PPV REVIEW: WWE Unforgiven 2003

WWE Unforgiven 2003 - Event poster

September 21, 2003
Giant Center, Hershey, Pennsylvania

It's no secret that Bill Goldberg's first WWE run was far from the resounding success the company surely hoped it would be. Still, by the time Unforgiven 2003 rolled around, he'd at least gained enough momentum to challenge Triple H for World Heavyweight Championship. 
Of course, this was during the period when The Game was really starting to cement his reputation among hardcore fans as someone who buried everyone he locked up with in the squared circle. 

Would Hunter's backstage clout see him prevail once again, or would WWE be willing to take one last chance on former WCW star Goldberg?

Let's dive into today's review and find out together, shall we?

Goldberg F***ing Sucks

No, that's not me saying that Goldberg sucks, that's pretty much what Triple H told us in our opening video package.

As clips played of Bill crushing the likes of Hulk Hogan and Bret 'The Hitman' Hart on WCW TV, a voiceover from The Game told us that not only had Goldberg never beaten anybody significant but that he also wasn't fit to be a called a professional wrestler and didn't belong in WWE. 

This was pretty much the same basis for Goldberg's feud against The Rock leading up to their match at Backlash 2003, albeit with the intensity and level of "Goldberg f**king sucks" attitude turned up to 11. 

Honestly, I don't get it. 

I mean, I understand HHH thinking he's better than his opponent, but since Goldberg had debuted in the company, WWE had seemingly spent his entire run telling us that he was a nobody. 

Then they got surprised when the crowds hated him.

WWE Unforgiven 2003 - Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler both called the event and wrestled on the show

Anyway, with that video over, we got the usual crowd shots and pyro as Jim Ross and Jerry 'The King' Lawler welcomed us to Unforgiven 2003. 

Dressed in an Oklahoma Sooners shirt rather than his usual smart-casual attire, Ross told us that he and King were there to not only commentate but also compete. 

Before they locked up in the ring though, there was this:

2 vs. 3 Handicap Tables Match for the WWE world Tag Team Titles
WWE World Tag Team Champions La Résistance (Sylvain Grenier & René Duprée) and Rob Conway vs. The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray & Spike Dudely)

This was supposed to be a 3 vs. 3 match with Spike Dudely teaming with his brothers. However, Spike had recently been taken out of commission by  La Résistance. In a   nasty-looking spot, one of the La Resistance members attempted to powerbomb Spike over the top rope to the outside where he was supposed to crash through a table. 

WWE Unforgiven 2003 - D'Von Dudley gains the advantage in Dudley Boyz match with La Resistance

However, he missed the table and clipped the back of his head against it as he crash-landed on the arena floor. 

It looked ugly, and it was no surprise that little Dudley wasn't here tonight.

The match itself was OK, though it didn't make much sense that a match that could only be won by dropping all of your opponents through tables began as a standard tag match with everybody tagging in and out.

It wasn't that this standard tag team action was terrible or anything, but by this stage, the Dudleyz had a very specific formula for their matches which they seemed to go through every single time.

On the one hand, it worked well for them. 

At this stage of their career, the team seemed to have found a comfortable spot as a reliable PPV opener. Indeed, I'm pretty sure we'd seen them open the majority of PPVs they were featured on in 2003. 

The problem was that this Dudley formula was entirely predictable so it made every match feel the same, and not in a good way.

Eventually, Bubba Ray inevitably told D'Von to get the tables. The tables were got, and the action did pick up somewhat, though it really felt like they were just stumbling their way from one table spot to the next with little regard for rhyme or reason. 

In the end, The Dudley Boyz won their 17th tag team championship despite their opponents having a 3-on-2 advantage which didn't do much to make La Resistance look like a credible threat in the future.
Your Winners and New World Tag Team Champions: La Resistancec

Before the next match, we saw a video package for the never-ending Scott Steiner/Test/Stacy Keibler storyline set to the song "Suffocate" by Cold.

Test vs. Scott Steiner (w/ Stacy Kiebler)

These two had last met one-on-one at Badd Blood in June where the winner got Stacy Keibler's managerial services. 

WWE Unforgiven 2003 - Test looks irate as Stacy Keibler embraces Scott Steiner

Steiner had won, but for some reason that didn't end the feud and WWE decided to beat a dead horse by having the same match on an August episode of Raw in which Test had won those managerial services back.

Tonight, Stacy's contract was back on the line, this time with the added stipulation that if Steiner lost, he would basically become Test's bitch boy.

There were times when this felt like the only bad thing I could really say about this match was that it was a fairly average, by-the-numbers singles match with nothing to make it compelling or memorable.

Then there were times when both men looked as though it was their first day at wrestling school and could barely put basic moves together.

Nothing either man did excited or inspired in any way, and it was only when Stacy Keibler got up on the apron and flashed her booty that anybody seemed to care.

Stacy got involved a few more times, eventually aiming to strike Test with a chair but missing and hitting Steiner instead.

Test hit the big boot and this one was over.
Your Winner: Test

Up next, we saw a commercial for Trish Stratus' 100% Stratusfaction release on WWE home video before a video package aired highlighting the Legend vs. Legend Killer storyline between and Randy Orton.

WWE Unforgiven 2003 - Shawn Michaels vs. Randy Orton - Legend vs. Legend Killer

Leading into that package, JR told us that Orton may have been the future of WWE. 

In many ways, he wasn't wrong.

Randy Orton (w/ Ric fair) vs. Shawn Michaels 

At first, this match seemed a little underwhelming, but it got better and better as it went on, and, by the time it reached its climax around the 19-minute mark, it was as solid and entertaining as anything you could ask for.

WWE Unforgiven 2003 - Ric Flair looks on as Randy Orton puts a hurtin' on Shawn Michaels

Telling the simple tale of the cocky young rookie trying to take out the respected veteran, this was a captivating match where storytelling and psychology played just as much a part as exciting in-ring action.

In the end, Shawn Michaels took out Orton with the sweet chin music and appeared to get the three-count, only for Flair to put Orton's foot on the ropes at the last possible second.

As HBK's music began to play, Earl Hebner informed him that he hadn't won the match after all. 

Orton then immediately blasted his opponent in the face with some brass knuckles to steal the win.
Your Winner: Randy Orton 

Backstage, La Resistance were busy nursing their wounds when Chris Jericho came in and reassured them that it was all Stone Cold Steve Austin's fault for booking them in the match in the first place.

WWE Unforgiven 2003 - Chris Jericho tells La Resistance their problems are all Steve Austin's fault

Visibly upset with Austin, Y2J promised that he would stand up for them, and the entire WWE locker room, against the bullying, "drunk with power" ways of the Texas Rattlesnake.

Gail Kim & WWE Women's Champion Molly  Holly vs. Trish Stratus & Lita 

Gail Kim was making her PPV debut here while Lita was returning after a year on the shelf with a neck injury. 

WWE Unforgiven 2003 - Gail Kim makes her WWE PPV debut

Together with women's champion Molly Holly and the incomparable Trish Stratus, the two helped to create a pretty decent tag team match.

There was nothing remarkable about this one, and at points, it seemed like the crowd didn't care too much at all, but it was good for what it was. 

The end came with a win for the good girls when Lita hit Molly with a moonsault for the win.
Your Winners: Trish Stratus and Molly Holly

Prior to the next match, we got a look back at the intense rivalry between Kane and Shane McMahon, after which Lillian Garcia ran down the rules of a Last Man Standing Match.

Last Man Standing Match
Kane vs. Shane McMahon 

WWE Unforgiven 2003 - Kane vs. Shane McMahon: Last Man Standing

This was about as good as you were going to get from these two.

Shane McMahon attacked Kane with a chair as The Big Red Machine entered, setting a violent tone for the rest of the match.

What followed wasn't necessarily balls-to-the-wall action, but everything worked, everything made sense, and, most importantly, everything entertained. 

After destroying each other in and around the ring, the two bitter rivals made their way to the entrance and continued to attempt to murder one another until Shane O' Mac got the better of his opponent by swinging a television monitor at his head. 

McMahon then climbed atop one of the video walls that made up the Unforgiven set and leaped a good 20 feet to his doom, ostensibly looking to land on Kane but really just giving us one of those cool Shane McMahon stunts we'd all come to know and love. 

Naturally, Kane moved out of the way and made it to his feet as referee Charles Robinson counted out Vince's kid.
Your Winner: Shane McMahon 

Post-match, Shane was stretchered out to a standing ovation as we saw a million replays of his leap of doom. 

Back in the dressing room, Chris Jericho blamed Steve Austin for Kane being a monster and La Resistance getting their asses kicked.

WWE Unforgiven 2003 - Chris Jericho confronts Stone Cold Steve Austin

Stone Cold invited Jericho to take his best shot, but the former Undisputed Champion instead insisted that he had a much more effective plan to make Austin "crack" by getting in his head and playing mind games with him.

WWE Intercontinental Championship
WWE Intercontinental Champion Christian vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Chris Jericho 

Honestly, I think this was the most disappointing Pay Per View match I've seen since Shawn Michaels vs. Curt Hennig at Summerslam 1993

WWE Unforgiven 2003 - Christian prepares to defend the Intercontinental Championship against Rob Van Dam and Chris Jericho

Much like that match, this one featured competitors who had an abundance of talent and experience and could have -perhaps should have- delivered an incredible match but ultimately failed to.

Of course, it didn't help that the crowds were burned out after seeing Shane's 20 ft leap of death, meaning everything Christian, Jericho, and Rob Van Dam did play out to near silence for the first 15 minutes of the match. Heck, even the announcers sounded bored for the most part. 

After a long and lifeless battle, things finally picked up in the closing few minutes with a couple of entertaining spots that managed to rouse the crowd from their slumber.

Finally, following a lacklustre effort, RVD dove onto Christian with a Five Star Frog Splash, but the champion caught his opponent with the title belt and made the pin to retain the title.
Your Winner and Still Intercontinental Champion: Christian 

Backstage, Mark Lloyd interviewed Triple H, who promised to end Goldberg's WWE once and for all.

WWE Unforgiven 2003 - Marc Lloyd interviews Triple H

This was followed by a promo video for our upcoming Battle of the Commentators which was far more dramatic than the storyline deserved.

Winner is the Raw Commentary Team
Jonathan Coachman & Al Snow vs. Jim Ross & Jerry 'The King' Lawler

I mean, seriously.

I don't mind them doing this kind of storyline, but this is surely a Raw match at best, not the penultimate match on a PPV.

WWE Unforgiven 2003 - Jim Ross is inconsolable after he and Jerry Lawler lose their Raw commentary position in a match against Jonathan Coachman and Al Snow

With no commentary and a dead crowd, Al Snow and Jerry Lawler spent most of the time working a basic match. It was inoffensive but it was also incredibly uninteresting. 

Eventually, JR made the hot tag and began beating up Jonathan Coachman while King and Snow brawled on the outside.

At that point, Chris Jericho ran in and dropkicked Ross in the back of the head. 

Coach made the cover, and one three count later, we had ourselves a new Raw announce team.
Your Winners: Jonathan Coachman & Al Snow

WWE Unforgiven 2003 - Marc Lloyd asks Chris Jericho why he got involved in the JR/King vs. Coachman/Snow match

Out in the entrance way, Marc Lloyd asked Jerich for an explanation. Y2J said he'd interfered in the match to get at Stone Cold Steve Austin as the Rattlesnake and JR were buddies. 

This was followed by a final video package for HHH vs. Goldberg and a final bit from JR and King. Ross apologized to Lawler for letting the team down.

King said that he wasn't let down, but then said "I didn't see what happened, but the referee said Jericho kicked you in the back of the head."

Well, erm, if the referee saw that, why didn't he disqualify Coach and Snow?

Plot hole aside, JR gave an emotional farewell before he and King turned their attentions back to the monitors to call their final match together. For now at least, this whole story would be over in a few weeks. 

WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Triple H vs. Goldberg

(Goldberg must retire if he lose - Triple H can lose the title on a countout or DQ)

This wasn't the worst match I've ever seen, but it was far from the most interesting. 

WWE Unforgiven 2003 - Earl Hebner lays down the law to Bill Goldberg and Triple H

Still rocking the cycle shorts as a result of a groin injury, Triple H did his best to deliver his usual "main event epic" style but sadly, it was a style that was ill-suited to an opponent who lacked the skill and experience to help pull it off. 

The result was a boring main event that this writer ultimately tuned out of, only investing any attention aagain when Goldberg lifted up the champion for a Jackhammer, drilled him to the matt, and ended The Game's  11-month title reign.
Your Winner and NEW World Heavyweight Champion: Goldberg

Post match, Goldberg celebrated with the big gold belt as Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler bid us a final farewell.


A few weeks ago, I reviewed the Smackdown-only Vengeance PPV and said that it was not only one of the best PPVs of 2003, but an all-time favorite of mine. 
So it's kind of surprising that the same company who gave us that show could give us such an underwhelming and disappointing event like Unforgiven 2003. 
Yes, I know, Raw and Smackdown both had their own separate creative teams, but this is still the same company and it's kind of crazy that while Smackdown shows could be phenomenal, Raw-brand events could be so utterly blah. 

Don't get me wrong, the Orton/Michaels and Kane/McMahon matches were enjoyable, but the rest of this show wasn't that great. 

It's not that the wrestling was bad, it's just that most of Unforgiven 2003 was really kind of boring and had nothing that really made you want ot spend your itme sitting in front of the TV watching it.

That's a shame, but hey, at least I get to do another Smackdown PPV soon.

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  1. Goldberg really should have won the title at SummerSlam. The crowd was rabid that night! The crowd was completely dead when he won the belt here.