Monday, 23 February 2015

The Best Of Raw & SmackDown 2013

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 451 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: March 10 2014

The WWE DVD series on the annual highlights of its flagship shows has been less impactful as the years have rolled on. What began as a 3-disc DVD for each show led to the two shows sharing a 4-disc DVD, then a 3-disc release. And even the amount of content has lessened, so while the 2013 edition captures big moments and matches, it is the weakest entry so far largely due to its shortish running time.

Just over a dozen bouts are here, compared to more than 25 for the 2012 DVD. There are some very good matches: CM Punk vs. Ryback under TLC rules was better than I had remembered it being; Alberto Del Rio vs. Big Show is an enjoyable World Title Last Man Standing clash; and John Cena vs. Punk for the WM 29 WWE Title shot was one of the top Raw bouts of the year (although those who consider it one of the best WWE matches ever are exaggerating way too much).

Into the spring, a basic handicap match leads to Dolph Ziggler's MITB cash-in bout which almost blows the roof off the Izod Center; The Shield's 6-man against The Undertaker and Team Hell No is a PPV-quality collision; and a bit later on, the Hounds Of Justice have enjoyable meetings with other teams such as Cody Rhodes & Goldust and the team of Bryan and Punk. Other good matches are here, the standouts being Randy Orton vs. Rob Van Dam and Cena, Goldust & Cody against The Real Americans and Damien Sandow.

Some important segments are here too, including Brock Lesnar returning to F5 Vince McMahon; the Cena-Rock point-counterpoint from Old School Raw; a match/segment to show the Fandango craze; and Mark Henry's brilliantly-performed fake retirement speech. Other notable segments are Cody kidnapping Sandow's MITB briefcase, Big Show knocking out Triple H and the Championship Ascension ceremony from the 2013 Slammys Raw.

Now, there are some other matches and segments, and the Blu-ray does have some more material. However, for a DVD that is covering the first full year of weekly 3-hour Raws plus 52 SmackDowns, the amount of potential bouts and angles which aren't here is staggering. Sure, the main highlights are here, but consider this: some months are represented by one match or segment from one show. Several feuds are only partially referred to, including The Undertaker vs. CM Punk, whilst others are completely ignored, including John Cena vs. Ryback and, in the big glaring omission, CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar/Paul Heyman. The latter feud lasted over four months and dominated TV, plus it gave us one of the best two matches of 2013 in Punk-Lesnar at SummerSlam (the other true classic was Punk-Taker at WM XXIX), and yet it isn't referenced here at all.

On a similar point, previous DVDs would at least inform viewers how stories played out. A new viewer wouldn't know how CM Punk's 434-day WWE Title reign ended, nor would they know if John Cena got his redemption against The Rock at WM. Most notably, nothing is here to explain how The Authority formed at SummerSlam and on the following Raw, which was the lead story line for the last 4 1/2 months on TV and still is to this day, 18 months on from when the whole plot-line began. Even a short recap by the host with one clip over the audio would be better than nothing at all.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, releases (then on video for the benefit of those who remember cassettes) recapping the year of TV storylines would last no more than 90 minutes and had very few complete matches, and yet they did a much better job of summing up what happened than the modern DVDs of much greater length, particularly this one. Perhaps more DVD-specific segments should be used in future to quickly show major plot occurrences or other notable wrestlers or moments; aside from what has already been covered, we also don't see The Rock concert (and his hilarious 'tribute' to Vickie Guerrero'), the much-hyped debut of The Wyatt Family or Damien Sandow cashing in Money In The Bank (albeit unsuccessfully). And, as stated, there are far fewer matches here for unknown reasons (the running time is definitely one; it is around 90 minutes shorter than the Best Of release for Raw alone in 2009).

None of these complaints make the DVD a bad one; there are plenty of good matches and enjoyable segments, and the majority of key stories or events are featured or referenced in some way. But the release does have a lot of flaws, largely in terms of absent content, so whilst The Best Of Raw & SmackDown 2013 is worth watching, it is not be the extensive story of the year on WWE TV that fans will have expected.

Overall Rating: 6/10 - Reasonable

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