I thought I’d try something new on here, although more classic All Japan is also planned for down the line.
As the name suggests, I will be looking at certain shows or wrestlers and picking what I believe to be the six best matches in a given scenario. Seeing as summer is coming to a close and the autumn months are looming ahead of us, I thought I’d compile the six best matches from WWE’s Unforgiven pay per view. Though the first Unforgiven was held in the April of 1998, the following ten versions of it all took place in the month of September before WWE stopped using the name in 2008.
These are all just my personal opinions of course. If there’s a match I haven’t listed that you think I should have included in the top six then please feel free to say so in the comments. I’ll be listing the matches chronologically just for the sake of ease.
Big Show Vs British Bulldog Vs Mankind Vs Kane Vs Triple H Vs The Rock
The first match on the list would fall comfortably into the “stick enough guys into a match and you’ll usually get something good” category of main events. However, there are enough interesting stories and feuds woven into this match that it becomes more than just a watchable multi-man match and actually becomes a really exciting main event.
Bulldog fills in for The Undertaker, who had recently begun a near eight month hiatus that ended with him coming back as “Biker Taker” for the first time, and he had freshly turned heel on The Rock by costing him a match with Triple H. Speaking of Rock, this was during the early days of his “Rock ‘N’ Sock” alliance with Mick Foley, and their newfound “friendship” is pushed to near breaking point as Mick does his best to avoid the inevitable conflict between them before ironically becoming the first to succumb and attack his partner when the opportunity arises.
The match eventually descends into chaos due to striking referees running down to attack “scab referee” Jimmy Korderas (It will surprise no one that this was during Vince Russo’s tenure as head writer) which leads to Troubleshooting Enforcer Stone Cold Steve Austin laying them all out before fulfilling the refereeing duties himself.
Having so many people in the match keeps the action moving, with it only really slowing down during a brief skirmish between Big Show and Kane, and we also get the mandatory section of everyone hitting each other with their finishers which is always enjoyable. Unforgiven 99 wasn’t an especially great show overall, but this was a really good main event and is still a lot of fun to watch even today.
Rob Van Dam Vs Chris Jericho
All of the negative aspects surrounding the Invasion storyline have been pointed out ad nauseam at this stage, but one of the few positives that sprang from the angle was the emergence of Rob Van Dam. WWE pissed all the good work away eventually of course, but for a while there in 2001 RVD was legitimately the hottest act in the company and rode that wave into the main event scene for a couple of months.
This match represented a clear step up the card for him, as he went from cocky hardcore guy feuding with the Hardy Boyz to being Stephanie McMahon’s hand-picked assassin in her seemingly never ending feud with Chris Jericho. Stephanie indeed makes her presence felt in the closing stages of the match, which takes the lustre off things somewhat, but prior to that the match has great energy and sustained crowd heat.
There are moments of sloppiness here and there (I mean, this is a Rob Van Dam Vs Chris Jericho match after all) and both men’s penchant for working “snug” means that Jericho ends up with some hard way blood before things are all said and done. However, both men make use of the hardcore rules to put together an incredibly entertaining tussle and both of them end up coming out of it looking like bigger stars.
Kurt Angle Vs Chris Benoit
This one doesn’t get a lot of attention when people talk about the Angle/Benoit feud as it was overshadowed by the superlative scrap the two men had a few months later at the 2003 Royal Rumble, but it really is a superb contest and has become a bit of a forgotten classic. This could be a result of the match not having a clear face/heel alignment like other battles between the two, as both are ostensibly heel here.
What also hurts this match is that it was kind of thrown together and was largely based around both men laughing at the other for getting stink faced by Rikishi. Despite the silly storyline though, once both men get in the ring they are all business and the crowd gets almost immediately invested into the match as consequence. After plenty of seamless counters and crisp technical wrestling, the fight comes down to the submission battle everyone is itching to see and it is utterly fabulous!
Judging by how the match builds it looks like they were thinking of making Angle the babyface going forward in the story as he gallantly fights out of the crossface into the ankle lock and commits himself to the submission battle, whilst Benoit tries more underhanded tactics to win. Interestingly though both men would be on opposite ends of the face/heel divide when January 2003 rolled around.
This match is superb and well worth a watch if you’ve never seen it before. This was during a period where the WWE fan base were starting to appreciate good wrestling after years of being fed on a crash TV diet, and it’s heartening to watch this match and see how invested they are in both men trading submission attempts and trying to out wrestle one another.
Matt Hardy Vs Edge
For those of you who didn’t live through it, the Matt Hardy/Edge feud was kind of a bummer. Hardy had been sacked by the WWE earlier in the year when he’d (Quite understandably one could argue) gotten very annoyed at his former best friend Edge playing Hide the Horseradish with his bird. However, the WWE fan base rallied behind him and the company finally relented by bringing him back, only to then have Edge humiliate and batter him at every turn in their resulting feud. They sure showed us eh?
Unforgiven 2005 was one of the very rare occasions in the feud where Matt actually got to come out on top of thing as he was allowed to bludgeon Edge, hit Lita with his finisher and then squish the “Rated R Superstar” with a leg drop from the top of the cage. As well as having these crowd pleasing spots, the match itself is actually very good as well. Hardy is great as a never say die babyface fighting from underneath and Edge is excellent as a vicious dick head heel, so the story of the match is engaging and the fans are thoroughly behind Matt in his quest for revenge.
Matt finally getting some payback on Lita, only to then get immediately speared by Edge is one of the all-time great near falls and I think literally everyone in the building buys it as the finish, which makes Matt’s dramatic kick out all the more satisfying. This really should have been the end of the feud but Edge was the guy they were staking the farm on at the time so unfortunately another match was required where Matt was once again required to do the J-O-B and be banished from Raw in the process.
At least for one night though Matt was able to get himself a measure of revenge and look like a star in the process. The fan reaction to him during this match shows that WWE definitely could have done more with him during this time frame, rather than having him become a mid-card make weight on Smackdown.
John Cena Vs Edge
So whilst Matt Hardy was sentenced to purgatory on the Smackdown mid-card treadmill, Edge went on to become one of the top stars on Raw, bagging himself two WWE title reigns in the process. In his defence, he was superbly entertaining in the role and ratings went up with him as champion, so it wasn’t like he didn’t deserve the title. His promotion to the main event scene also gave John Cena something his character had been sorely lacking, a nemesis.
Cena and Edge had a feud for the ages during the summer/autumn of 2006, having great matches and both getting more over in the process. Edge’s scummy heel character was the perfect one to oppose Cena’s heroic babyface, and the two made magic together. Never was that clearer than this TLC match, where they destroyed each other in brutal fashion over the WWE Title.
Having the show take place in Toronto meant the crowd were even more anti-Cena than usual, and it lead to the match having an electric atmosphere. Realising that he had little to no chance of turning a staunchly pro-Edge crowd in his favour, Cena adopted the same attitude he had during his match with Rob Van Dam at ECW One Night Stand by not playing to the crowd but also not going full heel either.
Edge is the undisputed star of this match, as he enters one of his career best performances and takes a series of terrifying bumps that a man with a surgically repaired neck really oughtn’t to take. Eventually though he ends up eating the loss in his hometown after Cena FU’s him off the top of the ladder through a stack of tables. Cena’s look of almost disgust at the end after going to such lengths to win is a great bit of character work on his part and really rams home the hatred both men had for each other in the feud. It’s everything a feud ending match should be and WWE thankfully held off returning to a full program between the two until some time had passed.
Shawn Michaels Vs Chris Jericho
This was genuinely one of the best feuds in WWE history, as Jericho beat Michaels to bloody pulp at the Great American Bash and then upped the ante by giving his wife a legit fat lip at Summer Slam after inadvertently clocking her with a punch. Thus Michaels decided to backtrack on his plans to retire and returned to give Jericho an almighty shellacking in an unsanctioned brawl at Unforgiven 2008.
This match feels like a heated brawl between two men who legitimately detest one another and it’s thoroughly engrossing to watch. Jericho was really on a roll as a cold and calculating heel during this time period and Michaels was equally great as a wronged babyface coming back to settle a score. For the modern fans amongst us the best comparison I could give for the intensity and hatred in this feud would be the one currently raging on between Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa in NXT.
In a thoroughly out of character moment, Michaels even grabs Jericho around the throat at one point and starts choking him with a crazed look upon his face. Jericho also continues his bad luck when it comes to hard way blood as Michaels catches him with an errant shot at one point and busts open his nose in the process.
Former Michaels trainee Lance Cade runs down to assist Jericho to really stick the knife in, but Michaels rallies to fight both men off before brutally dissecting Jericho until the referee stops the bout. Michaels’ remorseful zeal as he dismantles Jericho is brilliant character work and adds to the feeling of this match being different and unique.
The Undertaker Vs Kane Vs Chris Benoit Vs The Rock – Unforgiven 2000, Kurt Angle Vs Stone Cold Steve Austin – Unforgiven 2001, Eddie Guerrero Vs Edge – Unforgiven 2002, William Regal and Chris Benoit Vs Ric Flair and Batista – Unforgiven 2004, Shawn Michaels Vs Chris Masters – Unforgiven 2005, Trish Stratus Vs Lita – Unforgiven 2006, The McMahon’s and Big Show Vs DX – Unforgiven 2006
Well thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane and please feel free to add give your own picks in the comments section.
I also write for a website called Gaming Respawn. My most recent article was a retrospective on Tekken Tag Tournament. You can read my thoughts by clicking right HERE.
Whilst you’re here on the blog, you can check out Scott Keith’s review of Monday Night Raw from the 23rd of November 1998 by clicking right HERE.
You can also take a goosey gander at Maffew’s review of ECW on Sci Fi from the 12th of August 2008 by clicking right HERE.
And you can join Bob on his journey through Memphis Wrestling by reading his recap of CWA TV from the 15th of February 1986 by clicking right HERE.