The SmarK Rant for WWE Unforgiven 2002 – 09.22.02
By Scott Keith on 20th September 2023
The SmarK Rant for WWE Unforgiven 2002 – 09.22.02
Of course I haven’t watched this show since the original airing and rant, so we’ll see if it’s less angering to me now that I’m not particularly invested in it.
Live from Los Angeles, CA, drawing 16000 with a 0.57 buyrate.
Your hosts are Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler for RAW and Michael Cole & Tazz for Smackdown.
Christian, Lance Storm, William Regal & Test v. Booker T, Goldust, Kane and Bubba Dudley
The babyface side is a stunning array of people who got their legs cut out by HHH during this time period. With one more to come! Goldust slugs away on Christian to start and brings in Bubba for a double Dusty tribute to clear the ring. Over to Storm, but Bubba hangs him in the Tree of Woe and flapjacks him for two. Look, the Bubba push was a good try, but I think it’s been proven that a babyface who wears jorts as his main attire is never going to be World champion. Booker and Test slug it out and Booker puts him down with a sidekick for one, but Regal makes the save. So Bubba and Booker double-team him with the Whazzup before Bubba orders Booker to get the tables, apparently pining for his former tag team partner. That might have been foreshadowing given how badly D-Von’s push was going at that point. But the Unamericans cut him off and Test beats on Booker in the corner to take over. Corner clothesline gets two. Regal with forearms for two, as he’s working in a t-shirt and looking pretty lethargic at this point. Christian comes in with a chinlock on Booker. Oh wait a minute…didn’t Harlem Heat come from a broken home with an absentee father? Booker with a rollup on Christian for two and a spinebuster while we all ponder that question. Over to Kane and he runs wild for AMERICA and hits Test with a sideslam. It’s BREAKING LOOSE IN TULSA, and Test hits Kane with a Meltdown in a pretty impressive spot. But then Booker clears the ring and stops to Spinarooni, allowing Christian to hit him with the inverted DDT. So he goes low on Kane and Storm gets a superkick for two. Booker crotches himself and Bubba comes back in with a Bubba Bomb on Christian, allowing Goldust to hit the Shattered Dreams behind the ref’s back, but Test lays out Goldust with the big boot. And then Kane chokeslams Storm with Regal out of position to save, and gets the pin at 10:00. Finish was a bit of a mess but this was a fine opener with a lot of chaotic action. ***
Meanwhile, Stephanie makes sure that Billy & Chuck know that they’re fighting for HER Smackdown!
Intercontinental title: Chris Jericho v. Ric Flair
Jericho was a mere 4 time IC champion at this point, with many more to come. Flair tosses Jericho and he hangs on and goes up for a double axehandle, but Flair catches him coming down and tries the figure-four. Jericho escapes that and they fight to the apron, where Jericho gets the springboard dropkick. Lawler meanwhile talks about how Flair, like every veteran, should know when it’s time to step aside and not keep going past their time. I think Flair is smart enough to…oh yeah. Well at least Jericho…oh never mind. Jericho with an abdominal stretch, but Flair chops him out to the floor and runs him into the stairs. Back in, Flair goes up with a kneedrop from the middle rope, which gets two. Jericho tries another springboard and Flair hits him in the knee and tries a kneecrusher, but Jericho cradles for two. Lionsault misses and he hurts his knee on the landing and hides in the ropes claiming an injury. So the ref tells Flair to back off for some reason and calls for the trainer, and of course Jericho pops up and puts Flair in the Walls for the submission at 6:16. OK match but the finish was hella weak, more like a TV finish than anything. **
Meanwhile, Eric Bischoff plots with 3 Minute Warning and introduces Rico as their new manager.
Edge v. Eddie Guerrero
Apparently Edge suffered a minor concussion from the chairshot on Smackdown, but as we all now know, concussions are mostly harmless so he’s probably fine. Eddie attacks him on the way in and beats on him in the corner, but Edge backdrops him and fires back with shots of his own. Edge with a powerslam for two, but he runs into an elbow in the corner and Eddie spikes him with a DDT and puts the boots to him. Eddie with the chinlock for a bit, and Eddie cuts off Edge’s comeback attempt, thus committing the most heinous act a heel can do in Michael Cole’s world: Stopping the babyface from BUILDING MOMENTUM. Eddie pounds Edge down and does some jiving for fun, but Edge throws a knockout shot and it’s a double down. Edge charges and misses and Eddie beats him down again and steps on his face in the corner while subtly pulling padding off the turnbuckle in the corner. Oh that’s slick. Edge fights back with a pair of near-falls and follows with a neckbreaker, but he is still unable to build momentum. Eddie gets all fired up, but Edge comes back with an atomic drop and bulldog and he’s now BUILDING MOMENTUM with a two count. Eddie tries the suplex and Edge reverses the Edge O Matic for two. Eddie tries a rana and Edge reverses to a powerbomb for two, although even using the deadly sitout variation can’t get the pin. Eddie tries a victory roll, but Edge drops him in the corner and tries a spear, which Eddie dodges. So Edge hits the impaler DDT instead for two, but Eddie is in the ropes. Edge goes up and whiffs on a missile dropkick, as Eddie remembers that the turnbuckle was loosened, but Edge runs him into the exposed steel instead. They head to the top, but Eddie rams Edge’s head into the exposed turnbuckle, powerbombs him off the top, and grabs the tights for good measure at 12:03. HAHA! I cackled at that finish, not gonna lie. Crowd was really into Eddie by the end of this one, and the match ruled so it’s no wonder. ****
Meanwhile, HHH and his toy belt meet up with RVD in the dressing room, as Hunter buries Rob for having “no passion” and points out old man Flair as an example of someone who used to have it.
Billy & Chuck v. 3 Minute Warning
This is “Bischoff kisses Stephanie’s ass” vs “Stephanie performs Hot Lesbian Action” and I’m only intrigued about how they’re gonna get out of having to deliver either stip. I suppose a double countout is always on the table. They have a quick brawl to start and the Samoans double-team Chuck, and Jamal boots him down for two. Rosey with a slam for two. Jamal drops an elbow for two. Rosey goes up and misses a moonsault and it’s hot (?) tag Billy. He rams their heads together and that’s stupid of him, as they lay him out and Jamal goes to the top. Chuck saves and superkicks Rosey out of the ring, and Billy hits the fameasser on Jamal. So Rico gets involved and Billy tosses him, allowing 3MW to finish with a Samoan drop at 5:55. Really bad. ¼*. Jamal of course got a lot better later on as Umaga.
Meanwhile, Bischoff celebrates the win and tries to pick which young lady will perform HLA with Stephanie later in the show.
World Heavyweight title: HHH v. Rob Van Dam
I remember this one annoying the crap out of me at the time but man there was so much worse to come. They trade headlock takedowns to start and Rob gives him a slap on the ropes, so Hunter slugs him down with the power of muscle mass. Hey Hunter, Dr. Zahorian called and said you’re overdoing it. Rob chases him out of the ring and stops to give us a water spit, and HHH doesn’t take that well. Rob takes him down with another headlock and a sunset flip for two. Hunter blocks a backslide, so Rob kicks him in the quad and goes back to the headlock on the mat. Better be careful, he might rupture that thing again. HHH fights out of that, so Rob hits him with a spinkick to put him on the floor, and follows with a dive. Which misses. True story I just made up: Young Samoa Joe was in the audience and saw that spot and decided to steal it. Huge if true. Hunter runs RVD into the stairs and back in for two. Catapult gets two. He tosses Rob again and they slowly brawl out there for a bit, and back in for the high knee from HHH for two. THIS MATCH IS SO SLOW AND PLODDING. Rob comes back, but walks into the dreaded MAIN EVENT SLEEPER and the announcers are all like “OH MY GOD IT’S A CLASSIC MANEUVER OF FORMER WORLD CHAMPIONS EVERYWHERE!” Fetch is never gonna happen, doofuses. Rob escapes with a leg lariat for the double down and makes the comeback, but has to keep it nice and slow for ol’ HHHH, and a standing moonsault gets two. Springboard kick and Rolling Thunder gets two. HHH bails to escape and RVD dives on him, nearly missing AGAIN but not purposefully this time, and back in that gets two. Hunter USES THE KNEE again and the ref is bumped off that, as Rob gets his visual pinfall. Rob escapes the Pedigree and goes up to finish with the frog splash for another visual pinfall, so that’s almost like winning a World title, I guess. So Hunter goes low and finds his trusty sledgehammer under the ring, but Rob kicks it back in his face for another double down. This brings out Ric Flair in case you’re a complete moron who couldn’t see this finish coming after the segment earlier in the show, and he pretends to hit HHH with the hammer and then turns on Rob instead, and KICK WHAM PEDIGREE finishes at 18:10. So yes, HHH buries everyone in the pre-match promo segment and tells them that they’re losers who aren’t on his level, and then beats Van Dam to prove it and convinces Ric Flair to turn heel and join with him as his new lackey. In case you can’t tell, I hated this match and I still do today. **. There was a strong feeling at the time that HHH basically sandbagged RVD by making him work a slower style because he didn’t want Rob pushed and knew exactly how to expose all the weaknesses that everyone already knew about. Because that’s what wrestling is all about, exposing weaknesses and making sure that potential drawing cards are sent back to the midcard so there’s no left to be stars on top. If so, job well done. Masterful gambit, sir.
Meanwhile, D-Lo and Kidman meet up with a soap opera star backstage, and he leaves with Dawn Marie.
WWE Women’s title: Molly Holly v. Trish Stratus
This was still a couple of years away from Trish hitting her prime and she was mostly just a warm body at this point. Trish gets a dropkick, but misses a charge and Molly takes over with a snap suplex as the crowd is dead. Molly tosses her and runs her into the railing, and then back in for a straitjacket hold. Trish escapes from that and gets a small package for two. Bulldog gets two. Chick Kick gets two. Blind charge misses and Molly goes up and then manages to block the headscissors, leaving Trish in the Tree of Woe. So Molly handsprings her for two. That should have been a pin but it looked like Trish forgot to kick out and the ref just stopped counting. And then Trish hits another bulldog to finish and regain the title at 5:50. Just kind of a match, although Trish was rapidly putting together a good flow in the ring and you could see it clicking. They tried. The match had zero heat, however. **
Meanwhile, Bischoff donates a bunch of the supposed lesbians to Rico and 3MW and tells them to go have a good time in LA. This leaves a pair of ladies for Stephanie’s punishment later on in the show. Also it was supposed to establish that Rico is 100% not gay.
Kurt Angle v. Chris Benoit
They fight for the lockup and tumble to the floor, and then back in for some mat wrestling as Benoit works for the crossface early and Angle makes the ropes. Then Angle tries for the ankle and Benoit makes the ropes this time. Benoit tries a snapmare and Angle rolls through and into a headlock, which Benoit reverses into a sunset flip for two. And they trade near-falls off that until Benoit counters a backslide attempt with a crossface, and Angle has to bail to the floor to escape. Oh that was NICE. Back in the ring, Angle gets annoyed and throws him out for a beating on the floor, and puts the boots to him back in the ring. Backbreaker gets two. Angle goes to work on him in the corner, working on the ribs, but he charges and hits the post, and Benoit just smokes him with a back suplex for two. Oh man both of these guys must have been so happy to have someone to just go out and lay it in. They fight for a suplex and Angle wins that one, but they do a double down and then Benoit unloads with the german suplexes. So then Angle reverses to his own and they’re just bouncing their own heads off the mat and it’s no wonder both guys destroyed themselves in the long run. Angle is first up and he pulls down the straps, but Benoit escapes the Angle Slam and just tosses him with a german suplex and poor Tazz can’t even hide his giggles of delight on commentary watching this stuff. Benoit goes up and Angle brings him down with the pop-up superplex for two. Benoit with a jackknife for two, but Angle rolls into the anklelock and Benoit boots out of that. They fight for a tombstone and Benoit wins that one and goes up with the diving headbutt. Man this match is terrifying to watch in retrospect but I just can’t look away. That gets two. Benoit with the crossface, but Angle manages to grab the ankle while still in the hold, and he reverses out in an incredible counter. So Benoit reverses that back to the crossfae and the crowd is losing their mind, as Angle switches back to the anklelock and Benoit has to make the ropes. So then Angle gets his own crossface and uses his foot to push the bottom rope away, but Benoit pushes off and rolls him over for the pin at 14:00 while using the ropes. Better finish gets this the full monty but this was incredible and saved the show. ****3/4. I wish it had been longer but I was left wanting more and we’d certainly get that. Dave noted in the Observer that this match was described to him as what Brisco v. Funk in the 70s used to be like, but faster paced. Well that, and neither guy murdered his wife and child.
Meanwhile, Brock Lesnar discusses his impending title match with Undertaker.
Eric Bischoff (w/ “lesbians”) joins us to totally deliver on the Hot Lesbian Action with Stephanie that was promised by the earlier stipulation. So Stephanie comes out and Eric tells them to get started, but then changes his mind and calls them off. You see, he wanted to find the fattest, ugliest “lesbo” in LA, which gives us the payoff of “Hildegard”, who is clearly Rikishi in ludicrous drag, and they do some making out before Rikishi turns on Bischoff and gives him a Stinkface despite Bischoff’s team winning fair and square.
WWE title: Brock Lesnar v. Undertaker
Man, as long as they don’t crap the bed with a terrible finish here, this show is an easy thumbs up! But how likely is that, LOL? They fight for the lockup to start and Taker powers Brock out of the ring and then lets him regroup before clotheslining him to the floor again. Back in, Taker runs Brock into the corner and boots Heyman off the apron, but that allows Brock to come back with some shoulders and take over. Suplex gets two. Brock continues working him over, but Taker slugs back and he’s not really selling very much. Brock powerslams him for two. Brock with the bearhug on the mat and Taker fights out of that, so Brock takes him down again and continues squeezing him like one of those creepy body pillows that Max Caster is currently shilling on Twitter. Brock hangs on tenaciously, like Taker trying to hold onto relevance in 2002, but Taker fights back and works the ribs before slugging Brock to the floor with one ridiculous Popeye punch. So they fight on the floor and Brock lays him out with the title, busting him open. Back in, that gets two. Taker fights back with the big boot and Snake Eyes for two, but then the ref is bumped and Taker gets the chokeslam for the visual pinfall. This brings out Matt Hardy and he gets murdered, allowing Brock to hit a spinebuster for two. Taker comes back with a DDT for two, however, as it was looking like they were giving Taker all this offense to make it mean more when he lost. Ha ha, I know, right? Taker with a tombstone attempt and the ref is bumped AGAIN, and Taker comes back again and boots a chair back in Brock’s face. So he beats on Brock with the chair, chasing him to the floor and busting him open. Back in the ring, Taker comes back again with a big boot and legdrop for two and tries for the Last Ride, but Brock reverses to the F5. Taker lands on his feet and they continue slugging it out in the corner, which results in the ref getting bumped for a THIRD time, and he calls for the double DQ at 20:30 as a result, which is booed out of the building. They were having a mostly good match despite Old Man Taker’s determination not to sell anything on the way to not losing, but the non-finish was complete garbage as the main event of a PPV. ***. Obviously they’d have a better match later in the year, however, and it turned out that Brock was playing the long game and had a bigger revenge in mind.
I think had either title match been worth a damn, this would get remembered as a hidden gem of a show in a lot of ways. As it is, the matches that I thought would deliver, delivered, and the rest was what it was, so I’d give it a thumbs up generally, knowing that at least Brock-Taker was indeed going somewhere. Mostly it didn’t make me actively angry watching anymore, so I’ve mellowed on it.