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

Monday, 7 September 2015

The History Of WWE: 50 Years Of Sports Entertainment

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 387 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: December 2 2013

When it was announced, The History Of WWE sounded like a very exciting project. For all the documentaries produced by WWE, never had there been an official one to cover the entire story of World Wrestling Entertainment. Given the subject matter, expectations were high, as high as for any documentary that the company has ever made. In the end, whilst there are potential improvements which could have been made, the documentary is a very good one which should satisfy viewers, especially longtime fans, and the bonus matches help make this a quality DVD.

The story begins by focusing on Jess McMahon, a boxing promoter in the early-to-mid 20th century, and his son Vincent J McMahon, a wrestling promoter who in 1953 would give life to a company named Capitol Sports, which ultimately morphed into the World Wide Wrestling Federation. Bruno Sammartino is spotlighted here as well as other contemporaries of the pre-expansion era. The roots for the modern-day WWE were sown in 1982 when Vincent Kennedy McMahon (or Vince McMahon Jr.) bought from his father the World Wrestling Federation (renamed in 1979) and, over the next two years, laid the groundwork for an audacious attempt, the success of which or lack thereof would determine if McMahon and his WWF would remain in business.

Of course, the company thrived as the national expansion ultimately paid off, led by Hulk Hogan from 1984 onwards. This included the make-or-break first WrestleMania (the gamble was so great that Linda McMahon admits she wouldn't have had the courage to do it herself) and the landmark WrestleMania III which set the all-time U.S. attendance record for pro wrestling. Also covered are the debut of Saturday Night's Main Event on NBC in 1985 (a milestone in the growth of the WWF's popularity), the increased number of Pay-Per-Views and the general impact that this family-friendly wrestling product had, and how it changed the wrestling business forever.

Interestingly, we get coverage of the steroid scandal from the 1990s, which has never been so much as hinted at on most company features in the past. We also look at how, partly due to this and partly due to a stale product, the WWF was less popular by the mid-1990s, despite new main-event stars like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, and the debut of Monday Night Raw in 1993. The company really felt the heat when WCW Monday Nitro launched in 1995, and began dominating Raw in the ratings following the formation of the nWo in July 1996. The eventual company response? To take on a whole new Attitude.

Indeed, the Attitude Era changed everything for the WWF. A risque new product that focused on violence, bloodshed, swearing and half-naked Divas, Attitude saw the rise of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Mick Foley, D-Generation X, the Mr. McMahon character and many other things, and in the process saw the WWF rise into a financial juggernaut that was as popular as it had ever been before, and one which saw the Federation overtake and eventually purchase WCW. That being said, the era wasn't all rosy; there was the Montreal double-cross at Survivor Series 1997, where Vince cheated Bret out of the WWF Title, and the tragic accident that killed Owen Hart at Over The Edge 1999. Both events are covered here, with the latter being a particularly emotional segment.

Post-Attitude, we move onto the Brand Extension, whereby the WWF (soon to become WWE) would split into two divisions for Raw and SmackDown! (which launched in 1999). This essentially meant two products under the company umbrella, later followed by a third in ECW (and NXT has now become a brand in its own right, even if the split ended earlier this decade). The rest of the documentary sums everything up rather quickly about the changing landscape, including the switch to a PG format (a source of controversy to many to this day), the rise of modern-day stars like John Cena, and the potential for WWE in the future (via the Performance Center to train tomorrow's main eventers, and probable ownership by Triple H and Stephanie McMahon). We don't cover one major event, arguably the biggest of the last decade, that being the 2007 Benoit Tragedy. Some criticised the omission of this, but I was fine with it; covering the Owen tragedy is one thing, but the Benoit double-murder suicide was such a horrendous occurence that it would be very unpleasant to relive the course of events here.

The documentary features a ton of talking heads, including many of the company's major stars over the course of its history, important corporate figures (both famous and unknown), memorable performers from the last half a century, and even some fans! However, one glaring absentee is Vince McMahon, head of WWE today and since 1982. Why Vince wasn't interviwed for this feature is beyond me; occasional comments by Vince would have taken the documentary to another level. Seriously, imagine the Paul Heyman doc without Heyman getting involved, or The Rise & Fall Of ECW without, erm, Paul Heyman commenting. Why this decision was made is anyone's guess. The story is still told very well, but without Vince the documentary feels like there is something missing.

The run time is two hours, which also disappointed some, especially since the ECW history feature lasted three hours. Personally, I feel that this covers everything in the two hour framework, but at the same time some parts feel rushed, and to be honest this really should have been three hours. Had the Vince comments been included, we surely would have gotten at least another 15-20 minutes just off those, so adding another half-hour or so of discussion points wouldn't have been hard, especially considering the company's rich history and eventful highs and lows.

On the whole, though, the documentary is still a must-see. Besides the Benoit incident, everything that you would truly expect or hope to be covered is covered, even if the last decade is rushed through somewhat. The stories told by contributors are engaging and in some cases a revelation, and the vast number of commentees ensures that specific eras and chapters of the company's history are discussed by the relevant parties. Add to that a ton of archive footage, some of it seen here for the first time, along with revealing backstage clips, and this is a heavyweight amongst WWE documentaries. I wouldn't put it in the top three or five, but it's definitely top ten; had we received Vince comments and another hour of running time, I actually think this would have been the best documentary WWE has ever produced. As it is, it is not quite the greatest WWE doc, but it does belong in the top league of such features.

As stated, there are a number of bonus matches which cover some of the company's most memorable moments. The vast majority have been released elsewhere, but on a DVD such as this, repeated bouts are a bit more acceptable. Superstar Billy Graham's 1977 WWWF Title win over Bruno is decent for the era, but why include this and not one of Brunos' two championship victories? We next get Hogan-Andre The Giant from WM III, this time in a film cut form. This match had to be here, so no complaints from me. The first televised Royal Rumble is a fun inclusion, and Yokozuna's win over Koko B. Ware in Raw's very first match is an understandable entry.

Stone Cold's King Of The Ring win over Jake Roberts in 1996 is more notable (of course), for the post-match promo that gave birth to Austin 3:16. The Survivor Series 1997 Bret-Shawn bout is here too, but I'd have preferred neither of these two being used and instead having Austin's milestone WWF Title win over Michaels at WM XIV. The main event of the first SmackDown! (besides the one-off pilot show a few months before) between The Rock and Triple H is fairly good, but better is the iconic Rock-Hogan showdown from WM X8.

A refreshing inclusion is the WM 23 Battle of the Billionaires, since it's never been released on an compilation before. A six-man from the 2008 Tribute To The Troops kind of serves its purpose, before a bonus segment in the form of CM Punk's unforgettable "Pipe Bomb" promo from Raw on June 27 2011. The last match is Punk vs. Cena from Raw on February 25 2013, a really good encounter albeit one which is overrated and feels like an odd inclusion (why not one of the Rock-Cena WM matches?). The Blu-ray adds some bonus documentary segments, as well as Floyd Mayweather vs. Big Show from WM XXIV and Undertaker-HBK from Mania 25.

In conclusion, this DVD is an essential purchase. It isn't five-star, but it features a wealth of entertaining and informative content, and the matches are either great, historic or at least understandable inclusions. The strength of this release is the documentary, since most bouts have already been seen on DVDs before. Therefore, it's crucial that the main feature lives up to its potential which, besides no Vince comments and the slightly short running time, it effectively does. If you're an avid WWE collector, you'll own this anyway, but if you're a fan who only chooses to purchase the best DVDs, The History Of WWE is definitely one that you should get.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10 - Excellent

Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Greatest Cage Matches Of All Time

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 488 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: July 18 2011

Released in 2011, The Greatest Cage Matches Of All Time is and isn't a follow-up to the 2004 DVD Wrestling's Most Incredible Steel Cage Matches. Allow me to explain: it does, as the title suggests, focus on memorable Steel Cage bouts, as did its predecessor. However, a number of the featured matches are duplicated, and the name, the artwork, the set-up etc are dissimilar between the two compilations. That being said, this three-disc collection is superior, not only because it has more matches but because it is more comprehensive with its picks, and all the bouts are in complete form, which wasn't the case with the 2004 release.

Hosted by Josh Matthews, this DVD focuses by and large on a different decade for each disc, although the opening third includes bouts from 1979-1989. As this period still included the territories at their peak, the number of companies contributing to this disc is greater. A WWF match between Bob Backlund and Pat Patterson kicks us off and is good for the era. Backlund also faces Jimmy Snuka where the heel Superfly first executes a (missed) splash off the cage. We get Bruno Sammartino vs. Larry Zbyszko from Shea Stadium which is alright and a good way to spotlight their famous rivalry.

After this, it is a fair amount of time before we get another WWF encounter. A really good inclusion is next, though, as we see the Ric Flair-Kerry Von Erich match from World Class Championship Wrestling that launched WCCW's greatest ever feud, The Von Erichs vs. The Fabulous Freebirds. From there, there are two by-the-numbers tag bouts (Koloffs vs. Rock 'n' Roll Express and Road Warriors vs. Freebirds) from the NWA and WCCW respectively. Two AWA clashes are next, beginning with Bruiser Brody vs. Abdullah The Butcher, which is the DVD's weakest encounter; without blood, there would be nothing to this match, and the involvement of special referee Fritz Von Erich feels strange.

Better is the Rockers/Midnight Rockers face Buddy Rose and Doug Somers. Then, the WWF finally reappears again with Hulk Hogan facing Andre The Giant from WrestleFest 1988, where Hogan surprisingly bleeds (blood in the WWF of 1988 was rare), even if it's minimal blood loss. This ends disc one.

The first disc is great if you were a fan on wrestling in the 1980s. However, while some matches here are very good, they all followed the same formula: exchange punches, ram someone into the cage and someone bleeds. That might sound obvious, but pre-1990, that's all Cage matches usually were as this DVD hammers home. This makes the opening disc very repetitive, although it's understandable because back then, wrestling fans paid to see a Cage match for those very elements, and therefore they got value for money.

Another drawback to disc one is that, with this being the heyday of score-settling scraps inside a cage, some famous or classic matches are not here, including Jimmy Snuka vs. Don Muraco (the most famous Cage match of all, which was on the 2004 release), Ric Flair vs. Harley Race from Starrcade 1983, Magnum TA vs. Tully Blanchard (also on the first Cage DVD), Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy (the only ever Steel Cage match at a WrestleMania), and Hulk vs. Mr. Wonderful. We also aren't told that the WWF introduced its own blue-barred version of the Cage, first seen here with Hogan vs. Andre but which debuted with Hulk-Bundy. I would also have liked the unreleased Bruno-Ivan Koloff scrap from 1975 as it was the first ever Cage match at Madison Square Garden. There were other absentees, but the main ones have been covered.

Disc two opens with the fun-looking yet ultimately silly Flair-Lex Luger match from Capitol Combat 1990. We then get two Ultimate Warrior showdowns with Rick Rude and Randy Savage, before a good-on-paper, disappointing-in-execution meeting between Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty, of which the highlight is Gorilla Monsoon on commentary blistering the performance of the referee.

Strangely, the superb Bret Hart-Owen Hart match from SummerSlam 1994 isn't here, so our next entry is from three SummerSlams later, a great Mankind-Hunter Hearst Helmsley showdown. We end disc two with two Attitude Era matches: Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon, with a brilliant surprise ending that I won't spoil here, and The Rock vs. Triple H from Rebellion 1999 which I attended (they also had a fun Cage match on Raw a few months earlier). By now, however, the Cage match had been trumped by Hell In A Cell, so for the remainder of the DVD, we largely get scraps which were mid-card or were not the climax to mega feuds. Plus, WCW went under in 2001 (as had the original ECW, which disappointingly wasn't represented here with the other promotions), so disc there focuses solely on the WWF/WWE in the 21st century.

The Hardyz vs. The Dudleyz at Survivor Series 2001 is fun, and at the time I genuinely thought that Jeff Hardy was seriously injured, which paradoxically is a good thing because he wasn't. Edge vs. Chris Jericho is a forgotten gem, as is Chris Jericho vs. Christian. Randy Orton vs. Ric Flair is okay but is only really memorable for the obscene levels of blood shed by both.

Matt Hardy vs. Edge from Unforgiven 2005 is the highlight of disc three: a really good match with a stunning ending, this of course was during the infamous Matt-Edge-Lita love triangle, which began off-screen and ended up on-screen. John Cena vs. Edge is a very entertaining match, which really did conclude their rivalry (the best of 2006 in my opinion), and it's refreshing to hear Cena receive overwhelming cheers for once.

The DVD ends with two scraps for the World Heavyweight Championship: Chris Jericho vs. Batista is decent but forgettable (incidentally, Batista's blood loss here wasn't authorised which led to Vince McMahon being FURIOUS), and CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy is very exciting and a good way to end to Hardy's WWE run.

There are a few potential inclusions from this era which aren't included (Hardyz vs. Edge & Christian, Edge vs. Kurt Angle, Triple H vs. Ric Flair, Edge vs. Batista etc), but they aren't as gaping as those absent from disc one. In fact, there are enough famous or notable matches not included on this DVD that WWE could potentially release a sequel in the future, whilst also using bouts which have occurred since this compilation was produced (such as Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H).

This DVD is a good one. It does get repetitive, so I would definitely recommend watching this in blocks as opposed to attempting a few long sittings for this release. Interestingly, the best matches are the ones with fewer cage-based spots (or at least ones which revolve less around ramming someone into the steel). It's also worth noting that this is a gory DVD: there are tons of instances where wrestlers are cut open, many of them heavily. So, if you're squeamish, this won't be for you.

Overall, though, I enjoyed this DVD, and if you're a historian or a longtime fan, I would recommend that you buy it. It isn't the ultimate Steel Cage collection that the title suggests, but it will definitely sit well in your collection along with the likes of Hell In A Cell and The Ladder Match. Newer fans may find this a bit of a chore to sit through, but those who grew up watching wrestling in the 1980s and who remain fans today should get a kick out of this compilation. By no means is this an essential purchase, but I do think it's worth having this in your collection.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 - Good