Generic Pre-Review Wrestling Disclaimer: Long before my affinity for globetrotting documentaries, Martin Scorsese films and The Criterion Collection, I found a soft spot for professional wrestling. Don't ask me how this happened; it just did. Despite this declaration, I shower daily, all my teeth are accounted for, I have a college degree...and, most importantly, I have a wife with the same merits. I'm not alone, of course. The wrestling fans I know aren't slack-jawed yokels; they simply appreciate the spectacle and illusion that this genuine sport creates, in the same way movie lovers enjoy fast-paced fights and thrilling chase sequences. Long story short: we know this stuff is "fake", but we like it anyway. Give us a break.
Sometime during the last 15 years or so (beginning mostly with a series of low-tier events titled "In Your House"), WWE managed to dilute their pay-per-views by offering them on a monthly basis. This isn't quite at the level of having Christmas every day, but you know what I'm getting at: special events just aren't as exciting when they're more frequent. Judgment Day is WWE's May-ish pay-per-view extravaganza, and it gets the distinct honor and challenge of following Wrestlemania. Like the majority of the company's PPVs, it features no regular "gimmick" main events, such as Survivor Series or the Royal Rumble. In other words, it's a series of mid-card and championship bouts, or a larger and longer version of one of their semi-weekly shows. Of course, the frequency of WWE programming ensures that we've seen some of these pairings before, and for free.
That's essentially the main drawback of this year's Judgment Day: it's more déjà vu than unpredictable. Held at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, IL on May 17th, this three-hour event isn't horrible by any stretch...but it's not particularly memorable, either. Headlined by four separate championship matches, the actual card certainly looks good on paper. When all's said and done, though, the highlights are few and far between. Without any further delay, Judgment Day 2009 includes the following matches:
Complete Match Listing
(7 matches on 1 single-sided DVD)
CM Punk vs. Umaga
Christian vs. Jack Swagger [ECW Championship Match]
Shelton Benjamin vs. John Morrison
Rey Mysterio vs. Chris Jericho [IC Championship Match]
Randy Orton vs. Batista [WWE Championship Match]
John Cena vs. The Big Show
Edge vs. Jeff Hardy [World Heavyweight Championship Match]
Here's the good news: despite the doom and gloom mentioned earlier, there are actually a handful of passable matches here. Christian vs. Jack Swagger's ECW Championship match is the first to make a good impression; though it runs less than 10 minutes, it's relatively fast-paced and exciting. The same goes for Shelton Benjamin vs. John Morrison (above right): these are easily two of the company's most talented stars, and the actual match is well-executed and gets a good crowd response (unfortunately, it doesn't even warrant a mention on the DVD's back cover!). The last to impress is the main event, Jeff Hardy vs. Edge (at top) in a match for the World Heavyweight Championship. Though it suffers a bit from repetition (how many times have these guys wrestled in the last year?), a handful of exciting moments elevates the experience to greater heights.
Everything else is average at best. CM Punk vs. Umaga is a wasted opportunity; though the former (above left) is a huge hometown favorite, Umaga controls most of the match and slows it down considerably. Openers should be fast-paced to get the crowd going, and this doesn't. Rey Mysterio vs. Chris Jericho's IC title match is another slight disappointment; though both athletes are certainly talented in their own right, they just don't seem to click here. Same goes for Randy Orton vs. Batista, which tends to drag on before an eventual anti-climax. John Cena vs. Big Show is probably the worst of the lot; it's got a decent David & Goliath vibe (assuming David raps and lifts weights), but this sloppy match fails to impress overall. Aside from these general complaints, there's also one more drawback: a few of these title matches end with cheap finishes, which is never a good idea in a pay-per-view setting.
On the technical side of things, this DVD is on par with recent WWE releases: production values are decent enough and all matches are free from edits. Unfortunately, only one bonus feature has been included. This is bad news for those who already spent $40 on the PPV the first time around, though new viewers probably won't mind as much.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in a 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio and enhanced for 16x9 displays, Judgment Day 2009 looks to be on par with most current WWE releases...but that's not necessarily a free pass. Notable amounts of pixellation, edge enhancement and compression artifacts can be seen during many entrances and fast-moving sequences, which has been a long-standing problem we've undoubtedly become accustomed to. Colors are generally bold and bright, though reds pop out almost unnaturally at times. Certainly not a five-star presentation overall, but this is probably about as good as we'll get from WWE.
The audio is presented in a robust Dolby 5.1 Surround mix, which does a fine job of recreating the WWE live experience. Crowd noise and play-by-play commentary come through loud and clear, creating a satisfying soundstage overall. A Spanish 2.0 play-by-play track is also available, though it's not quite as dynamic overall. As expected, optional subtitles and Closed Captions have not been provided.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the plain-wrap menu designs are basic and easy to navigate. The 164-minute main feature has been divided into 10 chapters (one per match and significant "filler" event), while no obvious layer change was detected during playback. This one-disc release is housed in a standard black keepcase and includes no inserts of any kind.
Only one short extra has been included here, and it's exclusive to this release. "Batista and An Old Friend Reunite" (0:48) features the WWE Championship challenger and Ric Flair; it obviously takes place right after Batista's match and is pretty standard stuff. Like the main event, this segment is presented in 16x9 format and does not include Closed Captions or subtitles. Unfortunately, the pre-show dark match between Mickie James and Beth Phoenix is not included here.
Most "minor" WWE pay-per-views end up being middle-of-the-road, and Judgment Day 2009 is no different. A handful of matches manage to make the grade, but the majority of these are at least somewhat disappointing---and to make matters worse, a few of the championship matches end with cheap finishes. In other words, it's hard to recommend this one on content alone. Unfortunately, the DVD doesn't go all out, either: the technical presentation is roughly on par with modern WWE releases, but a lack of substantial bonus features won't make this an attractive package for those who saw it on PPV already. Overall, Judgment Day 2009 should only be purchased by rabid WWE collectors; everyone else should give this a weekend spin at the most. Rent It.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, second-guessing himself and writing things in third person.