WWE PPV Flashbacks: Unforgiven (9/22/02) - "Undisputed No More"

September 22, 2002
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

Back at SummerSlam, we witnessed a changing of the guard as Brock Lesnar defeated the Rock to become the youngest Undisputed WWE Champion in history. That title would not remain Undisputed for long however. As you will recall, Smackdown GM Stephanie McMahon had vowed to rip away the heart of Raw in her feud with Eric Bischoff. She would indeed do just that the night after SummerSlam, by signing Lesnar to a Smackdown exclusive contract. This meant that his title (renamed back to the WWE Championship) would also become exclusive to the blue brand. As a result, Raw was left without a main champion. In response, Eric Bischoff brought back the big gold belt that had previously been the WCW title. Naming the belt the World Heavyweight Championship, he would award it to Triple H, who took on the role of Raw's top dog in Lesnar's absence. That brings us to this show, as Lesnar defends the WWE title against the Undertaker, while Triple H goes up against Rob Van Dam for his gold. Lets take a look. As always, please follow me at @Mpmcc91 on Twitter and spread the word about these reviews!

Our opening video package is all about the two major titles and the feuds associated with them heading into this PPV. We then enter the Staples Center and after our opening pyro are welcomed to the show. As usual, the Raw announcers are Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler, whilst Michael Cole & Tazz are representing Smackdown.

Kane, Bubba Ray Dudley, Booker T & Goldust vs Lance Storm, Christian, Test & William Regal
Our first match of the night comes from Raw, and sees a group of fan favourites standing up to the antics of the Un-Americans. With Lance Storm & Christian still holding the WWE Tag Team Championship, the Un-Americans continued to speak out against America following SummerSlam, and on an episode of Raw threatened to set fire to the U.S flag. Booker T & Goldust would attempt to stop the act, as would Jerry Lawler, but the Un-Americans would take them out and look to continue. All of a sudden however, the familiar pyro and music went off marking the return of Kane, who cleaned house on all three members of the Un-Americans after being out of action since April. A few weeks later, Kane would team with Bradshaw to attempt to take the titles from Storm & Christian, only for William Regal to help the champs retain and become the newest Un-American member in the process. The battles between the Un-Americans and the faces in the match here pretty much brought us to this point. Bradshaw was actually scheduled to be part of the face team, but would suffer an injury resulting in Bubba Ray Dudley taking his place. This was a good choice for the opener as the fans were into the four faces, especially Kane who was in line for a big push next month, whilst the Un-Americans were major heat magnets for obvious reasons. Regal was a great fit in the group as well. The match itself is a pretty solid start to the night as well, as with eight guys out there you're going to set the pace on a high note. The Un-Americans eventually took control after some opening offence by the face team, eventually working over Booker. Kane eventually comes in with the hot tag to turn things back in the favour of the U.S team, but Test hits him with a pump handle slam before the whole thing breaks down into the chaos that you expect from eight man matches. After a whole heap of back and forth with everyone getting in their trademark spots before Kane picks up the win for his team with a Chokeslam to Storm at 8:58. Lots of fun here with Kane's win being used to reestablish him as a force in the title picture going forward fresh off his return. Surprisingly, the Un-Americans would not last as a faction for much longer, as Storm & Christian would drop their titles shortly after the PPV and the members would all go in different directions over the remaining few months of the year. Its strange considering they were built up as such a major group that got a ton of crowd heat only a few months prior. A good match to effectively cap off the storyline though with the USA getting the last laugh.
Grade: ***

We now go backstage to Stephanie McMahon who is giving Billy & Chuck a pep talk for their interpromotional match later in the night that we'll get to later. They are just a standard face team now, after having admitted their relationship was a publicity stunt, as we'll see later on.

WWE Intercontinental Championship:
Chris Jericho (c) vs Ric Flair

We stick with Raw for our next match, which is a rematch from SummerSlam. Only this time there is a title involved as Chris Jericho defeated Rob Van Dam on a recent episode of Raw to become the new Intercontinental Champion. Upon winning the title, Jericho would continue to torment Ric Flair, after losing to him at the previous PPV. Meanwhile Flair had been having some bad luck of his own, losing to Rico in a major upset on Raw. After being humiliated by Jericho and other heels (including Triple H which we'll see tie in later), Flair challenged Jericho to a title match at this show, looking to prove that he still had what it took to be the Nature Boy. Flair still gets a big pop for his entrance here, and the announcers are still playing up his return to the ring as a big deal. Meanwhile, its good to see Jericho getting back a little momentum with the I.C title win after really falling down the card since WrestleMania. I said he should have beat Flair at SummerSlam to add to that, but he gets the victory here to effectively end the feud all the same. It was kind of strange that Jericho was mocking Flair in the weeks heading into this show after Flair beat him, but Flair was moving in another direction storyline wise. This match wasn't quite as good as their decent encounter last month, but its around the same level overall. Flair goes on offence for much of the early going, chopping some respect into Y2J until the champion attempts a Lionsault. He misses however and seems to injure his leg in the process, which leads to the trainer coming out to check on him. Flair backs off as this takes place, but it was a set up all along as Jericho jumps the Natrue Boy from behind, faking the injury all along. After blindsiding Flair, Jericho locks him in the Walls and scores the submission win at 6:16. Fine for what it was. Jericho holds onto the gold while outsmarting the dirtiest player in the game.
Grade: **1/4

We now cross to the Raw office, where Eric Bischoff is giving a pep talk to his new team - Three Minute Warning, comprised of Rosey & Jamal. They are joined by Rico, who turned on Billy & Chuck in the build to the interpromotional match to sign with Bischoff. By the way, Jamal would later become better known as Umaga.

Edge vs Eddie Guerrero
Up next we have another rematch from SummerSlam, although this one comes from the Smackdown brand. Edge and Eddie put on an awesome match last month, and they look to do the same again here. As with last month, the feud going in was fairly basic and simply focused on who was the better wrestler. Edge beat Eddie at SummerSlam, so Eddie wants to even up the score here. Along the way, Edge has got a few laughs at the expense of Guerrero, including having him take a Stinkface from Rikishi on a recent episode of Smackdown as well. Anyway, they get around the same amount of time as they did at SummerSlam here, but I think this match was even better than their last encounter. Edge has really grown into a great worker over the course of 2002 as I keep saying each month, and this match really shows it as its not a carry job by Eddie by any means. Edge is entering this one with a storyline concussion to give the advantage to Eddie, and they do a great job of playing that up both in the match and on commentary. Last month Eddie worked over Edge's shoulder, but this time Eddie adjusts his strategy accordingly and targets the head instead. The action starts off fast in pace, but Latino Heat slows things down to methodically wear down his opponent, but Edge keeps coming back resulting in trading of offence and near falls throughout. After narrowly avoiding a Spear from Edge, Eddie resorts to his cheat to win philosophy and exposes the turnbuckle, only for Edge to Spear him into it. The popular young star goes to follow up with a superplex in the corner, but Eddie sends him face first into the exposed buckle to shift momentum once more. That move pays off, as Eddie follows up with a stiff sunset flip powerbomb to Edge, which allows Latino Heat to even the score from last month at 11:55. A really good match between two rising stars on the blue brand. Eddie once again looked relentless in his assault, whilst Edge remained strong hanging in there. Another example of the exceptional workrate on display on Thursday nights at this point in time. With the score even at one a piece, these two would blow off their singles feud in a No DQ match a few weeks later on Smackdown which was even better than their PPV encounters. They would remain in each others sight in another capacity over the next few months though.
Grade: ***3/4

We now cross to the locker room, where Triple H barges in and confronts Rob Van Dam before their upcoming title match. He says RVD lacks passion, and thats why he won't leave with his title. In some foreshadowing for events to come, Ric Flair is in the background. Triple H points at him and says Flair used to have the passion of a champion, but that was no longer the case, before leaving.

Billy & Chuck vs 3 Minute Warning w/Rico
Alright there's quite a lot to talk about here as we get to the heavily hyped interpromotional match. To set this up, Eric Bischoff had been on a sleaze trip on Raw, demeaning women by a conducting segment of "Hot Lesbian Action". He would bring out two women on an episode of Raw and convinced them to begin to undress, only for his newly hired security, Rosey & Jamal of 3 Minute Warning, to show up and lay them out. This led to a group referred to as the International Organisation for Women showing up on Raw the following week to protest Bischoff's actions. As they confronted Bischoff, he called for 3 Minute Warning once again, only for one of the women to kick Bischoff in the groin before taking off her wig and glasses to reveal herself as Stephanie McMahon! Billy & Chuck would make the save for their GM (effectively turning face in the process) and got in some shots on Bischoff of their own. This led to a challenge being made for the two teams to face off at Unforgiven with some special stipulations. If Billy & Chuck won, Bischoff would be forced to kiss Stephanie's ass, whilst if Rosey & Jamal were victorious, Stephanie would have to make out with some women in the ring. A final twist was added in the weeks that followed as Billy & Chuck announced they were getting engaged and would be holding a commitment ceremony on Smackdown. When push came to shove however, the duo announced that they were actually heterosexual and the whole relationship act had been a publicity stunt. Rico was furious that they had backed out, but the Minister then made a speech about commitment. In a classic Smackdown moment, the elderly looking Minister stated that love could last for any amount of time, including three minutes before stopping and saying in that all too familiar voice "wait, did I just hear myself say three minutes?". With that, the Minister removed the latex mask and revealed himself to be Eric Bischoff as Three Minute Warning showed up and laid out Stephanie! The Smackdown locker room emptied to the defence of their boss as the Raw contingent bolted. On the following episode of Raw, Rico revealed that he was in on the whole set up and pledged his loyalty to Bischoff, hence his presence at ringside in this match. Now, with all that epic build out of the way, the actual match here is pretty basic, but it was all about the stipulation anyway. Cole & Tazz handle commentary and are their usual awesome selves, but Rosey & Jamal were both pretty green here, and Billy & Chuck aren't the kind of guys to carry them to anything great. The big Samoans work over Chuck for the early going, but the Smackdown team get a burst of momentum from a hot tag to Billy. He counters a Samoan Drop attempt from Jamal into a Fameasser in a cool spot, but before he can capitalise, Rico gets up on the apron for the distraction. That allows Jamal to come back with a succesful Samoan Drop to the former Ass Man, and he gets the win for Team Bischoff at 6:38. This would pretty much mark the end of Billy & Chuck as a team too. Nothing special here after the build - the implications of the result come later on.
Grade: *

In the back, Bischoff celebrates the result of the previous match and is with a bunch of women ready to make out with Stephanie. From there we go to a video package looking at the Triple H/RVD rivalry.

World Heavyweight Championship:
Triple H (c) vs Rob Van Dam

Ah yes, we have now entered the era that kicked off the internet hatred of Triple H. Of course, watching at the time he was my favourite wrestler at the time so I was fully on board with what was to come, but we'll let that all play out from here. As I mentioned earlier, with the WWE title going to Smackdown, Raw was left without a major championship, so Eric Bischoff created the World Heavyweight Championship. Instead of holding a tournament to determine the new champion, he awarded the title to Triple H, fresh off crippling Shawn Michaels at SummerSlam. The explanation given for Triple H being declared champion was that he had previously defeated the Undertaker in a number one contender match and was in line for an Undisputed title shot prior to Lesnar jumping to Thursday nights. Anyway, the same night he was handed the title, Triple H defeated Ric Flair in his first title defence, which really kicked off the storyline of Flair losing his confidence that we saw earlier. Meanwhile, the popular Rob Van Dam earned the next shot at the gold by defeating Jeff Hardy, Big Show and Chris Jericho in a number one contender match on Raw, a week after picking up a tag team victory over the champion himself. Triple H would gain some revenge the following week however, as he cost RVD his Intercontinental title in a match against Jericho. That essentially brings us to where we are now. With the new title still being established it was no surprise that this match did not go on last. It will be interesting to track the prestige of the two world titles going forwards actually. At the time a lot of people thought RVD needed a win here to get back to where he was a year prior, but it would have made no sense to give him the title right after Triple H was awarded it. Speaking of Triple H, he now has what would become his Evolution look, as his facial hair is shaved and his hair is more visibly blonde. You can see the Flair influence. Now, the Game was in a show stealer last month against HBK, but this match is nowhere near that quality. Still a solid title defence in the middle of the show, but nothing amazing. RVD shows he's not intimidated right from the outset by mocking the Game's apron spit and then goes on offence in the early going. Of course, the champion cuts off his momentum and slows down the pace by dissecting Van Dam, busting out a new style in the process as he locks in an extended sleeper hold to draw some heat from the crowd. Anyway, RVD fights his way back as the match continues, but the referee gets taken out in the process. That leads to the spot where RVD has the match one after a Five Star Frog Splash to the Game, but there's nobody to count the three. Trips eventually recovers and goes for his patented sledgehammer, but RVD manages to kick it out of his hand. At this moment however, Ric Flair makes his way down the aisle and we get to what this match is really about. Flair picks up the hammer and teases nailing the Game with it, only to have a change of heart and hit RVD instead. The referee recovers in time for Triple H to follow up with a Pedigree to Van Dam to retain his title at 18:17. Flair raises Triple H's hand in victory, and the foundation for the next few years of storylines on Raw is laid. A decent enough match for the purpose it served and the position it was on the card.
Grade: ***

We now cross to the locker room where D'Lo Brown and Billy Kidman are disappointed with Flair's actions. They are joined by Victor Newman from the Young and the Restless. They talk briefly before Dawn Marie enters and leaves with Newman.

WWE Women's Championship:
Molly Holly (c) vs Trish Stratus

We move on to Raw's last match of the night as Trish Stratus looks to regain the title she lost to Molly Holly back at June's King of the Ring. I believe this is the first we've seen of the Women's Championship on PPV since then as well. That's basically all the storyline there was going into this one as well, with Trish earning a rematch for the title. The announcers are still making out that Molly is unattractive here, which is just ridiculous. As much as I loved JR & King as an announce team, Lawler really could go overboard at times when it came to the divas. Anyway, Trish gets the early burst of momentum here before Molly takes over on the challenger's back. Trish does her best to fight back, but Molly cuts off her comebacks including blocking the Stratusphere. The challenger overcomes her adversary in the end though, delivering a bulldog to Molly for the win at 5:46. Trish Stratus is the Women's Champion once again, and she's in tears as Jonathan Coachman interviews her in the aisle. She thanks the fans for their support and celebrates her victory. A decent enough match for the time it got. Trish has grown into a capable worker in the women's division, and a new feud over the next few months will see that grow even further. Molly was solid as always too.
Grade: **

We now head to the back where 3 Minute Warning and Rico are with Bischoff's group of lesbians. Bischoff tells them to go out and celebrate and asks two of the ladies to stick around for some "HLA" with Stephanie later on. From there, we go to a video package highlighting the renewed rivalry between Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit.

Chris Benoit vs Kurt Angle
Since Benoit moved to Smackdown last month, it was only a matter of time before he crossed paths with his old rival once again. Neither man is actually a clear face here, although Benoit has moved into a tweener kind of role which he would be in for the next few months. This came about when both Benoit and Angle lost to the Undertaker on Smackdown in a number one contender series. As a result of their frustrations, they turned their attention upon each other. Angle would fall victim to a stinkface from Rikishi in a subsequent match on Smackdown. This led to Kurt Angle interfering in a match between Benoit and Rikishi the following week, where Kurt caused Benoit to to be stinkfaced while he looked on in amusement. An irate Benoit demanded a match against Angle at Unforgiven. However the following week Benoit & Angle were forced to team up against Billy & Chuck. After coming out on the losing end of that match, both men would put each other in their submission finishers while the other tapped out in an attempt to continue the oneupmanship. Now despite the lack of defined roles, it doesn't hurt this match. Its Angle/Benoit after all. The match starts out with some mat wrestling sequences as the two try to outdo each other with their pride on the line. It quickly escalates from their though when Benoit locks in the Crippler on Kurt, causing him to get frustrated and taking a breather on the outside after escaping. From there the match becomes more of a stiff back and forth war, of course filled with plenty of German suplexes and reversal sequences. Just awesome stuff as we had come to expect by now when these two crossed paths. They really kick things into high gear towards the end of the match, as we get plenty of finisher counters with both men determined to stay ahead of their opponent. The crowd were into this big time as well after cooling off a little midway through the show. This was without question the match of the night and Cole & Tazz added to it on commentary as they really got over the mentality and mindsets of the competitors with their unique style of commentary on Smackdown. The match finally comes to a culmination in a cool call-back to their prior match at WrestleMania X-7. On that night, Kurt cheated to beat Benoit after being unable to outwrestle the Wolverine. On this night, Benoit rolls Kurt up and scores the cheap pin with his hands on the ropes for leverage for the win at 13:55. Excellent stuff here with both men determined to do whatever it took to beat the other for bragging rights. This would be overshadowed by future matches involving Kurt and Benoit as well, as they will remain tied to each other over the next few months, including an interesting twist next month.
Grade: ****1/2

We now go backstage where Mark Lloyd is standing by with Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman. Heyman denies making Brock's rivalry with Undertaker personal, and says Taker was the one who made it personal by setting his sights on Brock's title.

Back in the arena before we get to the main event, its HLA time. Bischoff makes his way out accompanied by the two women from earlier, and in an unintentionally hilarious moment, Howard Finkel introduces him as "accompanied by...the lesbians!". Imagine that in the Fink's voice. Anyway, Bischoff gloats about his teams victory and Stephanie McMahon makes her way out to accept the stipulation. Lawler is of course ecstatic on commentary. Bischoff tells the ladies to start kissing Stephanie before he changes his mind. He tells the ladies to leave as he has found another woman to make out with Stephanie. Out comes a large "woman" who Bischoff introduces as Hildegard. Stephanie kisses "Hildegard", but all of a sudden Hildegard kicks Bischoff into the corner. Of course, it is actually Rikishi, and he removes the prosthetic make up before delivering a stinkface to the Raw GM, allowing Stephanie to get the last laugh.

With that all settled, we move on to a video package highlighting the build to the main event.

WWE Championship:
Brock Lesnar (c) w/Paul Heyman vs Undertaker

With Brock Lesnar winning the title last month at SummerSlam and becoming exclusive to Smackdown the following night, the former champion, the Rock, took another sabbatical to Hollywood. To establish a new number one contender, Stephanie McMahon made a contender series which was ultimately won by another newly acquired member of the blue brand, the Undertaker. The following week, Lesnar confronted Taker which led to Paul Heyman making comments about Taker's personal life. Taker told Heyman to shut it, but Heyman continued to mention Taker's divided attention due his wife Sara being pregnant. As Heyman said he would care for Sara once Lesnar destroyed Taker but not his unborn child, Taker shoved Heyman, who subsequently held Brock back. Things would get even more personal the following week, as during a match between Taker and Matt Hardy, Heyman and Lesnar would approach Sara in the locker room. Lesnar would place his hands upon Sara's pregnant stomach and whisper the words "life's a bitch" before attacking an arriving on the scene Taker. The following week, Heyman obtained a protective custody order to protect Taker from retaliating against himself and Lesnar until the PPV, which brings us to our main event tonight. Now, with this highly personal rivalry, it was a guarantee that we were going to get a wild brawl, and that's exactly what we get here with a big match feel in the air just like Rock/Brock last month. Considering how new Lesnar still was at this point, thats a testament to both his booking and his overall star package. Its hard to believe he wasn't even on the roster back at Mania. Anyway, Brock takes the early advantage by using his strength to overpower Big Evil, but Taker fights his way back into it, building up momentum and busting out the Old School rope walk. Heyman causes a distraction however which puts Brock back on offence as he grinds Taker down with a bear hug to slow the pace down a bit. Taker brings the fans back into it as he comes back once again, but just as he looks to be closing in on a victory, the ref goes down and Matt Hardy makes his way out only to take a Last Ride from Taker. Hardy had recently moved to Smackdown and turned heel after adopting his Version 1.0 persona that we'll see more of down the line. He was involved in a mini-feud on TV with Taker around this time hence the interference. This is where the whole thing breaks down as Heyman throws in a chair to his client. He goes to hit Taker with it, but Big Evil instead kicks the chair into Lesnar's face and whacks him for good measure with a shot of his own. Brock gets busted open and the two men continue to beat the hell out of each other which ultimately leads to the ref calling the match a double disqualification at 20:27. Lesnar retains the title by default, but the crowd is was not happy with the decision at all. Of course, at the time there were conspiracy theories that Taker had refused to put Lesnar over, hence the decision, but thats all rendered bullshit in a month or so. This was done to further the hatred between the two and set up what will be an epic encounter of brutality at our next PPV. Now I can see why the fans at this show would not be happy and they probably could have found another way than the lame double DQ to end it, but this was ultimately a necessary evil to get to where the feud was headed. It leaves a foul taste at the end of this show, but that will be washed away soon enough. As a PPV main event, its a disappointing match, and thats reflected in the overall grade, but this was all part of the bigger picture. The show ends with Taker and Lesnar brawling up the aisle and Taker ultimately sending Brock through the set.
Grade: **

After a very chaotic and eventful 2002 thus far, this show is really the point where things settle down for the most part and each of the brands truly began developing their own identity. As a result, this show was the for most part about setting things up for down the line. That was reflected in the two main title matches, as the Brock/Taker feud was furthered on Smackdown, whilst Ric Flair was established as Triple H's new associate on top of Raw. Despite being something of a storyline driven show in that regard, there were still some really good matches on this show, particularly over on the blue brand, with the obvious show stealer being Angle/Benoit. Eddie/Edge was also excellentand the opening eight man tag was a lot of fun as well. The HLA filler took up a lot of time after a fairly basic match earlier in the show, but it was a decent enough blow off to the rivalry between Bischoff and Stephanie that we've seen brewing for months. The two had excellent chemistry in their roles over the course of the feud, and would continue to cross paths here and there going forward, but for all intents and purposes would focus on their respective shows going forward. Overall, a decent show that benefited from some of the undercard matches due to the storyline driven main events.

Three Stars of the Night:
1. Kurt Angle/Chris Benoit (tie) - no more needs to be said.
2. Eddie Guerrero - a winning effort to even up what has been an excellent feud.
3. Edge - has grown into a great performer on the rise on Thursday nights.

Its an all Smackdown line up in the awards on this show. That should give an indication as to how good that show was at this point in time.

FINAL GRADE: 6.5 out of 10

What I do here is add the three stars of the night with each review so as to keep track of who we can say overall is the greatest PPV performer to any given time. First place scores 3 points, second 2 and third 1.

Steve Austin = 111
Bret Hart = 83
Shawn Michaels = 70
The Rock = 67
Triple H = 62
Mick Foley = 38
Kurt Angle = 35
Undertaker = 30
Chris Jericho = 29
Randy Savage = 28
Hulk Hogan = 25
Owen Hart = 21
Chris Benoit = 19
X-Pac = 18
Jeff Hardy = 16
Edge = 16
Diesel = 15
Matt Hardy = 14
Ultimate Warrior = 13
Vader = 13
British Bulldog = 12
Christian = 12
Ted DiBiase = 10
Razor Ramon = 10
Vince McMahon = 10
Ric Flair = 8
Jim Neidhart = 7
Bubba Ray Dudley = 7
D-Von Dudley = 7
Rob Van Dam = 7
Jerry Lawler = 6
Dynamite Kid = 5
Arn Anderson = 5
Roddy Piper = 5
Mr Perfect = 5
Marty Jannetty = 5
Bob Backlund = 5
Shane McMahon = 5
Ricky Steamboat = 4
Ax = 4
Smash = 4
Bobby Heenan = 4
D’Lo Brown = 4
Rikishi = 4
Kane = 4
Brock Lesnar = 4
Greg Valentine = 3
Tully Blanchard = 3
Tanaka = 3
Bam Bam Bigelow = 3
Sato = 3
Jake Roberts = 3
Hakushi = 3
Yokozuna = 3
Savio Vega = 3
Ken Shamrock = 3
Chyna = 3
Eddie Guerrero = 3
Brutus Beefcake = 2
Paul Orndorff = 2
Andre the Giant = 2
Rick Rude = 2
Sgt Slaughter = 2
Jeff Jarrett = 2
Jesse Ventura = 1
Texas Tornado = 1
Tito Santana = 1
Virgil = 1
Scott Steiner = 1
Rick Steiner = 1
Lex Luger = 1
The Roadie = 1
Billy Gunn = 1
Bart Gunn = 1
Marc Mero = 1
Flash Funk = 1
Animal = 1
Hawk = 1
Taka Michinoku = 1
Test = 1
Big Show = 1
Dean Malenko = 1
Scotty 2 Hotty = 1
Rhyno = 1

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter: @Mpmcc91. Thanks for reading!