Written By: Alexander Settee
Unforgiven 2008, September 7, 2008, Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Announcers: The teams of: Jim Ross & Tazz, Michael Cole & Jerry Lawler, Todd Grisham & Matt Striker
Here we have the eleventh annual Unforgiven, which makes it the longest running PPV other than the Big Four, passing King of the Ring’s 10 PPV’s. The show is being sold on the shoulders of the Michaels/Jericho feud, which is one of the best things they’re had going for awhile, and I am really looking forward to that match. Besides that, the big thing is all two and a half World titles being defended in the same type of new gimmick match. That part I’m not so convinced about, but let’s see what they pull off here.
Opening Match, ECW Championship, Scramble Match: Matt Hardy vs. The Miz vs. Chavo Guerrero, Jr. vs. Mark Henry (c) vs. Fit Finlay
Not going to recap the rules here, because by this point you either understand, or you never will even with a dozen more explanations. Matt starts off with the Miz and they do some counter wrestling sequences along with going for several quick pinfalls. The psychology is that you only need to pin someone, not just the champ, so it’s the right strategy to go for as many falls as possible. They actually have a pretty good sequence going for the first five minutes. Near the end, Matt sets him up for a Razor’s Edge, but Miz slips out and hits the Reality Check. Matt has enough presence of mind to roll out, and by the time Miz gets him back in it only gets 2. Chavo is next guy in, and he immediately comes off the top with the frog splash on Matt for the pin to win the title and become “current” champion. Now, the psychology changes as the “current” champ has no further need to get a fall, but rather must prevent others from getting a fall of their own. We get into the Triple Threat style now, where one guy gets dumped while the other two fight, and then they switch it up. Cool spot sees Hardy use a bulldog on Chavo, which at the same time is used as a battering ram on Miz. He then gets the Side Effect on Chavo for the pin to become the new “current” champion. Mark Henry (still technically the “official” champion) is out fourth, and seems unhappy that his title was lost before he even got there. The other three conspire against him, but Henry fights them all off. World’s Strongest Slam on Chavo puts the title back on Henry soon after. Henry then basically spends the rest of the segment beating up the others at will. Finlay is the last guy in, and he brings Hornswoggle with him, who promptly hides under the ring. Finlay is right after Henry, and gets a couple of near falls with DDT’s. Henry catches him with a bearhug, but Hornswoggle is in to provide distraction so Finlay can use the shillelagh on Henry. They made a point of doing it behind the ref’s back, which might mean that DQ’s are in effect, but it was never explained how one would be handled in this match. Finlay gets Matt to help him dump Henry, but then turns on Matt with a Samoan drop to win the title. Miz takes out Finlay with a top rope dropkick, but Matt is right there to catch him with what I guess was supposed to be a Twist of Fate, but looked more like a Diamond Cutter, to regain the title. Last few minutes of the match are well done, with everyone, especially Henry, trying frantically to get that next pinfall, but everyone keeps making saves. Matt uses good strategy, simply trying to toss everyone outside where they can’t make pinfalls. This pretty exciting sequence ends with the 20:00 time limit expiring at 20:06. As the “current” ECW Champion at that time, Matt Hardy is now declared the “official” ECW Champion, and that is they only title change that counts in the history books. Henry loses the belt without taking a fall, which is a cheap way of doing things, but overall this match was really good, and it got me believing that this was definitely a workable concept. ***1/2
World Tag Team Championship Match: Cody Rhodes & Ted Dibiase, Jr. vs. Cryme Tyme
Rhodes and JTG start with JTG backing him to the corner, catching an attempted cheapshot, and giving him a boot when Rhodes puts the head down. He gets dropkicks on both champs, with Shad coming in and clotheslining both outside. He then launches JTG out on to them. Back in the ring, that gets 2 on Rhodes, who then pulls JTG down into the buckle and makes the tag. Dibiase comes in and gets hiptossed, which allows the tag to Shad, who gets a splash in the corner for 2. Jawjacker by Dibiase, but a corner whip is reversed, although Shad misses the charge and Dibiase gets an elbow. Shad still manages a slam, followed by an elbow for 2. Irish whip, but Shad puts the head down and Dibiase boots him, and then tags Rhodes. Rhodes with an Irish whip, but Shad makes the blind tag and slingshots JTG into Rhodes for 2. Rhodes hides in the corner and when the ref pulls JTG back, he gets a cheapshot. Rhodes runs outside, with JTG chasing, so Rhodes uses Dibiase as a decoy, and then takes advantage to nail a clothesline. That gets 2 back in the ring, and then Rhodes starts working over the arm. Several quick tags as the heels control JTG in their half of the ring, and get a few nearfalls. Rhodes goes up and tries a moonsault, but misses, and this allows the hot tag to Shad. He beats up both champs, and gets 2 on Dibiase with an elbow, but Rhodes saves. Shad gets a backdrop on Dibiase, but Rhodes is in again, hitting a DDT for 2 as Shad makes the ropes. Rhodes gets tagged in, but runs in to a clothesline, which allows the tag to JTG. All four are briefly in, while JTG gets a rollup on Rhodes, for 2, but Dibiase rolls them over and puts Rhodes on top for 3 to retain the titles at 11:36. Cryme Tyme tries to attack after the match, but the save is made by Afa, Jr. (later introduced as Manu), and the beatdown is on. Decent little match too. **
Unsanctioned Match: Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels
Probably the real main event of the night, as it has been really well built up, but I still think they should have held it off longer. Three weeks since Summerslam is jut not enough time to really let everything sink in without rushing it. Shawn’s arm is heavily bandaged from the injury last Monday, but we know that he’s determined to go no matter what. Anything goes in this match, with pin and submission being the only ways to win. Keep that last part in mind for later. Shawn stares Jericho down from the aisle, then charges and tackles him to get us underway. He even uses his boot to nail Jericho a few times, and sends him out. Shawn charges at him and takes him over the barrier. After stomping him in the crowd, he gets Jericho back over the barrier and sends him to the post. Shawn grabs a chair now, but misses a shot, so Jericho takes advantage to drop him on the table, and the barrier. He pulls a table out from under the ring, but the legs are broken, so he just nails Shawn with it. He sets up another table and tries to powerbomb Shawn, but Shawn punches out, so Jericho drops him back on to the apron instead. In the ring, Jericho nails him with the chair a couple of times before setting it up in the corner. Corner whip attempt is reversed, and reversed back, sending Jericho to the post shoulder first. Jericho gives him a shot from the apron and tries to suplex Shawn outside, but Shawn lands on the apron and clotheslines Jericho back in. Irish whip is reversed, with Shawn coming off with the flying forearm, and then kipping up. He chokes Jericho down and nails the elbow from the top rope. Sweet Chin Music is setup, but Shawn decides he isn’t done yet and stops short. He hooks a crossface, but Jericho makes it to his feet, and manages to run Shawn to the chair in the corner. Shawn is selling the eye big time now, and Jericho goes to work on it. Shawn comes back and tries a corner whip, but Jericho reverses and Shawn flips in the corner. He comes back off however, with a Thesz press and some punches. Piledriver is tried, but Jericho hooks the legs and turns over to the Walls. Shawn makes the ropes, but it’s no DQ so Jericho holds on. A fire extinguisher happens to be within reach, so Shawn grabs it and sprays Jericho in the face to escape. He then nails Jericho with it and knocks him outside. Shawn tosses him to the barrier a couple of times as they work their way up to the ramp. Shawn gives him a suplex there. Lance Cade runs in now, but Shawn nails him first. He turns his attention back to Jericho, but that allows Cade to come back from behind and nail a big clothesline, complete with a flip selljob by Shawn. Double team is on now as they wrap the arm around the post and Cade boots it. In the ring, Cade holds Shawn while Jericho works over the arm with a chair. They go to Pillmanize the arm, but Shawn manages to fight back, taking Cade out with Sweet Chin Music, and crotching Jericho on the top rope. He then knocks Jericho off the top and through the table that’s still setup on the floor. He’s out after Jericho, nailing him with a couple chairshots (swinging the chair with only his good arm in a nice touch). He preps the announce table, and then puts both Cade and Jericho on it. Big elbow hits off the top through both guys on the table. He gets Jericho back in the ring and starts whipping him with his belt. He then wraps the belt around his fist and keeps beating Jericho with it. Finally the ref just stops it at 26:55 and awards it to Shawn as Jericho is just out of it. He keeps going after Jericho, and when the ref tries to pull him off, Shawn nails him with Sweet Chin Music. He finally leaves without any celebration, and a look that says he did what he had to do, but he’s not necessarily proud of it. Minor nitpick: Lillian specifically announced before the match that the only ways to win were pin and submission. I’m all for the idea of getting the ref stoppage over as a legitimate finish, but they need to include it in the rules if they’re going to do it. Also, will a ref stoppage result in a title change? They haven’t got to that point yet, and although traditionally it has not resulted in a title change, if they’re going to use it as a decisive finish it’s going to have to come up at some point. Another cool little thing I noticed: Not a single pinfall attempt in the whole match. That’s perfect because the match was not about winning; it was about revenge for Shawn, and proving himself for Jericho. **** This gets my vote for feud of the year.
Randy Orton is here with the Tag Champs gloating to him about their victory, and introducing him to Manu. Orton is still not impressed, and gives them a pep talk.
WWE Championship, Scramble Match: Jeff Hardy vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. The Brian Kendrick vs. MVP vs. HHH (c)
Jeff and Shelton start us off, and again, just like the ECW match we get a lot of early pinfall attempts and reversals. Good segment, but no one takes a fall before not just any Brian Kendrick, but THE Brian Kendrick is third guy in. He knocks Shelton out as we go right into Triple Threat mode (Hey, where have I seen this before?). A few more nearfalls take place before Jeff sets up a powerbomb that he turns into a flapjack for the pin to become “current” champion. Shelton attacks and sends Kendrick out. After trading a few sequences, Shelton hits Paydirt, but Kendrick makes the save on the pin attempt. He dumps Shelton, and takes advantage to hit Sliced Bread #2 on Jeff to get the pin and become the new “current” champion. That’s a surprise win for sure. MVP is out next, and he immediately goes for Kendrick and ends up dumping him. He turns his attention to Shelton now, on whom he sets up the Drive By, but Kendrick makes it back in to cut that off with a leg lariat. Jeff back in now as they trade moves and nearfalls, while others make saves. HHH is the last one in, and you know he means business because he forgoes his usual entrance. He manhandles everyone (shocking, I know) and sends a message to the locker room by getting the Pedigree on Kendrick with no trouble whatsoever to regain champion status. Shelton attacks HHH and sends him outside where he whips him to the stairs. Jeff goes after MVP in the ring, and ends up getting the Twist of Fate on him for the pin to get the title back. Kendrick is back to try Sliced Bread #2 again, but that fails and Jeff gets him with a reverse suplex. He goes up, but HHH is back to crotch him. Pedigree on Kendrick again takes the title for HHH. He tries the Pedigree on Jeff now, but ends up getting backdropped out. Jeff then hits a dive to the outside. MVP puts Kendrick on top, but in a really cool spot, Shelton jumps in and steals the superplex. Nicely done. Jeff is back, and he gets Whisper in the Wind on MVP, and then a Swanton on Shelton, but he misses HHH getting MVP with a Pedigree to get the pin and regain the title just before the 20:00 time limit expires at 20:17. HHH is still the “official” champion, although the announcers act like it’s a new title reign for him, calling him thirteen time champion. Apparently that was changed back on Smackdown this week, so he still has to win it at least five more times in his career. Not that this was a horrible match or anything, but it really exposes the folly of having more than one of the same type of gimmick match on the same show. **1/2 Would probably rate a bit higher on its own, but in comparison to the ECW match earlier, it’s just not quite at that level. And I have to say that I am significantly less excited about seeing yet another one of these later on.
Shawn is interviewed, and declares that he’s going home, but is definitely not yet done with Jericho.
Interview with CM Punk. Orton confronts him, which allows a sneak attack by Dibiase, Rhodes, and Manu. Kofi Kingston tries to save, but he gets beat down for his troubles as well. Orton then hits the Kick of Death on Punk, knocking him cold.
Divas Championship Match: Michelle McCool vs. Maryse
Couple of holds and reversals starts things off and they trade some sloppy pinfalls. Outside, Maryse sends McCool to the barrier and over top of it. McCool comes back with a big boot and then a clothesline off the barrier. In the ring, Maryse ducks a clothesline and clips the leg. She starts working that over for a bit until McCool is able to counter and go to work on Maryse’s leg. She gets a heel hook, but Maryse makes the ropes. McCool gets a big boot for 2. Off an Irish whip, Maryse tries a rollup, but McCool rolls through and gets a seated dropkick for 1. Suplex is blocked and Maryse kicks her. Irish whip is reversed and McCool gets yet another big boot. Reverse suplex then finishes clean for McCool to retain at 5:44. Not much to see here (wrestling-wise anyways). DUD
Mike Adamle announces that Punk may not be able to go in the main event, and if he cannot, Adamle will name a suitable replacement.
Big Show comes out to claim the replacement spot, but Vickie follows to put a stop to that thinking. Some druids bring out a casket for Vickie, followed by Undertaker appearing on the screen threatening to murder her. Show is playing his gleefulness so over the top that you can see his turn coming a mile away. Taker comes into the ring, but as soon as he puts his hand on Vickie’s throat, Show attacks. What a feud this should be, huh? If Show doesn’t already have the record for most turns in a career, he’s gotta be right up there.
Main Event, World Heavyweight Championship, Scramble Match: Dave Batista vs. JBL vs. Kane vs. Rey Mysterio, Jr. vs. Chris Jericho
Batista and JBL start out which is different from the earlier matches where they started with workrate guys. But then, besides Mysterio and Jericho (who needed to be last for the sake of storyline) no one else really is a workrate guy. Also, not so many pin attempts here as they focus more on beating each other up. Batista gets the figure four, which gets a good reaction, but JBL makes the ropes. Kane is in next, even though only four minutes have gone by, meaning we have timing issues with the show. He and Batista go in the ring while JBL sells outside. They trade moves until Batista tries a Batista Bomb, but JBL comes back with a big boot to break it up. Kane then catches JBL by the throat and chokeslams him for the pin to become “current” champ. Rey Mysterio is fourth in, and he’s got a crazy mohawk with him. He works over both Kane and JBL using his speed advantage, but when he tries a 619 on Kane, he gets clotheslined. Batista is back in, and he takes out both Kane and JBL. He then helps Rey get a splash on Kane, and then steals the pin attempt for 2. They go for that move again, but this time, Rey changes to a rollup on Batista for 2. JBL then grabs Rey and hits him with a fallaway slam on to Batista for 2. Our final entrant is….. Chris Jericho, and he is still selling the beating from his earlier match. He gingerly gets in the ring, and is immediately met with a spear from Batista, so he rolls right back out. The first four go at it in the ring, trading off moves, with Batista getting a spear and spinebuster on Kane for 3 to win the title with only 30 seconds left. Rey then attacks Batista, and while he’s dealing with that, Jericho sneaks in and pins the still out of it Kane to steal the title with eight seconds to go. Batista looks on in disbelief as the 20:00 minute time limit expires at 17:17 making Jericho the “official” champion. I think Punk was really starting to catch on as champ, and I don’t like them taking it off of him in the way, but Jericho has been bringing the awesome lately with his new heel character, and certainly deserves to be champion, so I’m a bit torn on the result. What it does do is set up Jericho for a good run as champ because you have Punk, Shawn Michaels, and Batista all setup as ready made challengers, while Punk really had no one else to go with besides Jericho, so it should keep things interesting if nothing else. The match however, was the weakest of all three Scrambles. Part of that is having to follow the other two, and like the Smackdown one, I think this would stand a bit better on its own, but I still felt that the action and storytelling was not quite up there with the others. *1/2
I wasn’t sold on the Scramble concept coming into the show, but having seen it in action now, I believe that there’s nothing wrong with it as an occasional gimmick. However, three times in one night is just two too many. I know that they want to treat all their brands as equals, but come on. Sometimes they’re just going to have to give one brand the big gimmick match and be done with it. Better booking of individual feuds would help because then they wouldn’t have to rely on so many matches like this and therefore could use them only when actually necessary. Jericho/Michaels is a must see match, and that along with the ECW opener make this a good show overall, but really, I could have lived with this show ending at the halfway point. The subsequent scrambles aren’t bad, but it’s just like “Come on, not this again” by the time we get to the final one. I’m going to call it thumbs in the middle, and as far as a recommendation goes, I’ll say watch it, but split it up into two viewing sessions, watching half the show each time, and that way it should be a bit less frustrating.