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September 8, 2008

Unforgiven thoughts

Sometimes, being wrong is better than being right. And I was wrong a lot yesterday.

Before heading out to M&T Bank Stadium to watch my beloved Ravens play the Cincinnati Bengals, I predicted a lopsided loss for the home team. The Ravens, however, pleasantly surprised me with a 17-10 victory.

Then, last night, I sat in front of my TV to watch WWE’s Unforgiven pay-per-view convinced that Triple H would be the only champion to lose his title in a Championship Scramble match. I expected Jeff Hardy to walk out with Triple H's WWE title belt.

As it turned out, Triple H was the only one of the three champions not to lose his title. A Hardy did win a title, but it was Matt Hardy winning the ECW Championship Scramble.

The finish to the Championship Scramble for the WWE title – Jeff Hardy was the champion until Triple H made the winning pin with one second left – furthered the story line of Hardy’s quest for the championship. In retrospect, having Hardy win the title in a Scramble at this point would not be nearly as dramatic as him defeating Triple H for the title in a one-on-one match after chasing him for a few more months – which I fully expect to happen.

The biggest surprise of the night was Chris Jericho winning the Championship Scramble for the world heavyweight title. Jericho, who earlier in the night was battered by Shawn Michaels in an extraordinary match, was a last-minute substitute for CM Punk, who was unable to compete after being attacked by Randy Orton (and his entourage) backstage prior to the match.

I was pretty sure going in that Punk was going to retain the title, but, again, I think the way WWE booked this match was better for a couple reasons. For one, Jericho being the champion adds a new wrinkle to his ongoing feud with Michaels. It also sets up a program between Punk and Orton when the latter returns from injury. Moreover, Punk comes out of all this as a sympathetic figure, as he lost the title without even competing in the match.

Overall, I liked the Scramble concept and I hope WWE makes it an annual event like the Royal Rumble and the Money in the Bank ladder match.

The highlight of the show – as expected – was the non-sanctioned match between Michaels and Jericho. These two right now are just performing on a different level – in all facets of the genre – than everybody else.

The other big angle saw The Big Show turn heel, as he attacked The Undertaker and saved Vickie Guerrero. From the moment Big Show came out for the segment, it was obvious what was going to happen, and it became especially obvious when Big Show oversold his glee in anticipation of Guerrero getting what was coming to her. The turn makes sense, as Show wasn’t exactly thriving as a babyface, and Undertaker needs a fresh opponent.

Here’s a match-by-match look at last night’s show:

Shawn Michaels defeated Chris Jericho: Based on the incredible buildup to this match, an intense, emotional brawl was expected, and that’s exactly what was delivered. Michaels, wrestling with a slightly torn triceps, put on yet another amazing performance. Not only was the action believable and physical – the highlight was Michaels hitting a flying elbow off the top rope onto Jericho and Lance Cade, who were stacked on top of each other on the announce table – but the psychology was off the charts. Michaels’ acting and facial expressions were awesome, as he portrayed a man who was driven by hatred to go places he wasn’t sure he was capable of going. There is no one better than Michaels at making you suspend your disbelief enough to get caught up in the emotion of the story line.

Michaels brutalized Jericho during the final seven minutes of the 27-minute match, and the referee eventually stopped it after Michaels hammered a defenseless Jericho with repeated blows to the head. Michaels continued the assault after the match before finally backing off. At that point, Michaels broke down and seemed to be praying for forgiveness, while an unconscious Jericho was being tended to by the trainers. I would love to have heard Jim Ross call this match, but Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler did a good job, as they questioned whether Michaels will be able to live with himself after what he did to Jericho.

Jericho won the world heavyweight title Championship Scramble: Because the show was running long, the competitors came in every four minutes instead of five, so the match was really 16 minutes and not 20. The action was fine, but there really wasn’t any drama until the final few minutes. Kane had pinned JBL at about the seven-minute mark, and there wasn’t another fall until the final minute. But everyone knew Kane wasn’t going to win, and neither was JBL or Rey Mysterio. It would have been interesting to see how the match would have been laid out had John Cena not gotten hurt.

All along, I figured CM Punk would make a dramatic entrance at the end and somehow pull out the victory. Instead, Jericho, still selling the beating he took from Shawn Michaels, limped out. He quickly was speared by Batista and rolled out of the ring. Batista pinned Kane with 37 seconds left, but as he and Mysterio went at it, Jericho – who was barely in the match – snuck in and pinned Kane with seven seconds remaining. By the time Batista turned around, it was too late. Batista has become the ultimate hard luck loser, while Jericho got his heat back by gaining the last laugh after seemingly getting his comeuppance earlier in the show.

Triple H won the WWE title Championship Scramble: This was the best of the three Scramble matches, which isn’t a surprise considering it had the best lineup of workers. Kendrick ended up getting pinned four times – which I thought was unnecessary – but he put on a good performance. He was the champion for about six minutes, until Triple H pinned him with four minutes remaining. In the final three minutes, Hardy and Triple H each scored two pins. It looked like Hardy was going to win, but Triple H hit the Pedigree on MVP and pinned him with one second remaining. Neither Triple H nor Hardy scored a win over the other, and they shook hands after the match. As an aside, Benjamin did not factor in any of the falls, while MVP was pinned twice without gaining a fall.

Matt Hardy won the ECW title Championship Scramble: A good match to open the show, although it would have been even better if John Morrison had been involved. It’s worth noting that every competitor but The Miz scored at least one pinfall (Hardy was the only person to score two). The story of the match is that Henry lost the title without losing a single fall, which likely sets up a title match between Hardy and Henry.

World tag team champions Ted DiBiase Jr. and Cody Rhodes defeated Cryme Tyme: It was nice to see WWE actually gave this one some time (approximately 12 minutes) rather than making them rush through it. The match was decent, although not outstanding. After the champs retained, Manu, the son of Afa The Wild Samoan, joined DiBiase and Rhodes in a beat-down of Cryme Tyme. Later in the show, the trio helped Randy Orton attack CM Punk, so it looks as if the Orton-led heel stable of second- and third-generations stars is going to happen.

Divas champion Michelle McCool defeated Maryse: They both tried hard and the match wasn’t bad, but the crowd had zero interest. It’s obvious that McCool is not as over as she should be in relation to her push.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 4:09 AM | | Comments (23)
        

Comments

Even though he'll probably be booked as a fluke champion and be forced to do many a job to inferior talent like Batista and Cena, its still brilliant to see Chris Jericho get the strap.

I guess it pays to be Mr. Stephanie McMahon. Since the WWE is bringing Jeff Hardy's personal life into the story I think it's only fair that Jeff gets to call Triple H on doing the Boss's Daughter.

Beyond that huge disappointment I thought it was a great show. I do confess to secretly hoping The Miz would win, just to see Kevin blow a fuse!

Hey Kevin

Thought that this PPV was better than expected, as you said the fact that though jericho got a beating from micheals he still walked away overall winner of the night with the belt.

Also its good that CM Punk lost the belt as he did it means the Orton-Punk promo is going to have a nice back story to it and with the orton led stable it will make CM Punk look good for over coming the odds, he is now at a stage where he does not need the belt and doesnt have to have a pinfall loss against his reign.

Raw tonight i fancy him and Kofi taking on Dibiase and Rhodes leading to tag team title match at next pay perview which orton will return for and beat punk down.

What do you think of the new feuds being started from the PPV and how do you see the Jericho micheals story going ?

On WNST a week or so back, you were saying that there was no need for Jericho or Michaels to have a belt playing a part in this feud. Why the change of heart? With Jericho having the title, it seems like they'll be forced to throw Batista, Punk, and the other "top" guys into the program and potentially screw up the best feud of the last decade.

RESPONSE FROM KEVIN ECK: I still think the feud is so good that the title isn't necessary. However, with the way Michaels won at the PPV, there needed to be a new development to keep things going. By Jericho winning the title and getting the last laught at the PPV, Michaels cannot be satisfied. He's already beaten Jericho physically; now he will go after the one thing that means something to Jericho -- the title. Michaels doesn't even have to win the title himself; he could cost Jericho the title.

What makes Jericho such a good heel?

Well I can summarize it in one photo. At WWE.com under the main page's marquee of headlines there is a picture of Jericho holding the world's championship the link is titled, THE WORLD IS JERICHO"S. In the picture his face is a cross betweeen a self satisified 8 year old who just got away with eating the last three cookies and the Grinch that Stole Christmas

Brilliant...what a perfect facial expression for him holding the belt.

I thought it was awful the way the RAW scramble ended up being booked. From a logic standpoint, why would a guy who just lost (and got beaten unconscious) earlier in the show get a title shot later in the show? Why not HBK? CM Punk's title reign had been booked in underwhelming fashion from the beginning, so I suppose it's fitting he loses the belt without even competing in the match. The way Punk lost his title and the way Jericho won it leaves a sour taste in my mouth, but it does have curious to see RAW tonight, so I guess it did it's job.
I actually predicted the finish of the Smackdown Scramble to the letter based on two prevailing themes: 1) the WWE loves to tease Jeff Hardy fans, only to pull out the rug from them (witness the #1 contender battle royal a month or so ago on SD), and 2) Triple H retaining his belt is always the safe bet. The fact he is the only champ to hold onto his belt is really no surprise. But it does look like a very interesting Hardy/ HHH feud is developing.
I would also make a suggestion for future scrambles- extend the time limit a bit. Having only 5 minutes of match left once all participants are in the ring seems too short of a time to really build up drama.

I can't believe the Raw Scramble had to be shortened, yet they were able to have a 45 minute segment between Undertaker and Big Show that was boring as hell.

First it took Taker 40 minutes to walk to the ring, and then the beatdown by Big Show seemed to drag on forrrrrrrrrrrrever.

Sounds like a good show. I havent ordered a PPV in YEARS, but I always purchase the Royal Rumbles...because even if you dont follow wrestling anymore it is always a fun event. WWE needs another "gimmick" event, and this one sounds like a winner. Make the annual Unforgiven PPV the Championship Scramble...sounds like a winner every time!! And I will be purchasing this event when released onto DVD...sounds like a fun watch!!!

BTW, I love the Michaels/Jerich fued, and how it is turning out. Honestly, I havent seen RAW in months, but reading your blog I get the jist of that is going on, and WWE hit the mark on this fued. And I like where the CM Punk angle is headed...good moves by WWE finally!! I may even turn on RAW tonite to see what is going on first hand instead of waiting to read your blog!!

Just one thing

Why did the ref stop an unsanqtioned match? I thought his only job was to call the pin. Could you clear this up for me?

RESPONSE FROM KEVIN ECK: Like in boxing or MMA, when a guy is defenseless -- as Jericho was -- the ref stops it. The story was that Michaels had no interest in pinning Jericho, and Jericho couldn't submit because he was knocked out.

This PPV seemed to do more to boost several midcarder's careers and also open up a lot of new and interesting story lines to work with, particularly with the Punk affair. I'm actually very interested to see what happens next.

Nice job WWE.

Did Jeff Hardy and Kane messed up by pinning their opponents while they were currently champions ?

RESPONSE FROM KEVIN ECK: I had the same thought while watching the show. It made no sense for the guy with the last pin to try to pin someone again.

I think it's bad enough that we have matches in which the champion can lose the title without being pinned. Now, we have a concept in which the champ can lose the title in match that doesn't even include him. When I learned of the result, I thought that meant one of three things:

1) Punk was injured shortly before the pay-per-view.

2) Punk landed in the dog house shortly before the pay-per-view.

3) Creative had lost their minds.

I was never going to order Unforgiven, but now I am doubly glad that I didn't.

Hey Kevin, why isn't DH Smith apart of this new stable (or anything else for that matter). He's a much better wrestler than cody or ted. As depressing as it sounds, i think its because of his family background that he is not getting any time at all on Raw/Smakdown.

Does it makes sense for Jericho to have taken Punk's place? They were both beaten pretty badly from what I understand yet Jericho is able to make it to the match and Punk wasn't. This makes Punk seem weak to me.

I enjoyed Unforgiven. The only issue I had was at the end of the WWE title match when Jeff Hardy attempted to pin Shelton Benjamin instead of breaking up Triple H's pin on MVP. Hardy was the champion at the time. All he needed to do was break up the other pin. He was so close to Hunter at the finish that it looked kind of weak.
Those up-against-the-clock finishes always are pretty chaotic though.

Being a Jericho fan since his days in WCW, I was happy that he won. I am not thrilled with Punk not being able to defend the strap, but Punk has looked good lately and the crowd is behind him plus the RKO Vs Punk match, will be a very good feud and in my opinion has a chance to be Edge Vs Cena all over again.

I respect everyone's opinion, but DH Smith has looked flat out awful and Ted and Cody have been off the charts, as these two guys will be main eventers. Manu is the perfect muscle for this group although I still hope this will be called Evolution.

I don't hate HHH like a lot of you guys, but by insulting Cena with the "meat head" comment and then beating him added to the insults on Jeff's personal life and then beating him seems to always show him come out on top and to answer a previous blog question, I don't think HHH is that funny, as he like Taker, can do just about anything and get a huge pop. Santino on his worst day, makes HHH look like a cast off from Waiting For Guffman.

Congrats to Matt Hardy, as this guy loves the business and I am thrilled that the WWE gave him the ECW strap. He is so over and deserved it.

I agree with Kevin's assessment of the Divas' match, as the crowd grew increasingly angry with the McCool/Maryse match-up as it progressed. It made me feel sorry for Maryse, who has a good upside and great potential, and hopefully the creative team understands that it wasn't Maryse's fault that the crowd wasn't hot. I put the blame solely on McCool, who doesn't seem to know how to have an entertaining match.

There is no way her push or gimmick are going over as planned, as she still comes off as unlikable, undeserving and snooty instead of wholesome. Hopefully they won't do the same mistake (putting the belt on the wrong person) with Candice Michelle, who is to me carved out of the same dull-wood and will never be very over with the crowd.

Though people often criticize cool heels, I would have loved to see Nattie do it with the Divas belt: She would have been money trying to domineer the rest of the roster, taunting them to perform better.

When someone finally would have gotten the pin, she could have simply exploded in anger instead and reverted to being a monster heel in pursuit of the belt. I wish the creative team had better career trajectories mapped out - for the ladies too. Ah well. Perhaps Gail Kim - if she just put her name on the dotted line - will steal the belt spot from Candice or McCool...

I think the WWE realized that with all the injuries they needed an experienced guy, and someone other than Triple H, holding their most important belt.

Punk's resume to hold the WWE World Championship belt was a bit thin to begin with. They seemed to recognize that by the way they scriped his title win. Winning the title that way would have been more appropriate for a heel.

He's probably better equipped to be in a mid card role or in a secondary feud for one of the other belts. He was a useful transitional champ. But agreed that the way they took the title away from him makes him seem weak. Furthermore, the guy they are postioning him to feud with is weeks away from returning.

Jericho appears well suited to his new role. He wasn't getting over as a face but this underhanded heel persona is a better fit with his personality. He has enough charisma and wrestling ability to carry the ball, at least for a while.

Similarly, with his skill sets, Santino Marella is also a good guy to hold the IC belt.

The UT - Big Show feud should be pretty difficult to watch. I think the WWE has done well to give Vickie Guerrero an important job, considering the long standing contribution of the family to wrestling and to the WWE. She has done what she can with her heel general manager role but they need some new wrinkles as it is becoming increasingly tiresome.

This second generation stable has some potential. However, having the seriously injured Orton continue in a major role where he is affecting the outcomes of important matches and getting major air time is too much of a stretch. He just is not good enough on the mic to merit this much air time. Nor has he improved in this regard.

Bourne/Mysterio have potential as a tag team. It's too bad Mysterio will be sidetracked in this pointless feud with Kane.

All that said, those doing the writing for the WWE appear to be doing a little bit better lately. The injuries have also forced them to become a bit more creative with their matchups rather than the same tired top of the card matches involving Orton, Triple H and Cena.

I'm sure I'm in the minority here but I think Adamle has some potential in the GM role. He's becoming more comfortable with it and there are a number of interesting things they could do with his character.

I enjoy these columns, btw. Keep up the good work.

A guy gaining momentum week by week (Kendrick) needlessly pinned 4 times, not surprisingly twice by HHH. Same old insecure piece of garbage.

"A guy gaining momentum week by week (Kendrick) needlessly pinned 4 times, not surprisingly twice by HHH. Same old insecure piece of garbage."

Needlessly isn't the appropriate choice of words. Did anyone else actually pay attention to how those pins came about?

Let's take a look at the two Pedigrees that Trips scored on Kendrick. After entering at #3, Kendrick wreaks havoc on the entire field. Kendrick has also taken some punishment. Triple H is completely fresh, comes in and hits a Spinebuster on Kendrick, who has been both giving and receiving offense for ten minutes. Such a huge deal is always made in the Rumble and the Elimination Chamber as to how big an advantage being the fresher guy is and this match is not an exception to that logic. Pedigree #1 is just Trips being newly in the match and not suffering any ill effects from already having wrestled for a number of minutes. Logical booking, in other words.

The second Pedigree happened to Kendrick in the following manner: Jeff Hardy has just become the Interim Champion via Twist of Fate on MVP. Kendrick comes in to attack Jeff, who blocks him. With a gourd buster, I believe. So Jeff has just laid out Kendrick. Jeff then goes up to the top rope, presumably for a Swanton. Triple H crotches Jeff on the ropes, and takes advantage of the damage that Jeff Hardy has done to Kendrick and gets the second Pedigree.

The second Pedigree is smart booking to highlight the Cerebral Assassin part of Triple H's gimmick.

Neither scenario shows Triple H dismissing Kendrick like he's nothing. The first is the wrestler who hasn't been getting banged up and exerting a lot of effort using that to his advantage and getting a pin over someone who attacked him. The second is the logical booking for Triple H's character, but doesn't imply that Kendrick is nothing. Kendrick was laid out by Jeff Hardy and Trips took full advantage. By the way, the method in which the second Pedigree took place plays very nicely into the storyline of Jeff's that his risky behavior can and does cost him chances at the WWE Title.

I was loving this show up until the Smackdown scramble. When was the last time MVP looked like a credible threat to a world title? Shelton did nothing, scored no pins, took no pins, and Kendrick, while great until Hunter came out, ended up looking horrible, which is not the way he should have been booked. I would have had Hunter and Shelton/MVP come out first, the other third, and have them double team HHH, until Hardy comes out, runs off the heels, then hits the Twist of Fate on Hunter for a pin. He holds the belt for the remainder of the three minutes or so until Kendrick comes out. Hardy is being double-teamed by Benjamin and MVP, and Hunter is still selling the Twist of Fate. Kendrick runs out, hits The Kendrick on Hunter, and gets a pin. Then Hardy makes his big comeback, double clothesline followed by Whisper in the Wind and MVP falls out to ringside. Hardy goes high-risk but MVP gets out of the way, which is when Triple H gets back into the match. He Pedigrees MVP, throws Jeff back in the ring, and pins him. At this point, there are about two minutes left. Somehow, Hardy gets back into the match, and goes for a cover with about two seconds left, but time expires just before the ref slaps the mat a third time. Hunter retains, and nobody looks too weak. MVP and Shelton never get pinned, Kendrick holds the belt the longest, and Hardy scores a pin and only comes up one second short.

The Raw scramble was terrible. I don't like putting the belt on Jericho at this juncture, though I guess if his feud with Michaels is over due to Shawn's arm injury, it's the best thing to do. I really wanted to see Shawn hit Sweet Chin Music to end it, though.

And don't get me started on the Big Show-Undertaker-Vickie farce.

Sure Mina, did you happen to see Smackdown and the 'out of all the people in the scrambles you were the biggest loser'' that was real necessary. The insecure piece of garbage comment stands he has years worth of burials backstage and on camera to prove it.

Yup, I saw Smackdown. And every single one of those backstage segments plays into the Cerebral Assassin part of his gimmick. In kayfabe, Trips was doing what he does best; getting into the head of his opponent (or, in this case, potential opponents) and shaking their confidence. And technically? In kayfabe, Triple H is 100% correct. Kendrick was pinned 4 times. Two of those, by the way, were from Jeff Hardy. And no one seems to complain that he is burying Kendrick.

You can believe what you want, Kurt. I don't care. But I will stand up for the man because there isn't a single shred of proof that Triple H is insecure at this juncture. Nor is the years of reported "burials" any more than the dirt sheets making sensational stories. Where is the confirmation? And beyond the fact that all we have are internet stories reporting these burials, people tend to skip over the fact that Triple H does not have the final say in anything that happens with his character.

Considering that everything that happens on camera is in kayfabe, I don't believe that is proof of anything. What happens on camera furthers storylines and is in character, rather than being a reflection of the man himself.

You don't know the man. Neither do I, but I won't condemn him for the rumors that come from the dirt sheets and embittered folks.

But, again, you believe what you want. I'll be standing up for Triple H until I get incontrovertible proof that he's the devil everyone makes him out to be. Until that time, the crowd reaction to Triple H speaks louder than the people who complain about him on the internet.

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About Kevin Eck
The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Eck blogs about professional wrestling.
E-mail Kevin.
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