Friday, 28 April 2017

DVD Review: WWE: Best Of 2000s

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 666 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 4
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: April 24 2017

(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)

WWE's latest compilation brings together a plethora of impactful matches from 2000-2009, spread over four discs and more than eleven hours (check out the actual number of minutes for this DVD above). It's a weighty collection compared to other DVDs on the market, but that's okay because, to truly showcase the best of the decade, three discs simply wasn't enough given the length of some matches here. Oh, and many of the matches are superb, making this a truly epic DVD set.

Hosted by Mick Foley (who sort of reprises his old Commissioner gig with one-liners and suitably nostalgic props, along with guest appearances by current WWE stars), the DVD opens proper with Triple H vs. Cactus Jack, a belting Street Fight from Royal Rumble 2000 for the WWF Championship. Foley at the time cited this match as one of his very best, and almost everybody agrees that this bloody war truly put HHH on the map, having slightly struggled to gain acceptance as a main event heel. Next is the original TLC clash between Edge and Christian, The Hardyz and The Dudleyz from SummerSlam 2000, which is simply amazing; the rematch at WrestleMania X-Seven arguably topped it, but regardless this was unbelievable, and the deserving Match Of The Year in most polls.

Disc one continues with the first ever Three Stages Of Hell clash between HHH and Stone Cold Steve Austin from No Way Out 2001. It's fought at a slower pace (understandably, given the three-falls trifecta of stipulations) and Austin's crowd reactions aren't quite as strong as they were in, say, 1999, but this is still a really good brawl, and the personal rivalry between the two is maintained throughout, an almost alien experience when watching today's WWE product. Next up, we have the incredible WM X7 main event between The Rock and Austin, a simply mesmerising battle which shockingly ended with the much-discussed Austin heel turn, hence why many consider this to be the end of the Attitude Era. That's not the end of the disc, though: that would be Rock vs. Booker T from SummerSlam 2001, an entertaining battle but a slightly anticlimactic end to the first quarter of the DVD after four matches which were very good or outstanding.

The second disc opens with the spectacle that was Rock vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan from WM X8. From a wrestling standpoint, it's probably the weakest match on the DVD, but forget about the technical side of things: there's a strong argument that this is one of the most memorable matches of the entire decade, if not WWF/WWE history, and therefore it more than warrants its place here. If technical wrestling is still what you came to see, though, then Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho from WM XIX will be down your alley, as it's a really good match that helped to kick-start Shawn's modern-day run as Mr. WrestleMania (that being said, I'd have preferred HBK vs. HHH from SummerSlam 2002, as that brawl just edged this contest in my opinion).

Speaking of technical wrestling, there's a real treat up next on the DVD as Kurt Angle defends his WWE Championship against Brock Lesnar from a 2003 episode of SmackDown in a 60-minute Iron Man match. Relying little on major spots and more on simply absorbing wrestling, psychology and conditioning, this is an excellent contest, probably the best SmackDown match ever, and this collection includes the complete version with commercial breaks absent, which is a nice touch. Disc two ends with a match that is entirely different but no less gripping: the brutal No Holds Barred match between Foley and Randy Orton from Backlash 2004. This probably did more to put Orton on the map than the Rumble 2000 clash did for HHH, since Randy was still a rising star at this point. Funnily enough, it still probably remains Orton's best ever match, while Foley also considers this to be his finest work.

Disc three opens by spotlighting the women's division, with a strong effort between Trish Stratus and Lita from when they main evented Raw in December 2004 (Lita almost breaking her neck is unfortunately the most memorable aspect of the bout). Then we enter absolute classic territory again with one of the greatest WWE matches ever: Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle from WrestleMania 21, which is wrestling perfection in every sense of the word, and a must-watch for all WWE fans. This match alone would have been enough to put either man in the WWE Hall Of Fame, a dream match which totally lived up to the hype and surpassed it too.

The DVD rolls on with the violent Batista vs. Triple H Hell In A Cell contest from Vengeance 2005. This ended their famous rivalry and, while fans had warmed to Batista hence his rise up the ranks, this was the first time when The Animal truly shone from an actual in-ring performance standpoint, albeit with HHH doing everything possible to put him over as a killer. Yet another amazing match follows as Kurt Angle and The Undertaker put on a phenomenal match at No Way Out 2006; the undisputed in-ring highlight of the year, it was every bit as good as Angle vs. Michaels from WM 21, and an early sign of the string of show-stealing Streak-defending performances we would get from Taker at WrestleMania in the future (more on that shortly). Disc three ends with Edge vs. John Cena under TLC rules from Unforgiven 2006, which despite some blown spots is an absorbing battle, held in front of a red-hot hometown (for Edge) Toronto crowd.

The final disc kicks off with Cena and Michaels colliding for nearly an hour in London in April 2007, in one of the best Raw matches of all-time. Strangely enough, a filler (yet very good) Edge vs. Orton bout from the following edition of Raw comes next, which feels like an odd inclusion. I can't even suggest that it is here to showcase both men since they make appearances elsewhere on the DVD. It's still worth going out of your way to see, though, as is HHH vs. Jeff Hardy from No Mercy 2008, a great back-and-forth bout which almost sees Jeff finally become WWE Champion. In hindsight, this probably should have been the night when he did so, because his Armageddon 2008 success was tempered by his sudden title loss at Royal Rumble 2009.

The standard reaches "all-time great" territory yet again as we see Michaels and Undertaker put it all on the line, and then some, in their five-star classic from WM 25; considering the level of action we had already seen on the DVD, it says something that this may be the very best match of them all. Finally, we get another excellent outing between Chris Jericho and Rey Mysterio from The Bash 2009, in the best match of what I consider to be the year's best feud. Some of the spots in this match are so simple, and yet so very good. Michaels vs. Taker might have seemed like the more appropriate way to close proceedings on this set, but Y2J vs. Rey is also a fine way to bring this incredible collection to a close.

Some quick notes: you may notice that some chairshots are shot from different angles or trimmed entirely, as are instances of choking. I don't mind this, given the reasoning, but if you own these matches already, these edits could put you off buying the DVD. On a more positive note, we get the pre-match promo videos for many of the matches featured here, which is really cool in the early portion of the DVD when the videos effectively persuaded you to want to watch a match to see two guys tear each other apart. Oh, and My Way remains the soundtrack for the Rock-Austin promo video, which if you have ever seen it before is a very good thing.

So, there you go. What a wrestling compilation this is: there are at least half-a-dozen genuinely classic matches, with a lot of strong support from other bouts featured. I would like to see this simple yet effective DVD theme continue in the future, and no doubt we'll get a Best Of 2010s set at some point (which could feature HBK vs. UT from WM 26, the two UT-HHH battles, Cena vs. CM Punk from Money In The Bank 2011 and a lot more). There is probably enough material to even warrant a sequel to this set, since there are a fair number of high-profile contest absent here (such as TLC II, HBK vs. HHH from SummerSlam '02, Rock vs. Austin from WM XIX, Foley vs. Edge from WM 22, any of the Undertaker-Batista battles and HBK vs. Ric Flair from WM XXIV, and that's just for starters). What this DVD does demonstrate is that, despite the decline in WWE's popularity throughout the decade, and the general negativity about the product which would grow over time, the company delivered plenty of truly incredible matches and moments throughout the decade, probably more than any other ten-year stretch in its history.

This set won't be for everyone, simply because all of the matches have been previously released on multiple occasions. That aside, this is one of the best wrestling DVD compilations that I have ever seen, stacked with classic matches, memorable feuds and iconic moments, along with recapping a large portion of WWF/WWE history from the first decade of the 21st century. Sure, I would have possibly switched the occasional match for a bout not featured here, but the DVD has virtually no weak points, and the pre-match promo videos which are included, and Mick Foley's hosting segments, are the icing on the cake. A brilliant collection.

Overall Rating: 10/10 - Perfect

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