Thursday, 15 October 2015

The Stone Cold Truth

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 188 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: June 21 2004

Back in 2003-4 during the days when WWE DVDs were transitioning from character profiles during calendar years to in-depth looks at the entire careers of performers, the idea of a release dedicated to the life and times of Stone Cold Steve Austin seemed like an enticing prospect, especially in the early years after WWE purchased the rights to the WCW and ECW video libraries. However, The Stone Cold Truth (which shares the title and front cover as Austin's 2003 autobiography, for some reason) is little more than a basic overview of Stone Cold's highs and lows, with some pretty big chapters strangely omitted.

We do get a run-through of Austin's upbringing, his rise in wrestling and his headline run, backed up by incredible popularity during the most successful period in company history. However, as noted, some pretty big aspects of his career are not included. We do get thorough coverage of certain key developments, such as the neck injury that he suffered via a tombstone piledriver gone wrong from Owen Hart at SummerSlam 1997, but we don't get anything on other pivot points of Austin's career, a good example being his 2002 walk-out from WWE (the frustration with which is magnified by the fact that this DVD was released little more than a year after Stone Cold returned to the company from said walk-out). And while some light-hearted segments raise a smile, like the section on Austin's head-shaving routine, they are hardly suitable replacements for key elements of Stone Cold's story.

I should point out that the documentary feature, which only lasts around 45 minutes, was originally broadcast on American television station UPN in November 2003. The short running time explains the omission of some weighty events (but it doesn't entirely reveal the reasons why some were prioritised and/or ignored), and the timing of the original showing probably explains the odd fashion in which the documentary ends. Austin's last match was against The Rock at WrestleMania XIX in March 2003, and after a fun stint as co-Raw General Manager, a stipulation match involving two teams managed by the opposing General Managers (the other was Eric Bischoff) at Survivor Series 2003 led to Austin's on-screen role in that capacity ending. He would return as Sheriff on the final Raw of 2003 but purely from the standpoint of that particular storyline, Austin was supposedly finished.

Fans knew, however, that deep down he would return someday. Therefore, it's baffling that the documentary, which has an authentic and behind-the-scenes approach to most other scenes, chooses to end the main feature by giving the impression that this scripted defeat, which ended a non-wrestling position for Stone Cold anyway, was the final ever wrestling appearance for the Texas Rattlesnake. It's one of those things where it kind of makes sense, but it really doesn't; had the documentary concluded by highlighting what really was Austin's last match at that year's Mania, it would have been a lot more sensible.

While from the standpoint of the original transmission, there was a slight logic to finishing the documentary this way (kayfabe was still hanging onto dear life in the mid-noughties), by the time the DVD was released, Austin had returned in the aforementioned Sheriff role. Ironically, though, come DVD release date, Austin had actually left WWE for real (due to contractual differences), meaning that for all intents and purposes, at the time when fans first saw the DVD, it was in fact correct to state that Austin was done in WWE, even if the reasons weren't quite the same as what the feature implies. Confused yet? Thought so, especially when you consider that Austin would once again return to WWE a few months later, and would leave and return again more than once in the future.

Fortunately for those fans who were disappointed with this DVD, or at least the main feature, WWE would return to the concept in 2011 and release the outstanding Stone Cold Steve Austin: The Bottom Line On The Most Popular Superstar Of All-Time, which gives fans the complete, in-depth Austin documentary that his very large fan base wanted as well as his biggest matches and a suitcase full of memorable promos and segments (you can read the review for that DVD by clicking here). As for The Stone Cold Truth: it also boasts some extras, although if you're not a fan of the pre-Stone Cold version of Steve Austin, then they may not be very appealing. Two WCW matches against Bobby Eaton and alongside Brian Pillman against Ric Flair and Arn Anderson are followed by Austin's ECW debut against Mikey Whipwreck, and Austin's WWF debut as The Ringmaster against Scott Taylor (the future Scotty Too Hotty) on a January 1996 episode of Superstars. The only match from the Stone Cold era is the aforementioned SummerSlam 1997 bout with Owen, another choice which is logical but questionable in terms of this being the only in-ring representation of Stone Cold as Stone Cold on the DVD.

There are some more extras: his very memorable ECW promos are here in full, as well as a couple of segments from 2003, mostly post-show, with Austin generally larking about and having a good time (which you will enjoy, believe me). Arguably the highlight of this release is a hidden Easter Egg, accessed by right-clicking the final chapter on the Extras list of the DVD menu, where we see a hilarious Austin promo prior to Royal Rumble 2002 where he explains his "strategy" to Michael Cole. This 5-and-a-half minute interview is superb, with many humorous moments (amongst them Cole's struggle to keep a straight face), and literally hundreds of "What?" chants from the crowd on hand for that particular episode of Raw. However, this promo (and the ECW ones, for that matter) are also on the 2011 Austin DVD, so if these segments are your reason to buy The Stone Cold Truth (and they are arguably the best parts of this DVD), then save your money for The Bottom Line.

When I review DVDs in retrospect, I try to take into account the standards of the time when they originally hit shelves. However, in this case, even by 2003/4 standards, The Stone Cold Truth looked like it was lacking plenty, from omitted interview chapters to a brief and far-from-complete match selection. Even the promos, as entertaining as they are, are nowhere near being the perfect representation of Stone Cold's mic work (besides maybe the ECW interviews). That being said, it is only one disc, and it is based on Stone Cold Steve Austin, arguably the most entertaining performer in wrestling history (some will argue that this title belongs to The Rock, you could vouch for either man, to be fair). Therefore, you should gleam a good chunk of entertainment from The Stone Cold Truth. Just don't expect to be wowed by this DVD; if you take it for what it is - a fairly brief yet entertaining spotlight of the Texas Rattlesnake - then you should enjoy the release. Any fans expecting more from the DVD should probably steer clear and head towards The Bottom Line instead.

Overall Rating: 4.5/10 - Below Average

Monday, 12 October 2015

Daniel Bryan: Just Say Yes! Yes! Yes!

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 432 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: June 15 2015

In 2015, the Yes Movement were thrilled to learn that the first proper WWE DVD would be released on Daniel Bryan, combining a WWE Network documentary with a selection of Bryan's most memorable matches in WWE. Bryan has long stood out as one of the world's greatest wrestlers, even before joining WWE as he perfected his craft and built a strong legacy on the independent scene, with a 15-month reign as ROH Champion being a key highlight during that period. Given Bryan's high standards for wrestling excellence, then, would this 3-disc DVD match expectations for him and his fan base, or would it have his most loyal followers shouting "No!"?

To begin with, this really is a DVD of two parts, as it's clear that the documentary and the match round-up are separate projects. Case in point: this DVD is called Daniel Bryan: Just Say Yes! Yes! Yes!, whereas the documentary clearly states (as it did during its initial WWE Network showing) the title Daniel Bryan: Journey To WrestleMania. That being said, the documentary is fine as it is, looking in-depth at Bryan's final preparations before his show-stealing performances at WrestleMania XXX, and blending in some additional footage and talking head comments that track Daniel's career up to the weekend of WM 30.

Besides the lead-up to the 2014 Mania, Included is footage of Bryan in Shawn Michaels' Texas Wrestling Academy, where he was trained; initial dark match and Velocity footage from his days as a nameless face getting minimal offence in against star WWE performers; his independent exploits, including footage of him in Ring Of Honor; his initial WWE exposure on NXT, as well as the bafflingly entertaining feud with Michael Cole and his controversial firing in June 2010; his subsequent success in WWE up to the point of cashing in Money In The Bank and winning his first World Heavyweight Title in WWE (although his relegation to the dark match at WM XXVII is also covered); the 18-second malarkey at WM XXVIII that actually ended up making Bryan a star in a roundabout way; the development of his relationship with Brie Bella, who Bryan would marry shortly after WM XXX; and his rise up the headline ranks in WWE, which through a number of unforeseen circumstances over the weekend of Royal Rumble 2014 saw Bryan gain entry into the main event of WM XXX. The documentary ends, of course, with clips of Bryan achieving the once-unthinkable and becoming WWE World Heavyweight Champion at WrestleMania XXX.

The documentary is very good, although the Road To WM XXX have a slightly scripted, kayfabe-ish feel to them that one normally sees on Total Divas. The sections which cover Bryan's career are very honest, from noting Bryan's perceived lack of charisma when he first entered WWE proper to his true feelings on his two WrestleMania-related nightmares with Sheamus, and they add up to a profile feature that is never less than engaging. I think an obvious flaw is that the documentary isn't that long; the original Network transmission lasted an hour, and this only adds a slight percentage of additional footage, whereas expanding it to a 90-minute feature (like on the most recent Ultimate Warrior DVD) or to two hours would have made it far more informative (for instance, we don't get anything concerning Team Hell No, his hilarious on-off partnership with Kane) and, potentially, one of WWE's greatest documentaries to date. As it is, though, Bryan fans should still appreciate most of the content in this portion of the DVD, even if they will be hoping deep down for a more in-depth look at the life and times of their hero in the future at some point.

The documentary is the only content on disc one, which is disappointing; we could at least have gotten a few bonus stories here. Instead, we jump right to disc two, and the second part of the compilation, evidenced by the mini-intro which ends by displaying the title of the DVD, something we don't see repeated on disc three. In other words, this is essentially two separate Daniel Bryan DVDs rolled into one.

That aside, the final two discs run through Bryan's WWE highlights, accompanied by new footage of Bryan discussing each bout and/or key chapters of his career, again with refreshing honesty. We also get some more talking head appearances by those seen on disc one, with an Easter Egg coming by right-clicking the menu chapter which previews Bryan's first PPV encounter against The Miz (the EE in question sees Bryan talking to ... The Miz, although it's impossible to tell if it's a real-life discussion or a blatantly scripted chit-chat because the cameras are rolling; I think the latter). We unfortunately don't get any non-WWE matches (surely WWE could have gotten at least one from ROH, since we do see footage and photographs of Bryan in his ROH days during the documentary?), but we do some nice rare footage prior to Bryan making his official WWE debut in the form of an intriguing yet overly long dark match from 2000, where we see a very young Bryan as American Dragon team up with Shooter Schultz (no idea what happened to him) against future WWE stars Brian Kendrick and Lance Cade, as well as a 2003 Velocity bout pitting Bryan against Jamie Noble (where Noble incidentally gives Bryan a very generous amount of offence, which unfortunately the people do not appreciate; how times change).

We then move onto Bryan's official WWE run, beginning with a short yet exciting NXT scrap with the then-World Heavyweight Champion, Chris Jericho. Following this is his United States Title win over The Miz at Night Of Champions 2010 (which is probably Miz' best match ever), and then Bryan cashing in Money In The Bank on Big Show to win the World Title at TLC 2011 (beforehand, Bryan notes his topsy-turvy ride in WWE up until that point, and notes the true circumstances behind him becoming champion that night; it would have been nice to see the MITB Ladder match that gave him the briefcase, though). Next up is Bryan against Big Show for the gold from an early 2012 episode of SmackDown, featuring commentary by Mark Henry that on the surface seems dull, but when you listen closely, it's actually hilarious at times; whether Henry intended for his lines to come across humorously is anyone's guess.

Bryan then recounts the WrestleMania XXVIII situation and his 18-second defeat to Sheamus which, as noted earlier, ended up being a boost, actually to three careers: Sheamus won the World Title (and KIND OF preserved his body a bit by not having to take bumps on this night); the manner of Bryan's defeat ended up influencing die-hard fans to furiously support him, which ended up leading to his explosion in popularity that took him to the top; and even AJ Lee, Bryan's on-screen girlfriend, would develop her psychotic character as a result of Bryan dumping her for supposedly causing him to lose so quick. Granted, most fans and the combatants would have still preferred a lengthy World Title match that night in Miami, but in the long run, it all worked out. Except maybe for Sheamus, who is currently treading water as a heel despite holding the MITB briefcase himself these days.

Anyway, the next match is Bryan's brilliant Two Out Of Three Falls match with Sheamus from Extreme Rules 2012 (both note that this was more or less the match they should have had at Mania 28), and is followed by Bryan facing CM Punk for the WWE Title at Money In The Bank 2012 under No DQ rules (and with AJ as referee). I preferred their first scrap at Over The Limit 2012, but this is still really good, and the pre-match clips are humorous for two reasons. Firstly, Bryan tells a funny story about his ring gear that night. Then, as is the case with many matches on this DVD, we get the full recap video as used on WWE television for the match (a nod to old-school WWF/WWE compilations), which stands out as humorously ironic because, when recounting the whole AJ storyline, and all the male wrestlers she supposedly went with, the only one she ever proposed on-screen to was ... CM Punk, who of course she ended up marrying for real (and are both paying for that now, or at least their WWE legacies are since both left the company, which in AJ's case is WWE at its most petty).

This part of the DVD does cover Team Hell No, with some very funny clips of Bryan and Kane in Anger Management and "hugging it out" on Raw, leading to their unspectacular yet entertaining WWE Tag Team Title win over Kofi Kingston and R-Truth (one of the most forgettable teams in WWE history) at Night Of Champions 2012. I thought we should have gotten one more Bryan/Kane match, which ideally would have been the superb 6-man TLC match from TLC 2012, but instead we jump ahead to Bryan dethroning John Cena for the WWE Title in a great if slightly long match at SummerSlam 2013, with all the post-match shenanigans included (which I loved as a shock PPV ending, incidentally). Bryan's refreshing honesty comes through here when he notes that he feels the match with Cena was ultimately unsuccessful because it didn't do a great PPV buy rate, although some would argue that this was down to WWE's questionable promotion of Bryan prior to SummerSlam (Bryan also seems to cover WWE when he notes that he didn't main event any PPVs alongside Punk in 2012 as if it were their fault, rather than it being due to WWE's obsession with pushing Cena, which was at its most frustrating in summer 2012 for that very reason).

Oh, I almost forgot: before Bryan vs. Cena, we see arguably the greatest Gauntlet match ever from a July 2013 Raw. Bryan firstly faces Jack Swagger in a basic, yet watchable opening salvo. But then we get a truly epic singles collision with Antonio Cesaro, which stands up as one of the year's greatest matches on its own. Finally, Bryan battles Ryback, then in his heel run (which never seemed right to me, nor to most fans really), which despite the poor ending is a very respectable end to a fantastic overall match presentation and a first-class performance by Bryan across the three matches. (Its showing here is slightly damaged, though, by WWE cutting the final few minutes where Cena endorses Bryan and the fans give Bryan a well-deserved standing ovation, presumably because Cena challenged Ryback to a Tables match during that scene, since Cena vs. Ryback obviously wouldn't be included here. If you want to see it, look for the July 22 2013 episode of Raw on the WWE Network and it'll be there. Hey, maybe that was WWE's intention!)

A decent No DQ match with Randy Orton on a March 2014 Raw is book-ended by Bryan discussing the true story behind his rise to the main event of WM XXX, including acknowledgements of CM Punk leaving WWE and of his disappointment when he initially learned that he would face Sheamus at that year's Mania. (Incidentally, the question must be asked: what was WWE's obsession with pairing Sheamus up against Bryan? There were even rumours at one point that the two were supposed to face off at WM 31, which if true means that WWE in some way planned Bryan to wrestle Sheamus at four of the last five WrestleManias!) We don't get Bryan's first Mania bout with Triple H, which is slightly disappointing, but of course we see Bryan defeat Batista and Orton for the title in the WM 30 top-liner, which in hindsight suffers greatly in crowd noise from Brock Lesnar shockingly ending The Undertaker's Streak (it was noticeable on the night, but besides a quick burst when The Authority interfered, the fans are almost silent until the final few minutes.)

The DVD enters slightly strange territory next when the compilation based around Bryan becoming World Champ at WM 30 goes on to cover almost the next year of his career. There isn't much footage to show, though, because as Bryan explains, shortly after WM, he suffered a neck injury which sidelined him for the rest of 2014, which combined with the sudden passing of his father made the late spring and summer of 2014 a very difficult time for him. It all led to his appearance on the final Raw of 2014 (shown here) where Bryan, after teasing retirement, announces his long-awaited return at Royal Rumble 2015 (which didn't turn out so well, not least for RR winner Roman Reigns). Speaking of Reigns, he and Bryan meet in the DVD's final match, the Fast Lane 2015 main event with a WM 31 WWE Title shot at stake. Reigns won, convincingly and after putting forth a pretty good effort. It feels like a weird way to end the DVD; however, the DVD was in production between Fast Lane and Mania, meaning that we couldn't see Bryan win the Intercontinental Title in a 7-man Ladder match from Mania 31 on this release.

It's awkward as well to see Bryan end the DVD (well, his comments on the DVD, since it fades to black with Reigns celebrating funnily enough) discussing how his health is back to 100%, because as we all know shortly after WM 31, Bryan was again injured and hasn't wrestled since, with conflicting reports on when he will return or even if he will return (and if he does whether it'll be in WWE). It'll be very sad for Bryan if his career is over, and even if he ends up wrestling again but outside WWE, because bad luck has ultimately denied him the chance to prove himself as a main eventer after spending so many years developing, without exaggeration, into one of the all-time great wrestlers. Hopefully, things will improve and we will see Bryan compete in a WWE ring someday, even if it is only for one final swansong encounter.

The Blu-ray includes more than a dozen additional interview chapters, as well as four extra matches that given their rarity are worth buying the HD discs for: a 2003 Velocity match against a young John Cena; a shockingly brief NXT match with William Regal from 2010 (their November 2011 match from Superstars in Liverpool, which I attended, is far better, and even Bryan at one point said that the latter was his favourite match); a basic mixed tag match that exists here only to show him and Brie, as they face Ted DiBiase and Maryse; the full Anger Management footage of Bryan and Kane (which is well worth watching again); and a Cage match pitting Bryan and Bray Wyatt against The Usos during Bryan's quickly-forgotten association with The Wyatts (although this ends with Bryan leading virtually 100% of the arena into a thunderous and perfectly-influenced "Yes!" chant, which is a Raw moment in itself).

As an overall package, this is a great wrestling DVD. The gaps in the documentary are minor at best, the tone is almost entirely honest, and the match selection thoroughly delivers with any notable omissions being acceptable (besides possibly there being no Bryan matches from ROH or any other indie promotions). I would still like to see another Bryan DVD someday with a longer, truly career-spanning documentary (and one filmed for use on a DVD and not a WWE Network rerun), complete with some of Bryan's ROH and indie scraps before bringing us more of Bryan's greatest WWE matches and moments. So, is this a DVD which all Daniel Bryan fans should purchase. Take a wild guess at the answer ...

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Overall Rating: 9/10 - Outstanding

Thursday, 8 October 2015

The Twisted, Disturbed Life Of Kane

Image Source: Paris-Catch
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 508 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: February 23 2009

It's as good a time as ever to provide a retro DVD review on Kane for several reasons. Firstly, this week marks 18 years since the debut of the Big Red Machine. Secondly, Kane is currently back in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship picture, as he faces Seth Rollins at Hell In A Cell in the culmination of a feud that has been months in the making. Finally, I recently provided a review of the Brothers Of Destruction DVD, and last week the retro DVD review was based around his brother The Undertaker, so it's only fair to give the spotlight this time around to the red and black attack.

"Attack" is a fitting word to describe Kane, especially in his early days as the masked, non-speaking monster from Hell; a far cry from his current role as the unmasked Director Of Operations (when he isn't slipping back into the Demon version of his character, that is) or even the unmasked behemoth from the late 2000s who narrates this DVD by introducing matches and, where applicable, explaining their backgrounds in his own, twisted way.

The compilation sensibly kicks off with Kane's first televised match (I know Glen Jacobs played several roles pre-1997 but we're talking Kane here so bear with me) against Mankind, a great brawl at Survivor Series 1997 which strangely exists under a constant red light. Up next are Kane's major collisions with The Undertaker from WrestleMania XIV and Unforgiven 1998, the latter being the first ever Inferno match.

Since this is a Kane DVD, and it was released before he became World Heavyweight Champion in 2010, the most crucial encounter is up next, that being his WWF Title-winning First Blood victory over Stone Cold Steve Austin at King Of The Ring 1998. Notable for the exciting action and shocking ending, I also still marvel at the fact that Mankind interfered having just nearly been killed in a Hell In A Cell match against Undertaker.

The Kane character moved away from his brother and onto new situations in late 1998/early 1999, such as a partnership with X-Pac. Here, we get their first WWF Tag Team Title win over Owen Hart and Jeff Jarrett, which despite horrendously overdubbed commentary and crowd noise was a fairly memorable match at the time. (I have memories of this title change for another reason. This was on the April 5 1999 Raw, having been taped on March 30. But I attended a WWF house show in Birmingham on April 4 where Kane and X-Pac, wrestling in separate matches, were introduced as titleholders. This was in the relative infancy of the Internet so this, for all intents and purposes, was one of the first examples of a "spoiler alert", and by the WWF itself at that. Topping it off, back then Raw wasn't shown until Friday nights, so it was five more nights before UK fans could watch the now-expected title change.)

Kane ended up feuding with X-Pac (for far too long, this was the Randy Orton-Sheamus of its day), and on this DVD we get a surprisingly entertaining Steel Cage match between the two from Armageddon 1999. The remainder of disc one covers Kane's coffee-induced feud with Chris Jericho and a Last Man Standing match from Armageddon 2000, and Kane's partnership with his brother (then in his biker period) via a three-way tag from No Way Out 2001.

Disc two opens with Kane striking gold again at Judgment Day 2001 in a forgotten Chain match against Triple H, which is a nice addition to this DVD. Another fun inclusion is Kane's WrestleMania X8 match with Kurt Angle, a bout amongst the many overshadowed that night by The Rock vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan. An injury shortly afterwards put Kane on the shelf, leading to his return in August 2002 with a new-style mask and outfit. The momentum, if one can call it that, of his comeback led to our next match, his double-title meeting with HHH at No Mercy 2002. The bout itself is okay, but it occurs as part of one of the worst WWE storylines ever which is simply referred to as "Katie Vick" (Google it if you're unsure; I'm not going into detail on this ugly saga). The other match from this phase of Kane's career is in the early part of his partnership with Rob Van Dam as they take on Chris Jericho and Christian, with Shawn Michaels and a then-very inexperienced Randy Orton at ringside.

Kane's character changed forever on June 23 2003 with his unmasking. Over the next few months, WWE did a brilliant job of revitalising Kane by doing the one thing which most assumed would have killed the persona off forever, that being the removal of his mask. Oddly, the main source of Kane's wrath would be Shane McMahon, who he faces here in a Last Man Standing bout from Unforgiven 2003 and in an Ambulance match from Survivor Series 2003, which are fun but a bit heatless (Shane really lays the blows into Kane in these scraps). Before this, we get a rare Raw Cage match between the monster and Rob Van Dam, who was the "lucky" recipient of Kane's first post-mask chokeslam.

Bizarrely, Kane's superbly-promoted re-rivalry with Taker in late 2003/early 2004 isn't referenced here. Instead, to close disc two, we jump ahead to the poorest Raw storyline of 2004 (SmackDown was very poor that year), and Kane's daft-on-paper Till Death Do Us Part bout with Matt Hardy from SummerSlam 2004, where the winner would get to marry Lita. You read that right. As a "treat", we get the Kane-Lita wedding as a DVD extra. (Funny how Lita married twice on WWE TV, and on neither occasion was it to her long-time boyfriend Matt Hardy.)

Up next, we have another forgotten match, an Unforgiven 2004 meeting with Shawn Michaels. After an encouraging start to their feud, it was virtually ignored until the time came for the two men to lock horns, but fortunately it ends up being a really enjoyable clash. Kane would then move onto a feud with Snitsky (showcased here by a No Holds Barred bout from a 2005 Raw), which was caused by Snitsky causing Kane's on-screen wife Lita to have a miscarriage and thus lose their baby. I kid you not, this really was the plot-line for this feud. I told you 2004 was a bad year in WWE.

The DVD then gives us two Kane vs. Edge matches from Raw, under Steel Cage and Stretcher rules, which are watchable but really exist to prepare the Edge-Matt Hardy rivalry, an incredibly juicy backstage scandal come to life. Kane would largely play an insignificant role over the next twelve months, with one highlight being the May 19 saga concerning the release of his first movie See No Evil (I actually got a kick out of this storyline, partly because my birthday is May 19, so I enjoyed the frequent references to the date). One slightly important feud from this time was Kane's rivalry with Umaga, highlighted here by a September 2006 Raw clash.

Kane ended up on SmackDown, where he would feud with MVP (no matches from their conflict are on this DVD, oddly), occasionally reform his partnership with The Undertaker (we see the Brothers Of Destruction team up here against King Booker and Finlay), and challenge other new foes, such as King Booker (who he takes on at No Way Out 2007) and Finlay, who he faces here in a fun Belfast Brawl from a September 2007 episode of SD. An April 2008 TV meeting with Taker (which is more angle than match) is the DVD's last bout, although the extras include Kane's 24-Man Battle Royal win and subsequent (very short) ECW Title victory over Chavo Guerrero on the evening of WrestleMania XXIV, which provide a more fitting conclusion to the DVD. In addition to the aforementioned Kane-Lita wedding, a number of other bonus segments are also included, including a hilarious one of Kane impersonating The Rock and Hollywood Hulk Hogan, and in one extra which I found very cool, an extended recap of the entire storyline which led to Kane's debut at In Your House XXVIII: Badd Blood. More bonus material can be found by the inclusion of several Easter Eggs by right-clicking and left-clicking two or three times (they vary) on different chapter headings within the DVD menu across the three discs.

I personally really enjoyed this DVD. If you're a Kane fan, which I am, this compilation couldn't have had much more relevant content than what is included here (the links are skippable but are understandable given the psychotic nature of Kane's character), at least considering that it was produced in 2008. The DVD shows the evolution of Kane's character and, at least amongst the extras, the versatility of Kane's talents; whilst The Undertaker is undoubtedly an all-time legend, I would argue that he (or at least his character) is not as versatile as that of Kane, perfectly displayed by Kane's priceless Team Hell No combo with Daniel Bryan in 2012-3. And even today, 18 years on from his arrival, Kane remains an important part of WWE television, and is playing his most versatile role yet by portraying the demon character and the Corporate persona at the same time.

Some may say that this DVD doesn't exactly rank as a great wrestling compilation, which to be fair is true. However, this DVD is aimed at Kane's fans (obvious, I know), and it definitely should meet their expectations. It's possible that we may get a future DVD with a documentary covering Kane's entire career, including his real-life experiences and some interesting facts about Glen Jacobs (did you know that he was born in Madrid, Spain?) and the post-2008 portion of his career. We may get it in the next two-to-three years if Kane retires during that period, which is a genuine possibility. But whilst we wait for such a release, Kanenites should be more than satisfied with this release on one of the most underrated yet important characters of the last 20 years in WWE.

Overall Rating: 8/10 - Very Good

Monday, 5 October 2015

The Best Of WWE At Madison Square Garden

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 428 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: September 9 2013

With the recent WWE Network special emanating from Madison Square Garden, this seems as good a time as any to look at the company's 2013 DVD dedicated to The World's Most Famous Arenas. Book-ended by links from Matt Striker (although there are very few of them), this compilation focuses on memorable matches and moments at MSG, and for the most part it is a success.

Surprisingly, we get nothing from Bruno Sammartino's first WWWF Title reign (more on him later), but we do get a match involving the man who dethroned Bruno in 1971, Ivan Koloff; his championship loss to Pedro Morales is the first match here, and is cool to see as it's historic yet rare (although the production quality is understandably poor). A Bruno vs. Superstar Billy Graham clash from 1977 follows, before a fairly good Texas Death match between Bob Backlund and Ken Patera from 1980. A historically noteworthy meeting between WWF Champ Bob Backlund and NWA Champ Harley Race follows, with commentary by Matt Striker that is either entertaining or annoying depending on your point of view, but we strangely don't get the memorable Backlund-Iron Sheik title change from December 1983. We do, however, get Hulk Hogan's incredibly important first WWF Title win over Sheik (the match is short but it marked the true beginning of Hulkamania), and a gripping Boot Camp match between Sgt Slaughter and Iron Sheik, which is incredibly bloody considering that we were by then into the Hogan era.

Next up is the main event of the first WrestleMania, one of the most important matches in wrestling history as Hogan and Mr. T face Roddy Piper and Mr. Wonderful in a celebrity-surrounded match that simply had to succeed for the WWF to stay afloat; fortunately, it did. (As an aside, some other important pre-WM matches aren't here, such as the Slaughter-Pat Patterson Alley Fight from 1981 and the Jimmy Snuka-Don Muraco cage match from 1983; don't expect to see the latter on many future DVDs under current circumstances.) A random 1985 tag match pitting Andre The Giant and Wonderful against Piper and Bob Orton (an off-shoot of the WM top-liner) is followed by the unforgettable SummerSlam 1988 match where The Ultimate Warrior dethrones the longest-reigning Intercontinental Champion of all-time, The Honky Tonk Man. The bout only lasts around 30 seconds, but it's very engaging to watch and launched Warrior's career.

Two of the three greatest IC Title bouts ever come next, as we get the classic Mr. Perfect-Bret Hart showdown from SummerSlam 1991, featuring an all-time classic commentary performance from Bobby Heenan ("You can't grab Bret Hart's hair ... You'd have too many oil slicks on your hands" and "I heard that one time (Roddy) Piper went to school one day and when he came home, his parents had moved" were amongst his best lines), and that Ladder match between Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels from WrestleMania X. Some may complain that this match is once again included on a WWE DVD, but as one of the best matches ever to be held at The Garden, there would have been more complaints had this one not been included. I would also argue that Bret vs. Owen Hart from the same Mania should have been on this release, since it was a brilliant match in its own right and since two "incidents" from one show are included later on.

Disc two ends with a bout that lasts eight seconds. That might sound unappealing, but it is the 1994 clash where Diesel wins the WWF Title from Bob Backlund and, as a house show match, this has never been released as an overall presentation (we previously only ever saw the eight seconds themselves on the likes of Superstars and Wrestling Challenge); and besides, the big guy ended up holding the belt (yes, I said belt) for almost a year, so its inclusion is justifiable.

The third disc opens with an eight-man Survivor Series showdown from SS 1996, notable solely for the debut of Rocky Maivia, who would of course become The Rock. I can understand why this is on the DVD, but it lasts a fairly long time and isn't very interesting otherwise, so I would much rather have seen Bret vs. Steve Austin from the same card, a vital match in making Stone Cold a major star. This DVD contains moments as well as matches, one example being Austin's first Stone Cold Stunner to Vince McMahon, one of two highlights of the September 22, 1997 Raw to be featured here; the other is the wacky Falls Count Anywhere match between Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Cactus Jack (Jack's WWF debut, set up brilliantly by a daft yet entertaining video featuring all three Faces Of (Mick) Foley).

It's nice to see the lauded-at-the-time, almost-forgotten-nowadays Tag Team Tables match (the first in WWF history) between The Dudleyz and The Hardyz from Royal Rumble 2000, but where is Triple H vs. Cactus Jack from the same show? This Street Fight was truly epic and arguably the greatest ever match of its kind (I also complained about its absence from the Falls Count Anywhere DVD, if I remember correctly; click here to see if I did. Spoiler: I did.). I'd even have thrown in Tazz' WWF debut from the same show on this release. But probably not Mae Young's "topless" showing from RR 2000 ... definitely not. Unless you like seeing fake pensioner breasts that look like drooping sausage rolls.

A rare Raw match from 2000 is next, pitting Chris Jericho against Triple H against Kurt Angle. At the risk of sounding ill-informed, I'll spare the details of this one, because they'd take too long to explain, other than note that it doesn't last very long. Following this is Booker T's attack on Vince at MSG from June 2001 and the rather memorable return of Triple H from the first Raw of 2002 from a quadriceps injury (which the WWF/WWE may have mentioned once or twice). Next up is Big Show vs. John Cena for the United States Title from WrestleMania XX, which definitely played a role in Cena's ascension in WWE, but it still a bit overrated by the WWE historical hype machine.

After Trish Stratus' last Raw match of her full-time WWE run (a short bout with Mickie James from a September 2006 episode), we then see Cena again, this time as a far bIgger star, as he returns to win the 2008 Royal Rumble. To understand the impact of this, you have to consider that Cena at that point was supposedly injured until the summer of 2008, and very, very few people knew that he would be a participant, making this arguably the greatest moment in Royal Rumble history. There haVE always been surprise entrants in the Rumble, but the trend truly began with this moment.

I was disappointed on several fronts that the final match was the three-way tag main event from the November 2009 MSG Raw because firstly, despite the star power and the largely engaging action, it isn't a great match; secondly, it has been frequently released (including on the recent Road Is Jericho compilation); thirdly, Kofi Kingston's star-making attack on Randy Orton was the most memorable part of that particular show; and finally, I was looking forward to revisiting CM Punk vs. Alberto Del Rio from Survivor Series 2011 (a photograph from this encounter is on the sleeve), only to feel short-changed when the DVD ends with the aforementioned Raw bout (although Punk vs. ADR is on the Blu-ray, along with a few more bouts, several bonus stories and Vince's MSG Walk Of Fame induction).

Speaking of the sleeve: it looks okay, but it feels a little bit lazy and rushed and, whilst the main picture indicates a heavy presence by Bruno Sammartino and the sleeve listing strongly promotes this as being Bruno's first appearance as a talking head on a WWE DVD, we only hear from him once and only get one of his matches, which considering his history with The Garden is both baffling and feels like a let-down to any fans who purchased the DVD to see a lot of Bruno. I should mention that every match is preceded by a talking head which in most cases is relevant to the match, from Bob Backlund to Bret Hart to Kevin Nash to The Rock, although some spoil the ending of the subsequent bout which is a minor annoyance.

There were several TV shows not referenced (a June 2001 SmackDown, an August 2002 Raw, Raw and SmackDown from June 2003 and April 2005, Raw and Saturday Night's Main Event from August 2007 and SmackDown from April/May 2009), although the only glaring omission from those would be the night that Kane first unmasked. SummerSlam 1998 and Survivor Series 2002 were strangely not represented, and I would have liked some more matches from the 1980s and 1990s when monthly cards were shown exclusive to the New York area on the MSG Network, and possibly even some rare house show clashes from recent years too.

Overall, though, WWE has done a nice job with this DVD. There are a couple of classic matches, plenty of historic moments, a few rare gems, and overall a load of wrestling-related entertainment. You won't learn much about MSG from this compilation, and it has a couple of notable absentees when it comes to the match selection, but given the title of this release, this DVD does its job and offers most of WWE's finest moments at Madison Square Garden, with their historical significance and the comments from wrestlers past and present underlining why, even today, MSG remains the World's Most Famous Arena.

Overall Rating: 8/10 - Very Good

Thursday, 1 October 2015

The Undertaker's Deadliest Matches

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 499 Minutes
Certificate: 18
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: September 13 2010

On paper, a DVD based on the most violent matches of The Undertaker's career sounds intriguing, especially when it was released in 2010 with WWE at the height of its transition into a PG wrestling product. But while the compilation definitely has its moments, it is more notable for the key matches that aren't included; granted, many of those bouts had been released on Taker's previous DVD Tombstone (which you can read a review of by clicking here), but not having them here greatly reduces the appeal of the set under review.

Introduced by and featuring links from a very in-character Phenom, this stipulation-themed set begins with a fun if dangerous Bodybag match against The Ultimate Warrior from 1991, during which heel manager Paul Bearer's facial expressions and mannerisms are unintentionally hilarious. We then get the first Coffin match (actually the only one, at least where the stipulation uses that name) against Kamala at Survivor Series 1992, and further Casket bouts with Kama and Mabel from SummerSlam 1995 and In Your House V respectively. I'd have preferred the Survivor Series 1994 "box" match with Yokozuna since it was more memorable and entertaining than these two examples, or even either of Taker's Royal Rumble container clashes with Yoko or Shawn Michaels.

In a strange twist of fate, we next get the two 1996 Mankind matches which we should have had on Taker's 2005 DVD, from that year's King Of The Ring (a gripping war that was ahead of its time) and SummerSlam (their famous Boiler Room Brawl which has a shocking conclusion). The first of these didn't actually have a special rule but it definitely fits the violent theme, and the second is a more than worthy inclusion.

One would think that the incoming Attitude Era would bring about a wealth of matches to be featured here, but the next included bout isn't until Rock Bottom 1998, a Buried Alive match against Stone Cold Steve Austin. This is enjoyable (as most Austin scraps during the era were), but where is the first BA clash with Mankind or, more glaringly, Taker's Hell In A Cell showdowns with HBK and Mankind? I know they were released on Tombstone, but they should have been here on a DVD based around extreme bouts, and the HIAC fight with Mankind is arguably the most violent and dangerous match in company history. Nobody could have complained too loudly about repetition had these milestone matches been included.

Another omission is the first Inferno match with Kane, but at least we get the rematch from a February 1999 Raw, which has Vince McMahon on commentary during that odd phase when he appeared to be a villain and a face/heel (since it was unsure who was in which role during his Taker feud) at the same time. We then get two Raw matches from 1999 against Big Show which don't have stipulations and are therefore unreleased filler, although the finish of the May '99 match is violent and the end of the June '99 was very memorable at the time.

Inexplicably, the next match on the DVD isn't for a whopping five years, completely leaving out anything from his biker phase, including his phenomenally bloody and brutal HIAC match with Brock Lesnar from No Mercy 2002 (incidentally, it'll be interesting to see whether Taker and Brock can live up to this standard in a PG environment when they meet in the Cell again at HIAC 2015). Worse still, the next bout is one of the most baffling main events ever, the simply ridiculous Concrete Crypt showdown with The Dudleyz from The Great American Bash 2004; sure, it lives up to the theme of the DVD, but the story behind it is odd and the finish of the match presentation is nonsensical.

We don't get the first Last Ride (hearse) match between Undertaker and JBL from No Mercy 2004 (during which JBL claims to have suffered the back injury that would eventually end his career), so next up is a surprisingly entertaining Casket match with Heidenreich from the 2005 Royal Rumble, featuring cameos from Snitsky and Kane (incidentally, there were plans at one point for the Brothers Of Destruction to team at a WrestleMania for the first time against Heidenreich and Snitsky at WM 21; this didn't happen, but as we instead got Taker vs. Randy Orton at that year's Mania, which properly began the importance of Undertaker remaining undefeated at WrestleMania, I think it's safe to say that we got the better option in that deal).

Speaking of the Legend Killer, he pops up next to face Taker alongside his father Cowboy Bob Orton in a handicap Casket match from No Mercy 2005, and again in singles action in what I consider to be a highly underrated Hell In A Cell match from Armageddon 2005, and one of the highlights of this DVD. Following this, we jump ahead to the summer of 2006 and a Last Man Standing match against The Great Khali, which was originally meant to happen at that year's SummerSlam but was instead moved to the pre-SS SmackDown for unknown reasons.

We then get two matches against Mr. Kennedy from Survivor Series and Armageddon of 2006, under First Blood and Last Ride rules (the first of these, by the way, features an incredibly brutal steel chairshot by Taker to Kennedy; you definitely won't see anything like that in WWE nowadays). Taker's celebrated 2007 rivalry with Batista is showcased by a great Last Man Standing bout from Backlash 2007, although if we're talking major stipulation matches, I'd have preferred to revisit their superior HIAC match from that year's Survivor Series.

Oddly, we then get a random SmackDown match from 2008 against Big Daddy V, which has no stipulations whatsoever (although it does officially debut the Hell's Gate submission hold that Taker uses to this day). The DVD ends with a really good Cell match with Edge from SummerSlam 2008 and a better-than-expected Cage match with Big Show from a December 2008 episode of SmackDown. There are no bonus features, although there are two Easter Eggs in the form of the pre-match hype videos for the two 1995 bouts by left-clicking twice on the corresponding matches in the DVD menu.

This is a hard DVD to grade. On the one hand, I did enjoy it a lot, and it was fun to get variety in the match stipulations and situations. It was also refreshing to see an Undertaker DVD with no connection to Taker's WrestleMania Streak; as important as it was, it was only in 2005 that it became an annual storyline, as noted earlier, and Taker had not only enjoyed a great career before then, but he also had many memorable moments beyond this date outside of WM, some of which are featured or referenced here.

But on the other hand, there are a lot of glaring omissions, made worse by the number of bouts here which are filler, ridiculous (in the case of the Concrete Crypt match) or inferior to those of a similar stipulation which aren't included. Besides those I've already mentioned, there's also the 2002 Ladder match with Jeff Hardy, a 2003 Buried Alive scrap against Vince and a 2008 TLC bout with Edge, as well as plenty of others (the DVD timeline ends in 2010, so the likes of Taker's HIAC meeting with Triple H from WM XXVIII obviously aren't here either).

This is one DVD where I feel the repetition of matches was necessary, because it feels very incomplete otherwise. I can certainly see why WWE did not overlap content between this and Tombstone, but this is one of the few DVDs where I feel it should have been the case; we could have at least had the KOTR 1998 Cell showdown with Mankind. Therefore, I will state that this was a very enjoyable DVD, but the unquestionable gaps bring the overall rating down a level.

Overall Rating: 7/10 - Respectable

Monday, 28 September 2015

Brothers Of Destruction: Greatest Matches

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 92 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: September 1 2014

With the wrestling world still in shock over the end of The Undertaker's undefeated Streak at WrestleMania in the summer of 2014, WWE oddly chose this time to release a DVD on Taker's occasional partnership with his on-screen partner Kane. This DVD (the first to use the new WWE logo, by the way) feels like a budget release due to its single disc and short running time (although I do like the colourful, drawing-style artwork), but it still remains fairly entertaining and watchable.

Rather than beginning with their unforeseen union in 1998, or the odd bout from the next few years, we begin in 2001 with the duo beating Edge & Christian for the then-WWF Tag Team Titles on SmackDown! from April 2001. This was during the weird phase where Steve Austin had just turned heel despite The Rock then quickly leaving to film The Scorpion King, which combined with the end of The Monday Night Wars meant that wrestling was beginning to drop off in interest and popularity from this point onwards. Still, the match itself is alright and typical of the final few months of the Attitude Era.

Next up is a confusing Tables match with The Dudleyz from Raw a few months later: the referee is down when Bubba Ray Dudley is put through the wood, yet the result goes the way of Taker and Kane. Around this time, Undertaker's then-wife Sara is at her husband's side via the stalker storyline, the villain of which (Diamond Dallas Page) gets involved here. It's only little over a week timeline-wise before the next encounter, as the brothers dethrone Sean O'Haire and Mark Jindrak for the WCW Tag Team Titles on SmackDown! (By the way, although the featured stars were the same, there was a clear distinction between Raw and SmackDown! at this time, and both were vital parts of wrestling viewing schedules; when was the last time that the casual fans could say that in modern times?)

We then see one of the most one-sided bouts ever held between well-known performers as Taker and Kane destroy DDP and Kanyon in a cage to unify the two sets of Tag Team Titles at SummerSlam 2001 (the last three matches were all part of the Invasion storyline, incidentally). This and an embarrassing Raw win for Taker's not-exactly-Divaesque wife Sara over Page the next night finished the creepy-in-hindsight stalker tale.

Oh, and Taker is in his biker phase for all the matches so far on the DVD, and Rollin' by Limp Bizkit has been overdubbed. Not a surprise, but still annoying since all but one of the 2001 bouts are unreleased up until this point. It's also worth noting that despite his popularity, Undertaker was being heavily criticised for his performances in the summer of 2001 with many calling for him to retire or even be released from his contract. I think it's fair to say that history has proven those fans to be incorrect. In fact, I'll bet most of them were amongst the many devastated at the end of the Streak.

We then wait five years before the next bout, by which time Taker is the Phenom again and Kane has been unmasked. They face MVP and Mr. Kennedy on a 2006 SmackDown which is fun (I loved the final shot where Kennedy somehow shares a hearse with Taker), but their initial meeting a few weeks earlier should have been here too since that marked the BOD's first teaming for half a decade.

We then get a match I had completely forgotten about from a 2008 SmackDown as the big men take on two bigger men in Big Daddy V and Mark Henry, before the DVD ends with a decent ECW doubles clash against John Morrison and The Miz (the night that Mike Adamle became ECW colour commentator, and soon to be the worst commentator in wrestling history).

The Blu-ray has four bonus matches: two from 1998 against Stone Cold partnerships with Billy Gunn and The Rock (there should have been at least one of these on the DVD, partly since the packaging advertises as such), the Backlash 2001 main event against Austin and Triple H, and the six-man with Daniel Bryan against The Shield from the London Raw in April 2013, which is probably the best bout on the whole disc.

This DVD is definitely one for the diehard fans of Undertaker and Kane. The matches are all worth watching (besides maybe the SummerSlam encounter) and are relatively short, but none are really that good and, as such, the DVD won't appeal to those who buy a few releases per year. It's a nice DVD to have and to fill time, but it's not one that I envision selling in record numbers (some might throw in an inside joke there considering the featured performers but I won't). If you do cash in on this, I would suggest buying the Blu-ray instead since there are four more matches, with two being rare and the other two being the best of the compilation.

Overall Rating: 5.5/10 - Above Average

Thursday, 24 September 2015

The Most Powerful Families In Wrestling

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 380 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 2
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: July 23 2007

This DVD set on The Most Powerful Families In Wrestling is a curious one. Released in 2007, it has a documentary that quickly covers the legacies of many wrestling families, backed up by a variety of talking head comments, and features over a dozen bonus matches involving members of said families. It is entertaining enough from a visual standpoint, but there are several aspects to this twin-disc DVD that are worth questioning.

Hosted by Carlito, the documentary lasts around 2 1/2 hours and covers the following wrestling families: Orton, Guerrero, McMahon, Gagne, Von Erich, Anoai, Hart, Vachon, Colon, Rougeau, Graham, Windham, Brisco, Funk and Maivia/Johnson. Strangely, the Hennig family is referenced on the DVD sleeve but isn't involved in the documentary, despite one of the extra bouts featuring Curt with Larry getting involved. That aside, the other downside is that some families receive a lot more air time than others. That is understandable (e.g. the Harts were a very large and very famous family), but it means that the families and/or performers who normally do not receive attention are still barely referenced; scratching the surface doesn't even cover it for those groups.

Other minor flaws were how Carlito is in character in the links but is not in character during his Colon-related comments, especially odd since the latter were clearly recorded when Carlito recorded his presenting links; and whilst we get a wealth of talking heads (including The Rock in the only DVD comments he recorded during the 7-year stretch he had away from WWE), we don't get comments from certain heavyweights, most notably Bret Hart (WWE could have at least reused the discussion of his family from Bret's 2005 DVD for this release). On the whole, though, the documentary is perfectly acceptable. It rushes through a ton of wrestling history, but at the same time it still covers a lot of ground and does a good job of quickly summarising the impact of each family in wrestling. It even has some unexpected bonus chapters, most humorously the one that looks at those who were classed as wrestling siblings, but really weren't.

This would have been better had it been produced a few years later or in the modern era; had there been a few years' delay to this project, we could have seen more examination of the Samoan/Anoai lineage (with the likes of Roman Reigns and Manu), DiBiase (Ted Sr and Ted Jr) and Rhodes, with Cody debuting the very year this DVD was released (and by the way, why weren't the Rhodes family covered in the documentary anyway? Dusty and Dustin were more than worthy of being featured, and are in a bonus match as well). Still, I enjoyed the documentary, and I would watch it again in future, although it isn't exactly the strongest that WWE has produced.

The extras are a mixed bag. We get a few bonus comments (Deuce a.k.a. Jimmy Snuka Jr. breaks down when discussing the impact that his father had on him), as well as 16 additional matches which cover a huge scope of wrestling history; the bouts come from the WWWF, WWF and WWE, as well as the NWA, AWA, WCCW, WCW and ECW. However, many of them, particularly the early matches, really aren't that interesting at all. A tag match involving Chief Jay Strongbow and Peter Maivia is deathly dull, although it features the bizarrely entertaining sight of Maivia giving an impromptu sing-song. A doubles bout with the Ortons is better but still nowhere near a must-see. A six-man tag involving the Von Erichs and two rings is strange as we have two bouts going on in each ring, with the illegal partner standing between rings; it's a cool twist, but without a split screen, it's impossible to follow, and really does feel pointless in the end. A tag match involving Blackjack Mulligan and Barry Windham isn't great, but feels exciting in comparison to the earlier bouts on the DVD.

We get the Briscos vs. Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood tag bout from Starrcade 1983 seen on the Steamboat DVD, as well as the closing moments of an AWA Title clash between Curt Hennig and Greg Gagne. Lack of context is definitely an issue in the latter case; I believe that Greg was never AWA Champion, but the finish and resultant scenes would have you think otherwise. An AWA six-man sees the original Guerreros team up in the most vibrant match of the DVD thus far, although some spots are not completely well-executed and may have you looking through your fingers. A WWF tag bout between the Bushwhackers and the Rougeaus is fun and typical of that era in the company. Another tag bout involving the Windham name (Barry and Kendall) against Lex Luger and Michael Hayes is short and has an abrupt ending, but the unpredictable nature of the conclusion makes it entertaining viewing.

An eight-man tag from Survivor Series 1993 pitting the Harts against Shawn Michaels and The Knights (it was meant to be Jerry Lawler but legal problems took over, meaning that the Knights have no relevance and HBK is a clear substitute for the King, albeit a very good one) is well-executed but not very interesting. However, the show is stolen by Bobby Heenan on commentary: whilst Royal Rumble 1992 is rightly regarded as Heenan's finest hour, this match from the 1993 Series, to me, is The Brain's best ever performance, purely from an entertainment standpoint: he makes literally dozens of genuinely funny jokes and, as this is a long match, the one-liners just keep on coming. This was actually Heenan's last WWF PPV on commentary, but what a way it was to go out; this phenomenal comedy performance was the highlight of that event, and of this DVD.

We also get a chaotic ECW tag match pitting The Funks against Public Enemy which goes haywire and features the insane spot of Rocco Rock being hung by the feet upside down from a balcony. This actually comes after a WCW tag bout despite the then-Eastern Championship Wrestling doubles match being held a few months prior to the in-ring return of Dusty Rhodes, teaming with Dustin against Terry Funk (who appeared for both groups in 1994) and Bunkhouse Buck. Two bouts from 1997 come next: Rocky Maivia vs. The Sultan is okay if you ignore the fact that it was at a WrestleMania which weakens it, although we do get a commentary quip from Jerry Lawler that is tasteless yet funny (I won't repeat it here); and then a tag pitting Ivan and Scott Putski against Lawler and Brian Christopher, which is fine for what it is.

The last two matches are the most exciting: Los Guerreros vs. The World's Greatest Tag Team from a 2003 SmackDown! is great, even if Charlie Haas is nearly paralysed towards the end; and The Undertaker vs. Randy Orton from SummerSlam 2005 is a forgotten gem and a reminder that their rivalry is overlooked when discussing memorable feuds from the last decade in WWE. The overall match selection is intriguing: there are no classic matches nor is anything must-see, but the sheer wealth of archive footage and the span of promotions, performers and eras make it a pretty good line-up of bonus bouts all the same, and the vast majority of these matches are not available on other DVDs.

To conclude, The Most Powerful Families In Wrestling is a DVD that I consider to be worth having but not essential. The documentary is not a classic, but is nice filler and provides plenty of scenes documenting histories of families (of course), rivalries and in some cases companies in wrestling history. The bonus bouts are of the nature that you would watch just the once, but are worth seeing nonetheless. And the small number of additional interview spots are fine. Don't go out of your way trying to find this DVD on eBay, but if you do come across this two-disc set, I suggest that you give it the old college try; if you don't expect too much from it, you won't be disappointed.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10 - Okay

Monday, 21 September 2015

The Destruction Of The Shield

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 423 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: March 9 2015

Just over a year ago, WWE fans witnessed the shocking break-up of The Shield, with many wondering why one of the most dominant factions in recent memory would be split up, as well as wondering how each member would fare in the future. This DVD includes a documentary on the three members of the group - Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns - and memorable matches involving the trio, as well as a number of bouts after the group dissolved.

The documentary was originally shown on the WWE Network, leading into SummerSlam 2014 where Ambrose would fight Rollins and where Reigns, in his major breakout match, would face Randy Orton. It shows how each man prepared for the biggest event of the summer, as well as delving into the pre-WWE backgrounds of all three (ranging from independents like ROH and CZW or American football in Reigns' case), the adventures of all three in FCW and on NXT, the coming-together of The Shield on WWE TV, their dominance from November 2012 to June 2014, and the ultimate destruction of the group (hence the title of this DVD).

The documentary covers virtually everything that you could expect, given the youth of the three profiled performers. We even get archive ROH and CZW footage for Rollins and Ambrose respectively during their independent days as Tyler Black and Jon Moxley, as well as some interesting stories on behind-the-scenes happenings involving the three men (particularly notable is Rollins' backstage conflicts which almost led to him not being promoted to the main roster). We get good coverage of The Shield's first year-and-a-half in WWE, and of their unexpected demise in June 2014. The feature does feel odd when the three ex-Shield members talk about their SummerSlam matches as if they were real, although it's understandable given that this was previously a pre-SummerSlam Network special. Otherwise, the documentary is very good considering that there isn't a huge amount of history to cover, and that equal time must be allocated between each of the profiled stars. It isn't must-see, but it is definitely worth watching. And even if you've previously seen this on the Network, there are several additional chapters to the main feature.

The match selection is also commendable, and each match is previewed by background comments from one Shield member. We get two really good Rollins-Ambrose matches from Florida Championship Wrestling, and a rare three-way involving the three men in FCW back when Reigns was known as Leakee. The last FCW match is a compelling fight between Ambrose and William Regal, but is tarnished by WWE's decision to include this bout with a black-and-white screen during scenes when Regal's ear is cut open. This is to comply with WWE's PG rating for this DVD, but it either should have been cut or released on a TV-14 compilation; FCW matches aren't on the WWE Network, so unless we get a future Ambrose DVD, we'll never get to see the full-colour transmission of this match. (It's also worth noting that this was the last ever FCW TV match which, when you watch it, feels like the developmental territory ended on a true low note, which is odd.)

We then see a fun NXT Title victory for Seth, making him the first NXT Champion, against Jinder Mahal and Roman Reign's NXT debut against CJ Parker. The match listing then jumps to The Shield's in-ring WWE debut, a superb TLC war against Ryback and Team Hell No from TLC 2012. With the possible exception of Kevin Owens defeating John Cena at Elimination Chamber 2015, this was the best main-stage debut for a new character or characters in the last decade in WWE. We don't get The Shield's WrestleMania bow (at XXIX), disappointingly, but we do get their first championship victories for the US Title and Tag Titles from Extreme Rules 2013, and a very exciting WWE Tag Team Title match with The Uso's from the Money In The Bank 2013 Kick-Off show.

The numbers increase for the Survivor Series 2013 elimination match that showcased Reigns, and the following six-man tag between The Shield and The Wyatt Family from Elimination Chamber 2014 is fantastic. The subsequent Shield-Evolution No Holds Barred bout from Payback 2014 is also engaging, if a little slow, as is the 2014 Money In The Bank Ladder Match, by which point The Shield has dissolved. We get the two SummerSlam 2014 matches that had been discussed (Rollins vs. Ambrose under Lumberjack rules, and Reigns vs. Orton), which is a nice touch, and two Raw matches pitting Rollins and Ambrose (Falls Count Anywhere) and Reigns respectively bring this compilation to a close. (There are also a few intriguing Blu-ray exclusive matches, so I'd suggest getting the Blu-ray over the DVD if you're trying to decide between the two.)

It is hoped, or has been proven since the end of this DVD's timeline (with Reigns winning the Royal Rumble and Rollins becoming WWE World Heavyweight Champion at WrestleMania 31), that the futures for all three men are brighter than their past and even their run in The Shield, so we are likely to see at least one of these performers profiled in another DVD in the future. Judging their careers up to the early post-Shield period, though, this DVD does as good a job as could be expected: the documentary is informative, insightful and entertaining, and the majority of the bonus matches are very good, with a few Match Of The Year contenders thrown in there.

If you didn't believe in The Shield, you will after watching this DVD.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10 - Excellent

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Brock Lesnar: Here Comes The Pain! - Collector's Edition

Written By: Mark Armstrong

(2003 Edition)

Image Source: Amazon
Running Time: 181 Minutes
Certificate: 18
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: December 1 2003

Before I begin, I should mention that this DVD was originally released as a one-disc feature in 2003. In 2012, it was re-released as a three-disc compilation. Rather than providing two reviews for essentially the same product with more features, I am doing this review to cover both versions.

The main feature of this release was - note the word was - a documentary looking at the career of Brock Lesnar. As it was produced in 2003, Lesnar had only been in WWE for just over a year at this point, so while we do get good coverage of Brock's rookie year in the company, there aren't a lot of stories besides his on-screen feuds (I had forgotten until watching this that WWE documentaries used plenty of the pre-match hype videos, which was good but ends up using at least a quarter of the running time). Outside of covering Lesnar's pre-WWF life, the only material which doesn't involve his on-screen feuds concerns the injury he suffered, and the injury that he could have suffered, when he came short on his attempted Shooting Star Press against Kurt Angle at WrestleMania XIX. There are still plenty of talking head comments from some of Lesnar's in-ring rivals, ex-wrestlers and staff and Paul Heyman (but not Brock himself, strangely). Overall, by 2003 standards it was a decent documentary, but watching it in the modern era it feels a bit dated in its presentation, especially given that it doesn't offer a great number of revelations.

Ironically, a modern-day documentary on Lesnar's career would be gripping viewing, as it would include discussion of Lesnar leaving WWE in 2004, his attempt to enter the NFL, his subsequent lawsuit, his adventures in NJPW, his transition into MMA and ultimately his UFC career, his life-threatening illnesses and his return to WWE, including (of course) becoming the "1 in 21-1" by ending The Undertaker's undefeated WrestleMania Streak at WM XXX. That should be a priority for WWE to produce, especially since Lesnar's WWE profile is arguably greater than it has ever been before. In the meantime, though, let's go back to the release under review.

In 2003, Brock Lesnar: HCTP was released on VHS (video for the younger audience) and DVD. The VHS consisted solely of the documentary, whereas the DVD included two Confidential segments on Brock as well as a number of bonus matches. The matches were his SmackDown! victory over Hulk Hogan, his SummerSlam 2002 WWE Undisputed Title win over The Rock, his No Mercy 2002 Hell In A Cell war with Undertaker, his WM XIX WWE Title win over Angle and two Big Show matches: the Stretcher bout at Judgment Day 2003 and their famous SD bout from a month later. I'll go back to the matches shortly, but basically that is the 2003 DVD wrapped up. Overall, by 2003 standards, a decent DVD which I will give a 6.5 out of 10, judging it by the past standards.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10 - Okay

(2012 Edition)

Image Source: eBay
Running Time: 417 Minutes
Certificate: 18
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: November 19 2012

Moving onto the 2012 version, then: it uses the old documentary as the first feature (with minor edits to remove as many Chris Benoit references as they feasibly can, although there aren't many), but by no means is this the main aspect of the re-release. Instead, the Collector's Edition is based around the bonus matches, of which there are many more than on the 2003 DVD, as well as what the packaging promises to be an exclusive interview with Lesnar, conducted after his 2012 return to WWE.

Well, that's what it suggests. In reality, it is an extended version of the pre-taped promo that Lesnar cut on WWE TV in the lead-up to his Extreme Rules comeback against John Cena, split into parts that appear before each match on this DVD. However, the comments are from a character standpoint, meaning they shed no light on Lesnar's career whatsoever. Plus, they become repetitive; after two or three, you've essentially heard them all. Oh, and very few are related to the matches that follow them. Given the choice, I'd sooner that these talking head comments had been left off completely and we'd had another match instead (you could even argue that they could have left off the recycled documentary and replaced that with a few more bouts too). And never mind the fact that, as the vast majority of modern WWE fans realise that the product is scripted entertainment, these comments don't exactly make a difference to building Brock's on-screen character. If you're buying the Lesnar DVD for the 2012 interview of sorts, then don't; it will not meet your expectations whatsoever. Another reason why a future Lesnar documentary release is essential.

Therefore, the true focus of the 2012 version of the Lesnar DVD consists of the extra matches. All of those mentioned earlier are back here, except one: the Stretcher match with Show. I am not sure why this was omitted the second time around because it was surprisingly good and probably the best match that Lesnar and Show had (when seeing the 2003 DVD, I noticed that during this match, Show had named his recent in-ring victims on a stretcher board, one of which said "Benoit", which perhaps explains why the Judgment Day 2003 main event wasn't on the 2012 DVD.)

Onto the 2012 DVD bouts then: an OVW clash with Leviathan (the future Batista) has been released elsewhere and is quite short, and seeing the dominant Lesnar lose a match so quickly (even in developmental) is an odd start. An OVW Tag Title match held before an episode of Raw prior to the WWF/WWE debuts of all four participants is interesting from a curiosity standpoint, but suffers from reduced crowd responses (probably because at the time, most fans had no idea who these guys were). Brock then defeats Jeff Hardy in his official debut at Backlash 2002, which is more or less a squash match, and his King Of The Ring 2002 win over Rob Van Dam is entertaining but feels like it ends at least ten minutes before it's supposed to. Lesnar teaming with Taker against Ric Flair and RVD is fun, and his SD win over Hogan is brutal, and a perfect example of how a veteran can make a rising star look like a monster.

Brock vs. Rock from SummerSlam 2002 is really good considering Lesnar's experience level at the time, and is an essential inclusion here. Brock vs. a young Randy Orton is a cool inclusion, before we move onto the forgotten Brock-Taker match at Unforgiven 2002 (the DQ ending to a PPV main event was rare at the time and was thunderously booed; that we don't see all of the post-match capers here is questionable), and their absolute bloodbath at No Mercy inside HIAC. I thought this was disappointing at the time because it never left the cage, but looking at it through modern eyes, this is a tremendous war that is one of the best matches of its kind ever (and Undertaker's blood loss in this match is shockingly deep within seconds of it beginning).

We then move onto Lesnar's stint as the top babyface on SmackDown! We see him win the 2003 Royal Rumble match and in a handicap match against Team Angle (Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin). Watching Lesnar as "The Beast" today makes you forget how good of an actual in-ring wrestler he is or was, and this match proves it. If it doesn't, his WM main event with Angle emphasises it, although Kurt's neck injury prevents it from being the classic that most had hoped for. A Backlash 2003 main event with Cena is decent considering that it was the then-rookie Cena's first big match, but nothing standout (it is very interesting to see Cena as a heel here, although some of his best rap lines are cut out).

The next encounter is the classic Iron Man match with Angle on SD, a great example of a brilliant wrestling match where the heel (Lesnar) is devious enough that even his top-notch in-ring skills do not receive cheers, followed by a forgotten TV gem between Lesnar and Rey Mysterio. Strangely, we then get the Lesnar-Show SD match from a few months earlier, when Brock was still a face. No idea why this odd chronology is the case, but the match is a good TV clash and the ending is one of the most memorable probably in WWE history (hint: think of the ring). The timeline then jumps forward to the DVD's final match, the notorious WM XX showdown with Goldberg (if you haven't seen it, you should, or I think that should be that you should listen to it; the crowd shred both men for leaving WWE shortly afterwards, with only special ref Steve Austin being cheered, who in a bizarre twist would himself leave WWE a few weeks later).

There are also a few bonus in-ring segments, including Lesnar's WWF debut, the first Lesnar-Heyman promo on WWE TV (after which Lesnar takes some brutal chairshots from The Hardy Boyz; knowing what we know now about concussions caused by head blows and the potential long-term impact, it's a bit worrying to realise that Matt and Jeff genuinely tried to hit Brock as hard as possible just so that they could gain something from their feud) and Brock's 2012 return before a hot-as-hell crowd. The Blu-ray includes some additional content, including Brock's comeback match, the exceptionally violent Extreme Rules showdown with Cena (which has the inexplicable result of Cena beating Lesnar).

So, how does this DVD rank by modern standards? The original version is good but not great; the modern-day Collector's Edition is obviously a step up due to the wealth of additional matches, but still isn't a five-star release. The documentary feeling dated is fine, but the new interview with Brock really is a disappointment; what could have been a great 15-20 minute feature is instead the sort of thing that you will watch the first time and then skip on all future viewings of this release. The matches are very good on the whole, though, and besides not including the No Way Out 2004 match with Eddie Guerrero and maybe the Vengeance and SummerSlam WWE Title bouts from 2003, this is the best possible recap of Lesnar's first WWE stint.

As stated earlier, I feel that WWE should definitely produce another Lesnar DVD/Blu-ray. If it were a four-disc DVD that included a lengthy documentary on Lesnar's entire life up to the present day, with honest analysis and comments from Brock himself (and not comments in character, as seen here), along with his best WWE matches from his first tenure, his best or most historic matches from his modern run, and if WWE can swing it, a match from Japan and maybe even a UFC fight if WWE could work with UFC to make this a joint DVD, it would be one of the best releases ever. Even if you take away the possibility of NJPW and UFC action, though, it would still be a tremendous release and, given his status right now, this should be on WWE's list of priorities, especially since a DVD has to seem unmissable to sell in great numbers in the modern-day era of the WWE Network.

Back to the subject of the review, then: the Collector's Edition merits a 7.5 from me. Two extra discs of good or great matches should make this an outstanding DVD, some would argue, but there's still between 90-120 minutes of content which is either just okay (the doc) or skippable (Lesnar's 2012 recorded comments), which really does bring this down a peg or two. So, I'd suggest adding this to your collection, but I wouldn't suggest that you should go out of your way to do so.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 - Good

Monday, 14 September 2015

The Best Of Sting

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 432 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: October 13 2014

After WCW folded in 2001, the one truly big name who never came to WWE until fairly recently was Sting. Just before his arrival at Survivor Series 2014, we finally got a DVD covering his career, which had been anticipated for many years. Still, whilst it is an enjoyable recap of Sting's highs and lows, the title The Best Of Sting proves to be something of a misnomer.

We begin with a Blade Runners tag team match, an interesting chance to see Sting and The Ultimate Warrior at a very early stage of their careers. Sting appears in another tag bout alongside Rick Steiner which is okay, before the first WCW match of the compilation against Ric Flair for the NWA Title. Sadly, what builds as a promising natch suddenly ends as that TV broadcast concludes; this is very annoying from a DVD viewer's point of view, but more so for fans at the time who must have had to put up with this every week.

Disc one includes more of Sting's early WCW matches against Stan Lane, Butch Reed, Mike Rotunda (where he won his first WCW championship, the Television Title), Ron SImmons and The Great Muta, before we see his first WCW World Title win, a historic victory over Ric Flair from the 1990 Great American Bash that deserves to be here. This would have been a good end to the disc, except we then get a match against Dutch Mantel (who newer fans will know as Zeb Colter) as Sting's odd feud with The Black Scorpion continues.

Disc two sees Sting in action against Nikita Koloff and in tandem with Muta against The Steiners in a really good tag match from Japan. The DVD then focuses on Sting's feud with Vader, but in a bizarre way. We're told about their late 1992 belters, but then get an early '92 match between them as part of the build to Sting's second WCW World Title win against Lex Luger.

A good 8-man follows in the run-up to the Luger bout, but then the collection jumps to a TV match where Sting faces Barry Windham, thus negating the Luger bout. The rest of the disc consists of a match against a young DDP that doesn't last very long at all, an intriguing match with Steve Austin (yes, Steve Austin), a 1995 Monday Nitro win over Ric Flair, and another Nitro scrap with Arn Anderson, notable because the announcers ignore it to discuss Hulk Hogan joining the nWo the previous night. Never has a match containing big names which lasted so long been ignored so much, even if Hogan joining the nWo was a massive story. We get Sting and Randy Savage vs. The Nasty Boys to end disc two.

Speaking of the nWo, disc three starts by profiling Sting's transformation into the Crow-based character, caused by the damage from the nWo to WCW, which after one initial segment takes us to Sting vs. Hogan from Starrcade 1997. One or two more Nitro segments from the build-up would have been good; more notable is that Hogan's nWo music is overdubbed (ridiculous since the theme is featured later on), and that the fast-count when Hogan tried to pin Sting wasn't that fast, which dampened the result of arguably the biggest match in WCW history. Still, it does have its moments and it had to be here.

The remainder of the disc consists of various TV matches, where Sting teams with Luger (against Hogan and Savage; what a star-studded doubles bout that is), Kevin Nash (who he fights and later teams with during the Wolfpac phase), Scott Steiner (in between the Nash bouts) and teams with Warrior against Hogan and Bret Hart in another big-name tag scrap. Needless to say, it's cool to see him and Sting reform against Hogan and Bret Hart in a star-studded tag match. Sting also faces Bret, Savage, Booker T and Jeff Jarrett as the demise of WCW draws near. A match pitting Sting, Booker and Goldberg against KroniK is an odd inclusion, but a logical entry (which ends the DVD) is Sting vs. Ric Flair from the last Monday Nitro.

Since the DVD has been released, Sting has of course officially debuted in WWE and fought Triple H at WrestleMania 31, with a WWE Title match against Seth Rollins coming up at Night Of Champions, and a potential dream match with The Undertaker on the horizon (hopefully). This means that Sting will be the subject of another DVD later this year, containing a documentary, which I will review when it is released in late 2015.

Back to this DVD though: longtime fans of the Stinger will be disappointed. On the plus side, the action is largely good, there are plenty of matches with a lot of variety and almost every star name who Sting ever fought in WCW, and we do see the evolution of the Stinger from the Blade Runner team to his bleach-blond surfer-like character to his famous Crow persona. However, of his most famous matches (and this is The Best Of Sting after all), very few are included. Sting's WCW Title wins over Flair at TGAB 1990 and Hogan at Starrcade 1997 are here, as well as his last WCW match with Slic Ric. But where is Sting-Flair from Clash Of The Champions (the classic that launched Sting's singles career); Sting-Luger from SuperBrawl II (especially since two matches featured here are designed to promote this very match); Sting-Cactus Jack (a great Falls Count Anywhere meeting from Beach Blast 1992); a more famous Sting-Vader match or two; Sting's mid-card gems with the likes of Rick Rude; his Starrcade rematch with Hogan from SuperBrawl VIII; bigger WCW PPV clashes with Bret and Savage; some great Nitro meetings with DDP and, to a lesser extent, Goldberg; and his final WCW Title win over Hogan at Fall Brawl 1999? And that doesn't include other TV matches which aren't here, along with multi-man classics like War Games from Wrestle War 1992. Astounding.

This DVD would have been better presented as Sting: Rare Gems, with the famous three matches taken out and released in about three years time, allowing for the true best-of Sting for the Vigilante. I have seen the match listing for Sting's next DVD, and while some memorable bouts are inserted there, we still don't get a collection of Sting's finest work that his fans will truly appreciate. To be fair, most of his top bouts are on other releases, but hey this is meant to be highlighting Sting's finest matches; why not do that?

To wrap this up, The Best Of Sting is entertaining and does give a decent glance at the career of Sting, but as a best-of for The Icon, it is unfortunately a disappointment. And I must add that on the original DVD artwork, WWE somehow used an image of the Fake Sting/nWo Sting instead of the genuine article, despite hundreds of potential photos being available for use! (This has since been changed for future reproductions.) If that admin error doesn't sum up the care that this DVD was shown, nothing will. Sting fans will like it, but they won't love it.

Overall Rating: 6/10 - Reasonable

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Falls Count Anywhere: The Greatest Street Fights And Other Out-Of-Control Matches

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 424 Minutes
Certificate: 18
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: September 10 2012

Released in 2012, this DVD is a bit of a strange one. The name Falls Count Anywhere suggests Hardcore-rules matches where, erm, falls count anywhere. And that is what we get. However, we also get Street Fights, No DQ matches and generally a range of different types of bouts where there are no rules. Therefore, the range of matches which could be included is vast. Unfortunately, though, while this DVD has its moments, it is not only lacking some of the best examples of this stipulation, but some of those that are included are questionable entries, thus weakening the compilation as a whole.

The first match on the DVD, which by the way is hosted by the always-entertaining Mick Foley, is definitely a worthy one, as Pat Patterson and Sgt Slaughter put on a truly classic, blood-soaked Alley Fight in Madison Square Garden in 1981; even if this was held today, fans would love it. The subsequent Atlanta Street Fight is a bit overcrowded, and post-match the man behind Ms Atlanta Lively (Ronnie Garvin) loses a ridiculous amount of blood, although this was perhaps an accident. Doom vs. Barry Windham and Arn Anderson was a really good Street Fight, especially considering the wrestling standards in 1990. Sting vs. Cactus Jack under FCA rules is tremendous, and for many years Jack (Foley) said this was his favourite bout from his career. The name Falls Count Anywhere is used for Randy Savage vs. Crush from WrestleMania X, but there's a twist: after pins, the loser has 60 seconds to return to the ring. It's something different, but I enjoyed it, and I remembered it from when I watched this at the age of 5 so I liked it being here.

This is followed by the low point of the DVD: Sting and Booker T vs. The Road Warriors in a Chicago Street Fight from WCW Uncensored 1996. On paper, it looks good, and it isn't that bad, but it goes on far too long; almost 30 minutes in total for a bout which overstayed its welcome before the halfway point. Plus, this was 1996; why wasn't Booker teaming with Stevie Ray, his Harlem Heat partner? There's no context whatsoever, making this inclusion even stranger. Especially since Sting's then-partner Lex Luger is shown backstage and gets involved in the finish. Bizarre at the time, and even more bizarre here.

Much better is The Legion Of Doom & Ahmed Johnson vs. The Nation Of Domination from WM 13 under the exact same stipulation, an underrated brawl in front of a white-hot crowd. We don't see Hawk being hung over the ropes due to choking restrictions on released WWE content, which depending on your point of view is either a positive or a negative to this DVD. A memorable Raw brawl between Steve Austin and Bret Hart (which is more of an angle than a match) ends the first disc, and is short enough that the non-match aspect is not an issue. (By the way, the sleeve for this compilation shows Austin from this scrap, and it's actually the only Austin match on the DVD which makes the image questionable. More notable is that we see HHH vs. HBK, which I'll cover later, but their two Photoshopped photographs aren't from the same match! Did anyone else notice that?)

Cactus Jack vs. Triple H from the 1997 MSG Raw is a good entry, especially for the pre-match sequence that is best seen rather than explained. (Oh, have mercy!) Tazz vs. Bam Bam Bigelow from ECW Heat Wave 1998 is a great ECW brawl, and is followed by the first spotlight of the WWF's Hardcore division, in the form of the Al Snow-Hardcore Holly meeting from St. Valentine's Day Massacre, featuring one of my favourite endings to a match from the Attitude Era. The Triple H-Rock Strap match from Fully Loaded 1999 is fine but doesn't really cater to the FCA theme as much as other matches, and it's been released a few times before, so this is a strange bout to use.

Better is the Greenwich Street Fight between Test and Shane McMahon from SummerSlam 1999, a great match considering that Test was still a newcomer at the time and that Shane wasn't even a wrestler. Big Show vs. Kane is short and, whilst it's worth watching, it definitely feels like filler. Crash Holly vs. The Headbangers is a very short example of the 24/7 Hardcore division and is very fun (this was actually my favourite 24/7 moment; if you don't know what 24/7 is, it meant the Hardcore Title could be defended anytime, anywhere as long as a referee is present, and case in point, this match takes place in a children's soft play area. Aah, the Attitude Era.), but Vince vs. Shane, whilst an unreleased Raw match from 2001, is duller than their exciting WM X-Seven showdown and, thus, we should have got the more famous match here. Disc two ends with Vince again taking on Ric Flair at Royal Rumble 2002 in a fun Street Fight.

Disc three opens with the DVD's unquestionable highlight: Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H from SummerSlam 2002. Their Unsanctioned match is an absolute classic, one of the best bouts I've seen since I began watching the WWF in 1991, and considering that it was Shawn's first in the company since 1998 due to injury, this is simply phenomenal. Definitely a great inclusion. I have a soft spot for the HHH-Kevin Nash Street Fight from InsurreXtion 2003 because I attended it (the show was in Newcastle, England), but it is actually a good brawl and is probably their best match together. Melina vs. Mickie James is a short FCA match from 2007 that has a horrific-looking end as Mickie falls off the top rope and nearly breaks their neck. It's still good to spotlight the Divas here, although it's disappointing that Candice Michelle's bare knockers are blurred out when a towel is removed from her person. (Controversial to write, I know, but come on: who wouldn't want to see Candice Michelle's naked boobs? Even if I have already seen her topless in Playboy?)

Umaga features in the next two matches, both of which are Street Fights: a very good match with HHH from Cyber Sunday 2007, and a pointless meeting with John Cena from a 2008 Raw. I couldn't remember the latter match when it began and, by the time it ended, I still couldn't remember what happened. Case in point, this is filler too. The Submissions Count Anywhere match between DX and Legacy from Breaking Point 2009 is a sensible inclusion, although the crowd isn't that re-active to the match itself which hurts it (they are loud beforehand which leads to a funny HHH line; it's in Montreal, which should explain where it's going). We finish with two SmackDown Street Fights between Batista and Rey Mysterio in 2009 and between Randy Orton and Cody Rhodes in 2011, both of which are entertaining (Orton-Rhodes is actually really good).

The Blu-ray has four extra bouts: Mankind vs. Santa Claus (really); Triple H vs. Sheamus; Rey Mysterio vs. Cody Rhodes; and Randy Orton vs. Kane. Only two were unreleased and neither are classics, so unless you're feeling rich, I wouldn't suggest that you need the Blu-ray version.

The DVD itself definitely has a number of standout matches. However, there aren't half a lot of bouts which are short, pointless or just downright boring (some achievement considering the anything-goes theme). And, as noted earlier, some key matches of this stipulation aren't here. Cactus Jack vs. Triple H from Royal Rumble 2000 is the perfect example. Another Raw match from the Hardcore Title heyday would have been nice. Austin-Rock from WM X-Seven was officially No DQ, so that should have been here, seeing as how it's a classic and all. I'd have even throw in Austin-Bret from WM 13 since it was essentially a No DQ Submission match. You could pick out plenty of matches, and we definitely should have seen more bouts from ECW and other companies like WCCW and Mid-South. Plus, going back to ECW, why don't we get any Extreme Rules matches from which you would have a ton to choose from?

This is a difficult DVD to sum up. The name suggests complete chaos, which the matches deliver to some degree. But weapon shots and pinfalls outside of the ring are only good if inserted correctly and if the combatants are building a great match around them, and a lot of the featured bouts don't do that. This should have been ECW-esque for content; WWE's answer to an ECW show, if anything, or at least an ECW-style compilation with contributions from various wrestling companies. Instead, we get a release that does have some highlights and a couple of great matches, but is overall a disappointment. I wouls still suggest that it's worth a viewing, but I would only recommend buying it if you see it at a reduced price.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10 - Okay