Thursday, 12 March 2015

WrestleMania XXIV

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 494 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: July 7 2008

The first WrestleMania I attended live was WM 24 in the Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando, Florida. For that reason, I will always have fond memories of the show; but even if I hadn't been there, I would still remember this as an exceptional WrestleMania, and the DVD experience is just that too.

The setting itself is stunning: the open-air stadium and the fly-pass (a first for a WWE show) make this seem enormous before the bell even rings. Kicking off the action is an underrated Belfast Brawl between John Bradshaw Layfield and Finlay, followed by Money In The Bank IV. Despite Jeff Hardy's suspension-enforced absence, this provides a wealth of memorable spots, including the surprise return of Jeff's brother Matt. Beforehand, anyone could theoretically have won, which made it a pleasant surprise when the then-relative newcomer CM Punk snatched the briefcase. The Best In The World had his breakout moment here.

Match 3 is the Battle For Brand Supremacy, although the lasting memory of Batista's win over Umaga (or, as then-Raw GM William Regal called him, "Umanga!") is a messed-up Batista Bomb that nearly crippled the Samoan Bulldozer. The fourth encounter is the shortest in WM history (and still is to this day): Kane, who won a pre-show 24-man Battle Royal (included here as a DVD extra), dethrones Chavo Guerrero for the ECW Title in a matter of seconds.

The card regains full steam with match 5, an incredibly gripping and emotional showdown between Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair. If Flair lost, he would have to retire. I had misgivings beforehand about this being a classic given Flair's age, but somehow the Nature Boy delivers one last incredible performance against Mr. WrestleMania himself, who is superb as always. Prior to the match-winning Sweet Chin Music, HBK tells Flair "I'm sorry. I love you." Both are teary-eyed (hell, so was the ref), and Michaels wins to end Flair's career, a moment made even bigger by a post-match standing ovation. Unfortunately, Flair would wrestle again in the future, but not in WWE, so it does still have historic merit and remains a must-see bout.

The following Divas Tag acts as a break for the audience, made worse by the lights failing during the match. They remain out for part of the subsequent WWE Title 3-way between Randy Orton, Triple H and John Cena, a bout that doesn't get the credit it deserves (and this was before the feuds involving the three had reached overkill). Orton retains the Title which was unexpected at the time, but in hindsight was a bit pointless; the result only delayed his title loss by a few weeks until Backlash 2008 when HHH became Champ again.

Floyd Mayweather vs. Big Show seemed a strange pairing but the interest was still high, and for matches involving celebrities, this is actually amazingly entertaining. Mayweather's win was unsurprising given his perfect record in boxing, but The Undertaker's undefeated WM Streak does appear to be in jeopardy at various points in his World Title match with Edge, a classic main event which quality-wise was probably the bout of the year. A very close call with a Spear is followed by a second, which is reversed into Hell's Gate and gives Taker his 16th WrestleMania win and second World Heavyweight Title (his 6th top WWE title in all) in a great climax to a phenomenal WrestleMania show.

The DVD also includes the 2008 Hall Of Fame ceremony which, besides a couple of edited-out lines, is here in full. That is significant because it lasts nearly 4 1/2 hours. But it includes a brilliant return of The Rock to induct his father Rocky Johnson and grandfather High Chief Peter Maivia (his pre-induction one-liners are great, including one aimed at John Cena at a time when a match between the two seemed like a fantasy never to be realised), and a long yet compelling speech by Ric Flair (too long, in fact; I had to leave the HOF before it ended due to the show vastly overrunning).

The other inductees are Jack and Gerry Brisco, Gordon Solie, Mae Young and Eddie Graham. Those inductions have their moments (JBL makes some funny quips in his induction of the Briscos), but they seem like filler between the Rock and Flair-related sections (by the way, Rock's participation opened the ceremony on the night, but is the semi-final here). This may be the most entertaining HOF ceremony to date in WWE, but don't watch it all in one sitting! Sadly, of the 2008 class, at time of writing only Flair, Rocky Johnson and Gerald Brisco are still with us (although in fairness, three of the eight inductions were posthumous).

Unfortunately, besides the aforementioned Battle Royal, there are no other extras on the DVD (or the Blu-ray; this was actually the first ever WWE Blu-ray, and the first and only WWE PPV released on UMD too; remember those?). I put that down to the very long HOF ceremony; to squeeze it all on, the enjoyable but irrelevant extras had to be left out. Had they been included, I would have given the DVD a perfect 10.

But even without them, this is a brilliant DVD set, and probably the best DVD for a WWE show ever. Sure, WrestleMania X-Seven may be the best WM ever, but even that chugged along for the first six of its eleven matches; whilst WrestleMania XIX is just as great a show as WM XXIV, but the DVD experience isn't quite on par with this one. Here, you get an incredible WrestleMania and an equally must-watch Hall Of Fame (by the way, the HOF wasn't around from 1997 to 2003, hence its absence from the X7 and XIX releases), and a bonus match to boot. If you haven't already, buy this DVD today.

Oh, and if you do buy it and you watch the Mania show, look out for the guy in front of the hard camera on the third row wearing a red cap and a Liverpool FC shirt. That's me!

Overall Rating: 9.5/10 - Classic

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