PPV REVIEW: WWF Unforgiven 2001

WWE / WWF Unforgiven 2001 - Event Poster
September 23, 2001
Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

WWF Unforgiven 2001 was the first World Wrestling Federation Pay Per View to be held in the wake of 9/11.

Unsurprisingly, and for good reason, this meant that the company were flying their star-spangled banner high, with a certain sense of American patriotism underlying their recent programming. 

It also meant that their own All-American Hero Kurt Angle -already serving as the #2 babyface behind The Rock at this point in time- was now perhaps more popular than he'd ever been, serving as the red, white, and blue hero that fans could truly get behind in this time of national healing.

So it was entirely fitting that it would be Angle who tonight would take on an outside threat - not the terrorists- but the leader of the invading Alliance group, WWF Champion, Stone Cold Steve Austin.

It was also fitting that this should all happen in Angle's own home state.

Would goodwill -and a tight ankle lock- prevail? Or would this be one instance where the evil outside force triumphed?

Let's find out by heading down to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the last Unforgiven show to be promoted under the WWF banner before the company changed its name to WWE.

WWE / WWF Unforgiven 2001 - Jennifer Holiday sang America The Beautiful

Please Rise for America the Beautiful

With the World Wrestling Federation still in full-blown patriot mode in the wake of 9/11, tonight’s show began with a stirring rendition of America the Beautiful courtesy of two-time Grammy-winner, Jennifer Holiday.

Credit where it’s due, Holiday not only had an awesome voice, she was pretty badass at working the crowd and looked genuinely touched by the applause she received.

From that touching moment, it was on to the violence and chaos of Unforgiven 2001.

Now I Dub Thee Unforgiven

WWE / WWF Unforgiven 2001 - Paul Heyman & Jim Ross called the event
Things got underway properly with a short promo reminding us of the heated rivalry between Kurt Angle and Stone Cold Steve Austin and, to a lesser extent, the ongoing rivalry between Booker T and The Rock.

We’d see all four men in action later in the show, but first, we got our usual greeting from Jim Ross and Paul Heyman.

Ladies and gentleman, Unforgiven was underway.

Four-Team Elimination Match for the World Wrestling Federation Tag Team Championship
WWF Tag Team Champions The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray & D’Von Dudley) The Hardy Boyz (Matt & Jeff Hardy) vs. WWF European Champion The Hurricane & Lance Storm vs. The Big Show & Spike Dudley

Having only just recently beaten Kane & The Undertaker for the tag team titles, Bubba Ray & D’Von Dudley our them online in a very fun opening match in which everyone played their roles perfectly.

The early going saw a lot of fast-paced action between The Hardy Boyz, Lance Storm, Hurricane and Spike Dudley, all of which delighted an audience who were so loud you’d be forgiven for thinking you were watching a Rock ‘n’ Roll Express match back in the 80s.

WWE / WWF Unforgiven 2001 - Lance Storm and The Hurricane teamed up in the opening match
Hurricane was especially popular which was interesting, partly because he’d only been doing the gimmick for a few weeks, but mostly because he was an Alliance member and thus technically a heel.

Even Big Show played his part well, sitting on the sidelines before coming in for some crowd-popping clobbering time and letting Little Spike jump off his shoulders to the outside, flattening everyone else in the match.

Show even got the first elimination, catching Lance Storm coming off the top and chokeslamming him into oblivion before Matt Hardy put Spike away to eliminate that team also.

With the two makeshift teams out of the way, that left us with the two established duos to go at it and give us everything you’d expect from a Dudleyz/Hardyz battle.

After an enjoyable effort, the champs hit the 3D on Matt Hardy only for Jeff to break it up with a last-minute Swanton.

Alas, it wasn’t enough, as Jeff and Bubba fell to the outside, a beaten up D’Von draped an arm over Matt to retain the gold.
Your Winners and Still WWF Champions: The Dudley Boyz

WWE / WWF Unforgiven 2001 - Stephanie McMahon flirts with Rob Van Dam
Out in the back, Stephanie McMahon let Hardcore Champion Rob Van Damn know that if there was anything she could do -you know, anything- to help him beat Chris Jericho, then she was more than happy to.

Of course, being The Whole Damn Show, RVD didn’t need anyone’s help, though he did get Steph’s permission to claim the biggest dressing room in the arena for himself.

Back in the arena, Michael Cole interviewed Kurt Angle’s mom and brother about the homestate hero’s championship match against Steve Austin.

Honestly, it was only slightly less awkward than the time Todd Pettingill interviewed The Steiner Brothers’ family back at Summerslam 1993.

Raven (w/ Terri) vs. Perry Saturn

These two had a memorable bout back at WCW Fall Brawl 1998 when they feuded over Saturn trying to free The Flock.

Three years later, they were at war again, this time because Saturn had fallen in love with a mop and dumped the ever-gorgeous Terri in favor of the cleaning appliance, prompting the former Marlena to align herself with Raven and put Moppy through a wood chipper.

The story was so dumb that Jim Ross and Paul Heyman decided to spend more time talking about their history in WCW and the aforementioned freeing of The Flock. It was a smart move.

The actual match was OK, but nobody really seemed to care and even the best spots of the match were played out to almost total silence.

In the end, Saturn got the win and the crowd popped for the first time in the whole match.
Your Winner: Saturn

WWE / WWF Unforgiven 2001 - Lilian Garcia interviews Christian about his match with Edge
Since King of the Ring, Christian had become increasingly jealous of his brother Edge, eventually turning on him in front of their hometown audience in Toronto on Raw.

It had been a well-done story so far and was about to come to a head with Christian challenging Edge for the Intercontinental Championship.

First, however, the future Captain Charisma stopped by the backstage area to cut a decent promo, telling Lillian Garcia that turning his back on Edge was worth it if it meant him becoming our new IC champion.

World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Championship
WWF Intercontinental Champion Edge vs. Christian

Christian! Christian! At last, you’re on your own!

What a theme that was!

Speaking of themes, this was the first WWF PPV in which Edge used Never Gonna Stop by Rob Zombie as his theme.

WWE / WWF Unforgiven 2001 - Intercontinental Championship match: Christian vs. Edge
As for the actual match, while I doubt anyone would consider it an all-time classic (and certainly not an instant one), it was still a very good contest.

After a fired up Edge got his revenge on Christian by beating him from pillar to post, the match turned into a story of the two brothers and tag team partners who knew each other so well that they would constantly trade the advantage and counter each other’s moves.

Things got more heated and more violent until Christian brought in a couple of chairs ready to hit the Con-Chair-to on his brother.

Instead, Edge made a comeback and looked to hit the same move only for the referee to grab the chair out of his hand.

As the champion argued with the official, Christian grabbed the second chair, whacked his opponent in the goolies with it and became -at least for the time being- our new champion.
Your Winner and NEW Intercontinental Champion: Christian

You know, it’s only at this stage that I realised Paul Heyman was wearing an ECW Anarchy Rulz laminate. I wonder if they let him in the arena with that acting as his backstage pass?

Stevie Richards Gets Kronik

WWE / WWF Unforgiven 2001 - Jonathan Coachman interviews Kane & Undertaker about their match with Kronik
I noticed this as Heyman and JR introduced us to a video package introducing our next match.

Stevie Richards had recently attacked The Undertaker in retribution for the American Bad Ass breaking up Right to Censor months back.

The two met on Smackdown, only for Brian Adams and Brian Clarke to appear and attack ‘Taker. That, ladies and gentleman, would lead us to tonight’s Ill-fated WCW tag team title match, but not before the champions, Taker and Kane, stopped by for a few words with Jonathan Coachman.

In a solid interview, Undertaker told Coach he had no problem getting beaten up by Kronik but was more than a little miffed at Richards reminding everyone about the RTC when that was the one thing most people wanted to forget about.

Tonight, he swore that he and Kane would drop Adams & Clarke on their heads.

World Championship Wrestling World Tag Team Championship
WCW Tag Team Champions Kane & The Undertaker vs. Kronik (Brian Adams & Bryan Clarke w/ Steven Richards)

WWE / WWF Unforgiven 2001 - Steven Richards leads Kronik into battle
OK, so before we get into this legendarily awful match, here’s some fun facts.

This was Kronik’s first PPV appearance since WCW Superbrawl Revenge in February of that year.

It was Brian Adam’s first WWF PPV appearance since Survivor Series ‘97 and Bryan Clark’s first WWF PPV since Wrestlemania 10 when he lost to Earthquake in a mere 35 seconds. Of course, that’s not including the Adam Bomb vs. Kwang match that served as a dark match for Summerslam ‘95.

Speaking of Bryan Clark, did you see his mugshot after he got arrested last year? I could barely tell it was the same guy.

Now, onto one of the most famous bad matches of all time.

Was it really all that terrible? And was it really all Kronik’s fault?

I mean, not really.

Sure, it was certainly bad, and sure, Adams & Clark weren’t exactly five-star caliber performers, but at least they were in shape.

Undertaker and Kane (especially Kane) both looked heavy and sluggish, while Kane was visibly hampered by his recent staph infection.

All four men moved at snail's pace. Basic moves like a neck breaker looked like they were being performed by a kid on his first day at wrestling school rather than by veteran performers, and Adams even managed to mess up his shoulder breaker on Kane even though it was one of only five or so moves he had in his repertoire and had done it countless times.

Even worse though, was The Undertaker, who couldn’t even be bothered to make his moves look like they connected. Punches and a knee lift, in particular, landed in the next state over and looked dumb.

So yes, it was bad, but it wasn’t the worse thing you’ve ever seen.

Long-time readers of Retro Pro Wrestling will know that all bad matches are compared to the worst match of all time, Adrian Adonis vs. Uncle Elmer at Wrestlemania 2, and it certainly wasn’t that bad.

I’m also inclined to agree with RD at Wrestlecrap who quite rightly noted that this was nowhere near as awful as ‘Taker’s Wrestlemania 9 match with Giant Gonzales, but yeah, it was still pretty terrible all the same.

In the end, Kane and Taker won and Kronik would never be seen on WWF television ever again.
Your Winners and Still WCW Tag Team Champions: Kane & Undertaker

WWE / WWF Unforgiven 2001 - Tazz speaks to Booker T and Shane McMahon
Backstage, Tazz annoyed his Alliance cohorts Shane McMahon and Booker T by telling them that it would be pretty embarrassing if they couldn’t beat The Rock in tonight’s two-on-one handicap match.

Across the arena, Stephanie McMahon hung around outside RVD’s dressing room, flirting with him through the door and insisting that if he beat Jericho it would be a great birthday present for her and, in return, she’d make his time in the Alliance very -ahem- pleasurable.

Little did Steph know that Jericho was stood behind her. Y2J mocked Steph and her recent boob job then headed to the ring for our next match.

World Wrestling Federation Hardcore Championship
WWF Hardcore Champion Rob Van Dam vs. Chris Jericho

Make no mistake about it, Rob Van Dam had come into his own as a true superstar during the Invasion angle and was by far the most popular member of The Alliance.

Before, I mentioned how The Hurricane was receiving large pops despite his Alliance membership making him a heel by default. The reception Shane Helms got however was nothing compared to the kind of ovation that greeted RVD on every show throughout the invasion.

His popularity could be partly explained by his cooler-than-cool character, and partly because every time he stepped foot in the ring he had awesome matches like this one with Chris Jericho.

Like the E/C match from earlier, this one may not be in anyone’s top five matches of all time, but it was still incredibly good and utterly compelling from start to finish.

Exactly what you’d imagine a match between these two to be like, albeit even better thanks to the freedom afforded to them by hardcore rules, this was easily the best match on the show so far.

However, like all good things, this one had to come to an end, and did so when Stephanie McMahon distracted her nemesis Y2J, giving RVD the chance to plant his opponent and flatten him with a match-winning frog splash.
Your Winner and Still Hardcore Champion: Rob Van Dam

WWE / WWF Unforgiven 2001 - The Rock faced Booker T for the WCW title
No one gets as high as Rob Van Dam,” said Paul Heyman as we watched the replay of the five-star frog splash. 

Heyman absolutely knew what he was doing with that line.

Out in the back, Shane O’ Mac reminded Booker T that the most important thing was simply bringing the WCW title back to the Alliance regardless of who won. Clearly, we’d see some dissension in the ranks tonight.

Prior to that match, we got another video package that featured Rey Mysterio’s old WCW theme music as the soundtrack.

World Championship Wrestling World Heavyweight Championship Handicap Match
WCW World Heavyweight Champion The Rock vs. Booker T and Shane McMahon

Sadly, this one was pretty disappointing.

Sure, it had its flashes of excitement and the crowd certainly appreciated the big moments such as The Rock popping up to his feet and stopping Shane in his tracks just as he was about to land a ‘Shane-O Elbow,’ but between those moments were long -and I mean *long* periods were very little of note happened.

WWE / WWF Unforgiven 2001 - The Rock faced Booker T for the WCW title
Things picked up as the match went into the finish, but by that point, the whole thing had dragged on for what felt like an eternity so it was almost impossible to give a crap.

In the end, The Rock won this mediocre contest with a rock bottom. That was bad news for Booker T. Despite having an extra man on his team, a clearly biased referee (Nick Patrick) working in his favor and a run-in from Test, he still wasn’t able to win the match, making him look like a chump.
Your Winner and Still WCW Champion: The Rock

Backstage, we were reminded of the bizarre storyline in which we were supposed to believe Torrie Wilson had it bad for US Champ and William Regal’s assistant, Tajiri.

In Regal’s office, The Commissioner declared that he’d been thinking of banning anyone from being at ringside during Tajriri’s match with Rhyno in order to prevent shenanigans.

Understandably upset, Tajiri and Torrie tugged on Regal’s heartstrings until he gave the WCW beauty permission to accompany her man to ringside.

Speaking of WCW beauties, over at WWF New York, we were supposed to believe that WWF had simply allowed Alliance member Stacy Kiebler to saunter into the venue and occupy the stage despite the two factions being at war.

The former Miss Hancock showed us a video of her shaving her legs in the bath which was set to Sunny’s old theme music. Paul Heyman nearly had a heart attack at the very sight, acting as if Stacy was, I don’t know, visibility masturbating rather than just tending to her personal grooming routine.

Look, I’m not saying Stacy wasn’t stunning, but I’m not sure if a woman shaving her legs is really as hot as Paul E. made it out to be.

World Championship Wrestling United States Championship
WCW U.S. Champion Tajiri (w/ Torrie Wilson) vs. Rhyno

WWE / WWF Unforgiven 2001 - Rhyno faced Tajiri for the US title
So, here we had two men who (at the time) were best known as ECW stars fighting for a WCW title on a WWF PPV.

Though the match was clearly designed to provide a little breathing room between the two main events, it actually proved to be a fun match in its own right.

Relatively short and to the point, this enjoyable little battle came to an end when Rhyno gored Tajiri into oblivion to claim the gold.
Your Winner and NEW US Champion: Rhyno

Finally; after one last hype video, it was onto our main event.

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

The outcome of this match was always a foregone conclusion.

Kurt Angle was the All-American babyface competing in his home state just weeks after 9/11 with his family sitting in the front row, so there was no way he was losing tonight.

WWE / WWF Unforgiven 2001 - Steve Austin defended the US title against Kurt Angle

Thankfully, Angle and Austin made us forget about that for a while by telling a compelling story centered around both men’s previous neck injuries.

From a technical standpoint, this wasn’t as great as it could have been, but the story and psychology more than made up for it.

After a good effort, Angle made Austin tap to the ankle lock and won the match. However, Stone Cold visibility had his hand under the bottom rope.

No doubt this would be brought up the following night on raw.
Your Winner and NEW WWF Champion: Kurt Angle

Post-match, a short-haired Karen Angle led the Angle clan into the ring to celebrate with the new champion. 

Then, The Rock led the entire WWF roster to the ring to congratulate Angle.

It was a surprisingly emotional ending to the show.

And so, the All-American Hero had prevailed against the leader of the evil, outside invading force in a move that should not have surprised anybody.

Sure, the outcome of tonight's show may have been a forgone conclusion, and there wasn't much in the way of game-changing moments, but that doesn't make WWF Unforgiven 2001 a bad show.

You could argue that the underwhelming Rock/Booker T match, the Kronik disaster and nothing matches like Saturn vs. Raven made it a bad show, but that would perhaps be a bit overly harsh.

The main event, the hardcore title match, Edge vs. Christian, and even the opening multi-man tag match were all enjoyable enough to save Unforgiven from being a complete waste of time.

Not the best show in the world then, but certainly not the worst. 

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