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep. And if I die before I wake; I pray this singles push shall take.” Oh testify! 

Winner- Trish Stratus (3.00)

2.1/10 ~ Thumbs down

Eye candy spot- a glorified backdrop to hype an inter-promotional D-Von/ Bubba match that would never end up happening. Batista is established as a ‘bit player’ early on, booked weak by having Stratus kick out of his body-slam and later, chicken-shit run away from BRD. No on screen explanation as to why the former tag champs are foes…at the draft they showed sadness/ frustration, now they are beating each other up in a feud that will not progress due to them being on seperate brands. Strange times.


Backstage

Ric Flair/ Arn Anderson, Vince McMahon

Man, Vince is all over this PPV. Here, in a scene so apropos to the backstabbing nature of the wrestling business, Flair sympathies with all the hardships VKM went through in relation to the anarchist attitude of Austin. Or as Flair eloquently put it, “as an owner, trying to deal with that son of a bitch Austin; is a pain in the ass”.  Ric, as in-ring performer/ biased GM of Raw clashing against the rebellious Rattlesnake, was building momentum as a storyline, with some good, all be it, convoluted, storytelling. Considering the thick avalanche of shit that was raining down on the company, clearly the booking team were flying by the seat of their pants.

Above: The boss and ’the dirtiest player in the game’


The Hardy Boyz vs. Brock Lesnar/ Paul Heyman

Look at the size of Matt’s jacket! Blacklighting, party time! Unfortunately the brothers are being fed as the first sacrificial lambs to the Lesnar eating machine. Since Brock’s post WM X-8, Raw debut, he has barely been hit with an offensive move. On Raw two weeks prior, the Hardyz were given a count out consolidation prize, otherwise, Brock has been painted with ‘Ws’ in his first months. Adding Heyman is not a ploy to allow the Hardyz to get revenge, just a transparent way of making Lesnar look even more dominant and win an unofficial handicap match. 


Above: The Hardyz take on ’the next big thing’

Watching the match, if you didn’t know Bork was dominant- J.R sure as hell reminds you a few dozen times. We get it- the guy’s getting the sky-rocket push. Vince voice- “God dammit, he looks like a Viking!” I didn’t agree watching live and I sure as hell don’t agree now in 2022 that the Hardyz should have been the ones to job hard, plenty of other guys for that. Just feed Lesnar Al Snow or Bob Holly, hell, give him ‘Planet Staziak’. Perhaps instead of eating urinal cakes and shaving his tongue, Tommy Dreamer could have been the main course here. Whilethe open wound on the face of humanity”, awaits in the tag position, Lesnar merely plays with his food, suplexing every Hardy he can get his hands on. Man, those guys opened the doors at the pitiful King of the Ring ‘95 for this? It doesn’t seem in this moment that Jeff Hardy is merely 5 weeks away from from his moment of a lifetime, against the Undertaker in an iconic Raw ladder match main event.


Above: Brock Lesnar dominates

Ignorant “Goldberg“ chants break out, as Bork Laser breaks the brothers backs. Finally Matt gets in some of his stuff, making Lesnar sell (awfully) for the first f’n time. Hot tag, whisper in the wind, jaw jacker, double team leg-drop, leaving that “human septic tank”, Heyman to fend/ soil himself. Before ‘panty- sniffin Paul’ has a chance to tag in and clean house, Lesnard picks up the slack for his team, catching Jeff mid air into an (un-named at the time) F-5. A battle weary Heyman tags in and soil and all, makes the heroic cover for 3. For the record, as of May 2022, Heyman has appeared in 22 WWE matches, this being his first, with an astounding 19 wins. That’s a win ratio of 86.4%. Lesnar has 268 WWE wins and 5 draws, with a win/loss ratio of 72%/26.1%. Heyman is the true, in-ring success story. “The man has the body of a God, unfortunately it’s Buddha”. – Jerry Lawler

Winners- Brock Lesnar/ Paul Heyman (4.00)

3.9/10  ~ Thumbs up

Lesnar’s coming out party, designed to display his dominance. Brock’s selling is not up to par. Same structure as the handicap match on the 07/05 edition of Raw. Accomplished what it set out to achieve: painting Lesnar as Brock solid; a wrecking machine, a VIKING DAMMIT! The Hardyz reduced to glorified peasants on PPV. Lesnar would be world champion in 3 months.


Backstage:

Yep, that’s a noose.

Booker is cosplaying the NWO, chatting up a random who apparently wants the books-end.

Above: New World Order, circa 2002

The NWO are a joke in May, 2002. Hogan had turned red and yellow at Wrestlemania and left a gaping hole in the group. Two weeks prior to JD, Flair casually dropped on Raw that he had no other choice but to fire Hall for “dropping the ball against Austin at Wrestlemania”, which occurred 8 weeks prior. Flair also stated that Nash is on the shelf after bicep surgery. The ‘plane ride from hell’ was obviously not mentioned as the reason for Hall’s absence. Nash’s injury, was real and all X-Pac had done was inexplicably walk around wearing Kane’s goofy mask, even though Kane was off TV with injury. In a scrambled booking panic, Big Show turned heel for the umpteenth time and joined the flailing group, Booker was also announced as a member on the 13/05 Raw as a desperate grasp. HBK would be subsequently added, for a week or two in June, then the NWO would be disbanded in July.

What a crazy time



“Rattlesnake roundup” – handicap match

Ric Flair/ Big Show vs. Steve Austin

In real time, spaced out over months, what a mess. Condensed into a two minute package- a storyline with real potential. Great package, yet another production gem. 

The idea of Austin overcoming everything the evil owner can throw at him, is a proven winner. This version just needed room to breathe, (12 months) none of the distractions, (PRFH) and a happy Austin, who is 3 weeks from grabbing his ball and going home. This is Steve Austin’s third last PPV as an active competitor. (Wrestlemania 38 is not factoring into this equation) JD02 is the Rattlesnakes second last PPV win, his last being No Way Out ‘03 against Eric Bischoff. 


Above: The build

The writing is on he wall. SCSA is somewhat going through the motions here, the intensity is not present. The upcoming feud with Eddie G will not happen, neither will the job to Brock. It seems that creative handed Austin a program with Flair as a peace offering, after all, Flair is one of Austin’s idols, his feud against VKM, his favourite and most financially lucrative. Flair as a more in-ring savvy version of Vince, “a bitter legend emotionally searching for the past”, taking down the insubordinate rebel, has all the potential. The idea in theory is great, reality and a series of unfortunate events make this a failure. Fantasy booking time, HERE


Above: Big Show, Ric Flair, Steve Austin

The network has dubbed over the NWO theme on Show’s entrance for some reason, don’t they own that?  Paul’s logic is that Austin has taken his spot, e.g, Wrestlemania 2000. I think we all wish we could have just had Flair v Austin, w BS as ring-side manager/ interferer. Since Feb 1999, BS had been turned 7 times within a 3 year run, the overexposure de-valued the big SOB as an attraction. Austin receives an Austin-like pop, not peak Austin, not too bad by any means.

But it’s just not there. Austin/ Flair on PPV should be a classic- an old-school banger, a main event anywhere in the world. The unnecessary addition of Big Show, as well as Austin not having his heart in it makes this one entertaining, fun and more than formidable. Just not memorable. 


Above: Flair V Austin

Stonecold Steve starts hot-n-heavy, WHAT!? That chant needs to die. Flair and Austin lock-up and drop a few basic spots, storytelling over technicality. You can hear Flair scream the second spot, as Austin is hard of hearing (hence the dreaded What!? catchphrase). Woo, chop-fest, Flair flop-drops, begs, gets mud-hole stomped. 


Above: Woo/what?! chop-fest

BS time, SC does some push-ups to prepare for the giant. Austin sells Paul well with macho fear, the big heel is of course the better version than face version. The man “with the strength and mind of a government mule”, looks good but moves too quickly and flops too easily. He over-sells and forgets he is a giant. Less is more! 


Above left: Flair figure-4 | Middle: Thez press | Right: Stunner on Big Show

Steve-O Stonecold wants a mid match beer, time out. Ref sais no. Ric tags in, Flair figure-4, Austin escapes, woo/what, slap-off leads to Austin laying in the worst figure-4 ever seen on PPV, before BS blocks out the sun on Steve with a leg-drop. A lacklustre spine-buster leads to a botchy final transition before the finish. BSgoozle, fightback-Steve-O. XPac rocks up on the scene to see Big Show no-sell a stunner. Austin gets dropped and caught by the throat once more, escapes, stuns XPac in the ring, stuns BSstuns Ric Flair, stuns everyone. No matter how you see it and how they got here- Stonecold Steve Austin pinned the nature boy Ric Flair. 

Winner: Steve Austin (15.34)
6.3/10 ~ Thumbs up


Above: left: X-Pac kick misses | Middle: Stunner on X-Pac | Right: Flair gets stunned

Austin, fourth match on card, very rare, feels wrong. An offensive highlight reel for Austin, if not fairly sloppy, story-driven match. Ric having affiliation w NWO, purely because he is heel, lazy booking. Both he and Austin keep BS involved in a largely fun, entertainment based, encounter. The final portion severely rushed, the final 30 seconds, muddled and painfully overbooked. Did Steve also have to destroy XPac on top of winning a handicap?

Above: Austin wins

Throughout the Atittude era, Steve Austin would endlessly overcome insurmountable odds and ultimately vanquish the necessary evil, whipping hoards of fans into a rabid frenzy. Unapologetically living vicariously through their unrefined hero, these 3:16 devouts would seemingly escape reality if not for a moment, celebrating fantastical defiance with uninhibited delirium in post-match, beer bash hysteria.

At Judgment Day 2002, there is no celebratory drinks, no fan rapture.  


Cole and Tazz haven’t made the PPV commentary yet. 


Hair vs. hair match

Kurt Angle vs Edge


A retrospective epic, a show stealer; Edge v Kurt freakin Angle! 

The build-up is largely based on humiliation and one-upmanship, dependant on comedic, light-hearted moments opposed to the idea of two serious up-and-comers looking to break that main event level entry. In May 2002, there was seemingly no room in the main event slot for unproven stars, (even though Angle had main evented on and off since Summerslam 2000) with the title picture being dominated by verified veterans. Both competitors here are booked as “the two hottest rising stars on Smackdown!” -Michael Cole

In truth, both are in transitional phases of their career. The chemistry with Angle/Edge through the Foley commissioner era of 2000 had to be capitalised on and while the T-shirt stuff is fun, it is a very 2002-esque storyline. Considering the screen time they have been given in recent weeks, which included Edge teaming with Hulk Hogan to take on Angle/Y2J in the main event 09/05 Smackdown, perhaps a more serious angle could have been booked. Angle is still relying on being a comedic goofball, with laughs at his expense making it hard for people to truely boo him. Edge however, is also trying to shake the E&C ‘reeking of awesomeness’, sophomoric surfer-dude persona, morphing more into a rock-star, cool guy. Both are two years away from finding their place as ‘the wrestling machine/ Rated R superstar’, respectively. 


Above: Hair vs hair

Rob Zombie’s ‘Never Gonna Stop’ is appropriate, given Edge’s current roster status, circa ‘22. As pumped as I am to see two legends in their prime, the live crowd is somewhat indifferent, sitting on their hands, waiting to be entertained. C’mon guys, don’t you know this is the last time we will see Angle with hair! Which always looks so bizarre looking back. The match kicks off in high gear and barely slows down- Edge spears Kurt while tied up in the ropes, then takes an unnecessarily risky, overhead suplex to the outside. So dangerous. Captain Kurt gains control. 



Above: Edge suplexed to the floor | Angle ground and pound

The race to find the next ‘guy’ is on. John Cena has yet to challenge Kurt on Smackdown, Randy Orton is as fresh as a guy could be, Batista is as low on the pecking order as will ever be and Brock Lesnar is 8 weeks in. We are 14 months removed from the ‘Attitude era’s’ penultimate WM X-7 and 6 weeks away from the “ruthless aggression challenge from VKM.

Both Angle and Edge are looking to capitalise on their potential promotion by tearing the house down. 


That being said, offence is the name of the game, spot after spot. Not much selling or detailed defensive nuances in this one and the crowd could care less, enjoying the ride, coming to life after an early lull. A criticism for Edge is he uses way too many different offensive moves (especially that stupid, sit-down ‘Edgeecution’) and bounces around too easily. As we know he eventually refines his repetuer and substitutes holds for storytelling. Spear! To the ref though….


Above left: Edge leaps | Right: Ankle lock by Angle

Very 50/50 back and forth match, no real heel dominance or face come-back, just a solid competitive bout. A close 2.9 count after yet another spear pops the now, invested crowd. Angle’s Olympic slam draws a 2.9 of his own and an even louder crowd reaction. “Two men who refuse to lose”, screams J.R. Inzeguri: Edge. Adam is in control, nope, it’s Angle; ankle lock! Edge counters and springs Kurt into the ropes into a small package for the 1,2,3! The crowd erupts with genuine, thrilled excitement, the raw response foretold the future- that both Edge and Kurt Angle could control an audience in the palm of their hand. 

Winner: Edge (15.28)

7.7/10 ~ Thumbs up

Post match, Angle does not accept the 3, dropping Edge and high tailing it out of there. 

A genuine banger. A rare example of a decent hair match. Yes, a spot-fest. Not for everyone. The card was very story- heavy, so an in-ring wrestling war was welcomed to add another layer to the show. Edge was the star in the making, the wrestling rock-star, white-meat baby face. A young excitement machine, building his legacy that had yet to be wrtitten. He would have to change, but not on this night. Angle, does what he does best, wrestles his heart out and puts a guy over with style, elevating both himself and opponent. As a matchup, this is a pleasure. This match gives the PPV what it needed, a shot of adrenaline. And as per wrestling rules, the guy who is balding, loses. 

Above: the winner


Booker awaits his sex. Get the ‘f’, in. 

Booker in bed. Looks like the “5 time, 5 time, 5 time WCW champ” is kinky, having a  cameraman watch. Goldust joins the party and we see Booker bare ass. These two had great chemistry throughout their teaming together, sure. This is not a good example. In fact, the acting from the extra here should not have made it to tv. 



Hell in a cell

Triple H v Chris Jericho

The Wrestlemania X-8 main event blowoff. This match came about when Hunter’s father-in-law dispensed Y2J to do his bidding, then booked him in “Hell in a cell!” Only problem is that HIAC is Hunter’s forte. He has a significant size and strength advantage over Y2J, not to mention, the cell should be generally used to either keep people out, or lock the heel in. In this case, none of those reasonings are prevalent. 

Strong video promo as per usual, no feature of Stephanie, unlike the WM buildup. 



Above: Triple H and Jericho battle in the cell

The match starts off a slow, slog. Too slow in fact. So much kick/ punch. Too much walking around ringside in circles. Jericho, crowned the very first undisputed champion 5 months earlier at Vengeance looks somewhat lacklustre compared to his chiseled opponent. They didn’t establish a believable ‘baby face in danger’ set-up to the match. Jericho should have been paired with a large sidekick, Batista for example. For me, Jericho is at his strongest as the fighting fan favourite, underdog, see Fully Loaded 2000. Hunter is having a year- the epic MSG return, a rumble win, Angle at No Way Out, headlines Wrestlemania and wins the world title, then faces Hulkamania at Backlash. From this point forward in 2002, he would headline KOTR against Undertaker, take on HBK in the MOTY at Summerslam, be crowned the first WWE world heavyweight champion, headline Survivor Series and then recapture world gold at Armageddon. He is also Hogan level tanned. Tim white- “keep it in the ring”.. but why? No rules, buddy. 


Above: Start of the match

Jericho wears red first, a direct result of having his face mashed into the cage. Trips gets camera-caught doing a sneaky blade, can’t blame the Game for that one though. After a bit of messing around, the game of “how will they get the cage door open” is answered, as referee Tim White takes the bump of the match, cannoning from the apron to the steel cage. This gives kayfabe reason for the backstage keyholders to unlock the chained doors. A blooded White is stretchered away, unfortunately suffering a nasty separated shoulder that would practically spell the end to his career. Jean-Paul and Chris escape the structure, to the crowds delight, who rise in anticipation of inevitable steel scaling. Hunter whips out his hammer and nails Jericho. Y2Jericho does not sell this long enough. You should be almost dead, dude!


Above left: weapons | Middle: Ref bump | Right: Tim White down

Eventually the iotola cowardly escapes through the door. Similar in-ring psychology and audience response to the No Way Out ‘00 cell. No one in the audience really reacted until the cage was penetrable. Since June ‘98, fans want blood and impossible bumps from high altitude. No one in the building believes the match will end until they see a memorable moment, therefore, sit on their hands. If they want blood, they get it, as barbie makes his/her first appearance since the aforementioned Foley (at the time) retirement match in 2000. 


Above left: Escape | Middle: Scale the cage | Right: On the cell

The idea here is to utilise blood and weapons in place of the sic bump spot. Chairs, ladders and steel steps are used, as is a sledgehammer, barbed wire bat and the cage itself. Jericho illogically goes up rather than out, HHH and the bat go up, this time HHH eats some barbs. Tennessee holds its collective breathe and groans with each shot of the laced lumber. This is wrestling danger territory, flashes of Foley run through the imagination of everyone in the building. They don’t go there of course and rightfully so, no one ever should. Jericho lays on his walls of Jericho, Hunter fights through. A dirty handed low blow rocks Jericho’s iotolas, the man of 1004 holds desperately hits a back drop on the panel, of which does not break, a homepage to the HHH/Cactus encounter of years prior. One cage top pedigree later and the game is victorious, through blood sweat and minor cheers. J.R does his thing, Jericho bleeds onto a camera below, Triple Hunter flexes.


Above:Pedigree on the cage

Winner: Triple H (24.50)

6.4/10 ~ Thumbs up


Above: ‘The Game’ is victorious

A satisfying outcome for a WM world title feud, blowoff.

Lock-up, straight wrestling start, was confusing for a blood feud. Crowd very dead in the opening half, lotta punches, the flow was stuttery. Use of steel weapons= good. The guys worked hard and stiff. The story at times, illogical. Overall, comes off as flat, especially in reference to HIAC past featuring in the opening package, eg, Foley, HBK, Undertaker. Almost a case of “how do we top this”. A full stop on the rivalry, opposed to an exclamation point. 

The final one-on-one PPV encounter between Hunter and Jericho. Good, but not great, the match just didn’t feel special. Perhaps a title or main event could have elevated things, perhaps the buildup, post Mania, which was basically non existent, made things flat. More likely- the unrealistic expectations that the cell holds, was too great. This was the 8th HIAC, the first since Armageddon in December 2000.


Edge chases Angle backstage. Benny Hill chase scene. Kurt really hates getting his haircut. He eventually has his head shaved, with a rather dangerous use of a straight ‘edge’ razor by Edge it seems. Kurt weeps, breaks a mirror (seven years bad luck in TNA?) but still sells his devastation of being bald, even though he would keep the look for the rest of his life.

Note: Never let edge handle a straight razor ever again. Talk about a nervous moment.


Maven, Tori Wilson at ‘The World’, NY.

5th or 6th sexual innuendo segment? Cringy, awkward waste. On the topic of wasting PPV time, tag team match in the death spot is next. The idea of putting Billy and Chuckies boy, Rico, in a tag team w Rikishi, ends up being the third handicap dynamic match on the PPV. There aren’t enough ‘S’s’ in ‘suck’ to describe the idea and this cluster of a match stinks as bad as Rikishi’s unwashed giant thong. Kish has fallen from his 2000 era main event push to the bottom of the card, even though he wins the tag team belts. No one cares though. Just skip if watching on the network. Referred to as a “let me up match”, or as a way to “bring ‘em back down”. The only thing up, is me, off my couch- heading to the bathroom until the match is over.

You can’t help but think about just how far tag wrestling had fallen since the tag team renaissance from ‘99, through its brilliant climax at WM X-7.



Undisputed Heavyweight Championship

Hulk Hogan (c) v The Undertaker

What’s old is new again. Wrestling comes full circle in the heavily critiqued main event, the rematch from the controversy encounter 11 years prior.


Above: The controversy from 1991 Survivor Series/ Tuesday in Texas

An interesting series of events leading up to the match itself. In a nutshell: Hollywood Hogan returns at No Way Out in February then faces The Rock at Mania in March. Hulkamania runs wild, leading to the return of red and yellow and an undisputed title match against Triple H in April. Undertaker, (becoming the number 1 contender by defeating Austin) interferes in the match, resulting in Hogan holding his first (and final) WWF title since losing to Yokozuna at KOTR, June 1993. From there, a comical display of unfortunate events follows the Hulkster on his comeback tour. Real life comes into play in ways, karma is present this time around. In November of 1991, Hogan went to business for himself. On May 19th, 2002, he will give back to the Undertaker. Tuesday in Texas has been revoked, the Hulk Hogan comeback story will end at Judgment Day.

Above: The lead up to Hogan vs The Undertaker

Video package on the network has been altered, the original included the PPV theme ‘Broken’. The underlying themes from 1991 remain the same however: the darkness vs the light. This isn’t the undead, zombie Taker of ‘91, rather, the debut of ‘Big Evil’. A shift in persona is too confusing for those in attendance unfortunately, the first rendition of ‘Your gonna pay’ kills the usual Limp Bizkit pop. Hogan’s network dubbed music overplays over the original ‘Voodoo Child’ experience, Hulk expertly works his audience strumming and strutting, riding the nostalgic wave of resurgence and wrestling relevance as long as he can. A final farewell tour. 


Above left: Undertaker entrance | Right: Hogan entrance

No catch-as-catch-can like the PPV opener, this is immediately apparent as Hogan puts the breaks on while sliding into the ring, a bad sign, then Hulks -up after a belt lashing. Looking to “spook some of the creeps out of the neighbourhood “ Hogan chokes UT he way Homer chokes Bart, in front of an uncaring official. Hulk rips his shirt off, gets his pop, his reaction cannot be denied. Hogan is so painfully slow though. Captain Terry drips spray on tan while looking somewhat confused, throwing the occasional weak punch and lumbering his big frame around, looking for an offensive move in his repertoire. Before he can find one, Undertaker attacks, obviously sick of standing around and feeding him offensive opportunity. 

Frustrating because surely Hulk understands a big main event should start with a bang! In this instance, Hulk should overcompensate physical limitations with bells and whistles: a hot start and plenty of excitement for the crowd. That way you can atleast trick an audience into thinking they have witnessed something special.


Above: Hulk Hogan

Taker recommends an outside brawl, plan B if you will. A way to change the pace and move the match forward. Hulk doesn’t get it though. ‘Hogan’ chant breaks out, undeservingly if you are paying attention to his work here. A middle-rope superplex is a surprise, UT fans hold their breathe and say a prayer in hope that Hulk has taken his vitamins. While Undertaker gains control and works the leg for a while, J.R let’s loose some killer new Undertaker catchphrases, letting us know that the “Red Devil” is a new thing. 


Above: Hulk superplex

After some tired brawling, Hogan unprofessionally splits Mark’s lip with some hideously stiff, lateral based, log-like leg-chops on the canvas. He (Hulk) goes for his big boot..or not, Taker counters into a half Boston crab of all things. The immortal one is moving slower than ever. He can’t bend. Undertaker is calling the match and overselling to try and make up for it. The match is storydriven and does in fact have a very old-school structure about it, which is largely lost within a modern setting. 


Above left: Hogan chops | Right: Boston crab

An enormous tombstone dwells menacing in the background. Perhaps symbolising a championship end, possibly a representation of this being era belonging to Undertaker, not Hogan. Since that fateful encounter in ‘91, Undertaker has been the locker room leader, the Godfather, judge of wrestlers court. Hogan, looked at y the locker room with trepidation. Is the set piece largely driven from Vince McMahon to let Hogan know that there must be consequences paid and comeuppance, karma, from the people he screwed along the way- Undertaker, Yokozuna, Bret Hart, Vince himself. That payback is hell. Probably not, but the circa 2002 set pieces were cool.

There will be no tombstone piledriver tonight though, instead, the worlds worst choke-slam, edited slightly on the network to resemble something human. Undertaker may as well be trying to choke-slam a couch. It still stumps me as to why Hogan did not move in cadence, sand-bagging on the goozle. Unable or unwilling to play ball.


Above: Taker choke-slam


Above: Hogan’Hulks up’

The crowd groan in sympathy, watching their beloved hero well past his prime, gassed and lost. Instead of rapture, the crowd go mild for the once patented Hulk-up climactic comeback. The botched choke-slam and intended heroic kick out has taken the air out of the building. Captain Terry then goes back to his most trusted bag of tricks; finger point, 3 punches, whip off the rope- big boot as the crowd play along, they forgive him. Big leg! Cover, 1, 2.. Taker kicks out of the move that finished Andre the giant. 


Above: Big boot/ Big leg


Above: Hogan takes out VKM

VKM appears at ringside, scheme in mind. 11 years ago it was Flair, this time it is the boss. In the scramble, Undertaker sneaks a chair, which ends up in his own face after a Bollea boot, prompting the promiscuous president to jump onto the ring apron and get in a scuffle before his former partner in crime can drop his patentent leg and vanquish the evil. Vince rag dolls his way into the ring as the crowd eat it up, a knuckle sandwich and leaping leg-drop leaves the owner of the now WWE, eyes-a-spinning, seeing stars. This distraction is enough for the evil Undertaker to crack his red and yellow foe in the back with the smoking gun, finding redemption with a championship choke-slam. The Undertaker has beaten Hogan! The Undertaker has beaten Hogan!!


Above: The Undertaker beats Hogan…again.

Winner and NEW Undisputed Heavyweight Champion- The Undertaker (11:20)

4.9/10 ~ Thumbs up

McMahon, with the sardonic smirk of the devil, is pleased to see the demise of his once, cherished creation. Hollywood Hulk Hogan’s judgment day has come, his fate, written. Tennessee is a rumble as the conscience of the WWF/E soaks up the adulation and celebrates his newly won world title, the Hogan name will fall, the name of the Undertaker, minted in gold for all time. As far as the Undertaker is concearned, Hulkamania can Rest In Peace. 


Above: New Undisputed champion

The main event had its botches, stutters and was certainly Hulka-slow. It meant something though. There are enough smoke and mirrors to get through, the ends certainly justify the means. A rare example of “reactive booking” jr ref) being worth the risk in regards to putting the belt on Hogan one last time in an experiment in nostalgia.

The post match marks a new start for the Undertaker, who will go on to  face a younger crop of talent in the coming months. Hogan is suffering a sort of mid-life, Hulka-crisis, a melting pot of his previous personas confusingly congregate, seemingly trying to serve too many masters. Undertaker possibly chosen to stabilise business in what was a crazy time for the company. There is something apprapro however about Hulk Hogan headlining the first PPV under the World Wrestling Entertainment banner, given he and Vince McMahon were the founding men of over the top, entertainment based wrestling we know today, responsible for dragging wrestling out of the dark ages and into the mainstream spotlight in the 80’s.

Unfairly scrutinised, the JD finale more than accomplished it’s goals; get the belt off Hogan, set up a mega feud between Vince and the Hulk, have Undertaker face a bunch of young talent.

Wrestling was certainly strange in 2002. A new, ruthless, era was dawning, while nostalgia of the past was seeing a resurgence. At Judgment Day, history repeated, as the Undertaker reigns supreme as the new Undisputed champion of WWE.


References

1.

An American institution was forced to re-shift, the “F” in WWF would forever be amended due to the world wildlife fund group in the UK winning the rights to the term WWF in court, therefore, the very name and iconic initials of the company had to awkwardly change. 

This was the first name change since the then, WWWF shortened to WWF in 1979.

Ironically, the final event under the WWF name would take place in England, at Insurexxion. 

The “F” for federation was out, the “E” for entertainment was in. The branding and marketing change would apparently cost upwards of $50 million. 

2.

PRFH

The ramifications from the doomed May 5th flight would be damaging and long lasting. The most notable casualties were Scott Hall, who unfortunately received his final strike and Curt ‘Mr Perfect’ Hennig, who took “ribbing”’, AKA- bullying, too far, too many times.  Oth were immediately fired. Fall out from the disasterous 15 hour, alcohol fueled nightmare would be felt for years to come. These include, allegations of sexual abuse, (Flair) dangerous mid-air physical fighting, (Hennig and Brock Lesnar) spilt blood, (Bradshaw) Dustin Runnels drunkenly serenading his non enthused ex wife over the PA, Michael Hayes loosing his desperately cherished locks courtesy of X-Pac and various wrestlers allegedly and unwillingly, ‘H’ bombed/roofied. See S03 E09 of ‘Dark Side of the Ring’ for more details. 

3) 

Bruce Prichard ‘Something to Wrestle With’, episode 32

4)

Vince McMahon is currently being investigated due to the real life allegations of adultery and multi-million dollar cover ups. This investigation has lead to McMahon stepping down as CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment.

4)

Kieblers ‘Legs’ theme by Kid Rock has been dubbed over on the network to a generic theme. WWF Forcable Entry was the album of the time, a terribly titled, banger of a CD every wrestling fan should have had in their collection. 

5)

Jim Ross

6)

Ok, imagine if Hogan stayed NWO heel, Hall bettered his demons and Nash stayed healthy. Fast forward Bischoff’s debut 4 months early as Raw GM, Flair swindles Vince out of the CEO position and aligns himself with the rebellious group, then have them intent on taking out Austin as their number one threat before taking over the WWF/E. The NWO could claim the 2001 ‘Invasion’ was just a ruse, planted as a way to lead the WWF locker room into thinking they had won a false war. Keep the group small, add XPac and even Big Show, have them rarely take an L, the next 12 months of storyline’s would have been epic. Things culminate at WM-19 main event: Hulk vs Austin. 

7)

Austin is less than 4 weeks away from grabbing his ball and going home. He is pissed off. Pissed at his Wrestlemaniamatch up against Hall, pissed at having to feud with the NWO, pissed at the creative in general. He’s just not a happy camper at all. Can’t blame him, since losing to the Rock at Survivor Series ‘01 the previous year, he forfeited the WWF title, lost the vacant undisputed title against Y2J at Vengeance, lost the rumble, lost again to Y2J at No Way Out, was placed in the 5th match at Mania, then lost to the Undertaker at Backlash

He would openly vent his frustrations on the infamous edition of Byte this, the final straw was the idea of losing to a rookie Lesnar in a non-advertised match on Raw. He simply went home and no showed the rest of 2002. In recent times, Steve himself would cite burn-out as the reason, both physical and mental.

8)

Within a year of making his debut, The Undertaker went on to to defeat Hulk Hogan to win the WWF championship at Survivor Series 1991. Undertaker won with his tombstone after a Ric Flair, assisted chair on the canvas. Hogan had claimed that The Undertaker had hurt his neck during the match resulting in a a rematch/ title switch back 6 days after at Tuesday in Texas.

The Undertaker has claimed Hogan faked a neck injury to get his way. “I pick him up, and when I tell you I had the brother secure, he was secure. Boom, I give him the tombstone, as soon as my knees hit, I hear, “Ohhh, you got me, brother,” Mark Calaway told ESPN.

Following the match, Hogan reportedly got very dramatic backstage in playing up the injury

“I go backstage, and I’m asking, where’s Hulk at? “Oh, he’s laying on Vince’s office’s floor. So I go in there and he’s laying out on the floor, Ohhhh, carrying on.” However, despite Hogan’s claims, many other wrestlers- including Shane McMahon-insisted his head wasn’t anywhere close to touching that mat, which suggested Taker hadn’t done anything wrong. 

Undertaker confronted Hogan about the incident, telling Hogan, “I watched it back, your head never hit. Hogan offered excuses. At that point, I was like, OK. Then I knew. I kinda realised, I know what you’re all about, and that’s all I needed.” Hogan had pulled an old time wrestling trick- make it look to the office that the new guy is not to be depended on, also let this up-and-coming guy believe he is forever in debt to you.

9)

A comedy of errors including motorcycles stalling at crucial moments, (Raw 06/05/02) and Hogan being rodeo dragged through the backstage hallways (Raw 13/05/02)

For the motorcycle stall, Taker literally stalls for time, then just bails..The camera cuts to J.R, who is forced to improvise and buy time with lines such as “Hogan is trying to get into the mind of Undertaker”.  Bless you J.R. The bike starts…then stops again, Hogan simply walks up the ramp and gets greeted by angry producers, forcing him to go back to the stubborn cycle, which has now been filled up w gas by a backstage worker. Finally, the bike starts and Hogan plods up the ramp, Taker is long gone. Hogan had to ride back due to the next segment; a pre-taped backstage segment where a cussing Hulk rides through the halls looking for his nemesis, then promptly drives an 18 wheeler over Taker’s prized possession. 

The whole sorry scene is not only cursed in execution; but in theory. The dynamic of Hogan riding backstage, enraged, looking for Undertaker, makes no sense, considering he is the perpetrator of the stolen bike and the one in the wrong. It’s just a mess, as is the stunt scene from May 13, where Hogan, dressed in leather from head to toe and adorned with a world war 2 helmet, is ‘hog tied’ behind a bike and very carefully dragged through the backstage area, only to ‘bump’ into a pile of conveniently placed boxes. I’ve taken bigger bumps getting out of bed in the morning. 

10)

Hulk Hogan, Smackdown


Other news and notes from May 2002

-Lita was injured on the set of Dark Angel, neck surgery ruling her out for 9 months.

-Kane was on the shelf for 4 months due to a biceps tear on April 14, 

-Hogan and Austin were paired in ring for an off air, test market research in St Louis. Austin stunned Hulk to a mixed response, then the two drank beers. 

-13/05 Raw saw the only in-ring altercation between Steve Austin and Brock Lesnar as active competitors

-Batista (Deacon Batista) debuted on WWE TV on 09/05/02 edition of Smackdown, where DVon faced Triple H. Batista would wrestle his final match against Triple H in 2019

-Randy Orton debut took place on 25/04 Smackdown, with a win against Bob Holly.

-OVW- stars yet to debut included Simon Dean, Shelton Benjamin, John Cena

-Rey Mysterious JR had signed a contract with WWE

-Davey-Boy Smith, who wrestled under the moniker the British Bulldog, passed away the night before, at age 39. Plenty of retrospective podcasts will lead you to believe there was no Davey-Boy tribute, there was in fact a tribute video at the beginning of the 20/05 Raw, voiced by VKM himself. Other deaths of this time include Big Dick Dudley, Mass transit and Lou Thez

-Raw on 13/05, (Ric Flair heel turn/ Hogan hog tied ride) drew the lowest TV rating since March, 1998, with a 3.91 rating. 

-William Regal faced DLo Brown in the dark match before the main card.

-Judgment Day did 373,000 buys

 

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