Friday, 28 July 2017

DVD Review: Kurt Angle - The Essential Collection

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 531 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: July 31 2017

(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)

Kurt Angle is one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all-time. Mixing his previous outstanding amateur wrestling ability, style and credibility with his desire to learn allowing him to quickly pick up the pro style along with unseen charisma and a great sense of humour, all during one of the hottest periods in wrestling history, Angle quickly established his legacy as one of the very best in record time. His return to WWE in early 2017 was hugely anticipated, and fans immediately gravitated back to the legendary Olympic gold medallist.

Therefore, it was inevitable that a DVD celebrating Angle's big return would be released, and so we have this collection of matches from 1999-2006. You can't really go wrong with a Kurt Angle match compilation, and this is proven to be the case as this is one of the best WWE DVDs that you will see. We also get pre-match comments from Angle who discusses how pivotal specific bouts were to his career, though they do occasionally border on being slightly self-indulgent at times. But more often than not, they're insightful, and a welcome aspect of the feature (this incidentally does not have any bonus material).

Beginning with Angle's televised debut against Shawn Stasiak from Survivor Series 1999 (where fans are booing and chanting "Boring!" within a minute of the bell ringing; how dare two wrestlers actually try to wrestle during the Attitude Era!), we then jump to Angle's first tastes of gold against the surprisingly over Val Venis from SmackDown and Chris Jericho at No Way 2000 for the European and Intercontinental Championships respectively.

Arguably the highlight of the DVD's first hour is the footage of Angle's promos from this time; he was so hilariously dorky, egotistical and entertaining that it almost makes one disappointed when he becomes more serious as the DVD progresses. But he continued rapidly climbing the ladder, evidenced by the next match, the King Of The Ring 2000 tournament final scrap with Rikishi.

By now, Angle was almost at the main event level. A quick three-way against Y2J and Triple H from Raw is followed by Angle's big moment, his WWF Title match against The Rock from No Mercy, which is a vital match in Angle's career and a great one (no pun intended) to boot. Angle's first PPV title defence against The Undertaker from Survivor Series is next. This has a hugely surprising ending, but if you haven't seen this before, I strongly recommend that you skip the segment which precedes this match as it gives away what happens; this happens often during this DVD but in this particular case, it's a bit of a bummer.

We then get a forgotten bout between Angle and Triple H from Royal Rumble 2001. It's good, but the heel vs. heel dynamic hurts it, and it's arguable that the two never had a truly great match against one another (might that change at this year's SummerSlam?). It's a shame that Angle vs. Rock from No Way Out 2001 isn't here, but the first disc does end with a bang via the brutal and bloody Kurt vs. Shane McMahon Street Fight from KOTR 2001.

Disc two opens by looking back at Angle's infamous feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin, which would include cowboy hats and bloodbaths. It's debatable as to whether their WWF Championship clash from Unforgiven 2001 was their best, but the action and story-telling are of a very high standard, and given its outcome, and the location (Angle's hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), it had to be included.

The next few matches capture Angle in his red-hot 2002 form: a Backlash scrap with Edge is brilliant, and a vital step in Edge's ascension up the ranks. Their subsequent Steel Cage battle on SmackDown is another topnotch battle, which ends a crucial rivalry in Edge's career. Angle vs. Hulk Hogan from King Of The Ring is less spectacular but just as entertaining, and an important result for Angle to boot (plus Kurt's hilarious pre-match promo is included too).

We also see John Cena's televised debut days later against Angle, which admittedly feels more like a way to promote Cena than Angle. Next is a truly classic three-way between Angle, Rock and Undertaker from Vengeance 2002, which is my favourite Triple Threat match in WWF/WWE history. The action picks up a rapid pace again via an outstanding SummerSlam showdown with recent debutant Rey Mysterio, who Angle had previously lost to in a six-man tag match (hence the immortal phrase "I just got beat by a freakin' 12-year-old!"). Around this time, Angle entered into a rivalry with Chris Benoit which produced several incredible matches, but it should require no explanation as to why none of those are here.

However, some may be disappointed that there is only one match here involving Brock Lesnar, with their WrestleMania XIX bout only shown in the form of quick clips, and their famous Iron Man match not acknowledged at all. Still, WWE has a tendency to focus on the subject's win-loss record rather than history whenever possible on these DVDs, which is why only their SummerSlam 2003 match is included, and it's still one hell of an effort by both men regardless.

Disc three kicks off by revisiting Angle's history with John Cena. By the time of No Mercy 2003, Cena had shot up the card via his rapping persona, spitting rhymes and insults which would not even be suggested in today's WWE. So it's nice to remember a time when there were fewer rules on risqué material, plus the Angle-Cena match from said show is arguably Cena's best prior to him becoming a main eventer. Moving onto 2004, Angle subtly implies at occasional troubles with Eddie Guerrero (the two had a backstage fight that year), but mostly complements him for his ability and charisma. Their underrated SummerSlam battle is a good one, though a step down from others on this release, whilst a tag match pitting Angle and Luther Reigns against Eddie and Rey Mysterio from the 2004 Troops special is mostly here to emphasise Kurt's admiration for the American forces fighting in Iraq.

Next up is one of my favourite matches of all-time, Angle vs. Shawn Michaels from WrestleMania 21, which is the embodiment of the word "classic". Though it isn't as fondly remembered, their 30-minute Iron Man match from Raw Homecoming is also well worth watching, and a reminder as to how both Angle and Michaels were somewhat taken for granted back in 2005. Shawn pops up in the penultimate match, another great three-way with Angle and John Cena (who by this point was starting to hear the boos and "Cena Sucks!" chants on a worryingly regular basis for a top babyface) from Taboo Tuesday 2005. The final match is a hidden gem from ECW circa 2006 pitting Angle against Rob Van Dam; it's pretty good, but I think Angle's unbelievable bout with The Undertaker from No Way Out 2006 would have ended this collection with more of a bang. We do, however, get footage of Angle returning to WWE earlier this year to end things on a high note.

Though some key matches are missing, this is still a fabulous collection of matches which lives up to the hype. Mixed with Angle's insightful if occasionally questionable comments, this becomes a great reflection on Angle's WWF/WWE tenure, and one of the best all-round wrestling DVDs that you are likely to see. Even without a couple of notable bouts (which admittedly prevent this reaching the level of perfection), this is a must-own for new and old fans alike. Oh it's true, it's damn true!

Overall Rating: 9.5/10 - Classic

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

DVD Preview: WWE Double Feature: Extreme Rules 2017 & Money In The Bank 2017

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Provided By: Fetch Publicity

The following story is courtesy of Fetch Publicity ...

Another two spectacular pay-per-views from WWE’s Raw and SmackDown Live brands combine to make one awesome Double Feature DVD! Raw throws the rulebook out of the window for Extreme Rules, while the Superstars of SmackDown Live climb new heights for a guaranteed championship match contract at Money In The Bank!


Match Listing:

Extreme Rules 2017

Fatal Five Way Match To Determine The #1 Contender To The Universal Championship
Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Samoa Joe vs. Finn Bálor

Intercontinental Championship Match (The Title Can Change Hands By Disqualification)
Dean Ambrose (Champion) vs. The Miz

Raw Tag Team Championship Steel Cage Match
The Hardy Boyz (Champions) vs. Sheamus & Cesaro

Cruiserweight Championship Submission Match
Neville (Champion) vs. Austin Aries

Raw Women's Championship Kendo Stick On A Pole Match
Alexa Bliss (Champion) vs. Bayley

Mixed Tag Team Match
Rich Swann & Sasha Banks vs. Noam Dar & Alicia Fox

Money In The Bank 2017

WWE Championship Match
Jinder Mahal (Champion) vs. Randy Orton

Men’s Money In The Bank Ladder Match
AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin vs. Sami Zayn vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Kevin Owens

Women’s Money In The Bank Ladder Match
Charlotte Flair vs. Natalya vs. Becky Lynch vs. Carmella vs. Tamina

SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match
The Usos (Champions) vs. The New Day

SmackDown Women’s Championship Match
Naomi (Champion) vs. Lana

Breezango vs. The Ascension

Plus, more action and DVD extras!

We like it because:

Both Extreme Rules and Money In The Bank are two of the most anticipated events in the WWE calendar.

Extreme Rules delivers some of the most jaw-dropping action in the history of the event – and things get particularly brutal in the Fatal Five Way main event. It’s nail-biting stuff as alliances are formed and bonds are broken, with Raw’s top Superstars battling it out for a shot at Universal Champion Brock Lesnar.

There’s also the next hard-hitting chapter in the epic Hardy Boyz versus Sheamus & Cesaro rivalry – and you won’t believe how extreme the teams are prepared to go for Raw’s coveted Tag Team Championship!

There are also stunning performances from Alexa Bliss, Bayley, Neville, Austin Aries, The Miz and Dean Ambrose – who all prove they can take things to the extreme!

And the action’s no less incredible at Money In The Bank. It’s history-making too, as SmackDown Live presents the first ever women’s Money In The Bank Ladder Match – with the blue brand’s top female Superstars clambering for a championship match contract.

What unfolds is one of the most controversial endings in recent history!

The men put it all on the line too in their hard-hitting Money In The Bank Ladder Match, with six of WWE’s greatest Superstars putting their bodies on the line for a chance to compete for the WWE Championship!

And the rivalry between current WWE Champion Jinder Mahal and Randy Orton gets even more personal in their latest collision – a heartstopping battle for the most prestigious prize in sports-entertainment!

Don’t miss out on these two action-packed shows!

WWE Double Feature: Extreme Rules 2017 & Money In The Bank 2017 will officially be released on DVD on Monday August 14 2017.

For more information, click here.

Friday, 14 July 2017

DVD Review: WWE Double Feature: Payback 2017 & Backlash 2017

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 356 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 2
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: July 17 2017

(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)

Since WrestleMania 33, the fortunes of Raw and SmackDown have changed, mostly due to the Superstar Shake-Up which switched several wrestlers around. Raw has improved with a more star-heavy main event scene, some interesting mid-card feuds and Kurt Angle returning as Raw General Manager. SmackDown, however, has lost much of the shine it had prior to Mania, largely due to the sudden and unpopular ascension of Jinder Mahal from an opening match act to the position of WWE Champion.

It remains to be seen as to whether this will continue (it's possible that these trends will carry on until the next roster switches, which may not be until 2018), but in the meantime both brands served up their first PPV events after Mania, Payback and Backlash respectively. Both cards ultimately followed the same pattern as the television shows, with Payback being pretty good but not truly great, whilst Backlash was a disappointing event which couldn't shake off the B-level tag that SmackDown in general once again has.

Beginning with Payback, then, Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho is a fun opener with a surprising ending, considering the rumours that Jericho was about to take another leave of absence from WWE. Neville vs. Austin Aries is another good match, but the finish is a bit of a let-down. Better is the doubles clash between The Hardyz and Cesaro and Sheamus, during which Sheamus legitimately knocks out one of Jeff Hardy's teeth by accident, with a notable post-match angle to boot.

Bayley's defence of the Raw Women's Championship against Alexa Bliss is also entertaining, and arguably the best match that either lady has had since coming to the main roster. Then comes the already-infamous House Of Horrors match between Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt (which lost much of its appeal once Bray's transfer to Raw meant that the WWE Title wouldn't be at stake). A lot of people criticised this match but, whilst I'm not going to suggest it was a great battle by any means, it was an attempt at something different by WWE, a one-off attraction built around Wyatt's gimmick, and isn't that what fans are crying out for these days: unpredictable and unique content?

The House Of Horrors bout was a two-part affair, and in the middle of that we get a pretty good Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe, albeit one which it could be argued didn't quite match high expectations. Finally, it's Roman Reigns against Braun Strowman, which is an enjoyable main event that moves along what, by this point, was the hottest rivalry on Raw. This feud is still ongoing at present, and I predict that many will consider it to be the feud of the year. The question is, will the much-maligned Roman receive any of the credit for this?

So, Payback was a very good show overall from an in-ring standpoint, albeit one with no genuine classic matches. But that's still a lot better than how Backlash turned out, which evoked memories of the dark days of 2004-2005 when the overpushed and average-at-best John Bradshaw Layfield dominated the main event scene, with the crop of major stars or talented performers relegated to insignificant matches or bouts which simply didn't live up to the hype.

Case in point: Shinsuke Nakamura's official main roster debut was promoted as being something truly special, and understandably so. Unfortunately, though, his battle with Dolph Ziggler was just adequate at best, with Ziggler having far more offence than anyone expected, and with Nakamura only demonstrating a sample of his repertoire. Shinsuke's matches haven't set the world on fire since, but whether this is due to Nakamura himself or restrictions placed upon him by WWE is debatable. Would it be controversial for me to suggest that Roman Reigns has had a much better year in the ring so far in 2017 than Shinsuke? (I'm not a massive Roman fan by the way, but Nakamura still receives the royal treatment by fans even though he hasn't had a truly great match in WWE since 2016.)

The Usos vs. Breezango is an amusing doubles match, with Fandango and Tyler Breeze finding their niche as a comedy act with just enough strong material to make them a popular part of the SmackDown brand. Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin is a basic yet inoffensive match with a surprising outcome, though little has been done to capitalise on it for the winner since then. The six-women tag match isn't up to much, to be honest; it exists to give the likes of Natalya and Tamina something to do really, but that's all it does, and the match is a big comedown for Charlotte following her high-profile adventures on Raw (her star is currently nowhere near as bright as it had been on the red side).

Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles is the best match of the night, and possibly the top encounter across the two-disc set. Even this feels like a mild disappointment, though, partly due to the finish which was booked to move the feud along, but left a dampener on the night's only genuinely good match. Luke Harper vs. Erick Rowan is filler, due to its lack of real reason to exist. Finally, there's Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal for the WWE Title: you probably already know how this ends, so I'll simply say that the booking makes sense on a business level, but considering the lack of any push for Jinder prior to becoming #1 contender for Orton's title here, and his previous status as a low-card jobber, it's completely understandable why fans have been left disillusioned by WWE's decision to go in this direction. This feud remains ongoing at present, which partly explains why SmackDown as a whole feels second-rate at present. Still, the match isn't that bad, which is something I guess.

The extras consist of the Kick-Off Show matches from each event: Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, and Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English respectively. There's also a Miz TV segment with Finn Balor, which would be the only involvement that either man had at Payback (Dean Ambrose bizarrely made no appearance whatsoever, months after main eventing SmackDown PPV events in WWE Title bouts).

This is a tough one to recommend. Payback has several matches which are well worth watching, but none of them are truly must-see, and whilst I think that many fans had made their minds up on the House Of Horrors bout before it even happened, it still marked the low point of that show. As for Backlash: the reaction to the main event and KO vs. AJ are worth going out of your way to see, but this isn't enough to support rewatching this card. If Shinsuke Nakamura's match had lived up to his reputation, then things would be different; because this wasn't the case, and with several filler matches padding out the show, Backlash ended up as WWE's weakest PPV of 2017 up to that point.

Arguably, the biggest reason to suggest buying this DVD is to examine how much better Raw is than SmackDown at present. And strangely enough, whilst some put this down to The Miz and Dean Ambrose leaving SD as a weaker show and helping to make Raw stronger, neither man factored into the main card at Payback whatsoever, whilst the Raw show didn't even feature its main champion Brock Lesnar (not that that's a surprise these days). Backlash, meanwhile, features AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura and others, and yet this PPV was still a let-down. But we'll have the full debate on why Raw is superior to SmackDown again another day; with regards to this DVD, there's a fair few matches that I would suggest watching, but not enough to make this an essential DVD for you to own.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10 - Okay

Thursday, 13 July 2017

DVD Preview: Kurt Angle - The Essential Collection

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Provided By: Fetch Publicity

The following story is courtesy of Fetch Publicity ...

It’s true! It’s true! Kurt Angle has had some of the most epic matches in WWE history. Now for the first time ever, you can watch them all with Kurt Angle: The Essential Collection! Relive all of his rivalries with Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, John Cena, Edge, Shawn Michaels, Triple H and more in this complete collection.


Match Highlights:

WWF No Way Out 2000 – February 27 2000
Intercontinental Championship Match
Chris Jericho (Champion) vs. Kurt Angle

WWF King of the Ring 2001 – June 24 2001
Street Fight
Kurt Angle vs. Shane McMahon

WWF Unforgiven 2001 – September 23 2001
WWF Championship Match
Stone Cold Steve Austin (Champion) vs. Kurt Angle

WWE King Of The Ring 2002 – June 23 2002
Kurt Angle vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan

WWE Vengeance 2002 – July 21 2002
WWE Championship Triple Threat Match
The Undertaker (Champion) vs. Kurt Angle vs. The Rock

WWE SummerSlam 2003 – August 24 2003
WWE Championship Match
Kurt Angle (Champion) vs. Brock Lesnar

WWE No Mercy 2003 – October 19 2003
Kurt Angle vs. John Cena

WWE Raw Homecoming – October 3 2005
30-Minute Iron Man Match
Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels

We like it because:

It’s incredible to have Kurt Angle back as a part of the WWE Universe – and this epic collection is proof of just how incredible a Superstar he truly is!

The set features non-stop action, with matches against all the top Attitude Era and Ruthless Aggression era stars. Most exciting for longtime WWE fans are the inclusion of “lesser-seen” matches – such as his SummerSlam battle with Brock Lesnar or Iron Man Match from Raw against Shawn Michaels – which are often overlooked next to more high-profile WrestleMania bouts but no less stunning entries into these classic Kurt rivalries!

It’s also fascinating to hear Kurt’s personal take on his career. Kurt sits down for tell-all interviews between each match, revealing all the backstage stories, who his favourite opponents were, and what happened on his journey from Olympic gold medalist to WWE Champion and beyond!

Don’t miss out on the only DVD collection that has the three I's: intelligence, Integrity and Intensity! Oh, it’s true!

Kurt Angle - The Essential Collection will officially be released on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday July 31 2017.

For more information, click here.

Monday, 3 July 2017

DVD Preview: WWE Double Feature: Payback 2017 & Backlash 2017

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Provided By: Fetch Publicity

The following story is courtesy of Fetch Publicity ...

WWE’s premier brands Raw and SmackDown Live return to Pay-Per-View for another two spectacular shows, brought together on one epic Double Feature DVD set! The Superstars of Raw look to settle the score at Payback, while the Superstars of SmackDown do battle at Backlash, featuring hard-hitting championship matches and a terrifying brawl in WWE’s first ever House Of Horrors!


Match Listing:

Payback 2017

Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman

House Of Horrors Match
Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt

Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe

Raw Women’s Championship Match
Bayley (Champion) vs. Alexa Bliss

Raw Tag Team Championship Match
The Hardy Boyz (Champions) vs. Sheamus & Cesaro

United States Championship Match
Kevin Owens (Champion) vs. Chris Jericho

Cruiserweight Championship Match
Neville (Champion) vs. Austin Aries

Backlash 2017

WWE Championship Match
Randy Orton (Champion) vs. Jinder Mahal

United States Championship Match
Kevin Owens (Champion) vs. AJ Styles

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Dolph Ziggler

SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match
The Usos (Champions) vs. Breezango

Six-Woman Tag Team Match
Naomi, Charlotte Flair & Becky Lynch vs. The Welcoming Committee (Natalya, Carmella & Tamina)

Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin

Luke Harper vs. Erick Rowan

Plus, more action and DVD extras!

We like it because:

The Raw vs SmackDown Live rivalry continues to go from strength to strength with another two incredible shows.

Payback saw dramatic twists as the Superstars of Raw did battle on the first major show since WrestleMania, so the stakes were high in the all-new WWE landscape.

The show is headlined by a brutal fight from supremacy between “The Big Dog” Roman Reigns and “The Monster Among Men” Braun Strowman. What happened shocked the WWE Universe, as one Superstar was left lying from one of the most brutal beatdowns in recent memory!

And with the “Superstar Shake-Up” in full swing, SmackDown Live Superstars also appeared, including WWE Champion Randy Orton battling Bray Wyatt in the first ever House Of Horrors match, which combined the jaw-dropping action of sports-entertainment with all the scares and atmosphere of a horror movie!

Orton and the rest of the SmackDown Live roster returned in style for Backlash, featuring the unexpected rise of Jinder Mahal to challenge for Orton’s WWE Championship. It’s a moment that will truly go down in WWE history!

Plus, there’s stunning action from some of the most talented Superstars in WWE today, with a much-anticipated clash between Kevin Owens and AJ Styles – a match that’s as controversial as it is action-packed – plus the main roster debut of “The Artist” Shinsuke Nakamura against Dolph Ziggler, two of sports-entertainment’s most exciting talents meeting for the very first time!

Don’t miss out!

WWE Double Feature: Payback 2017 & Backlash 2017 will officially be released on DVD on Monday July 17 2017.

For more information, click here.