Vintage Vault Pre-Viewing: Unforgiven 2001

The Brothers of Destruction © vs. Kronik  – WCW Tag Title Match

This match has quite the rep. Clips before the match show some classic Steven Richards promos where he says, “I HATE YOU” and some historic hyperbole from JR where he damns things to hell. I understand the reasoning of having Richards as the mouthpiece for these guys, but time really felt like it had passed Kronik especially Brian Adams by. There is something that is still uniquely odd of hearing Undertaker and Kane announced as the WCW tag team champions.

Action starts hot and heavy with Kronik meeting the BOD in the aisle and we get some semi-decent brawling in this section. Taker and Adams enter the ring and have a much better sequence than I ever would have imagined. Taker even busts out a drop toe hold. Kane tags in and the match slows down but it still fine while Kane is on offense. A great line is inserted here by Heyman busting on JR for wearing a Cowboy hat. Our first problems occur when Adams takes over on offense and gives a sloppy backbreaker and looks lost. Clarke tags in and holy shit this gets ugly with his karate kicks. Kane comes back with a shoulderbreaker that halfway hits and Taker gets the tag in.

Taker comes back in and does old school and a cross armbreaker. Clarke gets the first offense on Taker and kicks him down. Obviously the big rep is how bad Taker is in this match and how much he no sells, but I will say that so far, I’m not seeing much of that and he sells the kicks and dropkick Adams gives him well. Right as I finish typing that Taker starts firing back instead of tagging out. We then get a terrible sequence with Taker getting clotheslined to the outside, no selling, and halfway sending Adams into the post. Clarke salvages it a little bit though with nice shoulderblock off the apron. Hey, Taker is still selling! Double shoulderblock back in the ring for Kronik gets the first nearfall of the match. Chinlock slows things down and nothing of note is going on here. Taker breaks free of the chinlock but gets cut off and slammed by Adams. Clarke makes the mistake of putting his head down and Taker DDT’s him and tags Kane. Taker could have milked the hot tag longer but he did capitalize on a mistake. Kane’s house of fire has stuff executed sloppy including a sidewalk slam but I wouldn’t classify it as awful. Kane actually has the worst no sell of the match so far sitting right up after the triple clothesline.

Taker gets tagged back in and the BOD start working over both members of Kronik. Big boot by Taker and Steven Richards interjects himself. He distracts Taker enough for Adams to hit a jawbreaker and they set up their double chokeslam. Kane comes back with a flying clothesline to Adams and one chokeslam later from Taker to Clarke allows them to retain the WCW straps. Richards enters the ring and gets his ass beat for good measure essentially ending Kronik’s run in one swoop.

Expectations can admittedly be a burden sometimes. I was expecting this match to be some straight wrestlecrap and give me a laugh in the early morning when I watched. I won’t argue that it is a classic match but the hate this match has received has gone way too far IMO. The key caveat most people have is from Taker’s performance and the speed of Kronik. I will tackle each of these complaints in the next two paragraphs.

Undertaker’s selling had two spotty moments in the entire match where I can see. He didn’t sell the clothesline to the outside at all and he made the hot tag too quickly. The clothesline with Taker landing on his feet on the outside spot is a staple of numerous Undertaker matches and shows off his agility for someone his size. While it certainly isn’t my favorite spot from a logic standpoint, it has been well established much in the same vein as how the five knuckle shuffle is seen as a dangerous fist-drop maneuver in current WWE. The move itself is not necessarily as important as the way it is presented and that clothesline spot has remained consistent in its presentation since Taker’s debut which is all I can ask for. Taker should have for sure milked the crowd longer before the hot tag as there was a pop when Kane entered but it was stunted by how quickly Taker tagged out from the DDT hope spot. I won’t give Taker a pass on this as it was a bad spot for him and as a veteran he should have known better and perhaps was done with the match by this point. The other criticisms I just don’t get.  This match actually followed a basic tag structure. Sure Taker wasn’t selling much in the opening stanza but that is common in tag matches. Go back and watch Rockers vs. Brainbusters matches. You will see the Brainbusters getting embarrassed in the early moments, regrouping for a second on the outside and then firing back. You will see Tully kicking both Rockers members in the gut and them just firing back with punches. That is because the high impact move in the tag match to turn the tide hasn’t occurred yet. I don’t really know what to chalk the criticisms of this match up to but there was certainly worse no selling that occurs every Monday night and in much of the beloved indies and New Japan action in current day wrestling. Hell at this point and time in 2001, Red and the SAT along with the Briscos were having spotfests left and right featuring multiple no selling sequences. I can only peg the criticisms in this match as a size bias against the competitors.

Kronik is the other big complaint, specifcally in how shitty they looked. Now, they took some truly awful moves in this match and I wouldn’t classify their performance as good overall but if you just limit their evaluation to when they were on top, they were fine doing the FIP segment on Taker and actually mixed in some good-looking power moves. I could have done without the chinlock but it was relatively brief and actually played into a good hope spot for Undertaker. I won’t champion for Kronik being a missed opportunity as I have never liked Adams or Clarke but I also think it is unfair to say they couldn’t hack it in WWF based on this performance.

So laying out those two arguments, I actually thought this match was perfectly decent. I feel like my description is overselling it because I would never say it was good and it did have some eye rolling spots and was fairly sloppy throughout from the BOD offense side of things. Worst match of 2001 though? Not even close.

Final Grade: **