AEW's House Of Black Is A Better Judgment Day Than WWE's

The Undertaker was lightning in a bottle. From wrestling zombie to bat-winged phantom of the opera to satanic leader of a corporate cult, The Undertaker always found a way to be Heavy Metal. Before "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was doing it literally, Undertaker was giving a middle finger to that timeless monolith of the 20th century, "The Man."

The Undertaker was Metallica. The Undertaker was Bart Simpson. The Undertaker was inimitable. The Undertaker was 30 years ago. 

Those punk kids flipping-off their principal have become the principal or their father or the police chief — in short, they've become "The Man." Times change, and what was once an edgy and cool rock act is now simply the kind of old-man theatrics that anyone can experience on a summer night at the State Fair. Nothing gold can stay.

This is ultimately WWE's problem with The Judgment Day. A group meant to lend a supernatural aura to a WWE Hall of Famer was unable to take their ideas for "supernatural" and "satanic" out of the '90s and tap into what feels cool and dangerous in the 2020s. In this way, The Judgment Day have been lapped by a darker and cooler group, The House of Black.

Both groups feel like they're poised for continued success, but Judgment Day have all but abandoned their quest to create the "new Undertaker." Meanwhile, House of Black's creativity has made them a better successor to Undertaker's dark throne, and in that way are a better Judgment Day, than Judgment Day ever will be.

The New Face Of Fear

There's something simple about the dark. It puts ice in a person's veins and disorients their nerves. Richard Wagner called it Gesamtkunstwerk; shut the lights and play the music loud and it will force the audience to pay attention. 

House of Black employ the Wagnerian control of light and sound flawlessly to create an otherworldly aura that everyone from Judgment Day to Bray Wyatt to Mordecai have all tried –and failed — to achieve. House of Black's recipe for a great entrance is simple: Lights down, lights up, lights down, booming music, repeat judiciously. There's a certain "screw you" mentality to the stripped down nature of House of Black's entrance, telling the wannabe rockstars and comic book villains to clear the way, as they enter the arena wearing the skulls of dead animals and dark shrouds.

In the way that Undertaker could seemingly infect wrestlers like Viscera, Mideon, Farooq, and Bradshaw with his darkness, so to has House of Black been able to absorb seemingly paint-by-numbers talents and making them part Malakai Black's dark vision. Buddy Matthews and Julia Hart seem like odd fits for a supernatural group, and yet both have flourished. Matthews has been given a much-needed boost of personality, while Hart transformed from cheerleader into a slick and stylish version of Wednesday Addams. There is nothing more terrifying in 2023 than a contagion, and by embodying that, The House of Black succeeded where Judgment Day failed — they became the new face of fear in professional wrestling.

Dad Rock Personified

Judgement Day was originally conceived as a way to give WWE Hall of Famer Edge an aura akin to The Undertaker, but there was a sanitary sheen to it. Edge, already cool in his own right, seemed like a movie star stunt cast in a Broadway. Edge felt like a rockstar, but a rockstar from a bygone era. It was Dad Rock personified, and no one gets cooler by hanging out with their dad.

When Ripley and Priest left Edge by the wayside and joined forces with Finn Balor, The Judgment Day that people know and love was born, but in ditching the Brood/Ministry hybrid for their new goth street gang aesthetic, they made a serious concession — they were never going to be the presence that goes "bump" at the end of a long, dark hallway.

With the addition of Dominik Mysterio, Judgement Day became less about lashing out at America's silent majority, and instead became a group with a singular mission: annoy the hell out of Rey Mysterio. Judgment Day shed their spooky origins and formed a much more personal bond. With Ripley winning the Royal Rumble, Dominik growing as a talent, and Finn's changing fashion sense, it's clear that this new direction has benefited everyone.

Judgment Day seems destined for success, but it probably can't create a "new Undertaker" anymore. At this point, any suggestion to make them darker or edgier would sound like a rip-off of the House of Black, and in that way The House of Black is more Undertaker — and ultimately more Judgment Day — than Judgment Day ever had a hope of being.