Friday, 30 December 2016

Hell In A Cell 2016

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 184 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: January 2 2017

(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)

Hell In A Cell 2016 was a historic night in WWE, as it would be the first time ever that a Pay-Per-View event was headlined by an all-female encounter, which is a testament to the talent and popularity of Sasha Banks and Charlotte, the two combatants in said match. But does HIAC 2016 measure up as a major show in terms of quality?

The event starts on a decent note with Roman Reigns vs. Rusev inside the Cell for the United States Championship; whilst it is not as good as Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt from HIAC 2015, it's still an enjoyable brawl, and a fitting way to cap off their fairly lengthy rivalry. Next up, Bayley battles Dana Brooke in a match which is unspectacular, but still better than their previous Raw match where Dana's inexperience and inferiority to Bayley were extremely evident (in the Raw match, Brooke pinned Bayley clean when she was meant to use the ropes to secure a win by nefarious means, which made Bayley look ridiculous).

Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. The Club is decent but nothing more; it essentially exists as a way to promote Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson rather than being a memorable match in its own right. Fortunately, Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins inside HIAC for the Universal Championship is an improvement upon their main event at Clash Of Champions, with a couple of particularly high-risk spots wowing the Boston crowd. It won't be remembered as a classic Cell match, but it is the best match on this particular event.

Unfortunately, TJ Perkins vs. Brian Kendrick for the Cruiserweight Championship only demonstrates why the Cruiserweight division has struggled since its return to Raw following the highly-successful Cruiserweight Classic; the talents work hard and try to tell a story, but without being able to use many high-flying moves that are synonymous with the division, the crowd is clearly disinterested, and the Cruiser matches are no different to bouts involving anybody else on the roster (imagine the Hardcore division, which is a fond memory of the Attitude Era, returning to Raw in 2017 but without any weapon-related combat whatsoever, and you get an idea of why the Cruiserweight division is in need of rehabilitation). The New Day vs. Cesaro and Sheamus is alright but has a cop-out finish, partly to keep the record-breaking New Day reign as WWE Tag Team Champions going beyond HIAC (otherwise, I suspect that we would have had a title change here).

The main event, as stated, was Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte in HIAC. It is more enjoyable on second viewing because of the wild rumours as to what the ladies had planned prior to the show, meaning that watching it live was a bit of a nerve-wracking experience. Fortunately, Sasha and Charlotte (who had both taken massive chances in previous encounters, with at least one almost resulting in serious injury) do provide enough thrills and spills, and a surprising amount of violence for an all-women's match in the PG era, to justify both the stipulation and their main event slot. A slightly blown finish and what some considered to be an anticlimactic outcome dampen the fan reactions to what should have been one of the year's most memorable matches, but so long as you're not a die-hard Sasha supporter, you'll probably enjoy this match for what it is. (By the way, there are no DVD extras due to the card running long; in fact, a few minutes from the show have been trimmed off in order to make the running time of the DVD.)

In many ways, Hell In A Cell is a perfect embodiment of Raw in the post-Draft era (not unlike the previous red brand PPV event Clash Of Champions). There are several enjoyable matches, and the talent are clearly grafting, but some strange booking decisions, a lack of crowd interest during a number of bouts, an overly-long card, a lack of high-flying spots in the Cruiserweight showdown and filler encounters between the crucial matches all serve to make the show seem worse than it actually is. If you're a new fan to WWE, or if you're a first-time viewer, you'll probably consider this to be a strong effort by the Raw crew, but those who watch the product week in and week out will class this to be little more than a PPV version of Raw itself. It's a commendable effort by the red brand, but it won't be winning any Card Of The Year honours for 2016.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10 - Okay

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

For All Mankind - The Life & Career Of Mick Foley

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 375 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: April 22 2013

It's hard to believe prior to the release of For All Mankind that Mick Foley had never enjoyed a complete career retrospective DVD documentary. We'd had one-hour docs which showcased aspects of Foley's life and times, but never one which took us from the very beginning and through all the peaks and valleys of Foley's career.

Mind you, that is partly because, as any die-hard WWE fan knows, Foley has already released no less than four autobiographies (the first two of which were amongst the greatest wrestling books ever written), which were extremely comprehensive in detailing Foley's entire life. Therefore, it's understandable that we haven't had a full documentary on the Hardcore Legend; considering the books, there was little reason to get a DVD on his life as well.

Nevertheless, this serves as the visual companion to the likes of Have A Nice Day! and Foley Is Good, and with Mick being the engaging and entertaining subject that he is, the main feature is still very entertaining. With the exception of his 2008-2011 TNA stint, every major aspect of his career is covered. They include Mick becoming a wrestling fan and travelling to Madison Square Garden to watch the WWF as a teenager; training under Dominic Denucci; his early days competing (which included serving as enhancement talent for the WWF having barely wrestled at that point); his first WCW stint; his wars on the independent circuit prior to his second fruitful yet frustrating tenure with WCW; his memorable run in ECW; his ultra-violent exploits in Japan (such as the infamous King Of The Death Matches tournament); his initial success as Mankind in the WWF upon his 1996 signing; his transformation into childhood character Dude Love and the eventual WWF arrival of Cactus Jack (hence the Three Faces Of Foley); that Hell In A Cell battle with The Undertaker at King Of The Ring 1998 which would be Foley's most memorable match (as well as one of the most memorable matches of all-time); his unexpected first WWF Title win over The Rock which served as a pivotal night during The Monday Night Wars; his use of comedy in wrestling, including The Rock 'N' Sock Connection; his autobiographies; his many injuries; his decision to retire the first time in 2000 as he realised that his body was breaking down; his very popular run as WWF Commissioner; his multiple comebacks against the likes of Randy Orton and Edge (despite some incredible matches upon his returns, Foley admits that he often wishes he hadn't wrestled again after 2000); his transition into stand-up comedy in the early 2010s; his WWE return in 2011 after he left on fairly bad terms in 2008 following an uneasy run as a SmackDown announcer (this and other gripes with WWE and Vince McMahon over the years are covered in detail); his definitive retirement in 2012 on medical grounds; and Foley reflecting upon his legacy in wrestling, which is a unique and vital mark to have left on the crazy industry that is professional wrestling.

All of this and more is covered, assisted by plenty of clips, some rare archive footage and a plethora of comments by various talking heads including Dominic Denucci, Shane Douglas, Terry Funk, Vader, Triple H, The Rock, Steve Austin, Edge, Christian, Road Dogg, Michael Hayes, Randy Orton, CM Punk and many others. Some of these clips will be recognisable to those who have seen Foley's (excellent) Hall Of Fame tribute video prior to his induction into the 2013 Class; incidentally, said induction explains the purpose, and especially the timing, of this DVD.

If you've never read any of Foley's books, then this should be a very entertaining and informative documentary. However, chances are that a high number of viewers will have read at least one of Mick's autobiographies, or will at the very least be aware of Foley's most significant highs and lows, meaning that there will be few revelations to hardcore fans (no pun intended). That being said, this doesn't detract from the fact that the main feature is as enjoyable as any WWE profile that you will watch, and it is a more than fitting visual examination of, to quote the title, the life and career of Mick Foley.

Included on this DVD are more than a dozen bonus matches. Since Foley's previous DVD Greatest Hits and Misses included all of his most famous matches (on American soil, anyway), with his comeback bouts included on the 2007 re-release of GH&M, it stands to reason that the match selection on this DVD will be inferior to that of GH&M. There are some really good matches, though, which help to justify the existence of this DVD even further.

Mick's WWF squash match debut alongside Les Thornton against The British Bulldogs, whilst featured on GH&M, has alternate commentary with Mick and Joey Styles, as Foley (wrestling in this bout as Jack Foley) explains how he was left with a broken jaw as a result of an extremely vicious Dynamite Kid forearm/clothesline. Some rare bouts from the AWA and Memphis are followed by an early WCW bout against Keith Hart and an exciting Cactus Jack-Sting encounter from late 1991. A Falls Count Anywhere clash with Van Hammer from, erm, Clash Of The Champions is decent for the era (this is the match Foley referenced in Have A Nice Day! whereby he was "advised" to have interviewer Missy Hyatt somehow end up being covered in mud).

Next, we enter Foley's ECW stint, and we get a Barbed Wire match against The Sandman which is simple in its execution yet very bloody and at times hard to watch. More so is his battle with Shane Douglas at Cyberslam 1996 (which again has alternate commentary from Mick and Joey) during which Foley, handcuffed as he would be during the notorious I Quit battle with The Rock at Royal Rumble 1999, takes several very hard unprotected chair shots; that we are told in the documentary how chairshots like this caused Foley to have to retire for good in 2012 makes this a challenging encounter to watch. Disc two ends with two Mankind matches from 1997 against Rocky Maivia and Hunter Hearst Helmsley, prior to the Attitude Era during which Foley would have classic rivalries with both men, once their characters had completely transformed.

Kicking off disc three is Dude Love vs. Rocky Maivia from November 1997 which, to be honest, is pure filler (the brutal Mankind vs. Kane bout from Survivor Series eight days earlier would have been a better inclusion). The same can't be said for the next match, which is Mankind vs. Undertaker from KOTR 1998; this iconic Cell match once more has Mick and Joey giving us new commentary, and it remains a jaw-dropping battle to witness. That it has been released many times before, including on GH&M (not surprisingly), doesn't detract from the inclusion of this massively important chapter of Foley's career. Mankind and Kane vs. The New Age Outlaws serves more to demonstrate just how over every major WWF star was during the Attitude Era, whilst Mankind vs. The Rock from Rock Bottom 1998 is good, but arguably the weakest entry in their famous 1998/1999 feud. Closing out the DVD is The Rock 'N' Sock Connection against Triple H and Shane McMahon in a forgotten match from 1999, a brawl against Al Snow in late '99, and his superb Hell In A Cell showdown with Triple H from No Way Out 2000 which was meant to be his swansong (sure, Foley wrestled again six weeks later at WrestleMania 2000 and many times after that in later years, but could you imagine a major WWE star nowadays willingly having their last match at the PPV event before Mania?).

Other notes: I liked the artwork of this DVD, which sees Foley on the cover sitting in an old-fashioned lounge with momentos of his career in the background. The disc covers are unique as well as they feature Foley's signature smiley-face logo in the colours of his various alter egos (one of which was actually printed incorrectly for the Blu-ray version).

Summing this collection up, then, if you had never read any of Foley's books, you would argue that the documentary is one of WWE's best ever. And if the matches included on Greatest Hits & Misses had accompanied said doc, you'd have enough evidence to suggest that it might actually be of the greatest wrestling DVDs ever released. However, neither is the case, and we have a strong main feature albeit one lacking in revelations for Foley's biggest fans, and a selection of matches which is good on the whole, but don't come close to representing Foley's greatest battles, or even being of a high standard across the board given the amount of filler included. However, the documentary is undeniably entertaining, and there are some gems amongst the unmemorable bouts on discs two and three. Therefore, I still heartily recommend this DVD to any fan, and those who do love Foley will also love this DVD. If you already own GH&M, For All Mankind will fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle, and both DVDs combine to create one hell of an overall collection for one of the most entertaining personalities in WWE history.

Overall Rating: 8/10 - Very Good

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Hell In A Cell 2016 coming soon on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Provided By: Fetch Publicity

The following story is courtesy of Fetch Publicity ...

For the first time ever, the leaders of the Women’s Revolution make history inside Hell In A Cell as WWE Raw Women’s Champion Sasha Banks defends her title against Charlotte Flair. “The Bulgarian Brute” Rusev and United States Champion Roman Reigns bring their rivalry to an end inside the demonic structure. WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens enters his first Hell In A Cell match and looks to continue his Kevin Owens Show against “The Undisputed Future” Seth Rollins. Plus more as the Superstars of Raw go to hell and back at Hell In A Cell!

Synopsis:

Match Listing:

Hell In A Cell Match for the WWE Raw Women’s Championship
Sasha Banks (c) vs. Charlotte Flair

Hell In A Cell Match for the WWE Universal Championship
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Seth Rollins

Hell In A Cell Match for the WWE United States Championship
Roman Reigns (c) vs. Rusev

WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Match
The New Day (c) vs. Cesaro & Sheamus

WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match
TJ Perkins (c) vs. Brian Kendrick

Bayley vs. Dana Brooke

Plus more action, extras and Blu-ray exclusives!

We like it because:

It’s been a year of firsts for WWE, but nothing has been as groundbreaking as the first ever women’s Hell In A Cell match - a history-making moment that makes this one of the year’s must-own pay-per-view events.

Hometown hero Sasha Banks and Charlotte rise to the occasion too, in a match that’s as heated, intense, and brutal as any Hell In A Cell showdown from recent years. The ending is shocking too, creating another jaw-dropping moment in the Sasha vs Charlotte feud - WWE’s hottest rivalry of 2016.

There’s more sizzling Hell In A Cell action from Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins, who deliver an innovative, high-risk battle. Meanwhile, Roman Reigns and Rusev engage in a stiff and hard-hitting brawl that can only be contained by the unforgiving steel of the Cell.

It’s also a historic night for the Cruiserweight Championship, as TJ Perkins and his former mentor Brian Kendrick clash once again for the title - a match in which Kendrick lives up to his reputation as one of sports-entertainment’s craftiest veterans.

Elsewhere, Cesaro and Sheamus cement themselves as one of WWE’s top tag teams - even if they can’t get along outside of the ring. But can they strip The New Day of the Raw Tag Team Championship?

Don’t miss your chance to own this incredible event!

Hell In A Cell 2016 will officially be released on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday January 2 2017.

For more information, click here.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

David Brent: Life On The Road

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Graham Lewis

Running Time: 96 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Released: December 12 2016

The star of the BBC mockumentary The Office, David Brent, has returned! Comedian Ricky Gervais reprises the role of the Marmite-like former manager of Wernham Hogg, this time in a feature-length offering.

The highly-offensive (albeit well-meaning) David Brent is minus any of The Office’s familiar faces here. The funny man finds himself working for the sales company Lavichem, selling bathroom supplies, when he embarks on a new adventure to become a rock star with his band Foregone Conclusion.

The film digs far deeper into Brent’s character than we ever saw in The Office, showing the thought processes of a man desperate to be loved by all, but winning over very few.

Life On The Road stands up far better than you’d expect from a movie based on a mockumentary which ended back in 2003. It contains smart songs and a good (if not well-known) cast. One of the best performances comes from Ben Bailey Smith, whose supporting role as the talented rapper Dom Johnson (and in one scene, a Native American) will surely see him move on to bigger and better things in the film industry.

The film seriously lacks any links to the series it tries to reference, besides Brent himself and a quirky nod in the form of an instrumental version of “Handbags and Gladrags” playing during one scene, the well-known theme song of The Office.

It delivers regular laughs, and I imagine it will be an enjoyable watch for fans of The Office. For non-fans, I can see it being quite difficult to really understand why this awkward man with ‘Berk’ adorned on his arm is worth the time of day.

So, it's a bit hit and miss, but it's still a lot more than an average boring Sunday movie.

David Brent – Life On The Road is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from all good (and probably some really bad) physical and online stores.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 - Good

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Hell In A Cell 2016 announced for DVD and Blu-ray in the UK

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Provided By: Fetch Publicity

The following story is courtesy of Fetch Publicity ...

WWE Hell In A Cell 2016 is officially coming to DVD and Blu-ray in the UK.

For the first time ever, the leaders of the Women’s Revolution make history inside Hell in a Cell as WWE Raw Women’s Champion Sasha Banks defends her championship against Charlotte Flair. “The Bulgarian Brute” Rusev and United States Champion Roman Reigns bring their rivalry to an end inside the demonic structure. WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens enters his first Hell in a Cell match and looks to continue his “Kevin Owens Show” against “The Undisputed Future” Seth Rollins. Plus more as the Superstars of Raw go to hell and back at Hell in a Cell!

Hell In A Cell 2016 will be available to purchase on DVD and Blu-ray from Monday January 2 2017.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Triple H: Thy Kingdom Come

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 429 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: October 14 2013

Depending on your opinion, Triple H is either one of the biggest stars and best performers in WWE for the last 20 years, or he is a manipulative, selfish backstage politician who married his way to the top. The answer is probably something in between; nevertheless, fans are given the opportunity for a greater insight into the life, times and career of The Game with Thy Kingdom Come, although it should come as no surprise that the negative allegations about the real-life Paul Levesque are either only slightly referred to or ignored completely.

Thy Kingdom Come (which has a cool cover, if I say so myself) takes us through many chapters of Tripper's life, such as his upbringing and initial fandom of pro wrestling; his training under Killer Kowalski, debut and travels on the independent circuit as Terra Ryzing; his short WCW stint; his early WWF days as Greenwich blueblood Hunter Hearst Helmsley; the impact of Chyna on his career (their real-life relationship is not discussed for obvious reasons); his various battles over the years with Mick Foley; The Kliq; the original version of D-Generation X, which undoubtedly reversed his career fortunes; his initial rise to the main event level in the WWF; his relationship with Stephanie McMahon, both on-screen and off; his battles with The Rock and The Undertaker; his various quadriceps injuries; Evolution, and subsequent battles with the likes of Randy Orton (with whom he had far too many matches); the reunion of DX; and his ultimate progression into the office, and the early days of him running NXT and the opening of the WWE Performance Center.

It's a well-paced documentary with logical chronology that covers many of HHH's on-screen highlights. Accompanying vintage clips of his career are talking head comments from a variety of performers, friends, colleagues and family members. The Undertaker's links are a highlight, simply because it's so rare to see Taker talking out of character these days on an official WWE release. The most intriguing part of the doc is the discussion of how his relationship with Stephanie came to be, and how Vince tried to block it more than once. Even after getting Vince's approval, HHH felt uneasy, so it was Undertaker who HHH consulted with and, after receiving his blessing, he arguably put his career at stake in an attempt to not only find true love, but to also ensure a lifetime career in WWE; fortunately for him, he succeeded. It's also interesting to hear the back-stories of some major matches, like his WrestleMania showdowns with Taker, as well as acknowledging some matches which didn't achieve their potential (such as the WM 25 main event with Randy Orton).

Triple H fans will really enjoy this documentary, especially since it's been so long coming (we did get a documentary back in 2002, but his career has obviously taken many more twists and turns since then, and his off-screen relationship with Stephanie was only in its infancy at that time), but HHH's critics may find it harder to watch. Very few of his aforementioned flaws when the cameras are not rolling are acknowledged; granted, we weren't going to get an examination as to whether or not HHH purposely damaged the careers of such stars as Booker T and Rob Van Dam, but the documentary feels incomplete without discussing his reputation on some level, even if it's in an attempt to suggest that it isn't warranted. It'd be like discussing Shawn Michaels' career without mentioning his real-life feud with Bret Hart, or talking about Hulk Hogan and not touching upon the many wrestlers who found him to be a pain at times (and that's putting it mildly).

Taken with a grain of salt, and assuming that you don't expect a ton of revelations, Thy Kingdom Come is an entertaining look back at a man who, for all his faults, is one of the most important men in recent WWE history, and given the path that he and Steph are on away from the ring, he may just become the most important man in wrestling period someday.

There are a selection of bonus matches, although their quality varies greatly. Even though there has never been a true Best Of Triple H compilation, meaning that a lot of his greatest matches have never been released on a HHH-specific DVD, this collection somehow manages to ignore classic outings to focus on matches that are rare gems, which sometimes works but in this case is a bit frustrating.

Jean-Paul Levesque taking on Ricky Steamboat in WCW is a good start, and while Hunter vs. Dude Love from One Night Only 1997 isn't the Foley-related match that I would have picked, it's exciting nonetheless. We then get the superb Iron Man match between HHH and Rock from Judgment Day 2000, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise; the ending is brilliant, even if the timing is slightly off (although Undertaker's music being dubbed over is annoying). After that, it's a disappionting match with Kurt Angle from Unforgiven 2000 which ended their infamous love triangle storyline with Stephanie on a low note, while HHH and Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker and Kane from Backlash 2001 is a forgotten battle, but one that is still entertaining.

HHH vs. RVD is next; in fairness, HHH had very few notable matches in 2003 from a quality standpoint, so this Raw bout is actually one of his better efforts from that difficult year. HHH vs. Shawn Michaels is next under Last Man Standing rules from Royal Rumble 2004 and, whilst not their best battle, it is still a strong outing (and the bloodshed from both is ferocious, especially Shawn). Two short matches against Ric Flair and Booker T don't need to be here (even if the latter marked his return from a second quad tear), but his LMS showdown with Orton from No Mercy 2007 is a worthy inclusion; not only is it a great match, but it's the best bout that these two common foes ever contested against one another. The last two matches have a filler feeling to them: a bout with Jeff Hardy, which I attended, is good but by no means their best, and a meeting with Chris Jericho really does exist to complete the DVD's running time. The Blu-ray also features HHH vs. Brock Lesnar from WrestleMania 29, as well as a load of additional stories.

Summing this up, there has never been a truly great HHH DVD collection, and Thy Kingdom Come doesn't achieve that status either. However, it is a very entertaining look back at his highs and lows on-screen in his unforgettable career, and while the match selection could have been a lot better, there are still some real gems on there. The wait to see The Ultimate Triple H Collection goes on, but fans of The King Of Kings should get a real kick out of this set while they wait. HHH's army of critics need not purchase this one.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 - Good

Monday, 12 December 2016

True Giants

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 429 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: December 1 2014

Following on from the Cruiserweight-themed release Wrestling's Highest Flyers in late 2010/early 2011, True Giants takes the complete opposite approach by focusing on the largest performers in wrestling history (mostly).

You can look at this concept in two ways. On the one hand, it's nice that the mammoths are getting a spotlight (oxymoron, I know), especially since the vast majority have never or will never get a DVD profile of their own, even established names like Vader, Psycho Sid and Yokozuna. Plus, some are genuine major stars, such as Andre The Giant, Big Show and Kevin Nash (incidentally, why hasn't Nash received the DVD treatment on his own yet?). On the other hand, those who stand close to or above the 7-foot mark, and/or weigh in excess of 350 pounds, are rarely associated with classic matches. Some big men, such as Vader, have put on epic encounters on a regular basis, but such performers are generally the exception rather than the norm. A giant's job is generally to perform as a giant would, meaning that most of the stars highlighted on this release have only ever watched fantastic matches as opposed to working them.

Nevertheless, giants have played a vital role in the history of the wrestling business (hell, the most famous wrestling moment ever is probably when Hulk Hogan bodyslammed Andre The Giant at WrestleMania III), and therefore the behemoths are more than deserving of a profile focusing on their careers and - what else? - their size. Whether you find it entertaining is another matter entirely.

Anyway, the main programme provides mini-career profiles on more than a dozen big men: Big Show, Gorilla Monsoon, One Man Gang/Akeem, Haystacks Calhoun, Giant Gonzales, Big John Studd, Kevin Nash/Diesel, Ernie "Big Cat" Ladd, Mark Henry, King Kong Bundy, Psycho Sid, Vader, Yokozuna, The Great Khali and, of course, Andre The Giant himself. The profiles are mostly concerned with in-ring accomplishments and notable matches/feuds rather than their lives outside the ring, with Show and Andre amongst the notable exceptions. Plus, some comments by various talking heads are in-character (e.g. emphasising how one performer is particularly threatening because of his sheer size), which in modern times is rarely a positive.

There are many matches included as bonus features, but as alluded to earlier very few are exactly of a high standard (no pun intended), so I'll just focus on the standout bouts. There's a weird six-man tag from Mid-South Wrestling, which includes the unlikely combination of Andre, Dusty Rhodes and Junkyard Dog (Shawn Michaels pops up in another Mid-South match against One Man Gang). Hogan vs. Big John Studd is a typical Hogan match (tailor-made for Hulk, you might say), and Kamala vs. Andre inside a Steel Cage is a minor dream match (plus, who doesn't love Kamala?). Andre vs. Randy Savage completes the second disc.

On disc three, we open with a legitimately p-ss-poor match between El Gigante and One Man Gang from the 1991 WCW Great American Bash; this makes Gigante/Giant Gonzales' later match with The Undertaker from SummerSlam 1993 seem like a masterpiece. Sid Justice (Psycho Sid, obviously) teams with Ric Flair against Hogan and Roddy Piper in a rare gem of a match, and one of the few bouts on the DVD which ignores size as a component of the match psychology. We see Yokozuna dethrone Hulk as WWF Champion at King Of The Ring 1993, and we get one of the most overused DVD matches ever as Diesel vs. Razor Ramon from a 1994 episode of Superstars is recycled once more.

Diesel vs. Isaac Yankem DDS (a.k.a. Kane) is a fun inclusion from an interesting time in both men's careers; Diesel was less than six months away from forming the nWo, whilst Yankem would actually play a "New" Diesel shortly after that (and, of course, he would later be reborn as Kane). Sid vs. Bret Hart from 1997 is pretty good (thank Bret for that), and we then focus on modern big men like Big Show (against Rhyno and Eddie Guerrero), Mark Henry (versus Rey Mysterio) and The Great Khali (who tangles with Shawn Michaels). We then get the Monster Mash Battle Royal between Henry, Big Daddy V, Kane and Khali, which I actually enjoyed, and the DVD appropriately closes with Mark Henry battling Big Show in a Bodyslam Challenge (as part of The Price Of Raw; don't ask me to explain). The Blu-ray includes a few more matches and several additional profiles for Earthquake, Kamala, Bam Bam Bigelow and that madman Abdullah The Butcher. Why The Undertaker and Kane didn't receive profiles here is beyond me.

Is this a contender for best WWE DVD of the year? Of course not. It will actually probably end up being one of the weaker WWE DVDs, at least from a match quality standpoint. However, it is entertaining, and it is cool to see the focus shifted to many performers who otherwise are only rarely acknowledged for their abilities and accomplishments, some of whom are amongst the most memorable characters ever seen for longtime fans (as I mentioned earlier, who doesn't love Kamala?). It's far from a must-own, and fans who have only discovered wrestling in the last five years may be horrified by the standard of the wrestling on display here, but for fans of a certain age, it's an enjoyable nostalgia trip, and a fun chance to look back at some of the legitimately biggest men in wrestling history.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10 - Okay

Night Of Champions 2012

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 167 Minutes
Certificate: 12
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: January 21 2013

The very first WWE DVD to be published by Fremantle Home Entertainment in the United Kingdom, the change-over from Clear/Silver Vision explains the delay in the release of this event, which was staged in September 2012. Was it worth the wait to see it on DVD? Kinda.

After John Bradshaw Layfield returns to provide commentary (replacing Jerry Lawler, who had suffered a heart attack just six days earlier during a live Raw show), NOC 2012 begins with a four-way for the Intercontinental Title between The Miz, Cody Rhodes, Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara which is good, but still feels like a disappointment, perhaps because arguably all four should be higher up the card than they presently are (or were at the time of this card). Next, the dysfunctional team of Kane and Daniel Bryan battle Kofi Kingston and R-Truth for the Tag Team Titles; it's the interaction and the mid-match hug between Kane and Bryan which carry this one, although the best part (of the show, actually) is Kane later screaming that "I'm going to Disneyland!" It's funnier to watch this happen than for me to describe it, obviously.

Antonio Cesaro vs. Zack Ryder is okay; Randy Orton vs. Dolph Ziggler, meanwhile, is a strong battle, if not quite their best to date. Layla vs. Eve is more story than match, as it relates to a pre-match assault on Kaitlyn by a mystery assailant, forcing Eve to replace her (hmm, who could have attacked her?). Sheamus vs. Alberto Del Rio is decent and thankfully ends their feud, and CM Punk vs. John Cena, from a pure technical standpoint, may be their best match to date, despite the somewhat frustrating finish (and why is Paul Heyman at ringside if he doesn't get involved whatsoever?).

In something of an uneven year on Pay-Per-View for WWE, if I'm being honest, Night Of Champions 2012 is not going to win any Best Card awards despite it boasting two really good matches and either title changes or storyline climaxes in other bouts. But there's all-around entertainment to just about warrant a purchase. If that doesn't do the trick, knowing that this show - as the first non-Silver Vision WWE DVD ever commercially released in the UK - is something of a collector's item to own on DVD probably will.

Overall Rating: 7/10 - Respectable

Hell In A Cell 2012

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 166 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: January 28 2013

Unlike previous years, where WWE would overload the Hell In A Cell card with too many HIAC matches (there were three in 2009, none of which were particularly necessary), the 2012 event kept things simple with just the one Cell bout, a well-built collision between longtime WWE Champion CM Punk and the undefeated, Goldberg-like Ryback. That being said, it is another match which stands as the main reason to see this DVD.

Starting chronologically: Randy Orton vs. Alberto Del Rio is a good opener, if not the best match that the two could put together, followed by an entertaining yet forgettable bout pitting Team Hell No (arguably WWE's hottest act at the time of this PPV) against Team Rhodes Scholars. Kofi Kingston vs. The Miz is good, though, and a reminder that both men can deliver a thrilling contest despite each man's reduced status in recent times. Conversely, while well-executed, Antonio Cesaro bvs. Justin Gabriel isn't a PPV-calibre match, nor is Rey Mysterio & Sin Cara vs. The Prime Time Players

Fortunately, we get quite the unexpected treat in Sheamus vs. Big Show, which ends up being the best or second-best World Heavyweight Championship contest of 2012. The finish is a shocker, but in a good way, and Sheamus enhances his reputation by being able to get such a great match out of Show at this point in the giant's career; however, Show deserves credit for his performance, which rounds off what has been his best year in a long time. Eve Torres vs. Kaitlyn vs. Layla is a flat follow-up to Sheamus vs. Show, and despite the exciting build-up and intrigue as to who would win, WWE was in a no-win position to book CM Punk against Ryback in a Cell match (Ryback replaced the injured John Cena), as a defeat for neither man sounded particularly useful. As it is, WWE delves into its back of tricks to try and enhance both men's characters regardless of the result, but suffice it to say, Ryback's momentum hasn't quite been the same since he was fast-tracked into losing a PPV main event, just three months after beating Curt Hawkins and Tyler Reks in a PPV filler attraction. Match quality is okay, but it's nowhere near as memorable as The Undertaker vs. Triple H in the same structure nearly seven months earlier at WrestleMania XXVIII.

Mind you, Hell In A Cell 2012 is still an adequate show. Would I recommend buying it on DVD? Erm, not really: Sheamus vs. Big Show is well worth watching, and there are some good bouts elsewhere on the card, but I would only suggest that you buy this DVD if you see it at a discount price. A fun event, but not a must-own.

Overall Rating: 7/10 - Respectable

Survivor Series 2012

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 163 Minutes
Certificate: 12
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: March 11 2013

Compared to last year's Survivor Series, held in Madison Square Garden and hosting the in-ring return of The Rock as well as the beginning of CM Punk's historically-long WWE Title reign, Survivor Series 2012 is a more low-key event, with some of its content indistinguishable from typical action on Raw or SmackDown. Mind you, it features some good bouts and a major development at its climax, so it is also far from a dud either.

The opening 10-man Survivors match, whilst unannounced and feeling like filler, is enjoyable and contains some nice spots, all of which make it a fine way to start proceedings (although it demonstrates how far Rey Mysterio's star has fallen since his return from a long lay-off in July). Eve Torres vs. Kaitlyn is superior to typical Divas Title matches in recent times, whilst Antonio Cesaro vs. R-Truth really does exist solely to fill PPV time.

Big Show vs. Sheamus isn't as good as their corker at Hell In A Cell, but it is still a strong effort by both men, and despite the frustrating finish for a card of this significance (it's the third year in a row that the World Heavyweight Championship match at Survivor Series doesn't have a proper ending), the post-match scenes at least keep the crowd engaged and distract them from the fact that this was only a bridge to extend the feud between Show and Sheamus. The following Survivors match pitting Team Foley (although Mick is only a manager) against Team Ziggler is rather entertaining, but since this was originally meant to see CM Punk captain the heel squad, one wonders why the match really has reason to happen. It does see Dolph Ziggler achieve a major moment in his career, though.

The main event between CM Punk, John Cena and Ryback for the WWE Title is no better or worse than any three-way that you're likely to see, despite it being arguably the strongest match that WWE can present involving its full-time stars at present. What makes this match stand out is the arrival of Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose (since named The Shield), who make a huge impact in their WWE main roster debuts. If their fortunes since then have told us anything, it's that the trio represent the future of the company, and so this could one day be looked at with the same fondness as Survivors debuts for the likes of Rocky Maivia, Kurt Angle and The Undertaker.

That being said, their run-in is not enough to justify the purchase of this DVD, since on the whole it's an insignificant chapter in the history of Survivor Series. There's some good action for sure, but on the whole, the show (which, by the way, makes an error with its match listing on the back cover; see if you can spot it if you pick up a copy) is one that only die-hard fans and collectors will be interested in reliving. An entertaining show, but by no means WWE's best of the year.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10 - Okay

TLC 2012

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 169 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: March 25 2013

TLC 2012 could end up being remembered as one of the most significant events of its kind in the years to come, as it featured a stunning debut for three men who could one day rule the roost, so to speak, in WWE. If that isn't a recommendation for the DVD of this show, I don't know what is, but I will elaborate nonetheless.

The action kicks off with a fun Tag Team Tables match pitting Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara against Team Rhodes Scholars, which has a sweet-looking finish. The next two matches are standard fare, with Antonio Cesaro facing R-Truth again and Kofi Kingston battling Wade Barrett once more (the latter is the best of the two bouts). The event really turns around, though, with an incredible TLC Match pitting the new group of The Shield against Team Hell No and Ryback. What initially seemed like a basic substitute for the planned TLC scrap between Ryback and CM Punk (Punk's knee injury put paid to that, although he does appear on this card to cut a promo from the stands) ends up being an absolutely stunning brawl with loads of memorable spots (some of which appear to be extremely painful), and which puts over the new unit of Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose in superb fashion.

Eve Torres vs. Naomi was never going to be able to follow that, but it is decent nonetheless, and Big Show vs. Sheamus under Chairs rules is another surprisingly good battle between the two, even if the result is a head-scratcher. An impromptu six-man tag serves the multi-purpose of giving 3MB some Pay-Per-View exposure, turning Alberto Del Rio babyface, solidifying The Miz's own face turn, and bringing back The Brooklyn Brawler for one night. It's totally skippable, but the Brooklyn crowd (which were mostly hot all night) do give it a respectable response. Lastly, John Cena and Dolph Ziggler graft in their Ladder match for Ziggler's Money In The Bank briefcase, but it feels unnecessary and should have been earlier on the card, allowing the TLC match to main event, erm, TLC. The finish is a surprise (and a welcome one, judging by the crowd reaction), but it still doesn't feel like a worthy headline attraction.

Nevertheless, TLC is one of WWE's top shows of the year (not for the first time), boasting a Match Of The Year contender along with strong support elsewhere on the card. Even if you don't usually buy PPV events on DVD, I would suggest that you add TLC 2012 to your collection to witness the phenomenal debut match - maybe the best "first match" for anyone on the main roster in WWE history - of The Shield.

Overall Rating: 8/10 - Very Good

Friday, 9 December 2016

Royal Rumble 2013

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 169 Minutes
Certificate: 12
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: April 15 2013

Kicking off the year in WWE on PPV, Royal Rumble delivered a memorable main event with an outcome that seemed inconceivable just a short time ago, and some decent action elsewhere which makes for a fun DVD to watch.

The opening Last Man Standing match between Alberto Del Rio and Big Show is perhaps slightly inferior to their previous LMS meeting on SmackDown a few weeks earlier, but it's still entertaining nonetheless. Team Hell No vs. Team Rhodes Scholars is okay, and we then jump ahead to the Royal Rumble match itself. It's not the best Rumble by any means, but it does deliver some nice surprises and is overall superior to the 2012 effort.

Whether you appreciate CM Punk vs. The Rock depends on you as a fan, really. Some will understand that the match itself and its outcome were sensible, business-wise. Others will cry foul that Punk's historic 434-day reign gets - well - Rocked, so to speak, due to his part-time status. Assuming that you just take it for what it is, Punk vs. Rock is enjoyable and has a pretty dramatic finale, and is a historic and star-studded attraction after all. Also included is the pre-show match, pitting Antonio Cesaro against The Miz.

To be fair, most fans will get the DVD of Royal Rumble anywa, due to its legacy and its rich history. That being said, the 2013 edition should definitely entertain you, and similar to the match of the same name, it is an improvement on what we saw in 2012.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 - Good

Elimination Chamber 2013

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 181 Minutes
Certificate: 12
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: May 6 2013

Elimination Chamber, traditionally the last PPV before WrestleMania, often has its memories lost once Mania is over and done with (more so than Royal Rumble, despite it coming after RR). And that's a shame because, as this DVD proves, the 2013 edition of Elimination Chamber had plenty to praise.

There are five matches that are good, really good or better. They are Alberto Del Rio vs. Big Show (despite an unintentional slip by ADR during the bout); the Elimination Chamber match with a World Heavyweight Title shot for WM 29 at stake; a six-man pitting The Shield against John Cena, Ryback and Sheamus; an impromptu showdown between Dolph Ziggler and Kofi Kingston; and a Royal Rumble rematch for the WWE Title between The Rock and CM Punk (how weird is it at this point to see Rock wrestle on what is essentially a B-show?).

Elsewhere, Antonio Cesaro vs. The Miz is inferior to their previous meeting prior to Royal Rumble, partly because of the finish; and Kaitlyn vs. Tamina Snuka is not as good as Kaitlyn's Divas Title-winning effort against Eve Torres at the 20th Anniversary episode of Raw. The bonus match between Tons Of Funk and Team Rhodes Scholars is also not up to much. However, the superior action that makes up the majority of the programme justify a purchase.

Elimination Chamber isn't always needed in one's collection to track the Road To WrestleMania; however, not only is EC a pivotal show en route to this year's Mania, but it's a wrestling DVD which is well worth owning in its own right.

Overall Rating: 8/10 - Very Good

Extreme Rules 2013

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 183 Minutes
Certificate: 12
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: July 29 2013

The first PPV after WrestleMania is always a struggle to maintain the momentum of the year's biggest show. However, ER '13 does a nice job, making for a rather enjoyable wrestling DVD to watch.

Fandango vs. Chris Jericho is an okay opener, while Kofi Kingston vs. Dean Ambrose is good if a bit on the short side. Sheamus vs. Mark Henry under Strap rules revives an old feud and has the potential to be rotten,. to be honest, but it's surprisingly enjoyable. Less so is Alberrto Del Rio vs. Jack Swagger with an I Quit stipulation, which is a television-level bout and therefore a weak replacement for a three-way Ladder match also involving Dolph Ziggler (Ziggler's concussion is the reason why that match didn't happen).

Team Hell No vs. The Shield is an enjoyable Tornado match, and a bit sad since it pretty much marks the end of a memorable era for the team of Daniel Bryan and Kane. Randy Orton vs. Big Show is a strong Extreme Rules match which benefits from major hometown support for Orton, but although the Last Man Standing clash between John Cena and Ryback has its moments, the finish harms much of the work which had gone into it. Fortunately, Brock Lesnar and Triple H end the show on a high with a powerful Steel Cage showdown, which finally brings an end to their year-plus rivalry. The bonus match is The Miz vs. Cody Rhodes, although it's nothing special.

Extreme Rules 2013 doesn't quite compare to the brilliant 2012 event (which marked Lesnar's comeback match for WWE in brutal fashion), but it still stands as a really exciting show, making this DVD a nice one to own should you be interested in the fall-out to WrestleMania 29.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 - Good

Payback 2013

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 173 Minutes
Certificate: 12
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: August 26 2013

Despite a familiar line-up and the feelings of relative staleness due to the end of WrestleMania Season, Payback 2013 is surprisingly a great show to watch, and therefore the DVD should provide you with plenty of entertainment.

Here's why: after a very well-received opener for the Intercontinental Title, pitting Bad News Barrett against The Miz and Curtis Axel (replacing Fandango), we get the best Divas Title match since the days of Trish Stratus and Lita as AJ Lee and Kaitlyn put on one hell of a battle. Dean Ambrose vs. Kane admittedly has that filler feeling to it, but the same cannot be said about Dolph Ziggler vs. Alberto Del Rio, which is a World Title with a difference, namely the incredibly stiff offence (based around Ziggler's real-life concussion issues) and a double turn, which is well-executed.

CM Punk returns from a two-month absence to put on a thriller with Chris Jericho, and while the set-up of Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton vs. The Shield feels strange, it is nevertheless a lot of fun to see. The Three Stages Of Hell bout between John Cena and Ryback is a decent main event, even if it is actually one of the weaker matches on the card, albeit due to the high standard of several matches which came before it. The pre-show match between Sheamus and Damien Sandow is also worth watching.

So, don't let anyone tell you that WWE is only interesting on PPV in the run-up to WrestleMania, because Payback 2013 proves evidence to the contrary, and therefore becomes a DVD that is pretty highly recommended.

Overall Rating: 8/10 - Very Good

Money In The Bank 2013

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 181 Minutes
Certificate: 12
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: September 23 2013

With a star-studded line-up and some very good matches, Money In The Bank 2013 is a great event to relive on DVD. It doesn't quite match the standard of the famous 2011 MITB card, but it does come close.

The opening seven-man MITB Ladder match had the weird aspect of only featuring heels, but this doesn't affect the quality, which is top-notch throughout. Curtis Axel vs. The Miz is adequate if ultimately inconsequential, since Axel's chances of losing his Intercontinental Title were low. AJ Lee vs. Kaitlyn is another really enjoyable entry into their surprisingly powerful rivalry, and whilst Chris Jericho vs. Ryback won't win any Match Of The Year awards, it's worth watching at the same time.

Alberto Del Rio vs. Dolph Ziggler is a tremendous battle for the World Heavyweight Championship, let down only by its anticlimactic (yet understandable) finish. John Cena vs. Mark Henry exceeds admittedly low expectations, and the six-man main event - the "All-Stars" MITB match, minus Kane who had been taken out by the Wyatts - is a memorable and eventful headline attraction, which includes a major development in the CM Punk/Paul Heyman saga and the WWE return of Rob Van Dam.

Unexpectedly, one of the highlights comes from the pre-show match: clearly, The Shield and The Usos were out to make a statement because, far from putting on a filler match to warm up the Philadelphia crowd, their WWE Tag Team Title collision is the best doubles bout of the year so far, and should really have been featured on the PPV itself.

As mentioned earlier, Money In The Bank 2013 wasn't an all-time classic, but it certainly has the elements required to deliver a DVD which is a lot of fun to watch. One of the better cards of 2013, that's for sure.

Overall Rating: 8/10 - Very Good

SummerSlam 2013

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 174 Minutes
Certificate: 12
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: October 28 2013

Continuing WWE's hot streak on PPV, SummerSlam 2013 was an incredible card, featuring some of the best SummerSlam matches in years, if not of all-time. Therefore, it stands to reason that the DVD would be worth watching - and it definitely is.

Opening with an admittedly tame Ring Of Fire match between Kane and Bray Wyatt, followed by a fairly short Damien Sandow-Cody Rjodes match (Cody had shaved his moustache!), the show picks up steam with an excellent World Heavyweight Title match between Alberto Del Rio and Christian. What had the potential to be a filler bout ends up being one of the year's hidden gems, as ADR demonstrates why he holds the big gold belt, and Captain Charisma proves that he's still got a lot left in the tank.

Next up, CM Punk and Brock Lesnar have one hell of a brawl under No Disqualification rules which, while slightly overrated, is as good a Lesnar match as one can expect in the PG version of WWE, and Punk once again provides evidence that he may very well be the "Best In The World". An inoffensive mixed tag match pitting Dolph Ziggler and Kaitlyn against Big E Langston and AJ Lee is followed by a memorable main event. Not only do Joghn Cena and Daniel Bryan put on a show for the WWE Title, and has a surprising outcome at that, but the post-match angle involving Randy Orton and special referee Triple H was a massive surprise at the time, and paved the way for the Authority which has dominated WWE television ever since. (Sadly, this won't be such a shock to DVD viewers, as the box art blatantly gives away the brilliantly-executed angle.)

Elsewhere, there are a few segments involving SummerSlam "host" The Miz, Fandango and Summer Rae which, while occasionally entertaining, aren't really worth watching. Weirdly, the bonus match from the pre-show - Dean Ambrose vs. Rob Van Dam - is only partly complete, which is a strange decision for WWE to take.

Overall, though, this is a thoroughly enjoyable DVD, second only to WrestleMania 29 for all-round entertainment, and should be purchased by collectors and fans alike.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10 - Excellent

Night Of Champions 2013

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 182 Minutes
Certificate: 12
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: November 11 2013

Between SummerSlam and Night Of Champions, the formation of a new authority heel faction of sorts dominated WWE television, so you would assume that NOC had a big focus on the powers-that-be. But that wasn't the case, and between that and the B-level line-up of matches and largely unmemorable performances, Night Of Champions on DVD is underwhelming.

After a bizarre opening segment that makes the face/heel divide seem very confusing, the show kicks off with a match between Curtis Axel and Kofi Kingston that, admittedly, exceeds expectations. The four-way Divas Title match is just okay, and while Alberto Del Rio vs. Rob Van Dam is alright, it has an annoying finish for a World Title match on Pay-Per-View.

Curtis Axel returns to join Paul Heyman against CM Punk in a Raw-like handicap match, which eventually elads to Punk brutalising Heyman, before some unexpected help swings things in Heyman's favour (and leaves Punk with a nasty cut on his back). Two matches involving The Shield are next: Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler is disappointing considering who was involved, while Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns vs. The Prime Time Players is probably better than expected, again considering the participants on the babyface side. The main event between Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton is good, but the finish (despite the fact that it would be overturned on Raw the next night) appeared to have killed the momentum of the Authority storyline, just one PPV in. The bonus match is the Tag Team Turmoil pre-show bout which determined the challengers for Rollins and Reigns.

Summing this up, perhaps it's the injury-enforced absence of John Cena which causes this show to feel second-rate. Or maybe it's the booking. Or the performances not living up to the reputations set by certain wrestlers. Either way, Night Of Champions is average at best, and while not a terrible event by any means, the show is inconsequential enough that the DVD is entirely skippable.

Overall Rating: 5/10 - Average

Battleground 2013

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 197 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: January 6 2014

The first Battleground event has a decent line-up, but strangely misfires in several ways, making it feel like a glorified episode of Raw. Therefore, whilst not terrible, the DVD is a bit of a struggle to watch.

The opening Hardcore match between Alberto Del Rio and Rob Van Dam is pretty good, to be fair, and the big tag team showdown between The Shield and the combo of Cody Rhodes and Goldust is very dramatic.

However, there is too much filler. Besides an admittedly impressive spot at the finish, The Great Khali and Santino Marella vs. The Real Americans isn't PPV-worthy, nor is Curtis Axel vs. R-Truth. CM Punk vs. Ryback is mediocre and has a counterproductive finish. AJ Lee vs. Brie Bella is a step down from the matches between AJ and Kaitlyn. Kofi Kingston vs. Bray Wyatt has one highlight, that being Wyatt's spider-walk. And whilst Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton is a very good match, the finish is abrupt, a bit senseless and ends the show, and the DVD on a low note.

Mind you, the DVD has more bonus features than usual. Dolph Ziggler vs. Damien Sandow is thepre-Battleground bout, and as well as some additional interviews and angles, we're also treated to the Raw main event from the next night as Bryan, Cody and Goldust face all three members of The Shield.

Battleground has some really good matches, but they will likely up on future compilations, meaning you are best saving your money for those DVDs instead. One for die-hard collectors only.

Overall Rating: 5.5/10 - Above Average

Hell In A Cell 2013

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 182 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: January 27 2014

Hell In A Cell was WWE's best PPV event since SummerSlam, with several matches that either delivered great action or concluded major storylines, not to mention having a big return. That being said, the strange drop in standards over recent months means that the DVD of the show is still no more than adequate.

The opening match between The Brotherhood, The Usos and The Shield is fantastic, and is the unquestionable highlight of the event. Conversely, The Great Khali and Natalya vs. Fandango and Summer Rae is weird filler, and Big E vs. Dean Ambrose is notable only for a dangerous-looking spear through the ropes by Big E and a nasty cut opened up under Big E's eye just before the (dodgy) finish.

CM Punk vs. Ryback and Paul Heyman under HIAC rules is disappointing, but at least we get a memorable post-match scene to finally draw a line under the Punk-Heyman conflict. Los Matadores vs. The Real Americans is, unsurprisingly, forgettable. John Cena's return match against Alberto Del Rio is okay, but would have meant more had Cena been out for 6-9 months rather than 10 weeks. AJ Lee vs. Nikki Bella is only average, and the Cell match for the WWE Title which was in "abeyance" between Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan - with Shawn Michaels as referee, no less - is good, but not unlike other Orton-Bryan main events on recent shows, it is missing something that would make it a truly memorable encounter. The bonus match is Kofi Kingston vs. Damien Sandow, held one day before Sandow's failed cash-in of Money In The Bank on John Cena.

Whilst Hell In A Cell is one of the better WWE supershows in recent months, only one of the matches is of a very high standard. The DVD for this show is worth a look, but don't expect it to be as good as the likes of Money In The Bank or SummerSlam.

Overall Rating: 7/10 - Respectable

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Survivor Series 2013

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 181 Minutes
Certificate: 12
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: February 17 2014

The status of Survivor Series has fallen in recent times. Whilst it remains one of the so-called Big Four PPVs, line-ups over the last couple of years have threatened to make it a B-show. A perfect example comes from watching the DVD of Survivor Series 2013, with inconsequential bouts and lethargic performances resulting in a mostly forgettable show.

The opening Survivors elimination match is the highlight of the card, as it features a few nice spots and puts over Roman Reigns in a big way as a star of the future. Conversely, the women's Survivors bout is nothing special and features strange psychology (why are AJ and Kaitlyn co-existing after their previous issues?), and Ryback vs. Mark Henry is pure filler and has a daft outcome (just like their previous PPV match at WrestleMania 29).

John Cena vs. Alberto Del Rio has a seen-it-all-before feel to it (which is true, by the way), CM Punk & Daniel Bryan vs. The Wyatts does at least have some bright moments, and Randy Orton vs. Big Show is a short, substandard main event which doesn't even compare to their previous meeting at Extreme Rules, never mind other main events on WWE supershows this year. The bonus match is The Miz vs. Kofi Kingston, where Miz performs as a babyface despite having just gone heel on Kofi.

Whilst the line-up meant that expectations weren't very high going into the card, Survivor Series 2013 is nevertheless a poor show; unless you're a die-hard collector, I would only recommend getting this DVD if you see it discounted (as in, for a fiver or less). As a major show, this event doesn't come close to being particularly memorable.

Overall Rating: 4.5/10 - Below Average

TLC 2013

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 186 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: March 31 2014

Unlike recent TLC PPV events, the 2013 edition featured just one match containing the elements of tables, ladders and chairs. This helped to make the main event of the card stand out, but as an overall programme for the DVD, the show feels inferior to previous TLC PPVs, and in fact that does prove to be the case, despite some entertaining matches.

Beginning with the headline bout, the TLC match between John Cena and Randy Orton to unify the WWE and World Titles is an enjoyable battle, carried by the high stakes for the victor; it doesn't come close to matching the thrills and spills of past TLC matches but, considering the participants, this was an inevitability. From an in-ring standpoint, the best match is the WWE Tag Team Title four-way, which has an electrifying final section (it's elimination rules, so I won't say which teams were remaining at that point).

Elsewhere, the two handicap matches - CM Punk vs. The Shield and Daniel Bryan vs. The Wyatt Family - are adequate but nothing more; AJ Lee vs. Natalya is good if slightly inferior to AJ's matches with Kaitlyn over the summer; Big E Langston vs. Damien Sandow is average; R-Truth vs. Brodus Clay is filler with some odd psychology; and The Miz vs. Kofi Kingston is an unexpectedly dull match, given its No Disqualification rules. The bonus match is Dolph Ziggler vs. Fandango, which has a quite frankly nonsensical result.

There is just enough action to make this a worthy show, and it is certainly better and more noteworthy than Survivor Series, but it is still one of the weaker TLC events to date, making this harder to recommend on DVD.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10 - Okay

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Royal Rumble 2014

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 176 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: April 14 2014

Although fans have fond memories of Royal Rumble, the 2014 event was not warmly-received, with one match completely panned by the Pittsburgh crowd and the finish to the main Rumble bout widely criticised, particularly by the live audience. If nothing else, though, it makes for an intriguing DVD to watch!

To be fair, the opening contest is very good, as Daniel Bryan and Bray Wyatt create an atmosphere to die for amidst some tremendous sequences. Brock Lesnar vs. Big Show is a short, brutal massacre of the giant by the Beast Incarnate. Strangely enough, fans didn't mind the brevity of this one, but they were determined to spoil Randy Orton vs. John Cena for the WWE Title. Admittedly, the match has been featured way too many times, but on this occasion, fans watching on TV or DVD aren't given a chance to enjoy it, unless you watch it on mute.

As for the Rumble match: it's decent enough until entrant 30 comes in, that being Rey Mysterio. Even though Mysterio had been advertised as an etrant, and Daniel Bryan had not, Bryan's non-appearance causes the fans to totally turn on the Rumble match and its remaining participants; Batista is initially cheered when he arrives, for the most part, but fans are incensed with him and his Rumble triumph come the end of the Rumble. Although it's not acknowledged here for obvious reasons, CM Punk walking out of WWE the next day only added to the doom and gloom surrounding the company as the Road To WrestleMania XXX began.

The DVD for Royal Rumble 2014, then (which also features the pre-show WWE Tag Team Title match between Cody Rhodes and Goldust and The New Age Outlaws): is it worth watching? Well, it's compelling for darkly comical reasons, or for reasons of fascination as to how the booking of the show and, in particular, the Rumble match almost created a riot-like environment in Pittsburgh that evening. Audience reactions aside, this certainly isn't one of the better Rumble events. Bryan vs. Wyatt is well worth watching but, funnily enough, the huge negative responses are arguably the selling point for fans to watch this DVD.

Overall Rating: 6/10 - Reasonable

Elimination Chamber 2014

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 185 Minutes
Certificate: 12
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: May 12 2014

An incredible six-man tag team match and an underrated Elimination Chamber clash are the highlights of the fifth annual Chamber PPV, and thus the DVD of the event too.

The opener, between Big E and Jack Swagger, is a good one; the performers clearly graft to ensure that this match stays in the minds of the fans. After a brief mention of Hulk Hogan's return on Raw the following night, we get a Tag Team Title match between The New Age Outlaws and The Usos which, awkwardly, is most memorable for the huge chants for CM Punk by the Minneapolis crowd. A pointless Titus O'Neil-Darren Young grudge match is followed by the aforementioned outstanding six-man tag, as The Shield and The Wyatt Family have one hell of a scrap, a match that is arguably better than any of the matches which would come six weeks later at WrestleMania XXX.

AJ Lee vs. Cameron didn't sound appealing beforehand, and is further hampered by a dreadful non-finish. Batista vs. Alberto Del Rio tells a logical story, but one cannot concentrate on the action due to the massive boos for the Animal, which played a key role in Batista turning heel shortly afterwards. Lastly, the Elimination Chamber match - involving Randy Orton, John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Sheamus, Christian and Cesaro, with the WWE Title at stake - is well worth watching, and the drama is high as the finish nears with only Orton and Bryan remaining. The outcome annoyed fans on the night, but the circumstances were clearly designed to set up what would finally be Bryan's moment of glory at WrestleMania XXX.

With one brilliant match and another very good battle, Elimination Chamber 2014 is a pretty good show if you judge it solely on its two top attractions. When you throw everything else in, though, the DVD for the card becomes less enticing. Buy it for The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family, and to see WWE give Daniel Bryan and the so-called Yes Movement one last moment of false hope before he ultimately achieved greatness at Mania 30.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10 - Okay

Extreme Rules 2014

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 182 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: July 21 2014

The first PPV in the new era of WWE after WrestleMania XXX is a worthwhile card with several entertaining battles, and one which takes the "Extreme" name to the, erm, extreme (hint: the DVD cover spoils it).

An enjoyable elimination three-way between Cesaro, Jack Swagger and Rob Van Dam kicks things off, before a basic match which sees Alexander Rusev crush R-Truth and Xavier Woods, and a Big E-Bad News Barrett Intercontinental Title match which sees Barrett generate huge support from the NeW Jersey crowd. The Shield vs. Evolution comes next and is the highlight of the show; a really good and well-paced six-man match that builds up to a big finish, and one which shines a major spotlight on Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose.

Regrettably, the Steel Cage bout between John Cena and Bray Wyatt is disappointing, partly due to the bizarre finish which I won't spoil for you here. Paige vs. Tamina Snuka is okay as a way to debut Paige on the Pay-Per-View stage, and the show-closing Extreme Rules match between Daniel Bryan and Kane is a fun brawl which, as alluded to earlier, has a surprisingly risky climax, at least by the standards of the modern, PG-rated WWE. The bonus match is the pre-show WeeLC match between Hornswoggle and El Torito, and credit to both for delivering a match that is far better than expected.

Had Cena-Wyatt been a powerful effort, then Extreme Rules 2014 would have been even more appealing to own on DVD. As it is, though, there's still plenty of action to keep you entertained, and the show serves as proof that there is life in WWE after the end of The Undertaker's WrestleMania Streak.

Overall Rating: 7/10 - Respectable

Payback 2014

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 186 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: August 18 2014

Payback 2014 compensates for the lack of a World Title match, due to the injuries suffered by WWE Champion Daniel Bryan, with a memorable double main event and some gems further down the card.

The opener, between Sheamus and Cesaro, is a hard-hitting battle, with the highlight perhaps coming pre-match from Paul Heyman as he shuts down the "CM Punk!" chants within the Chicago crowd. RybAxel vs. Cody Rhodes and Goldust at least serves a purpose, although most expected that to be a Cody heel turn as opposed to his eventual transformation into Stardust. Rusev vs. Big E is better than expected with the two big men putting on a very good, if brief, brawl; conversely, Kofi Kingston is demolished by Kane before his impromptu match with Bo Dallas ever gets started.

Bad News Barrett vs. Rob Van Dam is watchable but nothing spectacular; however, the Last Man Standing battle between John Cena and Bray Wyatt is packed with big spots, some involving interfering parties The Usos and other Wyatt Family members Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, making this one of the better matches of the year in WWE. In between those two matches comes a segment involving Stephanie McMahon, Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella, which ultimately ends in McMahon getting slapped by Brie (sorry to spoil it, but it's better than wasting nearly 15 minutes watching it again). Paige vs. Alicia Fox is a step-up from Paige's previous PPV clash with Tamina Snuka, and the show ends with a strong, at times violent, No Holds Barred war between The Shield and Evolution (check out Batista's blue gear, which led to #Bluetista trending on Twitter), which puts the Hound Of Justice over in great fashion. Who could have expected the faction to disintegrate just 24 hours later?

Considering that this event had the potential to be insignificant, it ends up being a pretty good show, and makes for a fun wrestling DVD (which includes the Hair vs. Mask pre-showe bout between Hornswoggle and El Torito, and also includes the new WWE logo on the box art). If nothing else, you can check out The Shield's swansong, as well as a memorable brawl between Cena and Wyatt.

Overall Rating: 7/10 - Respectable

Money In The Bank 2014

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 185 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: September 15 2014

More than in any other year, Money In The Bank 2014 is all about the Ladder matches. Both are exciting battles, and with one additional thriller on the under-card, MITB 2014 makes for an enjoyable wrestling DVD.

The non-Ladder highlight of the show is the opening Tag Team Title clash between The Usos and the team of Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, which greatly exceeds expectations. A short Paige-Naomi bout is not exactly a classic; even Cameron at ringside looks bored (although this indifference was used to set up Cameron's heel turn). Damien Sandow vs. Adam Rose is another short match, the first of two comedy bouts on the show. At this point, the show is dragging badly, but things turn around with an excellent MITB Ladder match involving Seth Rollins (who takes a jaw-dropping backdrop off a ladder onto another ladder), Dean Ambrose, Rob Van Dam, Jack Swagger, Kofi Kingston and Dolph Ziggler. That the match is built around the Rollins-Ambrose feud gives this a different flavour to previous MITB Ladder matches, and the stunts catapult this into being a very enjoyable thrill-ride.

Goldust and Stardust against RybAxel is a Raw-level match at best, Ruse vs. Big E is good but not great, and Layla vs. Summer Rae with Fandango as referee is yet another match played for laughs. The main event is at least worthwhile, with an 8-man Ladder match deciding the fate of the WWE World Heavyweight Title, vacated by Daniel Bryan due to injury (a Bryan promo from the Kick-Off Show is the DVD extra, by the way). Though inferior to the earlier Ladder bout, it's still an enjoyable headline bout, which is perhaps most notable for the accidental, and heavy, blood loss sustained by Randy Orton.

Fans would be buying this DVD for the Ladder matches, and in that respect the DVD is an easy recommendation. But the opener aside, the rest of the card is skippable at best and totally unsuitable for PPV at worst. Had the rest of the card been up to scratch, the rating below could have been very high indeed.

Overall Rating: 7/10 - Respectable

Battleground 2014

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 178 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: September 29 2014

Battleground 2014 was the poorest WWE event of the year thus far, and therefore it's hard to recommend the DVD release. The review could potentially end there, but I'll go into a bit more detail.

Actually, it starts well with an excellent Two Out Of Three Falls doubles match between The Usos and the much-improved combo of Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. AJ Lee vs. Paige is also decent. But the event falters from there: the tasteless pre-match promo by Lana overshadows the Rusev-Jack Swagger match; even if it hadn't, the screwy finish would spoil the bout anyway. The advertised Seth Rollins-Dean Ambrose doesn't happen, with a series of angles which would have been more at home on Raw. Chris Jericho pointlessly pins Bray Wyatt, and the Intercontinental Title Battle Royal is enjoyable enough, but has another groan-inducing climax. The main event, pitting John Cena against Randy Orton, Kane and Roman Reigns, is a pretty good match, but it has that "seen it all before" feel to it, and the result is never in doubt.

It's clear that Battleground was a mere stop-off en route to SummerSlam for WWE, but it doesn't excuse the poor creative decisions and the overly-familiar line-up of certain matches. Save your money and get the WWE Network (when it becomes available); as a basic DVD release, Battleground 2014 is sub-standard.

Overall Rating: 4.5/10 - Below Average