Tuesday, 30 August 2016

WWE Battleground 2016 coming soon on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK

Image Source: Fetch Publicity
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Provided By: Fetch Publicity

The following story is courtesy of Fetch Publicity ...

For nearly two years, The Shield was one of the most dominant factions in sports-entertainment. Now, for the first time ever in WWE history, all three members of The Shield collide when WWE World Champion Dean Ambrose faces his former brothers, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns, in a Triple Threat match for the title. The rivalry of the summer heats up as The Club (AJ Styles, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson) goes head-to-head with John Cena, Enzo Amore and Big Cass in a Six-Man Tag Team match. Plus, “The Viper” Randy Orton returns to WWE as a guest of Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel to discuss his SummerSlam match against “The Beast Incarnate” Brock Lesnar. WWE Superstars risk it all on the battlefield at WWE Battleground!


Match List:

Triple Threat Match for the WWE World Championship
Dean Ambrose (Champion) vs. Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns

Six-Man Tag Team Match
John Cena and Enzo & Cass vs. The Club

Intercontinental Championship Match
The Miz (Champion) vs. Darren Young

United States Championship Match
Rusev (Champion) vs. Zack Ryder

Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens

Six-Man Tag Team Match
The New Day vs. The Wyatt Family

Sasha Banks & Mystery Partner vs. Charlotte & Dana Brooke

Plus more action, extras and Blu-ray exclusives!

We like it because:

As the last Pay-Per-View before WWE officially began its “New Era” with an all-new brand split, Battleground was a historical event for sports-entertainment.

The long-anticipated match between all three members of The Shield was just as explosive as the WWE Universe imagined. And with the winner taking WWE’s most prestigious championship to either Raw or SmackDown, the result of match goes on to the shape the future landscape of WWE.

There’s even more great action – including a Match Of The Year candidate between Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn – plus a genuine feel-good moment as “The Boss” Sasha Banks is joined by a huggable mystery partner.

The return of Randy Orton on Chris Jericho’s talk show is also a huge moment, laying the foundations for his SummerSlam match with Brock Lesnar, one of the biggest main event match-ups in recent WWE history.

Don’t miss out on this incredible event!

WWE Battleground 2016 will officially be released on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday September 19 2016.

For more information, click here.

Monday, 29 August 2016

WCW's Greatest Pay-Per-View Matches - Vol. 1

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 437 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: May 5 2014

Back in 2003 or 2004, the concept of a compilation featuring the top Pay-Per-View encounters from the rich history of WCW would have been extremely tantalising. By the time such a DVD was released in 2014, though, so many classic WCW battles had already been released and interest in the WCW brand lies solely with longtime fans wishing for a slice of nostalgia, which reduced the appeal of the three-disc set.

However, whilst the collection feels like it was released a decade too late, this is still a very enjoyable DVD compilation. Around 80-85% of the content has already been seen on past DVDs, but that fact doesn't hinder the entertainment value of this set too much.

Hosted by Booker T, the DVD begins with Ronnie Garvin vs. Ric Flair from Starrcade 1987, the first official NWA/JCP PPV (Starrcade had first aired on closed-circuit television in 1983); Booker notes that the WWF aired the inaugural Survivor Series on the same night solely to ensure that Starrcade 87 would not be a huge success. This competition would continue via television in 1988 and 1989, but that's another story. Garvin vs. Flair is okay, but the negative reaction to babyface NWA Champion Garvin is a sign that fans rejecting a top babyface was happening long before the days of John Cena and Roman Reigns. This was also held in a cage, as most Starrcade main event matches were in those early years.

Dusty Rhodes vs. Barry Windham from The Great American Bash 1988 and Dusty teaming with Sting against The Road Warriors (in a rare heel role) from Starrcade 1988 are okay, but neither can hold a candle to the first really good match on the DVD, a classic Ric Flair-Ricky Steamboat showdown from Chi-Town Rumble 1989 in the first of their epic trilogy. Given how many great WCW matches were held on PPV in 1989, Lex Luger vs. Brian Pillman from Halloween Havoc is perhaps an odd selection. Definitely worthy of inclusion is Flair vs. Sting from The Great American Bash 1990, which officially marked Sting's permanent ascendancy to the main event level and closes disc one on a high note.

Lex Luger vs. Barry Windham from The Great American Bash 1991 has a weird feel to it as it comes on the heels of Ric Flair leaving WCW; envision a WWE PPV held days after John Cena leaving the company on bad terms and you have an idea of the vibe in the air here. Even without Flair, though, WCW could still provide great supershow battles as evidenced by the next two bouts: a fantastic Jushin Liger-Brian Pillman match from Superbrawl II, and an incredible War Games between Sting's Squadron and The Dangerous Alliance at Wrestle War 1992.

Next up, we finally get an unreleased match, and it's a very violent battle between Vader and Cactus Jack from Halloween Havoc 1993, during which Vader lands with all of his weight on Cactus on the hard ramp in a spot which Mick Foley says in his first autobiography Have A Nice Day that he came up with to deliberately suffer a career-ending injury, having been so miserable in WCW at the time (as we know, Foley would continue wrestling long beyond HH 93). We then get a good Steve Austin-Ricky Steamboat clash from Bash At The Beach 1994, and there's a real big-fight feel to Flair vs. Hulk Hogan from Halloween Havoc 1994 (Muhammad Ali is in attendance for this one), although their initial meeting at BATB 94 was arguably the bigger match and thus perhaps should have been here instead.

Onto disc three and we come to a landmark match: that main event from Bash At The Beach 1996 (you know the one) which sees the official formation of the new World order. Strangely, besides making a cameo later on, we don't see Hollywood Hulk Hogan again on the main DVD, which is odd given that he is the main cover star (some would say that this isn't a bad thing). The topnotch action doesn't end there, though, as we get an intense brawl between Randy Savage and Diamond Dallas Page from Spring Stampede 1997 and the classic Eddie Guerrero-Rey Mysterio Jr battle from Halloween Havoc of the same year.

The next few matches have a filler feeling to them (Booker goes a long time between introducing bouts during this section, suggesting these matches may have been a late addition), but at least Bret Hart vs. Randy Savage (Slamboree 1998) and Chris Jericho vs. Juventud Guerrera (Road Wild 1998) are first-time releases. A more familiar match is Goldberg vs. DDP from Halloween Havoc 1998, an infamous match due to that particular PPV running overly long to the point that most fans didn't see it; re-airing it on Nitro the next night earned the show its final ratings win over Raw during The Monday Night War, but upset the fans who had already paid for the match, since this meant that millions more saw it for free.

It's telling that no matches from 1999 are included (the Blu-ray does include Savage vs. Dennis Rodman from Road Wild 99) so we jump right to Jeff Jarrett vs. Booker T at Bash At The Beach 2000, a good match overshadowed by the bizarre situation earlier that night involving Jarrett, Hogan and Vince Russo (a planned Jarrett-Hogan bout didn't happen with Jarrett laying down, Hogan walking out as if it were a shoot, and Russo cutting a genuine shoot interview on Hogan; nobody knew what was real and what wasn't, with the consensus being that Russo's promo wasn't planned and with that leading to a later lawsuit, but confusingly Hulk has since said he didn't even know Jeff would lay down despite Eric Bischoff saying that he did, so who the hell knows for certain?). The DVD ends with an exciting six-man Ladder match from Starrcade 2000 and, fittingly, the final PPV match in WCW history as Scott Steiner battles DDP at Greed in March 2001 (during which Steiner berates fans with a very offensive f-word more than once), with WCW having run its final show under WWF control eight days later.

I really enjoyed this collection a lot more than I thought I would considering that much of the content had previously been released. If you wanted to pick hairs, another Flair vs. Steamboat match, Flair vs. Terry Funk from 1989, Sting/Flair vs. The Steiners from 1991, another Rey Mysterio cruiserweight stunner and Goldberg vs. Steiner from Fall Brawl 2000 should have been included, and for historical purposes Hogan vs. Sting from Starrcade 1997 should have been here too, despite the blown finish (which is a story in itself that I'll recount another time), but one can't complain too loudly about what we get here. There is enough material in the archives to warrant a Volume Two, and the name implies that a sequel would be forthcoming, but the fact that all WCW PPVs can be viewed at one's leisure on the WWE Network makes a second release less likely.

Even if there isn't a follow-up, though, this is a great introduction to WCW for newer fans and a fun trip down memory lane for longtime followers, and a nice reminder that there was far more to the history of WCW than Nitro, The Monday Night War and the weekly adventures of the nWo.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10 - Excellent

Thursday, 25 August 2016

WWE Tagged Classics: Hardy Boyz - Leap Of Faith & Lita - It Just Feels Right

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 309 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 2
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: March 19 2012

With the Hardyz having generated plenty of buzz recently for their feud in TNA (which so far has included an unusual contract signing and the bizarre yet undeniably compelling Final Deletion match), it seems like a good time to provide a retro DVD review based on Matt and Jeff/Brother Nero.

Leap Of Faith, originally released in late 2001, largely focused on the careers of the Hardy brothers during the TLC era, along with some coverage of their upbringing and their early days in the WWF. Since their pre-WWF adventures are also covered on the 2008 DVD A Twist Of Fate, which I will also be providing a review of shortly, I'll just mention here that this release does a decent job of telling the story of the Hardyz prior to them becoming famous, as well as detailing some of their passions outside the ring, like Jeff's fondness for dirt-biking (which actually left him with a broken leg not so long ago).

Onto the crux of Leap Of Faith, then: we're guided through the Hardyz' biggest matches from 1999 to 2001, which included their first WWF Tag Team Title win over The Acolytes in July 1999, their breakthrough Ladder match opposite Edge and Christian at No Mercy 2000, their Tables scrap with the Dudleyz from Royal Rumble 2000, the three major matches in the Hardyz/Dudleys/E&C feud (Ladder match at WrestleMania 2000, TLC at SummerSlam 2000 and TLC II at WrestleMania X-Seven), and their second WWF Tag Team Title win over E&C in a Steel Cage match from Unforgiven 2000. These battles get plenty of coverage, some more than others, as the Hardyz talk through their memories of each big match and the impact on their careers where applicable, along with comments from Edge, Christian, Mick Foley, Bubba Ray Dudley (where is D-Von?), Jim Ross and others. Lita also provides comments throughout the presentation; I'll come back to her a little later.

Since this was before the era of three-disc DVD compilations and the Hardyz were still young in the wrestling business at this point, Leap Of Faith is as good a one-hour feature on Matt and Jeff as you could have asked for at the time. Adding to the appeal of LOF are some bonus matches, with the aforementioned Hardyz-Acolytes bout, the No Mercy 1999 Ladder match and the first two TLC matches shown in their entirety; the first of these is a basic doubles bout, but the Ladder-related scraps are simply amazing. It's hard to say one is better than the other, because they are all fabulous and each one set a new bar for the next one to follow, making it unfair to say, for instance, that TLC II is superior to the No Mercy scrap because of the additional bodies, tables, chairs and stunts. I would say, though, that much of the commentary for the original Ladder bout centred on Terri Runnels' "services" going to the winner and Jerry Lawler getting horny at the prospect, which weighs the presentation of that particular match down a little.

Also acting as Hardy extras are Matt and Jeff's Unforgiven 2000 championship win over E&C in full (I never noticed until this viewing that one side of the cage has a platform, making it safer for Jeff to fling himself off in death-defying fashion), and a peculiar inclusion of The Hardyz and Lita vs. Steve Austin, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. The result is a surprise but, coming early in Austin's heel run, the post-match scenes are shocking, and not necessarily in a good way. The theory is understandable - build heel heat on Austin, who fans still wanted to cheer - but having Lita take a clothesline and a Pedigree from HHH, and then multiple chairshots to the back and a Stone Cold Stunner by Austin is pretty hard to watch nowadays. The WWF of 2001 had a very different attitude on violence towards women than WWE does today, and whilst many fans complain about the PG rating nowadays, this is one area where the WWF/WWE has definitely improved. Chyna was perhaps understandable since she competed with male wrestlers, but having Lita take a beating like this is hard to justify, and ends disc one on a sour note (well, besides some home video footage of the Hardyz from over the years).

Focusing properly on Lita now: the second disc, It Just Feels Right (what a crap name), is based around her career. Unlike most female profiles during the Attitude Era, this one (released in 2001 as well, before the Matt and Jeff set, funnily enough) actually focuses on her as a human being and a competitor, rather than as merely a sex object. Yes, sexuality is covered in a lengthy section near the end as we go behind the scenes of some photo shoots, but the majority of this looks at how she wanted to become a wrestler after seeing the "Mexicans" (WCW goes uncredited at this point despite it being the real source of interest for Amy Dumas to become a fan; weirdly, WCW is briefly mentioned later on), her intriguing journey from an oblivious girl looking to somehow become a wrestler and actually achieving her goal within a year or so, her short tenure in ECW as Miss Congeniality (no footage is shown, since WWE hadn't yet acquired the rights to the ECW video library), and her eventful first eighteen months in the WWF as - yes! - Lita.

The chronology is all over the place during this documentary, at least within the WWF section: after covering her early days alongside Essa Rios (who provides comments, in Spanish) and her alignment with the Hardyz, we suddenly jump ahead to her involvement in TLC II at Mania X7, before going back to her first Women's Title victory over Stephanie McMahon from August 2000. This would presumably have ended the feature, but instead we cover some more highlights of her career, from a tough match with Ivory at Survivor Series 2000 that saw her receive a nasty cut to her title challenge against Chyna at Judgment Day 2001 (which would prove to be Chyna's last ever WWF match). There's also footage of her filming commercials alongside Matt and Jeff, and a section on her friendship and on-screen romance with Matt. Strangely, though, while this love story (which on-screen came out of a way-too-long and not believable plotline whereby Dean Malenko was trying to seduce Lita, which is also covered on this documentary) obviously mirrored the real-life relationship between Matt and Lita, but their actual relations are not referred to. This is a weird decision, since diehard Hardy and Lita fans (who will have bought the original DVD) would obviously have been aware of this.

That aside, the documentary is worthwhile, and the most flattering feature yet on a female during the Attitude Era. The bonus matches cover that fine line between Lita as the fearless performer and Lita as eye candy: an intergender bout from Fully Loaded 2000 (Team Extreme vs. T&A and Trish Stratus) is pretty good; Lita vs. Jacqueline under Hardcore rules is alright; and Lita vs. Molly Holly is decent. Then, there are the matches that provide sex appeal, like Lita vs. Trish under Strap and (of course) Bra & Panties rules. A six-person match from Armageddon 2000 (Team Extreme vs. The Radicalz) isn't as good as the Fully Loaded bout, and again raises questions as to how the WWF willingly allowed females (Lita in this case, obviously) to take such a beating from male performers. Lita vs. Malenko exists to set up Lita and Matt's first on-screen kiss, and for some reason a Jeff Hardy-Big Show match is thrown on here, despite Lita's only real involvement being a moonsault to Show. (This bout has an interesting finish: all three members of TX pummel Show, cover him at once - with Jeff's shoulders also down - and the referee Jimmy Korderas providing a fast three-count. It all makes no sense in a regular bout, until Michael Cole provides the missing piece by saying that Korderas wasn't happy with Show shoving him moments earlier. Suddenly, it all makes sense, by WWF standards, and is a little reminder of the mini-moments that are missing from WWE television today). There's also more clips from behind the scenes of photo shoots, a picture collage and more home video clips.

Lita fans will have loved this at the time, and probably would do today, as well. That being said, the biggest thing I took from it is just how much the WWF based its female division from 1998 right up to around 2007-2008 on sexuality. That's stating the obvious, I know; but comparing it to today's WWE, whereby Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Bayley are putting on genuinely great matches that steal the show and are threatening to main event PPV events, and with all being treated as real athletes and women with integrity, the WWF's portrayal of females back then is questionable at best and almost offensive at worst (I haven't even mentioned storylines where rape was implied and where a woman's sexual services were quite literally at stake for the winner). Of course, all of this seemed normal back then, but it does show how times have changed. By the way, I don't have a problem with the sexual, raunchy side of WWF television during that era - you won't see me complaining that Lita's thong was popping out of her trousers - but comparing how females were treated back then to how they are today is like night and day.

However, the decreased emphasis on sexuality on this feature indicates that Lita was amongst the women who would force a change in WWF philosophies (along with Trish Stratus a little later on). Women like Sensational Sherri and Alundra Blayze had been straight-up wrestlers, but few took real notice. Women like Sunny, Sable and Debra were merely there for sex appeal. And Chyna was a ground-breaker, but no female has followed her path since then. However, Lita was one of the first ladies to actually get people out of their seats because they were amazed at her athleticism and her ability. The balance between ability and eye candy was perfected by Lita and Trish, and whilst it took WWE to go PG and Sara Del Ray to become a trainer at NXT before things truly changed, it is true to say that Lita and Trish really did pave the way for the likes of Sasha and Charlotte today to be respected because of their in-ring ability.

As it turned out, this period marked the peak of Lita's career, at least in terms of popularity. After suffering a serious neck injury in 2002 on the set of a non-wrestling show, she only returned in September 2003, and after an extended feud with Trish Stratus and a second injury (this time to her knee), the rest of Lita's WWE tenure was spent as the valet to former rival Edge, before her retirement at Survivor Series 2006 and well-deserved WWE Hall Of Fame induction in 2014. Of course, the partnership with Edge was instigated by a major series of events off-screen - but we'll cover that in the next Hardyz DVD review, where that particular topic receives extensive coverage.

Summing up this DVD set, then, the link between the Hardyz and Lita makes the two features an obvious companion set. If you were a fan of the Hardyz in 2001, chances were that you also supported Lita, and vice versa. By the standards of early 2000s DVDs, the features are very good, and the matches were logical selections and provided suitable evidence as to why Matt, Jeff and Lita were so popular and had achieved their respective success. Their stories were far from over, but this arguably represented the peak of both the Hardyz tandem and Lita as a performer. Any fan of Team Extreme back then will thoroughly enjoy this recap of their most memorable moments from 1999-2001. Just try not to think too much about the extent of the man-on-woman violence during the Attitude Era.

Overall Rating: 8/10 - Very Good

Friday, 19 August 2016

Money In The Bank 2016

Image Source:
Fetch Publicity
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 198 Minutes
Certificate: 12
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: August 22 2016

(To read a full event review of WWE Money In The Bank 2016, click here.)

(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)

Hyped up as "the greatest Money In The Bank Pay-Per-View in history", MITB 2016 didn't quite surpass the outstanding 2011 card, which had several high-quality matches and was capped off by the unforgettable John Cena-CM Punk main event. It was, however, the best supershow of the year thus far, and the DVD release allows you to relive this memorable event.

The opening Fatal Four Way match for the WWE Tag Team Titles, pitting The New Day against Enzo and Cass, Gallows and Anderson and The Vaudevillains, is a good opening contest and, despite some botches near the end (one of which, by Gallows, was so obvious on the night that it has been edited out here), the participants maintain crowd interest all the way. Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler came after their rivalry had peaked, making this a satisfactory yet ultimately unwanted match to those in attendance. The women's tag bout (Charlotte and Dana Brooke vs. Becky Lynch and Charlotte) is okay but feels more like a Raw match, although it does have an unexpected twist after the finish.

Sheamus vs. Apollo Crews will be remembered fondly in the future if Crews goes onto achieve main event status in WWE; hopefully, the Draft will allow the talented Apollo to begin rising up the ranks on SmackDown. We then come to the first of three major matches on this show, the first-time clash between John Cena and AJ Styles. Supported by a hot crowd, this is an excellent encounter, featuring a topnotch performance by AJ (the layout of the match means that around 70% of the offence, and great offence at that, comes from Styles). The only black mark against it is the slightly anticlimactic finish, although it was clearly designed to set up a rematch further down the line; as Taz pointed out on his (highly enjoyable) radio show The Taz Show, WWE could have come up with a more creative way to extend the feud than what we got here.

The Money In The Bank Ladder match (this year starring Dean Ambrose, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Chris Jericho, Cesaro and Alberto Del Rio) is a tremendous spot-fest, and one of the better MITB matches to date. (I should have mentioned that the promo segment involving KO, Y2J and ADR after the Tag Team Title match is well worth watching as it contains some hilarious banter between the three men.) Rusev vs. Titus O'Neil for the United States crown is another match that would have been better on Raw, for it existed here solely to allow the crowd to recover before the main event; in this spot, the match was never likely to succeed. Finally, the main event between Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins for the WWE Title is a very good match, and another strong headline performance by the much-maligned Reigns. Rollins shines in his first match since his injury from the previous November, and post-match we get a huge moment which I won't spoil here; all I will say is that you should watch this right up until the very end of the show.

Because the MITB event lasted well north of three hours, the card has been condensed somewhat to make the DVD running time. Some advertisements during the card and the Kick-Off panel in-show reaction segment are not here, which admittedly is not a great loss. What is annoying, though, is that there are no extras whatsoever, meaning that both Kick-Off Show matches (The Golden Truth vs. Breezango and The Lucha Dragons vs. The Dudley Boyz) are absent. This is a card which really should have been released on a two-disc DVD so that the main card wouldn't have been stripped down, as slight as the cuts are to the PPV itself, the Kick-Off bouts could have been included, and some other extras could have been thrown in too. Hopefully, WWE will think about this going forward, given the rumours that three-hour+ PPV events could be the norm going forward, at least for the bigger cards.

This aside, Money In The Bank 2016 is well worth watching and, therefore, the DVD of the show is well worth owning.

Overall Rating: 8/10 - Very Good

Thursday, 18 August 2016

John Morrison: Rock Star

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 168 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: May 10 2010

With three-disc sets being the norm nowadays, even for compilations undeserving of the extended treatment, it was good to see a change in the formula for this single-disc release on John Morrison, at a time when he was one of WWE's top rising stars. This DVD brings together eight Morrison matches, along with comments from Morrison about his career and about his passions outside of the ring, such as parkour (which would later be used as part of his character) and surfing. The DVD tries to show Morrison's sense of humour in segments on The Dirt Sheet and answering fan questions, although the clips from the Dirt Sheet (which he sued to host on WWE.com with The Miz) are mostly embarrassingly unfunny, and the humorous answers only provide mild chuckles.

The real purpose of this is to demonstrate Morrison's wrestling ability. We aren't really enlightened into his career prior to becoming John Morrison (he co-won Tough Enough in 2003, trained in OVW after that for around a year, had a short-lived run as Eric Bischoff's assistant Johnny Nitro on Raw before returning to OVW, came back to the main roster alongside Joey Mercury and then-girlfriend Melina as part of the dynamic MNM act in 2005, had a decent solo run from 2006-7 and after becoming ECW Champion at Vengeance 2007, as a replacement for Chris Benoit on that fateful weekend, he shortly renamed himself John Morrison in a segment on ECW which is included as a DVD extra), so the first bout comes from Morrison's ECW Title reign; or, more accurately, the end of this run. His title-losing effort to CM Punk is a tremendous match, though, and probably the best ever match on WWE's ECW show. Given that he originally became champion due to Benoit's absence, which led to a raid of Benoit's doctor Phil Astin's surgery and the enquiry into what would become the Signature Pharmacy scandal, it is slightly ironic that Morrison was amongst those caught up in the scandal, meaning that this title loss was necessitated by his resultant suspension (and Punk, the noted straight-edge wrestler, was the man who beat him).

On a lighter note, Morrison rebounded by overachieving with his team alongside Miz, which went so well that it prepared Miz for an unimaginably successful solo run. The match from their double tag title-winning run comes in a non-title clash with D-Generation X leaders Shawn Michaels and Triple H from the Raw episode that celebrated 800 episodes (note that this wasn't the 800th episode; it's too long to explain). Right after the 2009 Draft split up Morrison and Miz, Johnny boy had his final ECW bout with Evan "Air" Bourne, which is the next clash featured here, and is an underrated gem of a match, and a sign that Bourne should be amongst the names that WWE could have looked to rehire ahead of this year's Brand Extension (come to think of it, WWE should rehire Morrison too, if they are legally able to do so given his Lucha Underground status).

After that, the focus for the remainder of the DVD switches to Morrison's SmackDown tenure. From May 2009 onwards for a good few months, SmackDown was a fantastic wrestling show; each week, it had one or two great wrestling matches, generally consisting of two or more from Rey Mysterio, Jeff Hardy, Edge, Chris Jericho, CM Punk and Morrison himself. The final five matches of this eight-bout DVD see the former Johnny Nitro take on each of the aforementioned names, with mixed results when it comes to wins and losses, but with each one of them being a strong wrestling encounter.

Morrison vs. Chris Jericho from Superstars is very good, and note how Y2J makes sure to remain the heel and cheats to win, which is picked up by announcers Jim Ross and Todd Grisham (the latter is an area where WWE does not succeed today). The episode of SmackDown which aired the next night featured the following match on the DVD, Morrison vs. Edge, which is superb; if not for another encounter later in the DVD, it would have been the best WWE television match of 2009. Edge makes Morrison look great, and even though the veteran comes out on top, the match greatly enhanced the younger Morrison.

Next up, Morrison scores an unlikely win over then-World Heavyweight Champion CM Punk (who was in the middle of a slow-burn heel turn) in a match which is exciting, but is inferior to Morrison vs. Edge. Morrison vs. Jeff Hardy five weeks later for the title is excellent; it's hard to envision a better situation when you have a rising star losing his big World Title opportunity, because it didn't harm Morrison one bit. (Although it has no relevance to Morrison, it's a minor disappointment that the post-match capers, where Punk completed his heel turn on Jeff, aren't included here.) The DVD ends with a bang; a genuine classic between Morrison and Rey Mysterio for the Intercontinental Title. Morrison's biggest triumph in WWE is a flawless battle, the best of many great SmackDown bouts in 2009, and had this not been the year when The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels ascended to new heights at WrestleMania 25, this would have been the undisputed Match Of The Year. (As an aside, this result was instigated by Mysterio violating the Wellness Policy, making it the third title change scenario involving Morrison that was caused by a suspension or an absence of some kind.)

Watching this, I tried to work out why SmackDown in 2009 felt better than Raw does today, even though both boasted or currently boast great matches every week (and Raw had the full roster prior to the latest Draft). Besides the superior creative for SmackDown seven years ago, and two top bouts in two hours being better than one or two great matches over the course of three hours, the main thing I noticed here was the selling. Matches start fast-paced but slow down as the competitors have taken a visual beating, and the wear and tear is evident in the final few minutes of each match. Wrestlers looked strong, even in defeat, and results had an impact on future developments. Selling is the key, whereas today Dean Ambrose or Seth Rollins will have a great 20-25 minute match but won't look any worse for the wear at the end, meaning that the matches have less of an impact. If wrestlers today did a better job of selling, the product would seem a lot better. And matches today have that 50/50 feel to them, rather than being a case of who is the best on the night wins, and goes on to achieve bigger things.

Returning to the DVD subject: this is a fantastic look at part of Morrison's career, especially the 2009 bouts. There isn't one weak match on the DVD, and besides the good-but-not-great tag bout, they are all either very good, excellent or, in the case of Morrison-Mysterio, classic. It's hard to believe from watching this that Morrison ultimately did not end up capturing either the WWE or World Heavyweight Titles. Certainly, a 2010 push for the gold seemed assured, and Morrison becoming champion of the SmackDown brand would have been greatly welcomed by fans. Somehow, it didn't happen, and so Morrison's fans are left hoping for a day when he might return to WWE, having left in late 2011, and become World Champion then. Otherwise, fans of the current Johnny Mundo can still enjoy his work on Lucha Underground.

Nevertheless, considering that the single-disc nature of this DVD makes this seem less important than most DVDs released around the same time, and despite the disappointing absence of any pre-Morrison content, this is an excellent wrestling DVD that provides a nice look back at a great time for wrestling action on SmackDown, and a look at someone who seemed destined to achieve great things. Who knows whether he will in future?

Overall Rating: 8.5/10 - Excellent

Friday, 12 August 2016

History of the Hardcore Championship 24-7 coming soon on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK

Image Source: Fetch Publicity
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Provided By: Fetch Publicity

The following story is courtesy of Fetch Publicity ...

After its inception in 1998, the WWE Hardcore Championship was sought after by some of WWE’s toughest and most unpredictable competitors. From deranged champions like Mankind, Raven and Al Snow to fighting champions like Rob Van Dam, Undertaker, Tommy Dreamer and Hardcore Holly, to unsung heroes like “The Lethal Weapon” Steve Blackman and Crash Holly, this set takes a comprehensive look at the greatest WWE Hardcore Championship matches in history. It’s unpredictable, it’s wild, it’s HARDCORE!


Match Highlights:

Raw – November 9 1998
Mankind vs. Ken Shamrock

St. Valentine’s Day Massacre – February 14 1999
Al Snow vs. Bob Holly

SummerSlam 1999 – August 22 1999
Big Boss Man vs. Al Snow

SmackDown – March 2 2000
Crash Holly vs. Tazz

SummerSlam 2000 – August 27 2000
Shane McMahon vs. Steve Blackman

WrestleMania X-Seven – April 1 2001
Triple Threat Match
Raven vs. Kane vs. Big Show

Vengeance 2001 – December 9 2001
Rob Van Dam vs. Undertaker

Raw – August 5 2002
Tommy Dreamer vs. Bradshaw

We like it because:

The Hardcore division was one of the most popular parts of the Attitude Era and remains a fan favourite to this day. And you won’t see action quite like this anywhere else – chairs, tables, dustbins, mannequin heads, and even the kitchen sink have all been used in these brutal (and often hilarious) battles.

It’s also great to relive the 24/7 rule, which meant the Hardcore Championship could be challenged for and won at any time, leading to a whole host of sneak attacks, surprise roll-ups, and surprising champions – it’s WWE at its most wacky and unpredictable!

Most exciting of all though is seeing some of the great stars who made the Hardcore division so memorable, with the likes of Crash Holly, Al Snow, Steve Blackman, and Raven fighting to take things to the next bone-crunching level and be crowned the king of hardcore!

For more information, click here.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Macho Madness: The Randy Savage Ultimate Collection

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 539 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: July 21 2009

While the likes of Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper and Bret Hart would made WWE returns after their WCW stints, one legendary figure who never did resurface in WWE was Macho Man Randy Savage. For reasons that have never been publicly confirmed, Savage remained an outsider to WWE, with even a hint of a return seeming unthinkable. So, when WWE announced that it would release a Randy Savage DVD in 2009, there was a fear that it would not do the great man's career justice, and even that it could be a burial to resemble the Self-Destruction Of The Ultimate Warrior DVD.

Fortunately, the compilation was mostly a fitting tribute to the career of the Macho Man. No, there isn't a documentary (this wouldn't come until 2014, several years after his tragic death), and Matt Striker and Maria were a bizarre choice to present the DVD (actually just Maria, playing that confused little girl character, since Striker's knowledge of wrestling history and topnotch Savage impressions make him a tolerable host), but this collection of matches does display why Savage was and is held in such high regard.

Ignoring Randy's pre-WWE adventures in several territories, Macho Madness (which, incidentally, has superb colourful artwork which the Macho Man probably would have been proud of) opens with Savage's Madison Square Garden debut against "Quick Draw" Rick McGraw. Bouts with Ricky Steamboat and Hulk Hogan from late 1985 are a cool preview of his future rivalry with those men, before Savage's WWF tenure begins proper with his enjoyable Intercontinental Title win over Tito Santana from February 1986. Since this was the era of one PPV event per year, Randy's year-plus reign, which got him over huge with fans despite his heel status, is remembered for one match, which had to be included here: his classic WrestleMania III battle with Steamboat, which was the greatest WWF match in the first few decades of its history. Before this, though, we get a bout of historic curiosity as he battles Bruno Sammartino, then approaching the end of a phenomenal career himself.

From there, we get clips of the formation of the Mega-Powers (featuring a ludicrously hammy expression by Hogan and their legendary quasi-handshake), before a battle with The Honky Tonk Man on The Main Event, the same show which saw the infamous "twin referee" hullaballoo that unseated Hulk as WWF Champion. Speaking of main events, that takes us to the main event of WrestleMania IV, where Savage (in the final of a tournament caused by said scandal) won his first WWF Title from "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase, and a rematch inside a steel cage from MSG, the latter of which is very good. We then see The Mega Powers face The Mega Bucks (DiBiase and Andre The Giant) from SummerSlam 1988. It all seemed that things were rosy between Savage and Hogan.

But in reality, the seeds were being sown for one hell of a break-up, with the paranoid Savage believing that Hulk wanted to take away his beloved Miss Elizabeth. That brings us to their great WrestleMania V main event, which is nostalgic fun all the way. We later see them clash again in a SNME bout that includes a cameo by Smoking Joe Frazier, and after that we get a forgotten Savage match from WrestleMania, as he and Sensational Sherri face Dusty Rhodes and Sapphire at WM VI (Dusty's music is inexplicably replaced by the UK Wheel Of Fortune theme, which spoils the presentation).

Savage, by now known as the Macho King, would then direct his attention towards The Ultimate Warrior, and here we get to relive their classic Career match from WrestleMania VII, with the post-match scene (a Savage-Liz reunion) providing a true WrestleMania moment. This leads to their on-screen wedding ceremony from SummerSlam 1991 (which is included as a DVD extra), but hold on! Their fabulous day was ultimately spoiled by the evil Jake Roberts, and after clips of Jake's shocking snake bite attack on Savage, we see Macho get revenge against Roberts at This Tuesday In Texas, which is intense and exciting but could have benefitted from lasting a few minutes longer.

After that match, Savage's retirement had officially been overturned, leading him to face Ric Flair in an underrated WWF Title bout from WM VIII, which was also preceded by a great plot-line as Flair suggested a past relationship with Elizabeth ("She was mine before she was yours!"). The next few matches are rare bouts from 1992: a very good European Rampage showdown with Shawn Michaels, and a fun tag bout as Savage and Bret face Shawn and Flair. The last WWF bout here is an unsuccessful WWF Title challenge against Yokozuna from February 1994. I was hoping that Randy's final high-profile WWF match - his WrestleMania X Falls Count Anywhere battle with Crush - would be here, but it wasn't to be. Instead, the collection moves onto his WCW tenure.

The first WCW bout is a forgettable bout with Flair from Bash At The Beach 1995, the Lifeguard stipulation for which is quite confusing (no surprise for a WCW match). After a later Savage-Flair bout from an early 1996 edition of Monday Nitro, we then revisit what was arguably Savage's best WCW feud with Diamond Dallas Page, as he and DDP collide in stipulation from The Great American Bash 1997. The DVD culminates with Savage and Sid Vicious facing Kevin Nash and Sting at Bash At The Beach 1999, which has another confusing set of rules (whomever gets the fall leaves as WCW World Champion, meaning that Nash could lose the gold to his own partner; this scenario was used to instigate David Arquette's risible reign as titleholder the following year). The DVD extras include plenty of classic Savage interviews, and the cheesy-but-great tribute video before the Macho-Liz wedding from SummerSlam 91.

Although the WCW selections are hit-and-miss, the WWF choices are as good as they could be (incidentally, Randy's last ever match, a one-off six man tag appearance in TNA, is unsurprisingly not even mentioned), resulting in as good a Savage DVD as one could expect from an in-ring standpoint (and some of the matches are absolute classics). It does have its flaws and some minor omissions but on the whole, WWE took the high road and provided Savage fans with a worthy retrospective for the legendary, one-of-a-kind Macho Man.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10 - Excellent

Monday, 8 August 2016

The Attitude Era Volume 3 - Unreleased now available on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK

Image Source:
Fetch Publicity
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Provided By: Fetch Publicity

The following story is courtesy of Fetch Publicity ...

The Attitude Era Volume 3 - Unreleased is now available in the UK on both DVD and Blu-ray.

The third volume in WWE’s Attitude Era DVD & Blu-ray series, this time bringing together previously unseen material from the period between 1996-2000. Includes “dark” matches from Monday Night Raw, non-televised matches from pay-per-view events, live events, and more never-before-released moments from WWE’s most controversial era!


Match Highlights:

Germany – April 1996
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart

In Your House: Good Friends, Better Enemies – April 28 1996
Non-Televised Match
Undertaker vs. Mankind

Raw – December 29 1997
Non-Televised Match
Nation of Domination vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin, Undertaker, Cactus Jack & Chainsaw Charlie

Anaheim, CA – March 13 1998
WWE Intercontinental Championship Match
The Rock vs. Ken Shamrock

Madison Square Garden – June 26 1999
Triple H vs. Big Show

Wall Street – October 25 2000
Dudley Boyz vs. T&A

Plus more action, extras and Blu-ray exclusives!

We like it because:

Arguably WWE’s most popular ever period, the Attitude Era shocked fans each and every week, and now with Attitude Era Vol. 3 Unreleased, it’s still full of surprises.

Comprised of footage from live events, dark matches, and previously unseen PPV bouts, it contains the kind of brilliant archaic action that the era was known for – not to mention some truly fascinating moments from WWE history.

Included on the set is the first ever encounter between Undertaker and Mankind, rare footage from WWE’s spiritual home in Madison Square Garden, and a never-before-televised collision between the pioneers of Attitude, The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin!

It’s an absolute must-have collection for every WWE fan – and it really is the bottom line!

For more information, click here.

Friday, 5 August 2016

WWE The Attitude Era Volume 3 - Unreleased

Image Source:
Fetch Publicity
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 410 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: August 8 2016

(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)

The third instalment in the Attitude Era DVD series is unique, in more ways than one. Whereas the first two sets provided a combination of unforgettable moments and some forgotten gems from Raw and PPV events, Volume 3 takes a very different approach of not only showcasing matches which have yet to be unreleased, but bouts which have never even aired. All of the matches are either "dark" matches (which take place before or after a televised event, with only the crowd getting to see what unfolds) or house show matches (bouts which take place on live events). It's an interesting format, and a chance to provide content which even the biggest fans of wrestling's most exciting era will have never seen (unless they had attended these shows, of course) - but does the concept work?

Presented by Corey Graves, who does a pretty good job of not only presenting matches but explaining the backstory to said bouts, the compilation kicks off with a Bret Hart-Steve Austin clash from Germany in April 1996. Hang on, 1996? Yes, the timeline here begins in the spring of '96, a time when the Attitude Era was still a pipe dream. Sure, we had the Goldust character, whose sexually-motivated behaviour was pushing the envelope for those who understood what was happening (which wasn't me at the time since I was only aged 7), the odd swear word was popping up in promos, and we recently had the introduction of the Spanish announcer's table gimmick (i.e. the act of putting one through said desk), along with some increasingly violent matches (such as Shawn Michaels vs. Diesel from In Your House 7). But one would not really suggest that this was the Attitude Era. It's true to say that the seeds of Attitude were being sown over the next couple of months, from the arrival of Mankind to the Austin 3:16 promo, but it wasn't until 1997 that the Attitude Era truly began (and some could argue that it wasn't official until Steve Austin won his first WWF Title at WrestleMania XIV, held in March 1998). To provide context, this opening Bret-Austin bout happened a few months before Steve's legendary 3:16 promo; his career was nearer the Ringmaster phase than it was the Texas Rattlesnake.

That quirk aside, the first disc (which solely covers 1996) is the best of the three from a match quality standpoint. Indeed, Bret vs. Austin is very good (why Austin is wearing pink wristbands, I do not know), and the first Undertaker-Mankind meeting held after the aforementioned IYH 7 is good too. Bret and Undertaker vs. Owen Hart and The British Bulldog from Kuwait is a little too focused on stalling, but it doesn't fail to entertain the fans in attendance. That same night, Austin returns to face Shawn Michaels in a strong outing, although it is hampered by the lights going out in the arena for a prolonged amount of time (which was exactly two weeks before the lights went out during the live In Your House 8 event; is it a coincidence, or should conspiracy theories arise?).

One man who very few WWF fans would have associated with the Attitude Era is The Ultimate Warrior, yet he pops up next to face Owen in a short match from Madison Square Garden on the night of the infamous Curtain Call (check out my review of the Kliq DVD for the full story; you can access it by clicking here). Austin makes his third appearance to face Undertaker in an MSG clash from August 1996, followed by Shawn Michaels bouts with Goldust and Mankind after In Your House 11 and 12 respectively. The Mankind match is okay but doesn't hold a candle to their great (televised) match at IYH 10, whilst the Goldust match is most notable for Shawn grabbing Goldust's penis more than once. Seriously. (Does that count as Attitude Era content?)

Onto disc two, and we enter 1997 with a nice little gem: a three-way between Psycho Sid, Bret and Shawn, held after an episode of Raw in Toronto SkyDome. I should point out that this happened just before Shawn "lost his smile" and vacated the WWF Title under the proviso of a supposedly career-ending knee injury, which many took as a cover for him refusing to lose to Sid that night (Thursday Raw Thursday) and to Hart at WrestleMania 13. In his book Heartbreak and Triumph, Shawn notes that his knee was hurt in - wait for it - a three-way against Sid and Bret. So, might this have been the match which proves that in actual fact Shawn was correct, and that those accusing him of lying were in fact wrong? (Personally, I think that Shawn was hurt, but not so severely that he couldn't have continued wrestling; that he returned to action in May '97 without undergoing any surgery speaks volumes.) Incidentally, Triple Threat matches had yet to be broadcast on WWF television, making this main event even neater.

Since 1997 was the year in which the WWF product almost completely transformed, it's odd that the next match doesn't occur for nearly 11 months: after the final Raw of '97, we have a decent eight-man scrap pitting Austin (by now a super-over babyface en route to the top), Undertaker, Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie (Terry Funk only debuted his Chainsaw character earlier that night on Raw) against The Nation Of Domination. After that, it's The Rock vs. Ken Shamrock in an Intercontinental Title showdown a few weeks before WM XIV, and then two MSG clashes from the weekend before Mania, as Cactus faces Badd Ass Billy Gunn in a Falls Count Anywhere match, and Austin takes on Triple H (that the still-partially-injured Austin competed one week before the biggest WWF match for almost a decade, where he would face a severely-injured titleholder in Shawn, was a big risk for the WWF to take in my opinion). Strangely, the compilation jumps ahead 15 months to June 1999 and an okay Big Show-HHH match, before a short doubles outing with The Dudley Boyz facing T&A in Times Square (this free event marked the WWF entering the New York stock market) in October 2000. And that's it. Wait, that's it? It's only disc two! Only WrestleMania events end on disc two, right?

Yes, but not to worry, because the remaining disc includes bonus matches (not sure why they weren't all presented in one big feature as is the norm, but okay). We have Yokozuna vs. The Sultan from South Africa, Austin vs. Goldust (which was also held after IYH 12; as both were heels, the fans have no idea who to cheer for), Taker teaming with Ahmed Johnson and (a now-babyface) Goldust against The Nation just before WM 13; Austin-Undertaker again from June 1997; Shawn and HHH facing The Legion Of Doom; Austin and Cactus battling Rock and D'Lo Brown (by which point Austin is mega-over); Austin siding with Cactus and Chainsaw against HHH and The New Age Outlaws en route to Mania XIV; another Austin-HHH clash the week before their MSG main event (which is almost exactly the same match move-for-move); Austin against Undertaker once more from June '99 in MSG; and The Hardyz against Lo Down from the aforementioned Times Square show.

The DVD has some nice touches, such as the Raw backstage backdrop during Corey's links, and some GTV clips to provide Graves' intros to some bouts. It also carries over the menu theme song from the first two sets (even if the lyrics are largely inaudible). And those who bought the Attitude Era book in late 2015 will notice that the artwork between the book and this DVD are extremely similar (in fact, with some pre-orders, you can get a mini-version of said book with this set). The most obvious trait to the bouts, though, are the lack of commentary throughout and the regular "fan cam" angles that footage was shot through during matches. The colour balance becomes inconsistent, so one moment the match is clear as day, and the next minute, it looks like someone has filmed it on their phone. However, the camera angles become a real hindrance near the end of disc three.

I get that multi-man matches on live events, where you only have one camera, can be hard to film. But that doesn't excuse how much of the action in the Austin/Cactus vs. Rock/D'Lo, Austin/Cactus/Chainsaw vs. HHH/NAO and Austin/HHH matches on the final disc is not seen. We'll see Austin attacking D'Lo whilst hearing the crowd react to Cactus and Rock exchanging weapon blows, without knowing what actually happened. We'll watch the action in the ring, and then suddenly see shots of the fans for around 20 seconds, completely ignoring the matches. Worst of all, the cameraman actually misses the Stone Cold Stunner which wins Austin and Cactus their match against Rock and D'Lo. Seriously, Stone Cold is primarily known for one move, and everybody knows that he wins 99% of his matches with the Stunner. But somehow the cameraman chose to film ringside shenanigans instead of Austin Stunnering Rock (and the interfering Kama Mustafa) and the actual three-count to clinch the victory. Through years of watching WWE DVDs, I have never seen anything like this. When fans complain today that there are too many camera angles of the action on Raw or SmackDown, just be glad that in the vast majority of cases, at least you can see what is happening, and that the actual finishing moves and closing sequences are not ignored, as is the case here. Sure, it was a house show, but imagine being Austin or Rock watching that back and thinking "where the hell is the finish?"

That gripe aside, I found this to be a very unusual and ultimately entertaining compilation. If you're expecting action to the level of that time period's greatest matches, then don't; remember that the standards when the cameras are not (technically) on are very different to when they are on. And, to be honest, this demonstrates very few of the traits which made the Attitude Era so memorable; the stars are here, but the sets are low-key, the pyrotechnics are minimal, there is no sexual content outside of Goldust's antics, the violence is pretty basic, and the colourful language is only occasional. So, as a representation of Attitude, this may not be the best example (especially with a third of the set being devoted to 1996).

But don't take these comments as a criticism, because this does represent the era perfectly if you were lucky enough to attend Raw tapings or house shows while the WWF product was at its hottest. This was the WWF live event experience during the Attitude Era, and besides Kane (who is oddly absent) and a couple of others like Chris Jericho and Edge and Christian, all of the key players from that unforgettable period of history are present. And there are some pretty good matches too, particularly on disc one involving Bret, Austin and Shawn. Furthermore, as noted earlier, unless you were in attendance at any of these shows, then you will have never, ever seen the matches included here, and it raises the question as to how many more hidden gems are in the WWE archives? If we assume that all events are filmed, even if only on one basic camera, there could be thousands, if not tens of thousands.

So, if you loved the Attitude Era, or if you're keen to get an insight into how popular the big names of the era were, and if you're interested in watching some rare gems, then you'll get a kick out of this third Attitude Era compilation. Just try not to dwell on the time period being covered and definitely try to ignore the occasionally-frustrating camera angles, and you should enjoy this collection.

Overall Rating: 7/10 - Respectable

Thursday, 4 August 2016

The Self-Destruction Of The Ultimate Warrior

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 186 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: October 17 2005

This DVD was and is one of the most fascinating ever released by WWE, largely because of the decidedly negative tone towards The Ultimate Warrior and his career. It is perhaps more intriguing to watch this years later because of how much WWE has changed its attitude towards Warrior's legacy in recent times.

The 90-minute documentary covers Warrior's in-ring career - but with a twist. Around 80-90% of the comments by a pretty star-studded cast of talking heads (Vince McMahon, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Triple H and many more) are negative, at times almost cruel. After covering his early years in various territories (during which Jim Ross suggests that Warrior couldn't cope in Bill Watts' Mid-South group), it jumps to his first WWF run (1987-1991), with chapters on his name change (he was previously known as The Dingo Warrior), his iconic theme tune, his Parts Unknown hometown and his unique interview style (this section is hilarious, by the way), as well as his in-ring adventures.

They include Warrior's initial feud with Hercules (which are slated), his memorable Intercontinental Title win over The Honky Tonk Man at SummerSlam 1988, his feud with Rick Rude (Rude is praised), his battles with Andre The Giant (slated; Andre isn't held accountable) and his career-making WWF Title win over Hulk Hogan from WrestleMania VI (the significance of which is acknowledged in full, although the breakdown of Hogan "passing the torch" is questioned by those who know the inner workings of the business and who realise how Hogan operates; hell, even Hulk explains his true motives about this moment in his autobiography).

Warrior's WWF Title reign is only briefly covered, as is his incredible Career match with Randy Savage from WrestleMania VII, before we tackle the circumstances of Warrior's firing after the Hogan/Warrior vs. Triangle Of Terror main event from SummerSlam 1991. In short, Warrior supposedly demanded a certain amount of money or he wouldn't compete; Vince complied, but fired him after the bout (I'll refer back to this later).

Then, we jump to Warrior's surprise return at WrestleMania VIII (one of the best returns ever in my opinion) and his bizarre feud with Papa Shango (Mean Gene Okerlund praises the storyline but slams the resultant matches), before his second firing in late 1992 is explained simply by Vince: "We had a stringent drug-testing policy, and there was a violation." Beforehand, the confusion over whether the "real" Warrior was back due to his muscle shrinkage is discussed superficially, but this provides the true reason for Warrior's drastic change in appearance.

After covering Jim Hellwig changing his name to Warrior in a condescending fashion (I assume that Warrior did this so that he could use the Warrior name for merchandising and other projects), we come to his third and final WWF run from 1996, which didn't last long. After HHH and Jerry Lawler explain their difficulties with Warrior (I'll come back to this, too), we're told that Warrior was fired again because he no-showed several dates, although the graphic used to illustrate this was apparently doctored to suit WWE's point of view. Hmm ...

Then, it's onto his best-forgotten WCW run, beginning with a counterproductive and lengthy Nitro interview and culminating in a comically bad match with Hogan from Halloween Havoc 1998 (Hulk refreshingly takes the heat for this), which existed solely for Hogan to get revenge for WrestleMania VI (seriously). After covering his lawsuit win over the WWF concerning the Warrior trademark, and his work as a public speaker (again condescendingly), the main feature closes by examining his legacy, with some running him down a bit more (Ric Flair comes across as abrupt and rude here), whereas others do praise him for his good qualities.

The DVD has some bonus segments, as well as five complete matches: an early WWF squash win, his IC Title win over Honky, his WM VI main event with Hogan, his Steel Cage battle with Rude from SummerSlam 1990, and his Career match with Savage from WM VII (disappointingly, the post-match scenes which elevated the impact of this moment aren't shown here).

This DVD essentially exists to inform people of what The Ultimate Warrior was really like, at least according to WWE. The tone is almost always negative, from The Brooklyn Brawler counting his concussions to Bobby Heenan repeatedly slating Warrior as if he had committed a murder. Nevertheless, it is presented in an entertaining and often light-hearted manner, and at least when it came to his firings, the documentary is telling the truth. Yes it may be negative, but the content is truthful.

However, the impact of this DVD would take an unexpected turn.

Warrior was (understandably) unhappy with this DVD and after some controversial remarks about some past and present WWE personalities, he sued WWE once again. Details of the settlement are unknown, but needless to say Warrior remained angry, turning down an offer to be the star inductee in the 2010 Hall Of Fame class. But after extended communication with HHH and Vince, following his appearance in the WWE 2K14 game (which came after other videogame appearances, by the way), Warrior would end up accepting a 2014 HOF induction, thus returning to the "WWE Family". Sadly, as most will know, Warrior shockingly passed away just days later.

It is nevertheless fascinating to watch this DVD after Warrior ultimately returned to WWE (one condition of his comeback was for a new DVD to cover his true legacy, which I will review in the near future). For instance, Vince McMahon says he "couldn't wait to fire" Warrior in 1991, and HHH called him the most unprofessional person he ever worked with. Plus, the DVD essentially portrays Warrior as a negative influence, almost a cancer, on the company. Now, though, Warrior has a Hall Of Fame award named in his honour and is presented as an all-time great? Not to mention that WWE never disclosed on the DVD why they kept bringing him back despite their troubles with him (in a nutshell: business was struggling).

Overall, this DVD is undoubtedly fun to watch, and is largely an honest account of how difficult Warrior could be. However, its rating drops due to WWE changing tack once Warrior "came home" and presented an alternative history of his career, with the negativity trimmed way down. (Would the DVD have been so negative if Warrior hasn't been at odds with the company?) What is The Ultimate Warrior's true legacy? I guess it's up to the fans to decide that.

Overall Rating: 7/10 - Respectable

Monday, 1 August 2016

Best Of Raw - After The Show

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 400 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: April 28 2014

This is one of the more unusual WWE DVD releases. The idea of providing fans with a collection of moments which would only have been seen by the fans in attendance is a cool one; however, stretching this across three discs proves to be a bad move, as even the most entertaining scenes become repetitive.

I won't list every segment, but across the first two discs, the vast majority involve Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock or both. We tend to see some comedy exchanges, followed by a handshake or a beer toast, which results in a finisher (in some cases several finishers). Around 2001, the focus shifts almost entirely to comedy, and there are some really funny situations that develop, along with some interesting scenarios.

They include Austin hitting HHH and Shane McMahon with a double Stunner, a multi man dance-off led by Chris Jericho, a heel Austin interviewing fans about their various lines of work, Austin Stunning Hulk Hogan before the two icons share a beer together, Rock and friends (and enemies, actually) trying to persuade The Undertaker to perform a Spinaroonie (this one is really funny), and several ad-lib segments led by Austin from 2003 and 2004 (one of which is an Attitude Era reunion involving Austin, Rock and Mick Foley).

Much of this is very entertaining, but there's a reason why we usually only see one or two as a DVD extra. The formula grows tired, so even when some corking lines are thrown out, the impact is lost because it feels like you're watching the same segment over and over with only minor differences (some are almost identical, including the personnel involved). One segment involving Austin, Booker T, Rob Van Dam and Lilian Garcia lasts far too long, so while this particular instance has some great moments, you end up wanting it to finish. Plus, some moments (the Ric Flair tribute, a superb Austin-Jericho square-off and a Rock-Austin exchange, all from 2003) have been released on previous DVDs.

Disc three is better in a sense because we get some matches to break up the formula. They're mostly of the filler variety, though: Shawn Michaels and Randy Orton against Triple H and Ric Flair feels phoned-in, and a later HHH-Orton bout only lasts around five minutes. Better is a six-man tag from the night after WrestleMania XXVIII, with the "Yes!" chant dominating proceedings, a rare John Cena-CM Punk bout from one year earlier, and a 2006 Street Fight between Cena and Edge, which is almost PPV-quality. Unfortunately, none of the bouts (or the segments) feature commentary, which weakens their presentation. Closing the DVD are more non-match segments as the roster celebrate John Cena's birthday (we also have a Fabulous Moolah birthday celebration earlier on), some shenanigans between Cena, Rock and Big Show after Raw 1000, and Cena leading the rowdy-as-hell New Jersey crowd to Fandango their hearts out the night after WrestleMania 29.

I hope I don't come across as miserable during this review, as this DVD provides a lot of funny, entertaining moments. The problem is that after watching so many of them, they lose their impact, making them - well - less entertaining. I thought that this was a fun DVD to watch, but I'd recommend you watch it in parts, between the weekly television shows or even between watching other DVDs, and you will probably appreciate it more. Had it been reduced by a disc and if some of the filler had been taken out, the rating below would have been higher.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10 - Okay