The Ruthless Aggression Era was a time when the WWE roster was so huge and so varied that they had no way of continuing storylines each week on their two main shows – RAW and Smackdown – and so they created the draft where wrestlers and announcers would be drafted onto either one of the two shows. Smackdown wrestlers would not (usually) be able to appear on Raw or interact with Raw wrestlers and vice versa.
Ten years ago, on Sept 17, 2006, the PPV Unforgiven aired. It was a Raw PPV, and the first Raw PPV since Vengeance back in June. Personally, the PPV came at a time where I had grown weary with professional wrestling, confused by the sheer number of wrestlers and unwilling to spend so much time per week watching hours of footage and trawling through shows, replays, promos and matches. I simply watched the PPVs. Over the next four weeks, I will review this PPV from the perspectives of a fan looking back at it after a decade as well as my original thoughts as a younger man watching it at the time.
There was no tagline this time either, though it seems that taglines are a relic from the past. It is nice that WWE is moving forward rather than focussing on old, broken, useless things to achieve ratings, he said pointedly.
After ye olde wrasslin’ video, we see Vince’s big angry face as their reign of pranks continue: spray-painting a green DX on the side of an airplane and spray-painting a green DX on the side of a limo. This forces Vince to order the Big Show to join him and Shane in Hell in a Cell versus Hunter and Shawn at Vengeance. We see Edge being angry at John Cena and calling for a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match with the big man with the stipulation being that if Cena loses, he must go to Smackdown. There are five other matches on the card including Kane and Umaga, that match that was teased at the SummerSlam match between DX and the McMahons and Trish Stratus making her big PPV return against Lita (who was absent from the promo). And the thing is that the DX/McMahon match is mid-card. It’s not even co-main event!
Pyro hits we see the jam-packed Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario. 16,105 people in attendance, almost twice that of last year’s Unforgiven which had 8,000 in attendance and is about equal to last month’s SummerSlam, which had 16,168. 307,000 PPV buys, a huge boost from the 252,000 buys last year. Our announcers are Jumpin’ Jim Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler. Jerry mentions something about a home field advantage, which is funny because at first glance, unless someone is a secret Canuck (the greatest betrayal), the only Canadians on the card are Trish and Edge. JR introduces the Spanish announcers, the incomparable Hugo Savinovich and Carlos Cabrera. As usual, they are cut off because Johnny Nitro and Melina are more important than the Hispanic population.
(Note: Before the PPV began, there was a dark match featuring Super Crazy and Shelton Benjamin. Upset that these two amazing players are off the main card. I will see if any of these matches are equivalent to even one minute of Super and Shelton.)
Generic music hits and down rocks the curtain twitcher Johnny Nitro with Melina. Melina does not seem to know who to manage these days, but if we get to see Johnny work then I’m okay with that. The red carpet is rolled out, the cameras are flashing and Gorilla Position is behind a huge big UNFORGIVEN sign so they have to awkwardly step around it. Johnny Nitro won the Intercontinental Championship at Vengeance in an absolutely fantastic match with Shelton Benjamin and Carlito. By Christ, it was great. JR is appalled by the “symbolism of the Intercontinental Belt dangling,” between the legs of Johnny as it gets kissed by Melina.
Hardy music hits and out comes mental Jeff, doing a weird dance and probably winged off his nut, as is Jeff’s wont these days. Brother loves his drugs. JR mentions Hardy’s unexplained absence where he was released from the Fed for: erratic behaviour, drug use, refusal to get help, looking shabby, lateness and no-showing events. He went to the indie circuit and then TNA before returning to the Fed… until he would fail drug tests and eventually leave for TNA in 2010, never to return to the Fed (so far). Jeff is squaring up to Johnny, one of his legit best friends. The crowd cheer for Hardy. It’s very nice.
WWE Intercontinental Championship match: Johnny Nitro (c) (w/ Melina) def. Jeff Hardy via pin in 17:36.
In the ring, Johnny and Jeff are locking up, pushing each other into the corner. A boo rises when Johnny tries to escape. Brilliant arm drag from Johnny. Both guys are great lads and big friends so this match is going to be great. Just as I say that, Johnny botches a backdrop reversal. JR calls Melina evil. Great arm drag from Jeff and Johnny pushes him into the corner. Irish whip to the other corner, Jeff jumps when he hits the turnbuckle. The smoke from the pyro has not cleared yet. Another arm drag takedown from Jeff. Jesus, man, arm drag city. Melina screams. Fuck off. Backslide from Jeff followed by double leg drop to Johnny’s navel and Johnny calls for a time out and shouts at the crowd.
Back in the ring, Johnny beats on Jeff in the corner and he tries to jump over Jeff, fails, gets a dropkick and a ten count for his trouble. Melina is holding her chest in pain as if she, herself, was hurt. Maybe Melina and Johnny have some sort of ET-style bond? Jeff goes up top and the crowd start to cheer. They know that a Swanton is coming… but so does Johnny and he rolls out. Jeff hits a baseball slide through the women’s rope and follows it up with a run across the barricades to a cross-body. He goes top rope and Nitro dropkicks Jeff’s legs! Brilliant. Then he gets Jeff into some sort of knee lock.
Johnny has one of Jeff’s leg and Hardy goes for the enziguri, misses and Johnny smashes his knee off the mat, goes for the pin and gets only a two. Johnny then beats on Jeff’s leg as Melina screams some more. An Irish whip fails because Jeff sells the leg so well and stumbles before hitting the rope. Good man, Jeff. Melina screams some more. Johnny jumps over the top rope, battering Jeff’s leg as he lands. Jeff is caught in some modified leglock, close to the ropes and doesn’t bother breaking it. Botched drop on Jeff’s knee and Nitro gets boos. The pace has really slowed down and the crowd tell Nitro that he sucks. JR agrees with them.
The pace is so very slow and the match is so very long that the audience can be forgiven for not getting into it. As Jeff fights back, the crowd rouses but Johnny knocks Jeff to the ground with a shoulder barge onto his knee. Johnny attempts a corkscrew moonsault and botches it, landing badly. However, to get the heat back, both men are up and uninjured. Quick pin and count of three. Both men are sandbagging their moves and Hardy hits a corkscrew moonsault of his own, landing it as best he can for a quick pin and two-count. This is what the crowd want: death defying risk-taking moves. Nitro goes for the top-rope hurricanrana, Jeff holds on and follows it up with a Swanton Bomb but doesn’t get the pin as Nitro’s foot is on the ropes.
Jeff goes for Twist of Fate but is countrered. Despite the fact that both men are friends, they are just screwing each other over with this match. Nitro works on Hardy’s knee and the crowd chant, “Let’s go Hardy! Let’s go Nitro!” Jeff gets to the rope, kicks Nitro away and he hits Melina on the apron by mistake. Nitro hits back, hitting the flying huricanrana that Jeff reverses into a powerbomb. Melina cracks Jeff in the face with her boot as the ref’s back is turned and Johnny Nitro gets the pin and win in 17:36.
Unnecessarily long opening match for what it was. Neither of these men are great psychologists in ring and their style is fast, high-flying and high tension. It should have been near fall after near fall, almost a spotfest, but it was an attempt to make a main event match with a screwy ending. Very disappointed in both these men.
The Hardys should never do singles matches and should never do matches that don’t involve ladders.
Melina is selling her hurt leg as Nitro retains and Hardy loses. Replays of Nitro’s win and Hardy looks proper upset.
Cut to John Cena in The Marine with Robert Patrick and John Cena is blackface which is slightly racist. Not much to be said there.
Back in the ring, Teddy Long has his own seat in the skybox.
Bakcstage, Fat Matt Hardy congratulates Jeff for a good match. Lita turns up and rubs Jeff’s loss, her upcoming match against Trish and Edges upcoming match against Cena in both their faces.
Straight-up Shoot Fact: It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a girlfriend in wrestling must be in want to make her a wife lest she plays around and vice versa. I refer you to Sunny who cheated on Chris Candito until his death, or Triple H cheating on Chyna with Stephanie. In the case of the Matt/Lita/Edge storyline, Lita was with Matt and cheating on him with Edge. The WWE responded by firing Matt as both Lita and Edge were popular. After going to ROH, Matt returned and turned the real-life drama into a storyline. Edge, reportedly, hated hurting Matt and didn’t enjoy the storyline. It’s hard to feel bad for him because of what he did but it takes two to tango… or three in this case.
Cut to the ring and we see the Hell in the Cell above the ring. Out comes Umaga, the talentless and slightly racist fuck along with Armando Alejandro Estrada. Umaga is undefeated. AAE has the mic and introduces himself and the crowd chant along with him. Umaga rabbles into Estrada’s face. Estrada makes fun of our man Kane by asking the crowd if they believe that he is a monster. He bigs up Umaga as being a monster. JR makes fun of him, saying, “That may have neem the world’s longest introduction.”
Kane’s pyro hits and the man himself walks down, weighing a few more pounds than he normally goes, but still looking great. I like Kane. He stares at Umaga and the bell rings.
Kane vs. Umaga ends in double count out in 7:03.
JR says that this might not be a “Brisco/Funk classic with arm drags and headlocks,” and it is a true statement. Kane and Umaga start off beating each other and Kane hits Umaga with a big boot, Umaga replies with a jumping heel kick, to which Kane sits up supernaturally like his brother. Kane is knocked out of the ring but is so tall he lands on his feet. He bullies Estrada for a while, stealing his jacket, and gets by a Russian leg sweep. Umaga is quite fast this match and is showing off his best. In the ring, Umaga beats on Kane for a while, getting him in the corner to batter on his face. Umaga then hits Kane with a running stinkface. Estrada is on the apron and calls for the Samoan Spike but Kane fights back, forced into the corner by Umaga, where he gets punched before finally getting Umaga in the corner and slapping the shit out of him.
Estrada has lost his hat.
Kane has difficulty knocking Kane down and gets a Samoan Drop for his trouble. Umaga threatens to hit the Samoan Spike off the top rope but Kane sits up in time, followed by a flying – yes, Kane goes to the top rope – clothesline. Kane grips Umaga’s throat, almost gets a chokeslam and the two scrap before Kane hits a belly-to-belly and throws Umaga out of the ring. The two fight into the crowd and the ref rings the bell to end the match by countout but until the match is officially ended, I’ll keep watching. The two men right over to the Titantron and smack each other backstage.
A surprisingly good match from Umaga. He is still protected and you can see that either Kane would have won or Umaga would have had to get screwy, from the way the match was going. The countout was a crap way to end it. If the referee’s count had been important and the crowd would have counted along and maybe Kane and/or Umaga would have considered returning to the ring for the win but fought on because they hate each other, it would have been better, I like it for what it was, though.
A good match… from Umaga? What next? A black president? Oh ho ho ho, what a silly concept.
Backstage, Vince is watching an episode of Raw where he pinned Triple H after whacking him over the head. He is very proud of himself. Vince asks Shane what the name of PPV is and he replies with “Unforgiven,” and Vince says, “It’s not WWE Forgiven, is it?” Vince slags off the entire country of Canada and then quotes his own theme song.
Cut to live in Toronto, outside the Air Canada Centre and a promo for the theme song for Unforgiven. Jerry says that they’re his favourite band and JR replies with, “I’m down with that, dog.” Classic JR. Vintage JR.
Cut to the Spirit Squad intro. They come out, jumping and hopping about to crazy sparklers. JR calls them, “Five boils on the tailbone of life,” which is harsh words since one of those boils is my boy Dolph Ziggler and I will have no mean words said about my boy D-Ziggles.
Straight-up Shoot Fact: Confusingly, as well as there being a SmackDown Championship (World Heavyweight Championship) and a Raw Championship (WWE Championship), there were also tag belts for SmackDown (WWE Tag Team Championship) and Raw (World Tag Team Championship. Why they didn’t just keep Raw with the World belts and SmackDown with the WWE belts is beyond me. In addition to that (and bear in mind that the next bit is confusing as shit) there was the Undisputed WWE Championship (before it became the WWE Championship) and the WWE Women’s Championship. Raw got the Intercontinental and European Championship and SmackDown got the Cruiserweight Championship and the Hardcore Championship before getting the United States Championship later. Then ECW got the ECW World Heavyweight Championship. Later, SmackDown made the WWE Diva’s Championship… Then the tag belts were unified as the Unified WWE Tag Team Championship before being renamed the WWE Tag Team Championship and then the Women’s Championship became unified with the Divas Championship and then, finally, the World Heavyweight Championship was unified with the WWE Championship to become the WWE World Heavyweight Championship (before becoming the WWE Championship in June of this year). Then there were a few renames and the introduction of the WWE Universal Championship. You got that?
Great sign in the crowd saying “Sissy Squad”. JR explains that Freebird Rules states that although all five members of the Spirit Squad are technically holders of the Tag Team Championship, only two may defend it at any given time.
Stereotypical Scottish music plays and down come The Highlanders, Robbie and Rory McAllister. As an Irish person living in Scotland, I have a great love for Irish and Scottish wrestlers (and am a huge fan of ICW, although I do not get to see them as much as I would like). They are billed from Oban, Scotland (which is a nice area) and weigh thirty-five stone, apparently, which is silly as Scotland uses the Metric system, so the men should have been weighed as 221kg. But sure.
The Highlanders are sold as the dumb foreigners. They rub their beards and point to the crowd and mutter incoherent words. I’m surprised they don’t have a fear of fire and carry women about over their shoulders. Rowdy Roddy Piper personally endorsed them as well, so you know they’re good as he doesn’t like anyone… other than Pat Patterson (allegedly).
World Tag Team Championship Match: The Spirit Squad (Kenny and Mikey) (c) w/ Mitch, Johnny, and Nicky def The Highlanders (Robbie and Rory McAllister) via pinfall in 8:59.
How much are we betting that this will be a screwy ending? Because only two of the Spirit Squad are wrasslin’ and the rest are outside, with our boy Dolph “Nicky” Ziggler on the apron already to give some support to Mikey in the ring. I’m not going to lie to you, I can’t tell these boys apart. Rory and Mikey (possibly) start off with Rory hitting a quick sunset flip but barely getting the two. They grapple and circle the ring for a while with Rory taking over quickly. There is a “foreigner has a hard head” spot where Robbie leans over the ropes and Rory tosses Mikey into the corner, hitting their heads and receiving no pop. Pin attempt and a two.
Rory twists Mikey’s arm and Robbie is in to give a number of headbutts to Mikey’s elbow. Rory hits a double axe handle nothing off the top rope and Robbie hits a jumping headbutt to Mikey’s already injured elbow but the SS member escapes and tags in Kenny. Double-team shoulder barge by the Highlanders and we have a repeat followed up by a revolving door of attacks in the corner with two slingshot nut shots.
Both Highlanders go to double team Kenny and he tags out so they beat on Mikey instead. Robbie is pushed into the corner where Kenny comes in and Robbie attempts a suicide dive through the ropes, is thwarted and… what did I say? He is beset upon by the rest of the Spirit Squad. Alas, this attack does not claim the win and the Spirit Squad beat on Robbie mercilessly. Great alley-oop moonsault by the Spirit Squad and Robbie gets hit by a great clothesline from the SS. Seeing as the Spirit Squad are male cheerleaders, it is nice and refreshing to see them using lots of athletic double-team moves on their opponents and using each other to propel their bodies into their enemies. Robbie is hit by a great double-team shoulder barge and Robbie is saved by Rory.
Robbie is going for the hot tag but gets naught from the Spirit Squad as they stop him at each turn. Kenny goes for a leg drop from the top rope and both teams go for the hot tag. Rory runs roughshod over the Spirit Suqad, sending them outside and hitting Kenny (I think) with a double slingshot inverter suplex which looks lovely. The Spirit Squad cheat an unknown member from the outside hits Rory from behind to get the pin in a weak 8:59.
I know that I am biased, but I like the Highlanders and I don’t think that this match was particularly the best demonstration of their abilities as a tag team. Despite the Spirit Squad’s pain-in-the-ass demeanour, I like them too and I think they are brilliant as heels. This match was fun, had good psychology and was only let down by the pathetic, rushed ending.
Scots? In America? What next? Women with the vote?
The World Tag Team champions win and celebrate and the foreigners leave angry. Nicky is really hamming it up and good job by him. JR says, “No matter where you’re watching this match, the math is the same,” in reference to the Spirit Squad’s five vs. the Highlanders’ two. JR is angry that the tag team champs are five male cheerleaders.
JR introduces the next match, one that he claims we have bought this PPV to see, one he describes as, “The most dangerous match in the history of the WWE, that is no exaggeration.” We see the old matchup card where all members have about five seconds of animation before freezing.
On the Card will return on September 24th with the second part of Unforgiven 2006.