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

No comments:

Post a comment