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

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