Who is the real champion?

For World Champion Rey Mysterio and his challenger, John Bradshaw Layfield, the road to Judgment Day has finally come to a close. This Sunday night on pay-per-view, JBL will attempt to win back the World Championship which he claims is rightfully is. Meanwhile, the inspirational underdog Rey Mysterio is loving life as the World Champion, and has no intentions of losing the belt any time in the near future. The rivalry between these men has intensified in recent weeks on SmackDown, as JBL has made it his personal goal to humiliate and embarrass the popular World Champion.

For JBL, the quest to win the World Championship may have officially begun at WrestleMania 22. There, JBL defeated Rey's good friend Chris Benoit for the United States Championship. Just a few weeks later on SmackDown, JBL and Rey Mysterio came face to face during JBL's ‘Great American Celebration'.

During the celebration, JBL verbally attacked Mysterio, claiming to be the only real champion on SmackDown because only illegal immigrants looked up to Rey Mysterio. Eventually, Rey came out to confront the disrespectful U.S. Champion but things only got worse as JBL began mocking Rey in Spanish. Eventually, Mysterio had enough, and attacked the former World Champion, first taking out his legs with a drop kick, and then executing a picture perfect 619.

One week later, JBL was officially announced as the challenger to Rey Mysterio's World Championship at Judgment Day. For Rey and JBL, the preparation was finally underway. By the time the May 5th SmackDown had rolled around, JBL had seemingly begun Phase one of a calculated plan to soften up the World Champion for Judgment Day.

For Mysterio, May 5th began as an opportunity to thank the fans for their support, and speak on how proud he was to be their World Champion. He told his followers how every day he spent as the champ was a gift, and that he was enjoying every second of it.

JBL, apparently growing tired of Rey's heartfelt speech, made his way down to the ring. In typical JBL fashion, he unleashed a tasteless verbal tirade towards Rey, and his Mexican heritage. Among JBL's claims were that Rey was nothing but a "masked illegal immigrant", and that his people's only purpose in America was to mow lawns and take out trash. Above all, Layfield wanted everyone to know that Rey was not a deserving champion.

An angered Mysterio took the microphone, and told the SmackDown fans that as Champion, he would take on any challenger, at any time. While those words were certainly admirable, they may have marked the biggest mistake of Rey's career.

The United States Champion quickly seized the opportunity to put Rey's words to the test. He lined up a non-title match for Mysterio against the World's Strongest Man, Mark Henry for later in the night. For Mysterio, the bumpy road to Judgment Day was just getting under way.

Henry easily disposed of Mysterio, flattening the Champion with the World's Strongest Slam, in one swift blow taking all the wind out of the inspirational Superstar's sails. Following the massacre, Henry prepared to deliver the knockout blow to the Champion. He ascended the SmackDown set and prepared to bury Mysterio with a splash off the set. JBL, however, had other plans, as he called off Henry, choosing to save Rey for the following week where he was to face the next hand-picked opponent, The Great Khali.

The following week was supposed to be a grand homecoming for Mysterio as SmackDown was in his hometown of San Diego. JBL had other plans as he used the homecoming as another opportunity to put down Rey and his people. JBL opened the night by putting down the Southern California crowd, claiming the only way they can make a living is to sell drugs, and perform drive-by shootings. After berating the fans, JBL claimed that after Judgment Day, he will have beaten the three amigos, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit and Rey Mysterio. JBL didn't stop there. He claimed that after he beats Rey, he will let Rey's young son Dominick shine his shoes, and allow his wife to work in his kitchen. That was enough for Mysterio as he stormed the ring and chased Layfield away. Unfortunately for Rey, the evening was about to take a turn for the worse as The Great Khali waited in the wings.

JBL made sure to get a front row seat as Rey lived up to his word, facing Khali in the SmackDown main event. It was not much of a match as the giant newcomer manhandled the hometown hero, forcing the San Diego fans to watch on as their favorite son took a brutal beating. With the World Champion down on the mat, JBL entered the ring and promised that next week on the final SmackDown before Judgment Day, he would present Rey with one last opponent.

This week on SmackDown, JBL turned to trickery to get the advantage on Rey. However, it would come back to bite him in the end. JBL lured the World Champion into the ring and began with his usual monologue. JBL suggested to Rey that he wasn't looking so good, and that due to his recent beatings, he probably didn't even know what day it was. Unfortunately, Rey fell right into JBL's trap, as he muttered the words "May 19th". Just like that, Kane hit the ring and demolished the helpless World Champion. JBL was enjoying the show, until he accidentally said "May 19th" himself, and immediately fell victim to the wrath of Kane, just as Rey had moments earlier. Just three days away from Judgment Day, the playing field had been leveled as both Champion and challenger lay motionless on the mat as SmackDown went off the air.

The rivalry will come to a head this Sunday at Judgment Day, live and only on pay-per-view. The words will no longer matter when former WWE Champion John Bradshaw Layfield goes face to face with the unlikely, underdog World Champion Rey Mysterio.

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