“It is very hard to remember that events now long in the past were once in the future.Ã¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Maitland
The Opening Chapter
The World Wrestling Federation was behind WCW when it came to adapting a 12 pay per view schedule. The WWF had a lot of success with their big five PPVs a year and so when the decision was made to go to a monthly PPV format they rightly separated their b-level “In Your HouseÃ¢â‚¬Â shows from their marquee events, a tradition that has been lost in recent times. As the In Your House franchise grew each PPV was given some sort of tagline, something to differentiate one from the other. Some of these lines were used as a specific nod to that particular show (Rock Bottom, Buried Alive, DeGeneration X, etc.), but others caught on and grew into their own individual pay per view franchises, long after the In Your House concept had died out. This month the WWE celebrates the tenth anniversary of one those spawned franchises: Unforgiven. Originally used in April 1998 as a title to highlight the Undertaker-Kane sibling rivalry it soon found a home each September. It is used as fallout from SummerSlam and gives an idea of where things are heading leading into the fall classic Survivor Series.
Unforgiven Through the Years
The inaugural Unforgiven holds a special place in my wrestling fandom as it was the first PPV I ordered with some friends back in high school. Unforgiven ’98 was held in April of that year, just weeks after WrestleMania XIV. The advertised main event was Steve Austin defending the WWF Championship against a freshly-turned Dude Love, but the real main event was Kane and Undertaker in the first ever Inferno match. Undertaker won this bout, which in hindsight seemed an obvious result due to Kane’s head-to-toe covered body costume. The Austin-Dude match was good but it would be their rematch the next month at Over the Edge that would define the Attitude era main event scene for years to come.
Another landmark of this show was the first ever Evening Gown match, between Luna and Sable. The loser of the match would be the one stripped of their gown so Luna was the obvious winner, which she was. The rest of the card featured such oddities as The Rock & Roll Express and The New Midnight Express battling over the NWA Tag Championship, Jeff Jarrett “singingÃ¢â‚¬Â with country band Sawyer Brown, a six-man team of Faaroroq, Steve Blackman and Ken Shamrock taking on The Nation’s team of The Rock, D-Lo Brown and Mark Henry and the ill-fated LOD 2000 team managed by Sunny challenging The New Age Outlaws for the WWF Tag Championship.
By 1999 Unforgiven had settled into his now-traditional September home. This year’s show was headlined by an all-star six-pack challenge for the vacant WWF Championship. The belt was vacant due to Vince McMahon vacating the Championship after beating Triple H. Trips won his belt back here, defeating The Rock, Kane, The Big Show, Mankind and The British Bulldog in the process. Steve Austin provided some hilarious and insightful commentary during the proceedings while also acting as “special enforcer.Ã¢â‚¬Â Undertaker was slated to be in the main event but bowed out due to injury.
The rest of the card featured a multitude of Championship matches including Ivory and Luna in a hardcore Women’s Title match, The New Age Outlaws beating Edge & Christian in a Tag Championship bout, D-Lo Brown winning back the European Title from Mark Henry, part one of the infamous Jeff Jarrett-Chyna feud over the Intercontinental Title and the so-bad-its-good Kennel from Hell match between Al Snow and Big Boss Man over the Hardcore belt. The show also featured the PPV debuts of Chris Jericho and The Dudley Boyz, both in losing efforts, to X-Pac and The Acolytes respectively.
This show also featured the striking referees angles, one that I had forgotten all about until doing research for this article. Brooklyn Brawler, Tom Pritchard and Harvey Whippleman worked as Ã¢â‚¬ËœscabÃ¢â‚¬Â referees while Jimmy Korderis was the only non-striking official. It all came to a head during the main event when the striking refs attacked Korderis. I don’t remember how the angle started, I’m sure it was something to do with either Triple H or Steve Austin attacking one too many referees.
The year 2000 was probably the WWF’s best year in terms of wrestling talent, work rate and intriguing story lines. The show saw The Rock defend the WWF Championship against Undertaker, Kane and Chris Benoit in a four-way match in the main event. There was also the mis-managed blow off to the Kurt Angle-Triple H love triangle feud and a really good cage match between The Hardy Boyz and Edge & Christian that saw The Hardyz take the Tag belts. The under card featured an X-Pac-Chris Jericho rematch from one year earlier, a Hardcore Title former Champions-only invitational, an eight-man tag between The Right To Censor and the unlikely team of The Acolytes and The Dudley Boyz, and the big screen WWF debut of Raven, as he helped Tazz beat Jerry Lawler in a strap match.
Unforigven 2001 was notable for a couple of reasons. First, it was held just a week and a half after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Second, the show was held deep into the InVasion angle and the storyline had already become severely botched and quite stale. Arguably only two matches really stood out amongst the pack. The first was the main event which was Kurt Angle winning the WWF Championship from Steve Austin in a real feel-good moment, as not only was the show held in Angle’s hometown of Pittsburgh, but also because in the 9/11 aftermath Kurt Angle filled the role of “American heroÃ¢â‚¬Â as best as the World Wrestling Federation could provide.
The other famous, or rather infamous, match on the card was the WCW Tag Championship match between Kane & Undertaker against Kronik. This was Kronik’s one and only PPV appearance as a team. The match was panned so badly that Adams & Clark were taken off TV immediately after this show and sent to developmental. Adams & Clark received all the blame for the match while Kane & Undertaker continued on as they had for years. The grand total of Kronik’s time on WWE TV Ã¢â‚¬â€œ under three weeks.
This was the first Unforgiven since the brand expansion and the change over to the WWE moniker. The card was split into half RAW branded matches and half SmackDown! branded matches with an inter-promotional bout between Three Minute Warning and Billy & Chuck. The aforementioned tag bout ended with 3MW winning, which somehow led to Stephanie McMahon making out with Rikishi and Eric Bischoff getting a Stink Face. RAW’s half of the card was headlined by Triple H and Rob Van Dam battling for the newly created World Heavyweight Championship while on the SmackDown! side of things, Brock Lesnar and Undertaker battled to a double disqualification over the WWE Championship. There was also a lot of really good under card bouts featuring Chris Jericho beating Ric Flair in an Intercontinental Title match, Chris Benoit defeating Kurt Angle and Eddie Guerrero going over Edge.
By 2003 Unforgiven had became a RAW brand-exclusive pay per view. Goldberg defeating Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship headlined the show. There was also Al Snow and The Coach beating Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler to become RAW’s announcers. I think that stipulation lasted under a month. Also featured was The Dudley Boyz beating La Resistance for the World Tag Championships and a freshly unmasked Kane beating Shane McMahon in a Last Man Standing match. Also Randy Orton continued his rise up the card by beating Shawn Michaels and Christian defeated Chris Jericho and Rob Van Dam in a triple threat Intercontinental Championship bout.
The 2004 event was a fairly forgettable event and non-descript event. Triple H was still on top of the RAW brand, and the main attraction was Triple H beating Randy Orton for the World Heavyweight Championship, instantly putting a damper on Orton’s proposed face turn. A lot of things hadn’t changed in between the 2003 and 2004 events. La Resistance was back to being Tag Champions, this time defeating Tajiri & Rhyno. Kane, still in the same spot he was a year, lost to Shawn Michaels in his return match from taking the summer off due to injury. The Evolution team of Ric Flair and Batista was still going but on this night they fell in a losing effort to William Regal and Chris Benoit. Also Chris Jericho and Christian were still battling over the Intercontinental Title, this time Christian took the vacant Championship in a ladder match.
John Cena had become the man on the RAW brand by September 2005. He had spent the summer batting Chris Jericho and now faced Kurt Angle, in the first of many battles the pair had in late 2005 and into early 2006. The rest of the card was filled top-to-bottom with a series of grudge matches. Edge and Matt Hardy went at in a cage match as part of their continuing worked-shoot feud. Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair were challenged by a pair of young guys, in the form of Chris Masters and Carlito, respectively. Flair even came out of his match with Carlito as the Intercontinental Championship. Big Show beat Snitsky and Shelton Benjamin beat Chavo “Kerwin WhiteÃ¢â‚¬Â Guerrero in a pair of mid-card rivalries. The debuting Lance Cade & Trevor Murdoch won the World Tag Championships from Hurricane & Rosey and Trish Stratus & Ashley beat Candice Michelle & Victoria in other tag action.
Last year’s event was perhaps the most stacked card Unforgiven had boasted in years. The double main event featured John Cena beating Edge for the WWE Championship in a TLC match and reformed team of DeGeneration X going over Vince & Shane McMahon and The Big Show in Hell in as Cell. The show drew a phenomenal buy rate for Unforgiven. The rest of the show was smartly booked as well, including a Carlito-Randy Orton “young lionsÃ¢â‚¬Â battle, a Kane-Umaga power brawl, a high-flying Jeff Hardy-Johnny Nitro Intercontinental Title showcase and the “hero’s farewellÃ¢â‚¬Â for Trish Stratus, as she pinned Lita to retire on top as Women’s Champion.
As we approach the 2007 event just days away the event has switched focus again, as now the event has gone from a RAW brand-only show to a tri-branded effort featuring talent from RAW, SmackDown! and ECW. The main event will see John Cena on top again, this time he will be in the defending role as WWE Champion against Randy Orton. The two men debuted in WWE virtually at the same time and have been kept fairly separate from each other through the years so this match remains pretty fresh. Undertaker will also be making his return after a summer-long injury and will battle Mark Henry. Great Khali, the latest stopgap World Champion, defends against former Champions Rey Mysterio and Batista. CM Punk, fresh off a “wellness-enhancedÃ¢â‚¬Â ECW Championship will go against old rival Elijah Burke. Beth Phoenix challenges Candice Michelle for the Women’s gold. Triple H looks to continue his winning streak against Carlito. And to show how depleted the roster has gotten thanks to “wellnessÃ¢â‚¬Â and firings, both Tag Championships will defended on the same show, as London & Kendrick challenge Cade & Murdoch for the World Tag Championship while “wacky mis-matched tag partners who hate each otherÃ¢â‚¬Â MVP & Matt Hardy defend against Deuce Ã¢â‚¬Ëœn’ Domino.
It is hard to believe that has been almost ten years since Unforgiven debuted as a PPV event. Back then Steve Austin, Mick Foley and The Undertaker were the top acts in the company while guys like The Rock and Triple H were still finding their niche. These five men came to rule the Attitude era and dictate the pace of the World Wrestling Federation for years thereafter. Now in 2007 men like John Cena, Randy Orton and Batista rule the roost while men like Carlito and CM Punk look for their spot in the upper card. At least there aren’t veterans like Triple H and Undertaker still around holding their spots oh wait.
For this week the vault is closed
Linked to the Pulse
Phil Clark talks more about the hot button steroid issue.
SK looks back at an odd assortment of matches from WWE 24/7.
This Day in History
I figured if we are talking history around here we should pay homage to what has happened on this very day in the years gone by. It will either make you long for the old days or be happy for what we have now.
1937 – John Pesek awarded the NWA World Heavyweight title
1993 – The Quebecers defeated the Steiner Brothers for the WWF Tag Team title
1993 – Tatanka defeated Jerry Lawler for the USWA Unified Heavyweight title
1993 – Tommy Rich defeated Jeff Jarrett for the USWA Southern Heavyweight title
1993 – The Dogcatchers defeated the Moondogs for the USWA Tag Team title
1998 – WCW Fall Brawl was held at the Lawrence Joel Coliseum, Winston-Salem, NC
1999 – Chris Benoit defeated Rick Steiner for the WCW Television title
1999 – Rip Rogers defeated Doug Basham for the Ohio Valley Heavyweight title
2002 – Slyk Wagner Brown defeated Homicide for the Jersey All Pro Heavyweight Title
2002 – Jay Lethal defeated Ghost Shadow and Rain for the Jersey All Pro Television Title
2003 – Trent Acid defeated Jimmy Rave & Nick Gage in the finals of a tournament for the Combat Zone World Ironman Title
It’s important to know your history to know where you have come from and where you are going. Nova implemented history assignments for the students of the developmental territories months ago so they would know pro wrestling’s history and they would learn just how many moves Nova did create. I feel this is a smashing idea and every week I will assign a book or DVD for you to check out and learn from. They are not only educational but very entertaining.
Another DVD I recently picked up was Cheating Life and Stealing Death: The Eddie Guerrero Story. I must say I was very disappointed in the documentary portion of the DVD. Usually WWE knocks those out of the part but Eddie’s was probably only about 45 minutes long and talked mostly with just his family and focused a lot on his family and personal life. I suppose that’s the angle they were going for with Eddie but it would have been nice to hear some more in-depth commentary on his career milestones. Some of those career highlights were talked about in the extras section, but it would’ve been interesting to hear his thoughts about things like the lWo, Art Barr and other topics. The extra about Hector Guerrero talking about playing Gobbledy Gooker, and the one where Mando Guerrero details the time a young Eddie jobbed to a stuffed monkey are definite highlights. And the match selection definitely makes up for the lack of documentary. They Rey-Eddie classic from Halloween Havoc ’97 is of course included, but after never seeing it and hearing all the hype about it I came away a little disappointed. I think another viewing with the original commentary would help. There are so many good matches included here, as is par for the course with Eddie matches, but make sure to check out his emotional WWE Title win, his 30 minute ECW farewell with Dean Malenko and ladder match with RVD from RAW in 2002.
It’s a damn good disc overall and I am just glad it was created while Eddie was still here to talk on it. It makes for much more enjoyable viewing.
Tags: ECW, Raw, Smackdown, WWE