Saturday, September 22, 2001

The World's Greatest WWF Unforgiven 2001 Preview

It took some finagling, but the WWF finally convinced me; what they've got going into this here PPV is a damn good lineup with more thought put into the build than you'd guess at first glance. Just about all the bases are covered here, with a few high-octane clashes several months in the making, a couple rematches from Summerslam, and only one match that might have trouble getting the job done. With the single deepest, most expansive roster in modern wrestling history, the WWF's really starting to set off some fireworks here, with gems like Tajiri / Rhyno and Van Dam / Jericho coming into sight almost as afterthoughts.

Tajiri vs. Rhyno
U.S. Championship

It's taken a bit of criticism as being "last second" and "sloppy", but I thought the build for this match was just about perfect. For those who missed it, Rhyno speared Tajiri during a commercial break on Raw, while he stumbled up the entrance ramp after a tough match. Now while those out there knocking the booking here certainly have their points, I think they're missing something really important; this is just how Rhyno needs to be built. He doesn't work as a lacky, somebody mindlessly taking and following orders.. the monster from Detroit is best handled as the out-of-control madman, the loose cannon, somebody with a fuse so short, the victim doesn't even realize he's ignited a spark before it's blown up in his face. Not only that, but it woke up the live crowd, who was more than likely leaning back in their chairs, expecting nothing while the WWF was at commercial. The assault came out of left field, and that's something I think the fed could use to their advantage a bit more in the future.

Unfortunately for the Japanese Buzzsaw, I don't see this match achieving much more than a re-elevation of the Rhyno persona and perhaps another step or two in the relationship between Tajiri and Torrie. The gore seals the deal here.
Winner: Rhyno

Raven vs. Saturn

Knock WCW all you like, but when push comes to shove and we look back at the legacy both major federations have left in the years following the end of the Monday Night wars, the Atlanta-based promotion will at least have the edge in one category; when they rent a wood chipper, they know better than to shove an entire telephone pole in on live television. Remember the whole ordeal with Chavo Guerrero, Jr and Pepe, his magical horse-on-a-pole? Yeah, I know, I'd blocked it from my memory as well. Well, the WWF opened up that whole can of worms once again this past week, with the utterly-ridiculous little skit between Saturn and Raven on Raw. Sure, the match we'll get out of it is bound to be interesting, but I'm not convinced the end result will be worth the means it took to get there. If anything, Saturn deserves a big bonus for staying in character throughout the whole mess, screaming as though he'd just lost his best friend. Let's just hope Monday night doesn't feature an ongoing tribute to Moppy video montage.

Seriously, though, these two have a pretty extensive history together and it would be fun to see that played up. I don't want to see the re-emergence of the Flock or anything to that degree, but a little noticeable familiarity and some inventive counters to each man's standard arsenal would be a nice change of pace. Last I took notice, they could both still go... why not just let them do what they're paid for? Raven needs the win, but Saturn took the fall on Smackdown. That leads me to believe our chances of seeing an Evenflow are slim this Sunday night.
Winner: Saturn

Rob Van Dam vs. Chris Jericho
Hardcore Championship

It's been a lot of fun watching Rob Van Dam's breakneck elevation to superstardom these past few months, and if this past Monday night is any indication, "Mr. Monday Night" has lit a fire under someone who'd been in dire need of a kick in the ass for several months; his opponent this Sunday eve, Chris Jericho. It was like watching a different guy in the ring on Raw, as Y2J broke out some fancy counters he'd been ignoring since leaving WCW and had one of his best matches to date under the watch of McMahon. Someone, I can't remember who, but someone, mentioned the possibility of a double turn here... and I, for one, would absolutely love to see it. Of all the times in the past when the tricky maneuver's been mentioned pre-show, this one makes the most sense. Jericho's in dire need of the change, and Van Dam will be a face within the next few weeks, whether the WWF turns him or not. It's a situation that'll benefit both parties, and one that I think's quite likely. Besides, Van Dam has yet to drop a match on PPV since arriving in the big time. Jericho goes over here.
Winner: Chris Jericho

Dudleys vs. Hardys vs. Storm & Hurricane vs. Spike & Show
Fatal Fourway for the WWF Tag Team Championship

Man, the WWF always finds a way to sneak the Big Show into the picture, don't they? How many times can a man fail before the bookers start to realize he's a problem? This'll be good, chaotic, fun, with a few storylines interweaving at once. You've got the Dudleys, and their ongoing feud with their little brother Spike, The Justice Society / Hardys feud, and the whole thing umbrellaed under the WWF / Alliance war. The Dudleys and Hardys are familiar enough with one another to put out a good brawl in their sleep, so no worries there. Jeff Hardy and Lance Storm proved the ex leader of WCW's Team Canada is more than ready to make an impact in his new home, so we won't have a problem in that instance, either. Spike's good fodder for just about any match, provided he doesn't spend too much time playing the face in peril. So the only real variables here are Helms and the Show. Really just a filler match here, with the usual suspects putting the same pieces into the same places. I'll take the Dudleys to retain.
Winners: The Dudley Boyz

Edge vs. Christian
Intercontinental Championship

Talk about your perfect build. Everything about this feud has been done right thus far, at least in my opinion, with the slight exception of Christian's crappy new music and entrance. And it was all suddenly worth it when Edge made his triumphant return on Raw, saving Tajiri from the dreaded one man con-chair-to. The audience ate it up with a spoon, and even used the magic word when asking for seconds. There really isn't much to say here, as ye olde bookers have pretty much said it all for me. This is how a feud should be built, how a tag team breakup should follow through, how two stars should be born. It's a tough call, but I'm gonna go with Christian here. This is a feud that shouldn't be rushed, and in order to be taken seriously, Christian needs to establish himself as somebody who could beat Edge in the middle of the ring. As of right now, I don't think he's quite there yet.
Winner: Christian

Undertaker & Kane vs. KroniK
WCW Tag Team Championship

The amount of criticism headed the Undertaker's way has been cut down drastically lately based, near as I can tell, primarily on his willingness to take the 3D and job the tag titles to the Dudley Boyz. He's also thrown in a new maneuver or two, but continues to no-sell almost ridiculously throughout his time in the ring. Sure, he fell to the 3D... but that was only after he nearly destroyed all of Kronik by himself, and pretty much did the same to the Dudleys themselves moments earlier. Hell, if he didn't lay down to their finisher he'd look like a complete ass. So, to put it simply, I've yet to return to the Undertaker's defense. But I'm not closed-minded enough to ignore the fact he deserves the opportunities he's getting. He's still popular, still a big name, a top draw. He still commands respect and will likely have one last strong run at the top before his days are through.

What I am, though, is confused about why we're supposed to even begin to buy Kronik's chances this Sunday night. Nearly every assault they've performed has been from behind, singling out the Undertaker when Kane wasn't around. And even half of those instances were met with some stiff Undertaker offense. If the American Bad Ass can almost put these two away all by his lonesome, what are we meant to believe about their chances going in there against a fresh Undertaker AND his brother Kane?

I don't expect this match to be worth much, and thus am purposely setting myself up to be pleasantly surprised.... right...? Kronik might get a few punches in here and there, and Stevie Richards will probably interfere, resulting in their lengthiest offensive stint, but in the end there's little to no chance the brothers are dropping their second set of tag titles in as many weeks.
Winners: Kane & The Undertaker

Shane McMahon & Booker T vs. The Rock
Handicap Match for the WCW Championship

Doesn't really seem like Booker's got much of a chance in this one, does it? If anything, that should be a red flag for you.. things are rarely as they seem in the WWF. Then again, under that thought process, Shane McMahon doesn't really seem like he's got a chance either. And I'd hate to see the WCW World Title around Shane's waist only a few months after the product was relaunched.

One of the coolest angles in the follow-up of Summerslam was Booker's immediate degression into the super-dangerous, violent heel monster. It was great to see him destroying people like the Big Show, guys who the WWF crowd have grown to accept as big time names. Imagine what the result would have been if Booker and The Show had met in WCW. Without a doubt, the Book is regarded by "experts" and fans alike as a big name now, among the top 5 names in the industry, and a threat who shouldn't be underestimated. It's a shame that's taken a back seat in the last couple weeks to the former WCW champ's renewed interest in the safety of one Stephanie McMahon, but it was a necessary evil all the same.

Meanwhile, I can't say I've really been enjoying the Rock lately. While his ringwork continues to grow beyond my wildest dreams, he's begun taking the easy path in his promos. Like Austin and Angle before him, The Rock's taken his act to a more hardened audience, only he's not threatening to throw his opposition from the top of some nameless high location. Instead he's been filling his promos with more and more blatant sexual innuendos and more risque language. Good for a laugh once or twice, but not something I'd like to see week in and week out. And, just a month after the WWF desperately needed his return, doesn't it seem like the Rock's back to treading water already?

Regardless, these two stack up well on paper and provide for some interesting verbal spars. I never thought I'd see the Rock carrying the WCW title, but now that he is the belt's starting to regain some of the glory it once shone of. The competition's strong, the title's beginning to mean something again, and Rocky's a legitimate champion. I don't expect that to change Sunday Night. Rock to retain.
Winner: The Rock

Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle
World Wrestling Federation Championship

Man, did Angle's face turn come to fruition at precisely the right moment or what? Less than a month after his big turn, itself a response to Austin's jump to the WCW bandwagon, and US Patriotism takes off following the attacks on New York. I hate to refer to those horrifying terrorist bombings as "the right time", but Angle certainly was in the right place when they happened. Now, instead of portraying the silly parody of the American spirit, Angle's become a true American hero, cheered for the very same things that made him such a dork not six weeks ago.

One of the things I don't really agree with, though, is the severely vicious turn this entire angle's taken in the past few weeks. It's actually become somewhat hard to tell who's supposed to be the heel and who the face in this feud, with each man attempting to top the other as the weeks go by in terms of physical intimidation. I enjoyed the simple nod to history Austin made, throwing Angle's medals from that bridge in Detroit. I snickered when Angle covered the ring with milk and chugged a couple gallons, Stone Cold style. I thought it was a bit out of hand when our Olympic champ threatened to throw his opponent off a bridge in Toronto, and I found it sick to see Angle return from a 'broken neck' within 2 hours. Perhaps the WWF should've concentrated on what made this feud such a success in the first place; the competitors' naturally opposing personalities and the stellar match they had last month at Summerslam.

But no amount of needless build-up and strange nods to history will be able to destroy what these two must have in store for us when the bell tolls at the Unforgiven main event. Their styles compliment each other to the point where every collision feels epic, and that's something special. Add to that the overpowering patriotism permeating every arena in this country, and the fact this is taking place in Angle's backyard of Pittsburgh, and you've got a recipe for instant success. When the dust settles here, and the hometown boy's arm is raised, prepare yourself for an ovation the likes of which you've never heard.
Winner: Kurt Angle


I'm not usually a big fan of so many rematches only one month after a big WWF event, but in this case there seems to be adequate interest and reasoning for such a move. Angle and Austin's story isn't quite finished just yet, and Booker T has believable reasoning in asking for a rematch on the big stage. There's a bit of filler near the opening of the card, and a few loose ends asking to be tied up, but for the most part this one's a natural step forward from what we saw at Summerslam. I'd be surprised if Test isn't added to the roster before showtime, considering the amount of air time he's seen lately, and let's all pray together that Shane doesn't grab the WCW title from Rocky in the semi-main event.
until next time, i remain

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