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

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