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COMMENT





Hardy feud reignites at Judgment Day
By BRIAN ELLIOTT -- SLAM! Wrestling


WWE's fifth pay-per-view event of 2009, Judgment Day – held at the AllState Arena in Rosemont, Illinois - promised to be an intriguing card in more ways than one.

There were the conspicuous absences of Triple H, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker from the show, the latter two due to injury. The former was a self-imposed exile, in the hope that the character now tarred with the McMahon brush can regain some momentum following a break.

There was also the fact that every match on the show was a singles contest, and without a stipulation in sight. With that, there was hope that the better in-ring performers on the show would have the opportunity to wrestle – a rarity in today’s over-the-top wrestling climate.

But perhaps more than anything else, there was much intrigue going into Judgment Day, based on the fact that local advertising in New Orleans, the site of the next WWE pay-per-view, “Extreme Rules”, had seen a video promo with Jeff Hardy as World Heavyweight Champion, claiming that he would enter the New Orleans Arena as champion, and leave with the title too. Was that a giveaway for what would happen on this evening?

Match #1: CM Punk vs Umaga

Unusually for pay-per-view, Judgment Day began with little fuss, as hometown hero CM Punk and Umaga quickly made their way to the ring for the opening contest.

Punk attempted to get things going his way with stiff body kicks, but he was overpowered by the "Samoan Bulldozer", who struck with his twisting uranage slam and a kick of his own, which sent Punk from the apron to the floor. After a failed attempt at a bodyslam and a devastating-looking chop to the throat, Umaga missed a splash from the second rope, which allowed Punk to make a comeback, with forearms and a plancha dive.

The "mixed martial arts master" (Todd Grisham's words, not mine) then hit a second-rope bulldog for a near-fall, and the same outcome occurred after a big clothesline off the top. Then signalling for the GTS (Go To Sleep), Punk found Umaga's weight too much of a burden on two attempted occasions, and was struck with a Samoan drop, a knee in the corner, and a Samoan Spike for the pinfall.

Winner: Umaga

Match rating: A fine opener with an excellent return performance from Umaga, who consistently has great matches with smaller opponents. (6.5 / 10)

In a baffling promo, Chavo Guerrero informed aunt Vickie and Big Show that John Cena had been medically cleared to face the 7-foot giant later on in the show, only for Big Show to question the match, as putting Cena out of action would be "bad for business." Unconcerned, Vickie said that she believed that someone else would step up and into Cena's position when that occurred. Edge then entered the room, and stated that he needed to speak to his wife.

Match #2 – ECW Championship: Christian ( c ) vs Jack Swagger

It was a nice touch that the ring announcements were made for this title match once both combatants were in the ring (WWE policy has seen this occur occasionally in the last few years). And from the early going, the story of the match was clear; Swagger's offense would be all power-based, and Christian would provide an aerial attack.

After Christian had struck with a baseball-slide dropkick and an inside-to-outside second-rope dropkick, Swagger took the advantage in the contest by propelling the former TNA World Champion into the ringpost. From there, he threw Christian three-quarters of the way across the ring, with a form of belly-to-belly suplex from the top rope, and almost scored a three-count with a roll-up, only for the referee to stop counting at the last moment, noticing that the former amateur competitor was using the tights for leverage.

Frustratingly for Swagger, when the shoe was on the other foot (figuratively), the referee did not see Christian use the tights when he utilized a roll-up, thus counting Swagger down for the three.

Winner: Christian

Match rating: A reasonable match, but disappointing considering the reports of their house show matches. (5.0 / 10)

Match #3: Shelton Benjamin (with Charlie Haas) vs John Morrison

After a brief skit in which Edge lambasted Chavo Guerrero for not protecting the good name of Vickie, we were right back into the thick of the action, with a bout between two of the best athletes in the company.

Morrison was the first to show that skill, with a daredevil springboard somersault press to the outside, which he very nearly didn’t make. Even though he did connect, however, it seemed to take a lot out of him, because Benjamin soon took over with a kick to the outside, and a sleeperhold, and Morrison did not get any momentum back until he reversed a side suplex to land on top of "The Gold Standard". Moments later, Morrison knocked an interfering Haas off the apron, utilized a springboard kick to the head, and struck the split-legged corkscrew moonsault for the 1-2-3.

Winner: John Morrison

Match rating: These two didn't gel as well athletically as they would have hoped, and the match suffered badly from a lack of crowd heat, probably due to Morrison’s abrupt babyface turn. (5.5 / 10)

Well, it had to come – an unwelcome break in the action for some forgettable non-wrestling. The Miz came to ringside and pointed out Alfonso Soriano of the Chicago Cubs, making fun of him and the fact that the Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908. This brought out Santino Marella, who was at least humorous, and the two engaged in a brawl which saw The Miz end up on top thanks to a DDT. With Santino down in the ring, Chavo Guerrero went to the top rope and delivered a frog splash to the prone Italian, as punishment for referring to Vickie as "a pig".

Match #4 – Intercontinental Championship: Rey Mysterio ( c ) vs Chris Jericho

After Jericho delivered another of his consistently-brilliant promos, claiming that the chanting of “619” by the crowd was the closest Mysterio would get to it, within seconds of this Intercontinental Title match, Mysterio had already set up his first attempt of the move.

Jericho did jolt out of the way, however, and soon took over on the champion, dropping him on the outside railing, and getting a two-count with a twisting dive over the top rope, and onto his opponent in the ring. Mysterio recovered briefly for another crack at the 619, which was this time halted by a backdrop, and followed up with a Lucha Libre style on-the-shoulders backbreaker, and a tilt-a-whirl version of the same move.

Still Mysterio was intent on hitting the 619, however, and when a further miss found him positioned for the Walls of Jericho, he went for it again, only to this time to get fully caught in the modified Boston Crab. After a drop toehold into the second turnbuckle however, Mysterio finally hit the move, and quickly clambered to the top rope to finish the match with a splash.

Winner: Rey Mysterio

Match rating: A fun match, but Mysterio's offence was based almost entirely around the 619. (6.5 / 10)

#5 – WWE Championship: Randy Orton ( c ) vs Batista

The champion seemed to want to slow the pace of this contest down in the early going, which was something that "The Animal" wasn’t in agreement with, pounding on Orton and striking with a vertical suplex.

After propelling the challenger outside the ring with a picture-perfect standing dropkick, Orton went to work on the back of Batista, stunningly hitting a back suplex onto the guard rail, and then hitting another dropkick to compare with anything the great Doug Furnas or Jim Brunzell ever threw. When he went for another kick however, this time the famed "concussion kick", Batista countered with a spear and a powerslam.

Fearing for his title, Orton tried to get the referee to count him out of the ring on several occasions, and then went for a steel chair, presumably to get himself disqualified. Batista thwarted that, too, however, and even came off the top rope with a clothesline for a near-fall. But when Batista blocked two attempts at RKOs, Orton simply slapped referee Mike Chioda for an unbelievably cheap finish.

Afterward, Ted DiBiase and Cody Rhodes attacked Batista, which brought Ric Flair to the ring, which, based on his comments in the media this week, may foreshadow a return to in-ring action. Batista and Flair then cleared the ring.

Winner: Batista (via DQ)

Match rating: A good match fought at a clever pace, an awful ending spoiled this one. (6.0 / 10)

Match #6: Big Show vs John Cena

Big Show’s strength aligned with his domination of Cena in recent weeks spelled bad news for the former WWE champion early in this contest, as Big Show pounded on him with kicks, punches, slams, and a ribs-first shot into the ringpost.

Cena couldn’t get anything going in the match-up until Show missed a splash in the corner, at which point he was able to strike with the Five Knuckle Shuffle and a DDT, but when he couldn’t grasp his huge opponent in the STF, Big Show hit a Vader-style splash from the second rope, and a face-first drop to the canvas.

Big Show then looked for the knockout punch, literally, but Cena managed to counter into the Attitude Adjustment (fireman’s carry slam) for the pin.

Winner: John Cena

Match rating: A rather plodding affair which didn’t build much excitement. The weakest bout thus far. (4.5 / 10)

Match #7 – World Heavyweight Championship: Edge ( c ) vs Jeff Hardy

WHAT YOU THINK
What did you think of Judgment Day?
It was great - 8%
It was okay - 25%
It sucked - 25%
Didn't see it - 42%
The lower back was the focus for the champion in this contest, as he attempted to ground Jeff Hardy as the latter once again pursued heavyweight gold. The first big move of the match was the setup for that focus, as Hardy attempted a somersault tope but got as much of the arena floor as his did his opponent. Thereafter, Edge rammed Hardy into the ringpost, and then struck a spear to the back, sending Hardy tumbling to the outside.

The tide turned for Hardy with clotheslines, an atomic drop, and a flying crossbody from the top rope for a near-fall, before surprisingly locking in a sharpshooter, only for Edge to make it to the ropes. Dragging Edge away from those ropes and to a upright position, Hardy got a near-fall from a Twist of Fate, and yet another from a sunset flip.

Seemingly desperate, Hardy pulled away the protective padding of the security wall, and when he then ran across the wall to dive onto Edge, the champion speared him in mid-air, following which the challenger just about returned to the ring before a count of ten.

Hardy got back in the game quickly, however, hitting a modified Twist of Fate, using the top rope, and a Whisper in the Wind bodyblock for another near-fall. Hardy then used to the steps to add height to a spinning leg lariat, which sent both he and the champion hurtling into the crowd area.

Just as Hardy was about to return to the ring, however, older brother Matt struck from behind with the Bob Orton-esque cast, which allowed Edge to garner a near-fall of his own inside the ring. Though Hardy attempted to rally, he was dazed in going to the top rope, and Edge used the Edgecution DDT from the top for the pinfall.

Winner: Edge

Match rating: A good main event bout, even though these two have had much better. I’m not sure what rekindling the Hardy brother feud really achieves. (6.5 / 10)

Overall, Judgment Day 2009 was a fun WWE event, which featured some good matches and told some interesting stories. As noted, promos were already recorded for the New Orleans area showing that Hardy was at one point planned to take the World Heavyweight Title into Extreme Rules on June 7, so keep your eyes open for a title change on television over the next three weeks.

Brian Elliott is a British journalist covering soccer, mixed martial arts, and professional wrestling, who has recently written for the likes of the Daily Mirror newspaper, the Associated Press and Sports Illustrated. He can be contacted at brianelliottblog@hotmail.co.uk.