Friday, 28 April 2017

DVD Review: WWE Double Feature: Elimination Chamber 2017 & Fast Lane 2017

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 363 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 2
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: May 1 2017

(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)

WWE are now releasing solo-brand DVDs as part of a twin-disc set, which makes a lot of sense given that we now receive approximately two supershows per month, between the biggies like WrestleMania and SummerSlam. This particular Double Feature set is a cool one as it shows how both brands set the stage for their major matches at WrestleMania 33, although from an in-ring and booking standpoint, there's a lot left to be desired.

Beginning with Elimination Chamber, then, and the best way I can describe this card is that it was a one-match show. That match is, of course, the Elimination Chamber clash for the WWE Championship. It's in the top five Chamber matches of all-time as everybody involved (defending titleholder John Cena, AJ Styles, Bray Wyatt, The Miz, Baron Corbin and Dean Ambrose) gets a chance to shine and puts forth maximum effort, all within a new-look Chamber which allows for more spots, and slightly safer risk-taking, than ever before. This is one of the year's best matches so far, and I can see the participants in the 2018 Chamber match struggling to top this one next year.

Elsewhere, it feels like more like a special episode of SmackDown than an SD-only PPV. Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James is okay but not as good as most people were hoping. The psychology for Dolph Ziggler vs. Kalisto and Apollo Crews is all wrong (I've never worked as a wrestling booker, but I don't think it's unfair to make that claim, as it negates the fairly decent action that we get). The Tag Team Turmoil clash is alright, although it would have been more exciting if one of the teams challenging for American Alpha's titles had been built up enough to come across as a serious threat to the straps.

Nikki Bella vs. Natalya is watchable but has a screwy ending, which extends the feud but adds to the B-level nature of the card. Randy Orton vs. Luke Harper is the strongest match on the under-card by a mile, as it makes Harper look great against the selfless Viper, making the most of Orton's free time as he awaited the identity of his WWE Title opponent at Mania. Finally, Alexa Bliss vs. Naomi for the SmackDown Women's Championship could also have been better, partly as the crowd were anticipating the main event by this point, and the finish is a little off which left Naomi with an injury.

Therefore, Elimination Chamber isn't exactly the best WWE card of the year; judged as a whole, it's the weakest SmackDown-only supershow since the second Brand Extension began. Fortunately, the main event saves the day, and makes the event worth watching (although Orton vs. Harper is also a strong showing by both). The first disc also has the Kick-off Show clash between Mojo Rawley and Curt Hawkins as a DVD extra.

As for Fast Lane: wrestling-wise, it's the better of the two cards overall, but booking-wise, it starts well and then slowly declines. Besides the (included) Kick-Off show tag match pitting Akira Tozawa and Rich Swann against The Brian Kendrick and Noam Dar, Samoa Joe vs. Sami Zayn is a strong start to the event, with Sami helping to make Joe look like a million bucks, as the saying goes, in Joe's first PPV match since joining the main roster. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson vs. Enzo Amore and Big Cass is alright; it's not the best doubles match that you'll see this year, but it serves its purpose and has some cool spots. Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax is another David vs. Goliath-style match which works based on the more crowd-pleasing result, so in that respect it's a success.

Something which definitely wasn't a success was the two-bonus-matches-in-one segment, where Jinder Mahal somehow manages to earn a PPV match with Cesaro (little did fans know then that Jinder would get a shot at the WWE World Heavyweight Championship just weeks later, in a match which will happen at Backlash), which is okay but has no drama due to the predictable result, and then a first-class burial by Big Show of the (apparently-injured) Rusev. I hate to use the "b-word", since a lot of fans nowadays throw it around willy-nilly without understanding what it means (John Cena and Roman Reigns apparently "bury" everybody they ever defeat, which is nonsense), but I do feel that the term is applicable to this situation. Frowns turns to smiles with the best Cruiserweight Championship match on the main roster since its revival up to that point, an excellent and brutal Neville vs. Jack Gallagher clash (Gallagher's headbutts look vicious).

Roman Reigns gives Braun Strowman his best match to date in a great big-man battle, and though many fans disapproved of the result, WWE was never going to sacrifice Roman to Strowman right before he would face (and defeat, and ultimately retire) The Undertaker at WM 33, nor should it have. (Incidentally, the aforementioned "b-word" came out again from fans disgusted at Roman giving over, which given the way that this match played out was ridiculous.) The booking goes bonkers with Bayley vs. Charlotte for the Raw Women's Championship: Charlotte had regained her title after losing it to Sasha Banks on Raw so often that WWE probably felt doing that again here, after she lost the title to Bayley on Raw, was counterproductive. However, in putting over Bayley (and Sasha is involved in the finish, so it's not a clean win), everyone is left scratching their heads: why didn't WWE a) save Bayley's first title win for WM, b) make a bigger deal of Charlotte's much-hyped PPV winning streak ending here, c) save Bayley's first title win for here, at Fast Lane, or d) book a Charlotte DQ win would have maintained both Bayley's reign and Charlotte's streak, adding further justification for what would be the four-women match at WM 33 for the title? This isn't Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, but I think that option D would have been the way to go; any of those would have been better than what we received.

And then there's the main event between Kevin Owens and Goldberg for the WWE Universal Championship, which lasts 22 seconds, and features much stalling from Owens before a Chris Jericho distraction leads to a Spear-and-Jackhammer title win for Goldberg (sorry to post a spoiler, but you surely cannot spend money on this DVD if you do so to watch a long title match between Owens and Goldberg). I have to be honest, I didn't mind how this played out because the Goldberg push made sense in its execution, because Goldberg had previously smashed Brock Lesnar in 1:26, and because I find Owens to be slightly overrated (let the Internet come crashing down now!). If Goldberg had beaten Lesnar in a 20-minute epic and then became the champ in 22 seconds, then it would be a different story. Nevertheless, it's still not an ideal way to end a PPV, and this should have happened on Raw where the manner of the main event would have been deemed more tolerable and not resulted in so much (inevitable) outrage from "smarks".

So, if nothing else, it's an eventful twin-disc set. The best match is on disc one, but most of the remaining action is adequate at best. Disc two has more to offer from an in-ring standpoint, but the booking is occasionally very frustrating, and the main event lasts less time than an average trip to a urinal. Considering that you really are getting two DVDs for the price of one with this Double Feature set, I'd recommend it so long as you take everything that you see with a pinch of salt and just enjoy the action for what it is in the better matches, not to mention that the Chamber match is exceptional. Others may wish to save their money for the bigger, and superior, show that these two events set up when it comes to DVD, which of course would be WrestleMania 33.

Overall Rating: 7/10 - Respectable

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