Friday, 20 October 2017

DVD Review: 30 Years Of Survivor Series

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 437 Minutes
Certificate: 12
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: October 23 2017

(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)

Survivor Series is the second longest-running Pay-Per-View event in WWE history, behind only WrestleMania. It was there when Hulkamania was running wild, when Attitude was all the rage, and when John Cena and Batista were establishing themselves as the leaders of the Ruthless Aggression era. Even today, Survivor Series has major significance, enhanced by major moments in recent years involving The Rock, Sting and Goldberg.

This latest DVD offering from WWE covers the three-decade history of Survivor Series, released just in time for the 31st instalment on November 19 in Houston. The main focus of this compilation is a feature lasting just over an hour, which highlights what are considered to be the 30 top moments in Survivor Series history (though the programme itself doesn't state this; the DVD box art does, though). This is followed by a series (no pun intended) of matches spanning the years 1988-2016.

Starting with the main feature: it's a quick-fire collection of matches, with the usual topnotch WWE presentation and production qualities. There is no host; we're just transported from one moment to the next. It's definitely a fun trip down memory lane as we go from #30 all the way to #1. I won't spoil the order of moments here, as it'll make this DVD less enticing if I were to do so. But suffice it to say that all of the moments that you would expect to be covered pretty much are, along with a couple of forgotten incidents from down the years. I will say that you won't be surprised by what the #1 moment is. (There is also a 31st moment hidden as an Easter Egg within the menu on disc one, and in this case, the use of "egg" is very appropriate if you know what I mean.)

Moving onto the matches: the ten-man main event from 1988 underlines the "Teams Of Five Strive To Survive!" tagline that the WWF was pushing at the time, though it annoyingly (but unsurprisingly) omits Jesse Ventura's commentary, making for a less enjoyable start to disc two. The highlight is how the Randy Savage-Hulk Hogan story is subtly moved along, particularly by Randy angrily pointing at Hulk afterwards for hoisting Miss Elizabeth up, which was deliberately ignored by the announcers to maintain the babyface status of both men. (That Hogan entered the ring as the team's main man, despite Savage being WWF Champion, may or may not have been a factor in the storyline too.)

Hogan pops up again next to face The Undertaker from 1991. At this point, Hogan is finally losing steam, and many fans cheer when Undertaker wins the WWF Title (though the highlight is the brilliant banter on commentary between Gorilla Monsoon and the late, great Bobby Heenan). The 1994 clash between The Bad Guys and The Teamsters exists primarily to set up the closing scene whereby Diesel and Shawn Michaels see their on-screen alliance crumble, but it's an okay match by 1994 standards. (Again, Gorilla Monsoon arguably steals the scene here, with his ridiculously high-pitched reaction to seeing pyrotechnics go off.)

Diesel vs. Bret Hart from 1995 is a fun No Holds Barred match, one which sees the debut of the Spanish announcer's table spot, and whilst far from being a nasty scrap, is as violent as a WWF match could get at that point. Shawn Michaels vs. Sid is good, with Michaels getting the John Cena/Roman Reigns treatment from the MSG crowd, a rarity in 1996. Disc two ends with Mankind vs. The Rock, culminating the 1998 Deadly Game WWF Championship tournament with a huge swerve, and the three-way top-liner from 1999 as Triple H and Rock face Big Show, replacing Steve Austin who had been ran down backstage earlier in the show.

Disc three takes us to 2001 with two matches. The Dudleyz vs. The Hardyz inside a Cage is good, but has been released a few times in recent years, whilst the six-way Women's Championship match is short and shows how much better the women's scene in WWE is today. From 2002, we get the short yet exciting Brock Lesnar-Big Show WWE Title match (hey, perhaps short brawls have always been Brock's specialty), with a finish that is never discussed in WWE today for fear of undermining the on-screen Lesnar-Paul Heyman alliance. We have to wait until 2009 for the next match, a ten-man clash which sees Kofi Kingston temporarily confirm himself as WWE's hottest young rising star (though with the success of The New Day, who's to say that Kofi may not get his main event solo shot again someday?). The subsequent 2-on-1 Divas Title match from 2010, pitting LayCool against Natalya, is brief and is hindered by Michael Cole's attempts to be a humorous heel on commentary, which only see him come across as a patronising bully. He should have studied the aforementioned Heenan for tips on how to pull this off successfully.

It's onto 2011 next as we get another fairly short women's match between Beth Phoenix and Eve Torres, and The Rock's in-ring return alongside John Cena against Awesome Truth, which sees its spectacle make up for the lack of gripping action. There are yet more commentary capers here as Booker T hilariously calls The Rock "selfish" despite the babyface status of both, and in the next match from 2013 when Michael Cole is ripped apart by JBL for suggesting that The Shield had been around for years at this point, during a match which marked their one-year anniversary on the main roster. Still, the ten-man match is fun, and is most notable for Roman Reigns' sheer dominance, at a time when fans were receptive to such a notion (though, typically, Reigns was still a heel back then).

The DVD ends with the main events of the past two SS cards, which are very different. The 2015 top-liner sees Reigns and Dean Ambrose battle in another WWE Title tournament final, but they are not given enough time to deliver a great main event. The post-match scenes generate buzz via Sheamus cashing in Money In The Bank following a Triple H cameo, but it's too similar to the previous Randy Orton cash-in on Daniel Bryan, which saw the formation of The Authority, at SummerSlam 2013. Closing the DVD, though, is the 2016 headline bout which lasted just 86 seconds; however, Goldberg smashing Brock Lesnar in such a quick and decisive fashion was so shocking, so unpredictable, and yet so logical (Goldberg had been renowned for short, violent beatings of opponents back in his prime), that it was the most memorable finish since Lesnar ended The Undertaker's Streak at WrestleMania XXX, and ultimately set up a very entertaining feud between the two which culminated in a "proper" match at Mania 33.

This DVD set doesn't feature the best matches from Survivor Series history (neither of the 10-on-10 matches from 1987 or 1988, Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels from 1992, Bret vs. Austin from 1996, the WWF vs. Alliance main event from 2001, the first Elimination Chamber scrap from 2002, Team Austin vs. Team Bischoff from 2003, The Undertaker vs. Batista from 2007, Team Cena vs. Team Authority from 2014 and the men's Raw vs. SmackDown elimination match from last year are all absent in long form), nor does it feature most of the event's key historic matches in their entirety (Bret vs. Shawn from 1997, the debuts of The Undertaker and The Rock in full, Sting debuting etc). But that doesn't really negate what we do have here, which is a straight-forward and fun look back at Survivor Series clashes from down the years. And there are some great matches and significant moments on offer, from Diesel vs. Bret to Mankind vs. Rock to Goldberg destroying Lesnar.

Summing this up, this has a lot to common with The True Story Of Royal Rumble, released late last year. The key difference is that unlike TTSORR, which was a disappointment because it offered little insight into the Rumble event, this is simply about looking back on 30 years of Survivor Series memories, and it's a really enjoyable trek through the late 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and early-to-mid 2010s. A proper documentary would have been fascinating (the fact that Survivor Series was created to counter-act Starrcade, its Thanksgiving Night tradition for many years, a revisiting of Montreal, the Austin controversy from 1999, its regular use as a trigger for major WrestleMania storylines, the near-cancellation of the event in 2010 and more), but perhaps we'll get that in the future. (Incidentally, since SummerSlam is now the only Big-Four PPV not to get the full DVD treatment in some form, I expect we'll get such a DVD in 2018 or 2019.)

Overall, then, 30 Years Of Survivor Series acts as a perfect way to preview the final major PPV event of the year. With a fun main feature, an entertaining if unspectacular round-up of matches, and footage of almost every great or historic Survivor Series moment at some point throughout the compilation, it's a fine way to prepare for this year's SS offering in Houston. WrestleMania rightly gets all the attention, and Royal Rumble and SummerSlam are generally given a greater level of praise, but this DVD reminds you not to forget about Survivor Series, an event which has hosted and been plagued by controversies but has more often delivered much excitement and unpredictability to ensure that it should remain a WWE tradition for many more years to come.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 - Good

Thursday, 12 October 2017

DVD Preview: 30 Years Of Survivor Series

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Provided By: Fetch Publicity

The following story is courtesy of Fetch Publicity ...

On Thanksgiving Day thirty years ago, WWE's second pay-per-view event was born with a new twist. In the early days, teams of five strived to survive. Over the course of the next three decades, Survivor Series evolved into one of the greatest spectacles on the WWE calendar, where championship matches, iconic face-offs and unforgettable moments take place. Join us as we countdown the 30 greatest moments from 30 remarkable years of Survivor Series.

Match Highlights:

Survivor Series 1988 – November 24 1988
Ten-Man Tag Team Elimination Match
Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Hercules, Koko B. Ware & Hillbilly Jim vs. Ted DiBiase, Akeem, Big Boss Man, King Haku & The Red Rooster

Survivor Series 1991 – November 27 1991
WWF Championship Match
Hulk Hogan (Champion) vs. The Undertaker

Survivor Series 1995 – November 19 1995
WWF Championship No Disqualification Match
Diesel (Champion) vs. Bret Hart

Survivor Series 2001 – November 18 2001
WWF & WCW World Tag Team Championship Unification Steel Cage Match
The Dudley Boyz (Champions) vs. The Hardy Boyz (Champions)

Survivor Series 2002 – November 17 2002
WWE Championship Match
Brock Lesnar (Champion) vs. Big Show

Survivor Series 2011 – November 20 2011
The Rock & John Cena vs. Awesome Truth (The Miz & R-Truth)

Survivor Series 2013 – November 24 2013
Ten-Man Tag Team Elimination Match
The Shield (Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose) & The Real Americans (Jack Swagger & Cesaro) vs. Cody Rhodes, Goldust, Rey Mysterio & The Usos

Plus more action and extras!

We like it because:

After WrestleMania only, Survivor Series is WWE’s second longest-running pay-per-view spectacular – and as this incredible 3-disc set proves, it’s an event rich with history!

And 30 Years Of Survivor Series counts down every historic moment: Andre the Giant’s earth-shattering win over Hulk Hogan at the inaugural event. Both The Undertaker and The Rock’s first WWE Championship wins. The controversial Montreal Screwjob. John Cena’s amazing recovering from neck surgery to become World Heavyweight Champion. The surprise debut of Sting. And Goldberg’s shock victory over Brock Lesnar!

From the days of Hulkamania and the Attitude Era to Ruthless Aggression and the New Era, this set examines one of sports-entertainment’s greatest legacies. It’s also action-packed, with over 15 full matches included, featuring the biggest and most dominant Superstars to ever compete at Survivor Series!

Essential viewing for all WWE fans!

30 Years Of Survivor Series will officially be released on DVD on Monday October 23 2017.

For more information, click here.

Friday, 6 October 2017

DVD Review: SummerSlam 2017

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 267 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 2
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: October 9 2017

(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)

There are two issues with SummerSlam these days. One is that it immediately follows an NXT Takeover show which greatly emphasises the in-ring product over sports entertainment. The second is that the show's four-hour length means that certain matches are guaranteed to come across as filler, which is why the overall reactions to recent SummerSlams has been mediocre at best.

The same response applied to this year's show, and the 2017 SS definitely isn't one of the greatest in the history of the event. However, there are still some topnotch battles and fun moments to be had when reliving the card, meaning that certain parts of the 30th annual SummerSlam are definitely worth checking out.

This doesn't include the underwhelming opening match, though, where John Cena doesn't leave second gear and Baron Corbin's nightmare week (having lost his Money In The Bank cash-in bout the previous Tuesday) ended with a defeat in a match that he had to win. I enjoyed Naomi vs. Natalya as the Queen Of Harts earned her second Women's Championship in style, even if the Brooklyn crowd seemed disinterested.

Big Cass' win over Big Show serves the purpose of giving him an, erm, big victory, though the match is not the best that I feel these two could deliver. Randy Orton's quick-fire defeat of Rusev is something different, but another potentially enjoyable match is denied as a result. Alexa Bliss vs. Sasha Banks is pretty good, though, and the result is a pleasant surprise.

The Demon rises next as Finn Balor meets Bray Wyatt in a decent fight. Then, we finally get a truly thrilling match as Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins challenge Cesaro and Sheamus for the Raw Tag Team Championships in a great doubles scrap (though Cesaro randomly running into the crowd to burst a beach-ball was the highlight of the match, and the entire show, to me).

Shane McMahon as special guest referee adds a new layer to the AJ Styles-Kevin Owens rivalry, which ends here having generally undelivered compared to what it could have been in the eyes of the fans. Jinder Mahal vs. Shinsuke Nakamura is predictably disappointing, and those who expected Shinsuke to tear it up here must now be wondering whether the 'old' Nakamura will ever make a return.

Fortunately, SummerSlam ends on a high note with one of the best WWE matches of the year. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman vs. Samoa Joe is a terrific brawl, a classic example of a four-way in a WWE ring, and a superb showcase of Strowman as an absolute monster. If you only watch one match from SummerSlam, this has to be it.

The DVD extras are the three Kick-Off matches. The six-man tag is hampered by taking place in front of an almost-empty arena, but Akira Tozawa vs. Neville is really good, and The New Day vs. The Usos is outstanding, somehow topping their previously exceptional clash at Battleground.

So, SummerSlam 2017 covers every spectrum on the quality scale, with some great matches, some good bouts, some average scraps and some major disappointments. The bonus matches elevate this to the rating below, as the main show seemed a bit of a let-down with only two excellent matches out of a possible ten. But it's still a really fun DVD to watch, as you will recognise when reliving the Biggest Party Of The Summer.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 - Good