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

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