Monday, 23 March 2015

John Cena: Greatest Rivalries

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: - Minutes
Certificate: 12
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: October 20 2014

If ever a WWE wrestler defined the expression "you either love him or you hate him", it is John Cena. The on-screen face of WWE for the last decade, Cena attracts admiration and worship from a lot of fans, but scorn and revulsion from just as many. Therefore, one assumes that this DVD is a matter of taste? Well, yes, but after watching this, even the Cena haters must admit that the man has had a good number of exciting matches, as displayed here on his best DVD release to date.

Now, I am a big fan of Cena as a professional; nobody works harder than him, and he is a genuinely nice guy, having had the privilege to meet him a few times. I do dislike the more childish aspects of his character, and I would love to see him as a main event heel one day (I'll cover my ideas for how this could happen in a future opinion piece). I also realise he isn't at the level of a Shawn Michaels as an actual wrestler. But he is better than many give him credit for, and whilst some will say he is carried frequently by his opponents, I feel that he does pull his weight and can deliver a great performance, as evidenced here.

Onto the DVD itself then: as you may have gathered, the theme is to cover Cena's greatest feuds, with two matches to cover each rivalry besides one (more on that later). The premise is simple, as Cena introduces each match by discussing the opponent in question. The bouts are also preceded by a very basic yet very effective transition screen: an old-school, 16-bit videogame-style match set-up, accompanied by a short MIDI version of Cena's theme. As a fan of old school games, and nostalgic things in general, I think this is awesome, and worth buying the DVD for in itself. Okay, that's a lie, but it is pretty cool.

So, which feuds are here? We begin with Eddie Guerrero, and two SmackDown! bouts from 2003 (a WWE Title contender's tournament clash and a Parking Lot Brawl). They are good scraps, but as match one wasn't part of their rivalry and their feud only lasted a few weeks, I suspect this is here because featuring Eddie is preferred to, say, Kurt Angle. (By the way, Cena plays heel here, which may feel weird to some fans who have never seen him in the role).

Next, we get Batista. The first match is surprisingly a 2002 OVW Title match between their old personas Leviathan and Prototype (where Cena is a villain again, actually), before we get a more recent WWE Title Last Man Standing match from Extreme Rules 2010. Both were far more polished by this point which, unsurprisingly, results in the LMS bout being the better of the two. We then move onto the great Shawn Michaels, with their classic match from the London Raw in 2007 and a entertaining yet inferior rematch from Raw the following year.

Disc two kicks off with Randy Orton. This particular feud is arguably the most overdone in WWE history, so it's fitting that we get their very first WWE PPV singles match (a great WWE Title bout from SummerSlam 2007) before a more recent clash from Raw in early 2014, which is greeted far warmer than their WWE title showdown at Royal Rumble 2014 was a few weeks earlier. We then relive his feud with John Bradshaw Layfield with Cena's first WWE title win at WrestleMania 21 and a Raw match which I had completely forgotten about from 2008. This section is the least vibrant of the DVD; Cena's best match with JBL, their I Quit clash from Judgment Day 2005, presumably isn't here because a) it was on the My Life DVD, and b) it was one of the bloodiest matches in WWE history, which would have prevented this release of the kid's hero getting a PG rating.

The DVD regains momentum with the Chris Jericho matches, although it's odd to see Y2J lose a "You're Fired" encounter from 2005, and then see him defend the World Heavyweight Title at Survivor Series 2008 with no explanation whatsoever (incidentally, the 2005 conflict with Y2J is significant in that the fans first began turning on Cena during that rivalry). Disc 3 opens with a war against another Canadian in the Rated R Superstar, Edge (my personal favourite Cena feud to date). A good Cage bout from a 2006 Raw for the WWE Championship is followed by an epic Last Man Standing clash for the World crown at Backlash 2009, which genuinely was their last match.

Cena next faces Triple H at WrestleMania 22 in a WWE Title match elevated by the searing crowd heat, and then in an enjoyable Raw bout from 2009. This feud also seems overdone in the eyes of many, but they only actually squared off twice in singles on PPV, so another supercard clash in the future is possible. The DVD ends with Cena's most famous feud against The Rock; this time, we get a segment rather than an opening bout (remember what I said earlier?), the Legends Q&A from Raw in March 2013 which set up their underrated WWE Title main event from WrestleMania 29, which concludes this DVD.

I thought that this was a great WWE DVD, and definitely the best to date on John Cena. There are many good or great matches and, despite what the cynics would say, Cena himself provides plenty of action in the bouts contained here. If you plan to buy this, I suggest getting the Blu-ray which also covers his conflict with CM Punk (Punk's going-away present for leaving WWE, I'm sure) in the form of a forgotten Raw bout from 2009 and their memorable Raw meeting from early 2013 (which, to be fair, can also be found on The Best Of Raw & SmackDown 2013).

The focus on rivalries is a good touch: it keeps things fresh, and the change in chronology disguises the fact that Cena's babyface character has grown staler with each passing year. But the formula here allows you to see Cena in some of his greatest and/or most famous matches without emphasising how little his persona has changed. The full career-spanning compilation, featuring a real documentary and all of his landmark matches, will likely be a few years away yet, but in the meantime Greatest Rivalries is "The Champ" amongst DVD releases based around John Cena.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10 - Excellent

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