Judgment Day 2004 was the ultimate stage for this mid-aughts blood feud. When looking at some of the most heated wrestling feuds from this time, room in the conversation must be made for JBL versus Eddie Guerrero. This was a battle of a supreme tyrant attempting to steal the ultimate prize from a working-class hero. Between the loudmouth tycoon JBL and the mischievous yet lovable Guerrero, this feud had the makings of something special. Little did fans realize, at the time, that it would become visceral.
Historically, Eddie Guerrero is regarded as one of the most beloved figures in wrestling. Unless fans watched during this period, however, it’s difficult to truly grasp the influence he had on both fellow performers and fans alike. His ups and downs in life have been well-documented and his ascent to the WWE Championship is what legends are made of. The lying, cheating, and stealing Guerrero triumphed over foes such as Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle. All the while, his charisma and energy made him one of the most exciting, endearing figures in wrestling.
Heading into May, Guerrero needed a new feud.
Enter John Bradshaw Layfield, who underwent a drastic metamorphosis as a character. Once the beer-loving, hard-hitting tag team specialist, the man simply known as “Bradshaw” adopted the character of a successful Texan entrepreneur. Instead of knocking back a cold one – or several – JBL was more focused on flaunting his wealth. This made him the perfect foil for “Latino Heat,” who had to truly fight to become a champion. Guerrero’s success felt earned; comparatively, JBL’s success didn’t.
On paper, JBL and Guerrero made for a strong feud. However, it was how their storyline played out that would make their eventual showdown at Judgment Day 2004 that much more memorable. It would also touch on personal themes. These helped fans empathize with Guerrero and detest JBL that much more.
To say that JBL and Eddie Guerrero’s feud dealt with sensitive topics would be an understatement. Case and point, JBL’s first-ever promo involved him confronting a group of people identified as illegal Mexican immigrants. In bigoted fashion, not only did JBL shout at them to “go back to Mexico,” but he physically assaulted one of the members. This segment was barely more than two minutes in length, but it successfully portrayed JBL as a xenophobic bully. The hatred for JBL was heightened further when Angle, the acting SmackDown General Manager at the time, named him the new number one contender for the WWE Championship.
JBL followed up by hosting a celebration, the centerpiece being the Great American Trophy. Guerrero lived up to one of his trademark verbs by stealing his fellow Texan’s trophy, replacing it with one that honored “Latino Heat.” Guerrero would also take JBL’s trademark white limousine, adorn with bullhorns, for a ride to ringside. After confronting Angle and JBL, Guerrero took a steel chair to the Great American Trophy. The WWE Champion clearly didn’t take their threats seriously, but perhaps he should have.
Fast forward to Mother’s Day.
WWE held a house show in El Paso, Guerrero’s hometown. As such, Guerrero brought members of his family, including his elderly mother, to the ring. JBL crashed the Guerrero family segment, laying out the champion. JBL then set his sights on Guerrero’s mother, advancing toward her in an intimidation tactic. After setting a hand on her shoulder, the Wall Street mogul was as stunned as anyone else to see her collapse due to a sudden heart attack. It’s worth noting that this heart attack was, to some degree, legitimate. According to Bruce Prichard, Eddie’s mother stressed herself about the segment so much that she suffered a real-life heart attack in the ring. Fortunately, it was minor and she would be resting comfortably by the time Judgment Day 2004 rolled around.
At this point, a showdown between JBL and Eddie Guerrero was inevitable. JBL failed to take accountability for what happened to Guerrero’s mother. In fact, he showed no concern about long-term health implications she would suffer from. If the Texan tycoon was hated before, his heat grew to nuclear proportions once his lack of compassion became evident. On May 16th, at Judgment Day 2004, Guerrero faced the challenger JBL with two goals in mind: to honor his family and humble the loudmouth brute.
With tension at an all-time high, JBL and Eddie Guerrero’s match at Judgment Day 2004 began with an intense staredown. It didn’t take long for fists to fly, as Guerrero caused JBL to retreat from the outside. Still clearly heated over what JBL did to his mother, Guerrero resorted to using a ringside cable to restrict the challenger’s airflow. JBL attempted to retreat but Guerrero had revenge on his mind. The prestigious WWE Championship became a non-factor.
Guerrero maintained control of the match in the early going, but it wasn’t long until the challenger turned the tide. JBL whipped Guerrero into the steel steps, exhibiting little regard for the official’s reinforcement of the rules. Whenever Guerrero seemed to rally some kind of offense, the more powerful JBL cut him off. The Texan tycoon had the goal of cooling down “Latino Heat,” ensuring that he would not have any energy left to defend his WWE Championship. JBL would make it his prize, even if it meant taking the match further.
JBL brought the action back to the ring.
Once again, Guerrero attempted to mount offense, going for his signature trio of suplexes known as the Three Amigos. Guerrero was unable to complete the sequence due to fatigue, giving JBL the opportunity to bring the match back into his favor. JBL attempted the Clothesline from Hell, only for Guerrero to evade. In the midst of this melee, the official was struck, knocking him unconscious. Without a referee to maintain order, fans wondered how much further this already intense match would go.
This led to the most well-known – infamous, even, depending on the perspective – spot of the match. On the outside, Guerrero was met with a steel chair shot to the head, courtesy of JBL. The shot in question echoed throughout the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. When Guerrero emerged, he donned a crimson mask of the most grotesque manner. The blood poured down his face and seemed to show no end in sight. Between the heavy blood loss and impaired vision, Guerrero’s grasp on the WWE Championship was becoming weaker.
Following a Clothesline from Hell from JBL, Guerrero’s WWE Championship reign should have ended.
Despite his fleeting strength, Guerrero’s heart remained strong, kicking out of the devastating finisher. In fact, he was able to rally another burst of offense, complete with a Frog Splash. JBL kicked out of Guerrero’s finisher this time, the match reaching a fever pitch. However, it would end in controversial fashion as JBL resorted to using a steel chair.
The official was quick to take the foreign object from JBL, who intended to use the WWE Championship as a weapon instead. Guerrero was one step ahead, however. In full view of the official, Guerrero blasted JBL in the face with the title. The official had no choice but to call for the bell. JBL was declared the winner, albeit by disqualification, meaning that Guerrero remained the WWE Championship. Post-match, Guerrero continued the attack on JBL, which spilled into the crowd. This blood feud was far from over.
And far from over, it was, as the months that followed proved. In real life, the aforementioned bloodshed on Guerrero’s part had frightening consequences. When he bladed, Guerrero cut too deep, hitting a major artery. The bleeding was so severe that the WWE Champion went into shock and had to be given urgent medical attention. This real-life event had an impact on the following episode of SmackDown. Teaming alongside Rey Mysterio and Rob Van Dam, against the trio of The Dudley Boyz and JBL, Guerrero passed out mid-match. Unlike the blade job, this was part of the developing story between JBL and Guerrero, despite many fans believing it to be in poor taste.
JBL challenged Guerrero once again, this time at The Great American Bash in June. The stakes were raised further in this Texas Bullrope Match, both men restrained to one another. Though Guerrero appeared to have had the match won, Angle reversed the decision, awarding JBL the WWE Championship. Guerrero would not win back the championship. In fact, Guerrero felt he had to shoulder the burden of low PPV buys at the time. With 265,000 buys for No Way Out 2004, the night Guerrero won the title, he soon spoke to Vince McMahon to have the title taken off him. This led to the aforementioned victory at The Great American Bash.
This wasn’t to say that Guerrero was out of the picture in WWE.
Though he never became world champion again, he saw success in other respects. In terms of titles, he won the WWE Tag Team Championship alongside longtime friend Mysterio. This ultimately led to a personal feud between Guerrero and Mysterio that was, to put it simply, worthy of its own column. His last major program involved Batista, the World Heavyweight Champion at the time. Before the feud could truly materialize, Guerrero tragically passed away on November 13, 2005. It was rumored that, prior to his passing, Guerrero was to win the World Heavyweight Championship. In his book, Batista debunked the rumor in question.
Meanwhile, JBL would make history as WWE Champion. From June of 2004 to April of 2005, JBL held the title for 280 days. This made him the longest-reigning WWE Champion in SmackDown history, an accolade he would boast moving forward. He defended the title successfully against such names as Booker T, Kurt Angle, and The Undertaker before eventually dropping it to John Cena at WrestleMania 21. Not unlike Guerrero, JBL remained a WWE fixture lower on the card. JBL won the United States Championship at WrestleMania 22 before losing it to Bobby Lashley later that May. JBL would wrestle sporadically afterward, even engaging Shawn Michaels in a rivalry that involved the latter’s wife. Following a 20-second loss to Mysterio at WrestleMania XXV, JBL not only lost his Intercontinental Championship but soon retired from in-ring activity altogether.
When discussing the feud between JBL and Eddie Guerrero, their showdown at Judgment Day 2004 may be the most important.
It was a violent affair, for better or worse. Figuratively and literally, it defined what a blood feud was. This feud wasn’t without real-life respect, either. In 2017, JBL sat down for an interview with ESPN UK. He heaped immense praise on Guerrero, who worked hard to ensure the JBL character worked. Layfield also said that, without Guerrero, no one would have heard of JBL. The fact that such a fierce on-screen feud played out between real-life friends speaks to the professionalism and skill of both parties.
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