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

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