WWE Unforgiven 2004 Review

WWE Unforgiven 2004 Review

September 12, 2004
Rose Garden, Portland, Oregon

I'm publishing this WWE Unforgiven 2004 review after taking a two-month hiatus from working on this site. It reminds me of the time I took a much longer hiatus from pro wrestling. 

By 2003, I was pretty much done with wrestling. I didn't watch, I didn't read results or backstage gossip, I was done. 

Proving that I was always destined to be a lifelong fan, I eventually found myself drawn back to WWE around 2007. At that time, Randy Orton was riding high as a headliner, feuding with the likes of Triple H, Batista, and John Cena in a never-ending series of Pay Per View main events.

My goodness were some of those main events tedious. At the time, I thought Orton was absolutely the most boring professional wrestler I'd ever seen in my life. For the life of me, I just couldn't work out why he was at the top of the card, nor why a certain contingent of "smart" fans considered him the bee's-knees.

Over a decade later, I started catching up with his earlier career here on Retro Pro Wrestling and, finally, I got it. 

Randy Orton's early career was fantastic. His feud with Mick Foley, in particular, turned me into such a fan that, after years of disdain for 'The Viper,' I found myself inexplicably buying his merch when my wife and I went to a Smackdown taping earlier this year. 

You can check out that experience in the video above if you're so inclined, but for now, let's get on with the reason you're really here: 

To read about Orton defending his newly-won World Heavyweight Championship against Triple H in the main event of Unforgiven '04. 

The Future of Evolution 

Unforgiven 2004 began with one of the more exciting opening videos the company had produced in some time.

Dealing entirely with Randy Orton’s expulsion from the Evolution, this compelling intro sucked this fan into the rivalry between the new World Heavyweight Champion and his nemesis Triple H, making our upcoming main event truly feel like a can’t-miss attraction.

WWE Unforgiven 2004 Review  - Jim Ross & Jerry 'The King' Lawler

Live in the arena, pyro and ballyhoo took us to a greeting from our Raw announce team, Jim Ross & Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler who were hyped up for our four upcoming title matches.

Before we got to those, there was this:

Evolution (Batista & Nature Boy Ric Flair) vs. William Regal & Chris Benoit

Chris Benoit still had unfinished business with Evolution lingering from his run as World Heavyweight Champion, while William Regal had been dragged into things as a result of his friendship with.

WWE Unforgiven 2004 - Batista gets William Regal in a headlock

As the match begin, JR informed us that Eugene’s career was effectively over thanks to an attack by Evolution, which was enough to bring Regal into this opening match.

And man, what a match it was.

Regal and Benoit were on form here while Ric Flair proved that he often did his best work on the defensive, flopping about the place and proving that he could still be hugely entertaining at this late stage of his career.

Say what you want about the Nature Boy these days, but he still pulled his weight in the best way he could at the tail end of his full-time career.

Speaking of weight, Batista threw his around with force and believability, handling the offensive side of things while Flair took care of the selling.

The result was a long, compelling match with nary a dull moment in sight. 

After ganging up on Regal for a while, the Evolution boys soon found themselves back on the retreat as soon Benoit finally got the hot tag.

Shortly after, Batista and Regal battled on the outside while, between the ropes, Benoit got the better of Flair.

The Rabid Wolverine picked Slick Ric apart with a series of Germans but has his follow-up sharpshooter attempt thwarted by a Greco-Roman eye poke from The Dirtiest Player in the game.

Unfettered, Benoit locked in the Crippler Crossface and that was all she wrote.
Your Winners: Chris Benoit & William Regal 

Out in the back, Christian and Trish Stratus argued over whether the latter could have ‘problem solver’ Tyson Tomko accompany her for her match.

WWE Unforgiven 2004 - Christian, Tyson Tomko, and Trish Stratus

Christian was against the idea, insisting that he would need Tyson to watch his back after winning the Intercontinental Championship later in the show.

It was never explained why Tomko couldn’t simply look out for the both of them. It’s not as it Christian and Trish’s matches would happen at the same time.

Still, this wasn’t about logic, it was about Christian making crass remarks about Trish.

“Look, I’ve got this crazy stalker coming to get me from behind!” yelled Stratus.

“It wouldn’t be the first time someone got you from behind,” replied Christian, making the obvious joke.

Anyway, Trish convinced Tomko to accompany her by whispering something in his ear about what they could do in her dressing room later.

The two left together, giving Christian the final line of the segment.

“She really is a slut,” he declared to himself.

WWE Women’s Championship 
WWE Women’s Champion Trish Stratus vs. Victoria

Victoria arrived on the scene wearing a black, sequined jump shoot which she pulled away to reveal her wrestling gear.

WWE Unforgiven '04 Review - Trish Stratus vs. Victoria

That gave Jerry Lawler enough of an excuse to fawn over the former champion’s looks. That was a shame because Victoria was definitely among the few talented wrestlers competing in the women’s division at the time and that deserved more attention than how good she looked.

Proving she belonged in a real match and not one of WWE’s “sex sells” segments, Victoria looked like a formidable threat to Stratus from the very beginning.

The challenger dominated the early going of the match. Even when Tomko came to Trish’s assist, Victoria remained relentless until the champion halted her momentum with a simple elbow to the temple.

From there, the champion took control, stretching her opponent and wearing her down, but it wasn’t enough to keep Victoria down.

The challenger soon battled back, taking Trish and even leaping over the ropes to knock Tomko on his butt for good measure.

Unfortunately, that was to be her downfall.

Tyson chased Victoria, giving Stratus enough time to recover and meet her nemesis with her match-winning Stratusfaction finisher.
Your Winner and Still WWE Women’s Champion: Trish Stratus

The post-match shenanigans saw Tomko go after Victoria, picking her up by the throat for a good mauling.

WWE Unforgiven '04 Review - Tyson Tomko

‘The Problem Solver’ was quickly stopped in his tracks by a “mystery woman,” who was clearly a man in bad drag.

The person came to Victoria’s aid and then bolted, doing their best to hide their identity behind an ill-fitting wig.

Grabbing the microphone, Tomko ordered the “Mystery Woman” to come out and fight him, referring to them as a “cross-dressing hermaphrodite.”

It’s interesting that nobody knew anything ahout this woman but Tomko knew what genitalia she had.

Tyson Tomko vs. Stevie Richards 

The woman made her way to the ring and was quickly stripped to her knickers, revealing that she was, in fact, Stevie Richards.

WWE Unforgiven 2004 - Tyson Tomko vs. Stevie Richards

Tomko then spent way too long doing nothing but punching Richards.

This probably only lasted five minutes, but it was so mind-numbingly tedious that it felt like five days.

The longer it went on, the more the audience’s apathetic silence became low, resentful jeers which finally reached their crescendo in a hostile chant of “you suck.”

Ignoring the boos, Tomko and Richards continued to deliver one of the most boring matches in pro wrestling history until a bright spot finally came along.

Tomko yelled at his opponent and called him a “big sissy,” which apparently fired up Richards enough tool grab his opponent by the bollocks and batter him in the corner.

That proved to have little effect.

Tomko quickly recuperated and put us all out of our mystery with a TKO neckbreaker.
Your Winner: Tyson Tomko

My goodness, that was awful.

If you absolutely have to do Tyson Tomko revealing Stevie Richards as the man behind a “mystery woman” character and beating his ass for it, make it quick.

Surely Tomko steamrolling over Richards in a minute has a bigger impact than punching Stevie in the head for seven excruciating minutes?

At least it wouldn’t put everybody to sleep.

Time to Declare a Champion

Before the Intercontinental Championship ladder match between Christian and Chris Jericho, we got a recap of how this one all came together.

To sum up:

Chris Jericho wanted a shot at Edge’s Intercontinental title, but Edge was injured and had to forfeit the title instead.

Christian then returned and attacked his old rival, Jericho, and demanded Eric Bischoff award him the title.

Bischoff refused but did agree to Jericho’s suggestion that the two should scrap it out in a ladder match for the vacant title.

That was next.

Ladder Match for the Vacant WWE Intercontinental Championship 
Chris Jericho vs. Christian 

Tyson Tomko Banned From Ringside 

Watching this match, it’s understandable why Christian would eventually decide to try his luck in TNA.

WWE Unforgiven 2004  Review - Chris Jericho wins the IC title

Giving the performance of his life, he and Jericho delivered the absolute best of the many contests they would have throughout 2004.

It made this fan in particular appreciate how good Christian was (still is) and how underutilized he was throughout his WWE solo run.

Jericho was no slouch either, of course, and the resulting match was one for the ages.

Things started out with some basic wrestling between the ropes until Y2J dumped Captain Charisma to the outside.

There, the two began a battle for the advantage that Christian eventually won by catching Jericho leaping off the ring steps and splattering him across the floor with an Unprettier.

The former tag team champion then slid a ladder into the ring and, from that point on, things only got better.

And better.

And better.

The two utterly annihilated one another with the ladder, the drama and excitement building from one painful spot to the next.

Christian slammed the ladder on Jericho, and Jericho retaliated by doing the same. At one point, the two climbed the ladder and Jericho pulled off the same ladder-assisted submission hold he’d used against Benoit back at Royal Rumble 2001.

In the end, both men went flying from the top of the ladder. Jericho made it to his feet first and one slow, sluggish climb later, was able to grab the gold.
Your Winner and New Intercontinental Champion: Chris Jericho

Backstage, Tod Grisham waited outside Kane’s dressing room for an interview with The Big Red Machine.

WWE Unforgiven 2004 - Kane interrupts Lita's interview with Todd Grisham

Instead, he got Kane’s “wife” Lita, who insisted she wanted Shawn Michaels to destroy her husband in our next match.

Naturally, Kane himself then arrived to make Lita feel uncomfortable. He noted that Eric Bischoff had made the match No DQ, forced Lita to kiss him, and stormed off.

Elsewhere in the arena, Jonathan Coachman stood by with our new seven-time Intercontinental Champion.

Looking understandably worse for wear, Jericho barely had time to talk about his record-breaking victory before he was interrupted by Edge.

WWE Unforgiven 2004 - Edge interrupts Chris Jericho's interview with Jonathan Coachman

Still hobbling on crutches, the former champion warned Y2J that he’d be taking the belt back as soon as he was ready.

The Jericho/Edge moment was by far the better of the two segments. Lita/Kane was just uncomfortable.

Still, we had more of it come as a video package showed us how our next match came about.

Kane had all but killed off Shawn Michaels some time ago before getting into his feud with Lita and her boyfriend, Matt Hardy.

He had beaten Hardy at Summerslam 2004 and, as per the stipulation for that match, got to marry Lita.

Hardy tried to crash the wedding, but Kane killed him again. He then declared that Eric Bischoff had given him a wedding gift in the form of an open contract to face any wrestler he wanted.

Lita revealed the gift was to both of them and added HBK’s name to the contract.

Thus, this was about to happen:

No Disqualification Match
Shawn Michaels vs. Kane (w/ Lita)

To say that Lita was “with Kane,” in this one is truly only on a technicality.

WWE Unforgiven '04 Review - Shawn Michaels vs. Kane

Yes, she accompanied The Big Red Machine to the ring, but she was vehemently pro-HBK for the duration of this solid but unspectacular no-disqualification match.

To be fair, I’d be rooting for Michaels too, not because he’s a personal favorite (though he is), but because the times when Kane took charge were the times when this match dragged the most.

As riveting as it was to see Michaels take a beating and then bounce back, watching Kane roll through fairly basic offense bordered on tedium at times.

Fortunately, there was enough to like here that I’m still confident in calling it a good match.

HBK’s every counter upped the excitement factor as he relied on his wits, cunning, and experience to overcome the sadistic aggression of his opponent.

In the end, it all came back to Lita. 

Kane’s wife snatched a chair out of his hands. The Big Red Husband argues with her, giving HBK time to recover.

Kane returned his attention to the match and grasped Michaels by the throat. Before he could hit the chokeslam, his opponent slid out of harm’s way, played a little Sweet Chin Music, and won the match.
Your Winner: Shawn Michaels 

Afterward, Kane grabbed Lita painfully by the wrist and dragged her backstage.

The show then cut to a promo package promising that "Mr. Benjamin" was coming back.

That was, of course, referring to Shelton Benjamin, whose awesome talent was captured perfectly here.

The Game is Coming for Randy Orton

When we returned to the live show, we found Todd Grisham standing by with Triple H.

WWE Unforgiven '04 - Todd Grisham interviews Triple H

Grisham dared to remind him that Randy Orton had succeeded where The Game had failed in beating Chris Benoit.

“Randy Orton is very, very good,” said Hunter. “He’s just not as good as me.”
That was the key message of a very strong and compelling promo from HHH, one in which he took credit for hand-picking Orton for greatness but promised to destroy him in the ring in our main event.

WWE World Tag Team Championship 
WWE World Tag Team Champions La Resistance (Sylvian Grenier & Robert Conway) vs. Rhyno & Tajiri

This one started off well thanks to an enjoyable exchange between Tajiri and Sylvian Grenier.

WWE Unforgiven '04 - Tag Team Title Match

However, it soon began to stray so far into tedium territory that even the announcers gave up on it and started talking about Randy Orton and Triple H instead.

Things didn’t get interesting again until the crowd started chanting “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” in support of Japanese star Tajiri.

“I think those chants are against La Resistance,” said JR, who sounded like he was ready to fall asleep for the entire contest.

To be fair, he wasn’t wrong.

The crowd were vehemently against the tag team champions, especially when Grenier smashed Rhyno in the face with a flagpole behind the referee’s back.

The official turned around, Grenier made the cover, and, one three count later, it was over.
Your Winners and Still World Tag Team Champions: La Resistance 

Prior to the main event, a video package took us back to Randy Orton’s championship victory at Summerslam and subsequent expulsion from Evolution.

WWE World Heavyweight Championship 
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton vs. Triple H 

Things started out well for Randy in this solid title match as he slapped Triple H twice, spat at him, and otherwise outmaneuvered him at every turn.

WWE Unforgiven 2004 - Triple H vs. World Champion Randy Orton

Not that his momentum lasted. 

The challenger eventually took control, working over Orton’s legs and doing his best to make good on his promise to destroy him.

The champion would not be denied and continued to fight back, refusing to surrender even after Earl Hebner got bumped and the predictable Evolution run-in occurred.

Less predictable was the arrival of Jonathan Coachman in a zebra shirt.

JR surmised that Coach had been ordered to the ring by Eric Bischoff, yet even the faux official’s blatant bias towards Triple H wasn’t enough to take the title from Randy.

The Legend Killer kicked out of two pin attempts and finally blasted Coach with an RKO.

Next, he took out Hunter. Then Flair. Then Batista.

Surely, Randy Orton was on his way to his first major title victory.

Nothing could stop him.

Until it did.

The numbers game soon proved too much for Orton to overcome. Succumbing to a pedigree, the champion relinquished his title but looked even more like a star in the process.
Your Winner and New World Heavyweight Champion: Triple H

This match may have made Orton look great, but even as a Triple H fan I have a hard time accepting that the right call was made here.

The Portland fans seemed to feel likewise, greeting the new champion not with a chorus of boos but with a glaring apathy interspersed only by the occasional mild jeer.

Buy The Complete History of Wrestlemania on Amazon

The main event finish aside, Unforgiven 2004 was an otherwise stellar show and one of WWE’s best Pay Per View efforts of that year.

Sure, the tag team title wasn’t great, but the opening tag bout, Kane/HBk and that amazing ladder match for the Intercontinental title more than made up for it.

All in all, a good show that’s worth watching.

Until next time, 

Thanks for reading.

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