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RAW presents WWE Unforgiven 2004 
September 12, 2004

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com


Last month, I opened a PPV preview with the words "The deed is done."  Well, this month, the deed has been undone.
As part of what I *hope* is a sensible Master Plan, Triple H has unseated Randy Orton as World Heavyweight Champion. His victory was more than a little bit tainted, however, as it took assists from Ric Flair, Batista, Jonathan Coachman, and a steel chair for HHH to finally put Orton down for the three count. And thus, just as suddenly and as bafflingly as  

it started, Randy Orton's reign as champion has come to an end.

It leads one to ponder a million different questions about RAW's top level creative direction: as an internet jack-off, I must wonder if Chris Benoit had to be sacrificed to Orton last month if the over-all goal was to get the title on HHH. And in my on-going attempt to prove that I am NOT lying when I say I honestly do have the best intentions in mind for Randy Orton when I fantasy book him to NOT win titles, I'll also point out that I'm not entirely sure a one-month title reign as unspectacular as the one he enjoy is doing him any favors, either.  But perhaps another time will be more appropriate for massive theoretical discussions of RAW's main event picture....

For now, you're all here because you want to know what happened at the just-completed WWE Unforgiven PPV. So I'll cut the chatter and tell you [and keep my editorial comments limited to these red italics]:

  • On Heat: I have no idea.  I was in transit, and missed the whole show.
  • Chris Benoit and William Regal beat Batista and Ric Flair.  It's Benoit and Batista to start, and Benoit wastes no time teasing us with visions of the Crossface.  Regal gets in on the act, as he and Benoit display an uncanny amount of teamwork, it seems. Lots of quick tags, anyway.  Flair eventually gets in, and it's more of the same; I think the first Flop came at about the 7 minute mark.  But then, the tide turns, and it's Flair and Batista who are able to isolate on Regal.  Flair's focus is on the left leg, and that's because he's thinking Figure Four. When he gets it locked in, Benoit has to make the save.  That's enough of an opening for Regal to escape, and then, when Flair decides to tag in Batista, Regal tags in Benoit, as well.  Benoit goes on a tear (3 Germans for Flair, one for Batista), focusing on Flair, actually (don't know how, but I'd thought Batista was legal).  Batista has to break up a Crossface attempt, but then Regal gets involved, and he and Batista brawl at ringside, as Benoit AGAIN applies the Crossface on Flair, and this time, gets him to tap out.  Probably a good 12 or 15 minutes.  [Everything was very sound, and the crowd got up a lot for Benoit's big finish, so probably a good choice for an opener.  Got the live fans primed for the show, gave 'em something to cheer for....]
  • Backstage: Trish, Christian, and Tyson Tomko are walking, and bickering, it seems.  I guess Christian is claiming that Tomko is HIS problem solver, but Trish is asking for him to come out with her for her women's title defense. We were talking over it, but I think I missed some sort of suggestive exchange about Trish being jumped from behind (Christian took that to mean one thing, Trish MEANT it as talking about the Mystery Woman), and eventually Trish gets her way, and leads Tomko out to the ring....
  • Trish Stratus beat Victoria to retain the Women's Title.  A little bit of back-and-forthy to start, and then Trish takes over with some heelish choking in a corner.  However, when she stops to gloat, Victoria catches her and IMPRESSIVELY presses her overhead, parades around for a moment or two, and then drops Trish into a wicked gut-buster.  Victoria tried to follow up outside the ring, but The Lovely Miss Tomko did his job and pulled Trish to safety.  This allowed Trish to take command again (and as part of the transition Victoria matched Trish's gut-buster bump with a nice one into the ring post).  Victoria got a few hope spots, but it was mostly Trish (including a surprisingly convincing-looking arm bar) for several minutes.  Then Victoria began her comeback in earnest.  This built up to the Shimmy Shake Moonsault; but that only got a 2 count.  Frustrated (and apparently confident that chicanery was afoot), Victoria decided to stray from Trish for a moment, and leapt out of the ring and hit Tomko with a plancha.  Big mistake.  Tomko immediately got up, and acted decidedly perturbed.  He chased Victoria around the ring, and Victoria eventually decided it was safer in than out.  But she was wrong.  Because she backed right into a fully-recovered Trish, who hit the Stratusfaction Bulldog for the pinfall win.  [A fine 10 minute wrestling match, and I say that with no qualifiers and regardless of gender. Just a good, solid wrestling match.  Maybe nothing special, but crisply executed and well put-together for the most part.]
  • After the match: Trish started directing traffic, and the Lovely Miss Tomko was helping continue the assault on Victoria. So out to the rescue came The Mystery Woman.  S/He hit Tomko with a DDT, and then left. This gave Victoria enough time to fashion an escape, too.  After a brief interlude with Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler, we cut back to the ring where a recovered Tomko has a microphone.  It speaks?  Did Trish tell you you could speak, bitch?  Mind your role!  Anyway, Tomko is sick and tired, blah blah blah, so the Mystery Hermaphrodite should come out to the ring right now, because Tomko wants to kick it's ass. And here comes the Mystery Thing, and a ref, too? I guess this is gonna be a real match?  Okeydoke....
  • Tyson Tomko beat Stevie Richards.  Within about 20 seconds of the start of the "fight," Tomko has un-wigged the Mystery Woman, and though it takes the announcers 13 years to figure it out, it's quite obviously Stevie Richards. Ill-advisedly, Tomko CONTINUES with the disrobing of Richards, leaving Stevie to fight in socks and a pair of disturbingly-loose-fitting briefs.  The guy had no support for his boys whatsoever; it got uncomfortable to watch at times.  Adding to the discomfort: the sheer tedium of this match.  Crowd didn't exactly pop big at the expected reveal of Richards, and then this just plodded along for too long.  A "boring" chant caught fire about 3 minutes in and stuck around for a bit.  Stevie tried to short circuit that by starting his comeback a bit early (about 8 seconds into a chinlock), but the only pop of the entire match came for Richards using a Testicular Claw on Tomko.  Ouch. Another notch on the Uncomfortable To Watch Continuum.  Richards stuck with sac-related offense for a minute or so, and then I think Tomko basically had enough, hit some kind of neckbreaker thingie, and that was that.  Tomko wins this unscheduled match in about 6-7 minutes.  [Storywise, this was a dud just because of how expected it was. Matchwise, the dud-a-liciousness of the story meant it never caught fire, either.  This match would have had a hard time making the cut on an average edition of Heat, I suspect, yet here it is wasting valuable PPV time... you can imagine why the crowd was not please....]
  • Chris Jericho beat Christian to win the vacant InterContinental Title.  Per custom, they at least PRETENDED to not need the ladder for a few minutes.  A bit of back and forth brawling, and finally Jericho got enough of an edge that he was able to introduce the ladder at about the five minute mark. He hit Christian in the gut with it, did some very basic stuff.  But then XTian reversed an Irish Whip, and Jericho ate the ladder, and the momentum shifted.  XTian was actually the first to attempt to climb the ladder.  From here, we actually got into the more creative, spotty part of the match.  Really had to do play-by-play, but some of the stuff looked cool (including a slingshot into the ladder by Christian, and Christian being forced to hang above the ring after Jericho shoved the ladder out from under him and then used the ladder as a spear to get Christian to fall back to the ring without loosening the IC belt) and some looked a bit stilted and choreographed (top of the ladder Walls of Jericho, especially)... such is life when you're doing this type of match after the types of expectations fans have in the Post-TLC Era.  You can't really just go out and do a crisp, tight Shawn/Razor-style ladder match, anymore, or fans would wonder where all the highspots went.  I will mention one spot: Jericho was climbing, and Christian shoved the ladder down, and Jericho took a completely unplanned bump, and instead of falling away from the ladder, he fell so as to crack his coccyx on one of the rungs of the ladder (or as he later put it in a promo: "the damned ladder went half-way up my ass").  From there, it was only a few minutes till end game though.  In this case, that meant both guys up on dueling ladders.  Both were within reach of the title, but Jericho got control fo the belt and shoved it (I THINK it was supposed to hit XTian in the face, or something, but it didn't). As Christian flailed to stop the belt from swinging, Jericho grabbed him, and hit an Atomic Face Buster from the tops of the ladders to the mat.  Jericho repositioned his ladder, climbed up, and was able to grab the IC Title with ease before Christian recovered.  Easily 20-plus minutes.  Probably close to 25.  [Was it good? Hell, yes.  Is it gonna end up on a DVD any day? Hell, no. Sadly, WWE can't put the genie back in the bottle, and we fans are gonna take a while to get re-educated as to what is WWE's new SAFE version of high risk matches.  This was a bit more bump-a-licious than a standard match would have been, but it's not gonna hold up against past ladder and TLC matches.  Especially tough for guys doing these matches: coming up with Big Finishes. I doubt I'm alone if I admit that when Jericho got the belt after the face-buster spot, I kind of went "Huh? Oh, that was it?"... it was a cool spot, but in the annals of ladder matches, it felt more like we were just moving on to the next big spot, and NOT like the finish.  Still, a good match, I'm just trying to be profound, here, I think in explaining how expectations for these types of matches are WAY out of whack with what WWE's willing to deliver any more.]
  • Backstage 1: Todd Grisham wants to get a word with Kane, but Lita emerges from their dressing room, first.  She gets rolling on a riff about how she hopes Shawn Michaels sends her husband to the hospital tonight, and is bad-mouthing Kane when he sneaks up behind her.  Lita sense him, finally, and tries to leave, but Kane grabs her arm and makes her listen to a few words of wisdom: because you see, tonight, GM Bischoff has made his match a No Disqualification Match. And if Lita's so keen on the sharing, then he hopes she's ready to share the responsibility for what happens to HBK tonight.  And then, against Lita's will, Kane planted a wet one on her lips.  That randy, randy lad....
  • Backstage 2: Coach is interviewing Chris Jericho, and asks the "How you feeling?" question. Which is when Jericho says he had a ladder halfway up his ass, but that also he's the first ever 7 time IC Champ, so he's actually feeling pretty good. Then Edge shows up to be Johnny Buzzkill: he points out that Jericho might have won the belt, but he didn't beat Edge for it, and Edge never lost it, so really, it's a hollow victory.  Edge channeled the Rock, and insisted Jericho should shine that IC belt up real good... but not for any rectal-shoving, but rather because as soon as Edge is healthy, he's coming for his gold.
  • Plug: JR and King announces that the next PPV is in only 3 weeks, and it's "No Mercy," and it's gonna be headlined by JBL vs. the Undertaker. And folks, I shit you not: I was down to meeting one friend at the Hooters for this show (indicative of the level of declining interest among my peer group; down from upwards of a dozen per show just a year ago to THIS), and I don't know if he was joking or not, but HE said it looked like a good one for him to skip.  Way to be, WWE!
  • Shawn Michaels beat Kane in a No DQ Match.  All things are possible for those who believe in HBK... and in this case, a very good match with Kane was VERY possible.  Michaels was at his getting-his-ass-beat best for a good 8 or 10 minutes to start this match.  Very little in the way of sustained offense.  In fact, it was probably all of about 5 minutes in that Kane suplexed Michaels through the Spanish Announce Table, and really started piling on the punishment.  Finally around the 12 minute mark, Michaels strung together a few moves, just enough to put Kane down.  But then Kane did a Zombie Sit-up, and it looked like more beat-down for HBK; except that as Kane zeroed in, Michaels did his nip up, and matches Kane blow for blow for a bit.  Then they went outside the ring, and then Michaels got tossed into the ringpost.  And he came up bleeding.  Nothing severe, just a nice little sympathy job.  Kane was setting up for the killshot (a Big Boot/Ringpost Sandwich, with Michaels' head as the meat in the middle), but Shawn dodged it, and got Kane wrapped around the post long enough to deliver a bunch of blows and fully take over on offense.  Shawn rallied with more big moves, including the Macho Man Elbow for a near fall.  Then he decided to tune up the band, and sure enough: Kane may be a chuckling, horny moron lately, but he's NOT deaf, so he heard it coming, and instead of getting the Chin Music, he pasted Shawn with a Big Boot of his own.  At this point, prospects seemed bleak for Michaels, so he asked himself "What would Jesus do?", and the answer was "punch Kane in the ballsac"!  And if it's good enough for Jesus, you better KNOW it worked well for Shawn.  Sure enough, Kane goes down, and Shawn's able to retake the lead. Kane's only hope is to grab a handy steel chair, which he tries.  Except that Lita is there to grab the chair away at the last second.  Kane is not pleased, and is momentarily distracted by Lita.  He turns around, and Michaels is ready with the Chin Music... but Kane blocks it once, tries to turn it into a chokeslam, but fails... and on the second attempt, the Sweet Chin Music lands flush.  Kane goes down, Michaels covers, and he gets the three count.  Michaels leaves the ring happy (pausing to kiss the hand of the not-quite-a-maiden Lita), and Kane immediately gets up NOT happy with Lita for "causing" his loss.  About 18 or 20 minutes.  [I liked this match a lot.  It's Michaels at his best, and Michaels at his best tends to bring the best out of his opponents, too.  They also used Kane's story with Lita just enough to add to the drama and story of the match without having it become too stupid or overpowering.  Probably my choice for Match of the Night.  Nah: DEFINITELY my choice for Match of the Night.]
  • Hype: "Mr." Benjamin is returning soon and has a music video to prove it. 
  • Backstage: Todd Grisham has got Triple H for a few pre-match thoughts....  the gist of HHH's thinking is this: that Randy Orton is good, but he didn't become great until he joined HHH and Evolution.  And now, he may be great himself, but he's still not as great as HHH.  Tonight, he'll show the world he MADE Orton by breaking him. Just like Orton spat in his face, HHH will spit in all the faces of the fans by taking back his World Title. Pretty good intense stuff by HHH, here, actually. Focused, believably, not too wordy...  I likey.
  • La Resistance beat Tajiri/Rhyno to retain the Tag Team Titles. Dammit!  I KNEW I should have followed my gut and not pussed out on my PPV picks....  just basic formula tag match, here.  Rhyno did a quasi-face-in-peril segment first, then got a tag to Tajiri, who did a second face-in-peril bit.  Around the 8 minute mark, Tajiri made the hot tag to Rhyno, and Chaos Broke Loose.  It seemed like we had new champs after Tajiri cleverly used a flag pole to whack Conway in the balls and then Rhyno followed up with a Gore, but Grenier broke that up. As Tajiri got distracted with taking out Grenier (and as the ref got distracted by Tajiri's distraction), a recovered Conway was able to use the aforementioned flag pole to hit Rhyno in the head.  He made a cover, and the ref turned around to count 3.  So those cowardly weasels retain the titles again!  About 10-12 minutes.  [Nothing special here, and as much as I like the idea of dragging this out to make La Resistance look like ultra-effective pussies, the declining crowd heat throughout the match suggests maybe this WAS the time to change the titles.  I dunno.  Good and solid, but lacking the sizzle I'd thought it'd have had given the time that's gone into the story.]
  • Triple H beat Randy Orton to win the World Heavyweight Title. Crowd is mostly behaving itself (pro-Orton and anti-HHH), but there are audible minorities going the other way, too.  Out of the gate, Orton tries to play up the Disrespect vibe by slapping HHH and then spitting at him.  And THERE, I definitely think I heard some "boos" mixed in with the overpowering "ooooohhhs".  Back and forth and feeling out for a few minutes, and then HHH began to channel Ric Flair.  He chopblocked Orton and went to work savagely on Orton's left leg.  A sensible, if slow, approach.  This built up to a Figure Four around the 10 minute mark.  Orton battled, but HHH was using the ropes illegally for leverage, so the hold was clamped on for a good 2 minutes or so.  Orton finally managed to escape, and when HHH tried to apply the hold again, Orton reversed it or kicked him off or something, and HHH went flying head-first into a ring post (and came up bleeding).  Orton hit a few moves; one of them, naturally, was a chinlock.  Whee!  Anytime he hit anything more high-impact, he did remember to sell the bad knee, though, which was a nice touch.  HHH made a comeback with a Sleeperhold, but Orton escaped and hit a Sleeper of his own.  And from there, it was back and forth, and in the confusion, HHH shoved Orton and Orton crashed into ref Earl Hebner, sending him for a nasty tumble.  With no ref, Orton hit an RKO, but it was for naught. And worse, there was no ref to count him to victory, and there was no ref to do anything when Batista and Flair both decided to run in and take shots at Orton.  But Randall managed to fend them off pretty well.  What he didn't do was keep tabs on the recovering HHH, who snuck up behind him and hit a big low blow (was it just me, or was there a LOT more testicle-related offense on this show than usual?).  And out comes the Coach?  Yep, and he's slipping into a referee's shirt.  Huh.  Did I miss something on Heat?  Or is this just a capricious act of Eric Bischoff or something?  Anyway, Coach tries to make the count for HHH, but Orton kicks out.  Flair and Batista both get involved again, thanks to the crooked ref, and I think Orton takes a spinebuster or powerbomb.  HHH covers, and Coach counts, and AGAIN Orton kicks out.  HHH finally decides to quit playing around, and sets up for the Pedigree.  But in the coolest spot of the match, Orton EXPLODES out with a backdrop and immediately launches at Coach and hits him with an RKO.  Really sudden and it even got me to cheer.  No crooked ref, now, either.  Flair introduces a chair, which HHH grabs.  And while Orton's busy STILL fending off Batista and Flair, HHH lines up and pastes Randy with an unprotected chairshot to the skull.  Orton collapses in a heap.  HHH decides "better safe than sorry" and follows up with a Pedigree onto the steel chair.  He rolls Orton over, he loses the chair, Earl Hebner is helped back into the ring at this convenient moment, and a three count later, we've got a new champ.  Same as the old champ.  Probably about 25 minutes or so.  [A good match, but the slow, foundation-laying opening half didn't seem to have quite the same sizzle as the same part of the Kane/HBK match.  The finish seemed mighty busy and screwy, too; but I think that was the goal, as JR wouldn't stop blathering about how HHH didn't win the title, he cheated and stole it and so forth.  If that's the story WWE wanted to tell, if that's their idea of "protecting" Orton and making him a more sympathetic guy, then fine: they did what they set out to do.  I maybe have questions as to the advisability of what they set out to do, though.  The generally antsy -- not full-on heel booking -- reaction of the live crowd seems to support me on the weakness of the finish... but again, I'll leave the grand theorizing for another time and just say that this was a good, above average match, albeit one that didn't necessarily seem to duplicate the caliber of recent RAW PPV main events.]

As a whole?  Well, three good, long matches.  I thought both the opener and the women's matches were also very enjoyable.  The tag title match was a bit bland, and the Tomko/Richards bit had no business on PPV, but really, for the most part, WWE gave the right amount of time to the things that made the most of it (Kane/HBK as the match of the night, and then both Jericho/Christian and HHH/Orton a notch below).

It'd be impossible to be enthusiastically negative about a show that was this sound.  But just given my general level of confusion and malaise regarding RAW's booking direction (and no, this is NOT just me being pissy about having a shitty 2-for-6 night on PPV picks, it's just honestly not getting a palpable "Wow, that was interesting, can't wait to see what happens next!" feeling after some of things that played out at Unforgiven), it's also hard to be enthusiastically positive.

More thoughts and fall-out tomorrow in OO, I guess....


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