Vintage Vault Pre-Viewing: Unforgiven 2006


Lita vs. Trish Stratus for the Women’s Championship

As the year 1999 ended and 2000 was beginning, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that one of the weakest divisions in the WWF was the Women’s Division. The focus was mainly on how the women, or “Divas” as they were starting to be called, looked as opposed to their ability in the ring. This is evident by the fact that the Women’s Champion as the year ended was the Kat, a valet who won the title in a four-way Evening Gown match that took place in a pool. Those women that could work in the ring like Ivory, Jacqueline, and Luna Vachon were forced to either take a backseat or mainly be used in segments where they show off their bodies. While the fans could care less as they were more interested in seeing the ladies half-naked, there was a feeling that the Women’s Division was nothing more than a joke and something needed to change. Thankfully, the year 2000 would bring about two women who would in essence help turn the division around and become the faces of the Women’s Division for the next 6 years. These two women were Patricia Stratigeas and Amy Dumas, better known to the wrestling fans as Trish Stratus and Lita.

Stratigeas and Dumas both grew up wrestling fans and knew that they wanted to get involved in sports entertainment, but their paths would end up taking very different directions. Stratigeas worked as a fitness model and also was part of a wrestling radio show, and her pictorials caught the eye of the WWF who signed her in 1999. Meanwhile, Dumas would train to wrestle in Mexico where she trained in lucha libre, and she would spend time in ECW under the names Angelica and Miss Congeniality before signing with the WWF in 1999 as well. The two would debut roughly around the same time in early 2000 as valets, with Stratigeas going by Trish Stratus and Dumas taking the name Lita. Stratus would become the valet of the new formed tag team of Test and Albert known as T&A, and Lita would debut as Essa Rios’ valet while also working as his partner before leaving his side and forming Team Extreme with the Hardy Boyz. The two ladies first crossed paths in the summer of 2000 when T&A and the Hardyz began feuding, and the two ladies would face each other on PPV for the first time at Fully Loaded 2000 where Lita would pin Stratus in a 6-person tag match. Lita would win the Women’s Title first in 2000 and Stratus would challenge her a few times, though she would not be able to win the title. As the year ended, Stratus would become involved in the ongoing McMahon storyline while Lita would continue assisting the Hardyz in their feuds.

Following WM X-7 in the spring of 2001, Stratus would turn face and she would become allies with Lita during the Invasion as they would defeat Stacy Keibler and Torrie Wilson in a tag team Bra and Panties match at the PPV. Stratus would take the summer off to heal from injury and continue her in-ring training before returning in the fall. At the 2001 Survivor Series, the Women’s Title was reactivated after being dormant for most of the year and while many assumed that an experienced wrestler like Lita, Molly Holly, or the debuting Jazz would win, it was instead Stratus that won the title in an upset. This move showed that Stratus was clearly being looked at as the potential face of the division as she would continue to hone her skills while defending the title as others like Lita would assist her as well. When Lita’s career looked to be in jeopardy after suffering a neck injury in 2002, Stratus would become the top face of the Women’s Division and had numerous good feuds with the likes of Jazz, Molly Holly, and Victoria. When Lita returned from her injury in 2003, she and Stratus would form an alliance against the heel Divas while also feuding with Chris Jericho and Christian towards the end of 2003. To this point, it was pretty obvious that Stratus and Lita were heading to a crossroads as Stratus was seen as more of the top face of the division as opposed to Lita which many probably would never have guessed when both debuted in 2000.

In 2004, Stratus would turn heel and became Women’s Champion again, becoming the first 5-time Women’s Champion in WWE history while Lita would become involved in a bizarre storyline involving Kane and Matt Hardy where she would become pregnant with Kane’s child. Stratus would take this opportunity to berate Lita any chance she could, insulting her body and calling her a slut with Lita being unable to fight back. After Lita lost her child thanks to Gene Snitsky, Lita would immediately go after Stratus with the two facing off at Survivor Series which saw Lita get DQ’ed after hitting Stratus with a chair and busting her nose. This would lead to the two facing off on the 12/6 RAW in the main event of the show, becoming the first two ladies to be in the main event of a wrestling show for WWE. In a match that can be described as an insane match that saw Lita almost kill herself on a suicide dive, Lita would defeat Stratus and win the Women’s Title for the second time in her career. Unfortunately, Lita’s reign wouldn’t last long as she would lose the title at New Year’s Revolution 2005 back to Stratus after suffering a severe knee injury. This would put a potential WM 21 match out of the equation and Lita would instead assist Christy Hemme in her brief feud with Stratus.

After Stratus was forced to the sidelines due to a back injury in the spring, Lita’s personal life spiraled out of control when her affair with Edge came to light which led to her ex-boyfriend Matt Hardy getting fired from the WWE. After being heckled by the fans despite being a face, she would eventually turn heel and became Edge’s new valet. She would mainly work as his valet as Stratus made her return in the fall, once again as a face and she would feud for the rest of the year and into 2006 with Mickie James. Lita would start wrestling full-time again during the summer and would win the Women’s Title from James in the summer, and it seemed like another long feud between Stratus and Lita would happen in the fall. However, rumors began circulating throughout the summer that both Stratus and Lita were looking to retire from in-ring action which would in essence bring an end to a great era of Women’s wrestling. It was really interesting that these two ladies’ careers were so seemingly parallel with each other that they came in together and would roughly be going out together. While Lita would end up sticking around for a few months before leaving herself, this was the perfect place for Stratus to finish up.

The feud officially began on 8/28 when Carlito questioned Stratus about the rumors that Lita was spreading in which Stratus was planning on retiring after Unforgiven and Stratus confirmed the rumors were true. The next week, Stratus would challenge Lita for the title for her last match, which Lita accepted, and later that night Lita pinned Stratus in a 6-person tag match. 6 nights ago at MSG, Stratus would defeat Mickie James in what was believed to be her final match on RAW, and she thanked the fans for their support after the match. This was an interesting build as I wonder if many thought Stratus would do the honors and put Lita over on her way out, but considering where this PPV was it seemed very unlikely that Stratus was not leaving with the title. But at the same time, it would be a very fitting end for Stratus to go out on top with the title in her hometown against the woman that has paralleled her career since they arrived almost together in 2000.

I thought the video package they showed on Stratus was tremendous and really put over how hard she has worked over these last 6 years to become the face of the Women’s Division, and puts over how strong their rivalry has been. Needless to say, Stratus gets one of the biggest pops of the night as she gets a hero’s welcome from her hometown, while Lita comes in full of confidence at her peak as a heel. This was an interesting spot for these ladies to be put in following the wild Hell in a Cell match, but it was clear the crowd wasn’t going to die off anytime soon. I like how J.R. immediately puts over the history of the Women’s Title and says that Stratus can make history tonight, and the crowd chants “Thank You Trish” as the two ladies lock up to start with Stratus giving a clean break in the ropes as J.R. mentions that Stratus is undefeated at Unforgiven. Lita shoves Stratus back and slaps her in the face before whipping her into the corner, but Stratus comes back with a clothesline for a two count before flipping into a spinning headscissors as Lita rolls outside to regroup. Stratus leaps off the apron with a Lou Thesz Press onto Lita which was very risky considering NYR ’05, when Lita injured herself on that very same move when doing it to Stratus. Stratus pounds on Lita until Lita shoves her into the apron, but Stratus blocks a ram into the steps and she hits a hurricanrana that sends Lita off the steps onto the floor in a cool spot. J.R. and King have been really good up to this point as both mention how it would be like Lita to get intentionally counted out or disqualified just to retain the title. Stratus throws Lita back into the ring and pounds on her until the ref forces her back, but Lita gets a kick in and pounds on Stratus before slamming her head into the mat twice. Lita chokes Stratus on the ropes before driving her knee into Stratus’ shoulder and then she hits a snapmare and hooks a submission on, but Stratus fights to her feet and breaks the hold only for Lita to yank her to the mat by her hair. Lita rams Stratus into the buckle and pounds on her in the corner before stomping on her, but Stratus comes back with stomps and she chokes Lita in the corner before hitting a trio of stiff chops on Lita. Stratus splashes Lita in the corner only for Lita to hit a back elbow and she goes up to the middle rope, and she blocks a hurricanrana attempt by pulling Stratus up. The two ladies exchange blows until they tumble over the top to the floor in a nasty spot, and Lita recovers first and goes up top only for Stratus to go up herself. They exchange blows until Stratus knocks Lita to the apron. Stratus grabs at Lita only for Lita to toss her to the mat; she goes up top again, but she misses the moonsault as Stratus rolls away and she goes for the pin only for Lita to kick out at two. This has been a very intense match as both ladies are clearly emptying out their arsenals in their final match together and also incorporating things we have not seen before.

Stratus sets Lita up for the Stratusfaction only for Lita to toss her over the top and Stratus lands on the floor in another nasty spot, and Lita poses for the crowd as they boo her loudly and she throws Stratus back into the ring and goes for the pin only for Stratus to kick out. Lita pounds on Stratus and slams her head into the mat before kicking at her, and she continues to pound on Stratus before hitting a snap suplex for a two count. Lita kicks at Stratus and chokes her on the ropes before driving her knee into Stratus’ back, and she taunts Stratus by shoving her to the mat until Stratus gets a stiff shot in. Stratus starts to fire up with stiff punches only for Lita to counter a whip with a Russian legsweep, and she pounds on Stratus before slamming her head into the mat again for a two count. Lita goes back to the submission on Stratus who fights to her feet and breaks the hold, and then she ducks a shot and hits a neckbreaker on Lita. The two ladies trade blows with Stratus gaining the edge as she whips Lita into the corner, but Lita hits a back elbow and goes up to the middle rope only for Stratus to hit the hurricanrana. Stratus stalks Lita and hits the Chick Kick for a two count which surprises Stratus and Lita rakes her eyes, but Stratus escapes a DDT attempt and sets up for the Stratusfaction only to flip over Lita and attempt a sunset flip. Lita falls on top and grabs the ropes which the ref sees only for Stratus to flip her over for a two count, and then she locks on the Sharpshooter to a huge pop from the crowd. Lita fights for the ropes only for Stratus to pull her back to the center and Lita finally taps out to another huge pop, and Stratus wins her final match and becomes a record 7-time Women’s Champion. After the match, a clearly emotional Stratus celebrates as her hometown crowd gives her a hero’s salute and you could not have set up a more perfect sendoff for someone than this.

The match itself was simply amazing as both ladies went all out and put on a great Women’s match, and I think it would be safe to say probably their greatest match together though their RAW match is close to it. For two ladies who help revitalize the Women’s Division when it was at it absolute worst, this was a fitting end for both of them as it truly felt like the end of an era. I do wish that Lita would’ve just left after this as well and not lasted a few more months as her final moments would be the complete opposite of this, but that’s a debate for another time. As mentioned, the ending did seem a bit predictable as you couldn’t see Stratus losing in her hometown in her final match, but that doesn’t hinder the match as it was still cool seeing her go out the way she did and Lita deserves a lot of credit for graciously putting Stratus over. As mentioned, the crowd was red hot for the whole match and they completely carried the last minute or so, and they popped big time when Stratus won and they give her a standing ovation for her efforts. Stratus gets the win over her greatest rival Lita in what we believed would be her final match and is once again the Women’s Champion, and with this we come to an end of probably one of the best eras in the history of the WWE Women’s Division.

Final Grade: ****