Friday, 2 June 2017

DVD Review: WrestleMania 33

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 569 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: June 5 2017

(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)

WrestleMania 33 has finally hit DVD. WrestleMania remains the WWE DVD to own each year, regardless of whether the event is good or bad. Fortunately, WM 33 had more to like than to dislike, and while it's not a flawless show by any means, it is an improvement over WM 32 and contains several memorable moments, all of which justify a purchase even before you consider the Hall Of Fame ceremony being included, as is tradition.

The opening video is spectacularly produced in line with the "Ultimate Thrill Ride" theme, and the first match - AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon - is a belter which greatly exceeds expectations. Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens for the United States Championship is another enjoyable match, though a shade below being considered a Match Of The Year candidate. The Raw Women's Championship four-way, meanwhile, feels rushed and, whilst a commendable effort by all involved, it's inferior to the Women's Championship three-way from WM 32.

Conversely, the four-team Ladder match for the red brand doubles straps is a huge success, in large part because of the surprise return of the Hardyz to an enormous reaction, which is as surreal as it is shocking and incredibly welcome. The subsequent mixed tag match (John Cena and Nikki Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse) exists solely to set up the post-match proposal by Cena to Nikki. Judged by that criteria, it's a feel-good moment, though it won't be to everyone's tastes.

After that, we get Seth Rollins vs. Triple H. It's a lengthy and often slow match, but it maintains interest and peaks at the finish, so it's better than other HHH Mania matches which have been considered disappointments in the past, though it's still no classic by any means. Mind you, it's still better than Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton which is a complete let-down as a WWE Championship match on a stage like Mania; the intriguing ring projections of creepy creatures aside, the match isn't memorable at all, and feels like a standard TV bout. The result of Wyatt losing the title so quickly doesn't help, and it's all made worse by the fact that the storyline leading into this one (Randy joining the Wyatts to destroy it from within) was booked perfectly and was one of WWE's best plotline in years.

Many were dreading Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship, but it crammed a lot of hard-hitting action into a short span of time (even if it was Spears, suplexes and finishers, and nothing else), and ultimately it was met with positive feedback on the whole, and funnily enough is one of the best matches on the show based on merit. The SmackDown Women's Championship match has a filler feeling to it, but it's not bad by any means and gives Naomi a big hometown title win. (Just realised that I forgot to mention that The New Day were hosts, and so they made occasional appearances throughout the show.)

Finally, Roman Reigns battles The Undertaker in a match which would have been great three or four years earlier, but at this stage Taker is clearly showing the signs that, despite his best efforts, he only has so much left in the tank to give. That is conveyed in the match story, with Reigns doing everything he can to slowly take Taker down and, ultimately, keep him down. Besides one noticeable botch and the slow pace to proceedings, all before an exhausted crowd (who had been there for north of six hours by this point), it's still an enjoyable match, albeit one perhaps not worthy of main event status. But we find out post-match why it went on last, as we get a very well-produced and emotional retirement ceremony for The Undertaker character, which is undoubtedly the most memorable aspect of WM 33. Amazingly, some believe that he will wrestle again, but after watching this, it's impossible to envision that this wasn't his Last Ride, as a Hall Of Fame induction in 2018 seems inevitable.

Speaking of which, the Hall Of Fame ceremony for 2017 is here. Kurt Angle leads the way for the inductees, the class for which includes Diamond Dallas Page, The Rock 'N' Roll Express, Beth Phoenix, Ravishing Rick Rude, Teddy Long and Eric LeGrande (Warrior Award winner). As with every HOF ceremony in recent years, it runs very long, and there's not as many "stories" as you might expect, but it's still a lot of fun with a fair few memorable moments and one-liners. Jim Cornette appearing to induct Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson is particularly surreal, and hopefully Corny will end up being inducted into the HOF himself in the next few years. Plus, this marks Angle's long-awaited return to WWE after many years away, so it has its place in history for that reason too. Overall, not the best HOF ceremony that you'll have seen, but still a very entertaining presentation at the same time.

The set is rounded off by the Kick-Off Show matches, which Fremantle Media squeezed onto the UK version of the DVD (meaning that US fans didn't get this bonus content). Neville vs. Austin Aries is a great Cruiserweight Championship match, proving that having a bout on the pre-show, where there is potentially more time, can be considered a good thing. Conversely, the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal is the weakest to date, with any attempt at promoting a future star jettisoned for a celebrity moment (involving Rob Gronkowski) that was forgotten before the show had come to an end. The final pre-show match, Dean Ambrose vs. Baron Corbin for the Intercontinental crown, isn't terrible but it does feel phoned-in, and it does nothing to suggest that WWE were wrong to place this match before the main card (incidentally, this spot was meant to go to the SD women's bout, but the online backlash convinced those in charge to make this switch; we only found out moments beforehand on the night that Dean vs. Baron had been relegated to the pre-show, which is darkly comical since fans had originally been up in arms weeks earlier when there were rumours of Ambrose not making the main card).

There have definitely been better WrestleManias, and the sheer length of the card will prove taxing for the viewer (it also means that there are no other extras on the DVD; hey, they only just got to fit in the Kick-Off Show matches). It's also a show which peaks early, with the first half being almost completely enthralling, whilst the second half has more disappointing elements than spectacular ones. Nevertheless, WM 33 has something for everyone and is definitely a fun show to watch. Some of the most memorable Mania moments from recent years occurred at this show, not least the retirement of the legendary Undertaker. Add to that the HOF and the three bonus matches, and WrestleMania 33 is a set well worth owning. I've given a bonus half-point in the score below to reward Fremantle for essentially rewarding fans, since that's what wrestling is all about, right?

Overall Rating: 8.5/10 - Excellent

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