Thursday, 22 September 2016

WWE Best Pay-Per-View Matches 2011

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 422 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: March 26 2012

The Best Pay-Per-View Matches series returned to DVD to cover the big encounters of 2011. This time, the structure was more logical by focusing on the year as a whole rather than a "season". The downside is that WWE chose to release this collection at the tail end of 2011 in the U.S. (meaning, the very beginning of 2012 in the UK), all of which meant that Survivor Series and TLC, the final two supershows of the year, were held too late to be covered in this DVD. This is a trend that has continued ever since, and hopefully one which WWE will end at some point; if you're recapping the year's best matches, you can't justifiably ignore two major shows that close the annum out.

That aside, the 2011 set is a very good round-up of top-drawer matches. Disc one opens with two great Edge matches: a singles battle with Dolph Ziggler from Royal Rumble, and an Elimination Chamber scrap (at the event of the same name) against Rey Mysterio, Kane, Wade Barrett, Drew McIntyre and Big Show. The Chamber bout in particular is excellent, and an example of how this match can still provide thrills and spills in a PG environment.

We head to WrestleMania XXVII for the next two matches: by most accounts, the 27th Mania was disappointing, but Rey vs. Cody Rhodes (featured here) is alright, and The Undertaker vs. Triple H (which closes out the first disc) is an incredibly dramatic battle; yes, it's slow-paced and it's more a collection of spots rather than a back-and-forth match, but it works, and it puts the Streak in the most jeopardy that it would ever be, prior to Brock Lesnar actually ending it three years later.

Disc two kicks off with a Ladder match from Extreme Rules between Christian and Alberto Del Rio for the vacated World Heavyweight Title, which is pretty good if not the most exciting Ladder bout that you'll ever see. Over The Limit is ignored altogether, which is annoying because Randy Orton vs. Christian from that show was one of the year's genuine best WWE matches. Capitol Punishment makes up for this slightly with a really good Rey Mysterio-CM Punk match, at which point the seeds were being sown for a certain wrestler to suddenly become the centre of attention (hint: he's Straight-Edge).

From there, it's off to Money In The Bank, which gives us a strong Raw MITB Ladder match involving Del Rio, Rey, R-Truth, The Miz, Jack Swagger, Kofi Kingston, Evan Bourne and Alex Riley (remember him?). I personally would have preferred seeing the SmackDown MITB clash here instead, but it's still really good. And then we head to that card's main event to close disc two: John Cena (in his first appearance of the DVD, surprisingly) vs. CM Punk for the WWE Title, in front of a red-hot Chicago crowd. It isn't quite flawless, but it is an extremely compelling main event backed up by one hell of a storyline (the match is preceded by the promo video detailing the Punk-is-leaving storyline, the only time such a device is used in this particular set). This is one of the two most memorable matches of the year, alongside Taker-HHH, and the match and the wider storyline is a reason why many fans decided to start watching WWE again. If that isn't an endorsement, I don't know what is.

Disc three starts strong with Randy Orton vs. Christian (at last, one of their matches!) under No Holds Barred rules from SummerSlam, which aside from a subsequent Cage match on SmackDown brought an end to what was the year's best rivalry bar none. After that, the match quality begins to dip as we see Mark Henry challenge Orton for the World Heavyweight Title at Night Of Champions; it plays to Henry's strengths (no pun intended), but it's the weakest match of the DVD up to that point. HHH vs. Punk from NOC is here too, and is a very good, wild brawl, although it gets a bit overcrowded with interference and shenanigans, and the result (a HHH win, with no real follow-up) is one of the reasons why Punk would leave WWE for real in 2014.

The standard takes a nose-dive when we get to Hell In A Cell. A generally mediocre event, it gives us two matches, neither of which are particularly worth watching: Kelly Kelly vs. Beth Phoenix, in the days when the word "Diva" was of greater importance to WWE than actual female wrestling talent, is lifeless and loses the crowd when Kelly practically cries due to the pain of a submission hold (what the hell?). Cena vs. Punk vs. ADR is okay, but it's a match held inside a Hell In A Cell rather than a Hell In A Cell match, if that makes sense; although the finish makes use of the structure, this really didn't need to be inside that massive cage. (The post-match scenes involving Awesome Truth are fairly memorable, though.) Lastly, it's Henry vs. Big Show from Vengeance; in fairness to the slow, cumbersome giants, the match is better than expected, and the finish (which I won't spoil here, even if the DVD cover for that actual event did indeed spoil what happened), whilst recycled, allows the DVD to end on a high note of sorts.

Other notes: Scott Stanford provides hosting duties, and the box art looks like it has had some effort put into it this year. Again, I wish WWE would have delayed the release to cover Survivor Series and TLC; TLC had plenty of memorable moments, whilst Survivors saw Punk begin his 434-day WWE Title reign at Alberto's expense, and the teaming of The Rock and John Cena against Miz and R-Truth. Partly because of that decision, one would never know from watching this DVD that Rock vs. Cena was a huge part of the WWE landscape in 2011 as they expertly built very slowly to their WrestleMania XXVIII clash the following year (although Stanford does give a slight reference to that match as the DVD ends).

With the exception of there being no Orton-Christian match from Over The Limit here and the lack of action from the year's final two PPV events, the title of this collection is pretty accurate, as all of the year's most exciting, memorable or important supershow battles are here. Some choose to remember 2011 for Cena vs. Punk at Money In The Bank; for others, it's Undertaker vs. HHH; and a few might remember the less credited matches such as the World Heavyweight Championship clash from Elimination Chamber. Whatever the case may be, this is a thoroughly enjoyable collection of action, which maintains a strong standard across the first two discs and has some surprises, twists and turns during some of the less fondly-remembered matches. If you want to relive WWE in 2011, this is a very good set to watch.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10 - Excellent

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