Friday, 24 November 2017

DVD Review: WWE Double Feature: No Mercy 2017 & Hell In A Cell 2017

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 381 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 2
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: November 27 2017

(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)

The streak of inconsistent Double Feature DVD sets - with the Raw event generally offering value for money while the SmackDown show being sub-par - finally ends here with the latest release. That's because No Mercy delivers two major main event matches alongside some great action further down the card, whilst Hell In A Cell delivers what it promises with two exciting and memorable Cell encounters book-ending a decent under-card.

Starting with No Mercy, The Miz vs. Jason Jordan is a watchable opener, though Jason's attempts to gain acceptance from the fans as Kurt Angle's "son" take another hit here, both with the result and with the hostile reaction from the Los Angeles crowd. Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt is okay but nothing special, but the opposite is true for Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose vs. Sheamus & Cesaro. Traditionally, the PPV rematch is inferior to the original, especially when the first encounter is a damn good one, but this is another absolute thriller between these four men, and it features Cesaro losing his teeth via a slingshot into the post in a pretty gruesome visual.

The high standards are maintained in the Fatal Five Way match for the Raw Women's Championship, which in my opinion is the best female match on WWE PPV so far this year, featuring a strong effort by all involved. Speaking of effort, John Cena and Roman Reigns graft in their first-time encounter, which despite a quiet early section lives up to the hype (such promotion included some savage shoot-style promos on Reigns by Cena). That being said, I still feel that this should have been saved for WrestleMania; sure, that was the selling point of No Mercy, but this is one of the very few matches that WWE has involving its regular crew which could credibly headline its biggest show of the year. Perhaps they'll meet again further down the road, but had this taken place at Mania, it would have had much more impact.

Moving on, Neville vs. Enzo Amore is a deliberately one-sided match with a shock finish, and the Cruiserweight Championship shenanigans would unfortunately lead to Neville walking out of WWE a few weeks ago (though the rumour mill suggests that he may be back fairly soon). Finally, Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman sadly ends the show on a bum note; it's not a bad match, but it doesn't generate half the excitement that their spots at SummerSlam (and even their promo interactions on Raw) created, partly because the structure of the match prevented this from happening. It feels more like a technical chess match than a battle of two monsters. I didn't agree with those who also felt this match could have main evented a WrestleMania, and on the evidence here, it's a good job that they didn't.

It's a shame, because Strowman had a ton of momentum heading into this card. And while I didn't seriously believe that he would dethrone Lesnar, I thought that the booking would have allowed him to put up more of a fight than he did prior to taking the loss. Hogan vs. Andre at WM III, this wasn't, and it regrettably ends the otherwise sparking No Mercy with disappointment. The Kick-Off Show match between the ever-entertaining Elias and the underrated Apollo Crews is included as a DVD extra.

Onto Hell In A Cell now (which incidentally features some great transitional graphic effects involving a skull), and we open things up with a tremendous doubles HIAC clash between The New Day and The Usos. It has a little too much comedy for such a serious stipulation at first, even given New Day's laid-back personalities, but it soon develops into a great brawl. Though I felt that their SummerSlam showdown was slightly superior, this is still an excellent way to end the WWE tag team feud of the year.

Next up, Randy Orton and Rusev compete in a proper match, making up for their incredibly short meeting at SummerSlam. AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin vs. Tye Dillinger is a respectable three-way for the United States Title (Tye was only officially added during the Kick-Off Show); it isn't particularly memorable, but it does allow Corbin to finally rebound from his week from hell during the mid-summer where he lost his Money In The Bank briefcase and then a SummerSlam match with John Cena. Natalya vs. Charlotte is just getting going when a DQ finish is pulled out, marking yet another PPV clash between two very talented ladies where the booking becomes a hindrance.

Jinder Mahal vs. Shinsuke Nakamura is a slight improvement on their previous PPV bout, but it's still average at best, and while I disagree with those who say that WWE has "ruined" Nakamura, his chances of winning the WWE Title against anybody not named AJ Styles take a major hit here. As does Bobby Roode's momentum, since his first PPV bout with Dolph Ziggler is run-of-the-mill, and with a finish (babyface Roode holding the tights) that doesn't benefit anybody. Ziggler was once the master of getting his opponent over; given this match and the Shinsuke bout from Backlash, those days seem to be long gone, though whether you blame that on Dolph or on WWE is a matter of opinion.

Finally, Shane McMahon and Kevin Owens collide in a Hell In A Cell match, set up by Owens and Shane's TV confrontations and KO destroying Vince (who is now 72, remember). It's pretty long, but it's better than Shane's Cell match with The Undertaker from WrestleMania 32, and it features Shane's hair-raising elbow off the top of the Cell. Most notably, though, a big surprise at the finish involving Sami Zayn creates a shock finale, and ends HIAC 2017 with a bang. Presumably because this match ran so long, the HIAC Kick-Off Show match between Chad Gable/Shelton Benjamin and The Hype Bros has been cut.

Though the WWE landscape has changed dramatically since these two shows were held (and No Mercy, the least recent of the two cards, was only two months ago, with Hell In A Cell being only seven weeks in the rear-view mirror), this Double Feature set packs in a lot of action and some of the year's more memorable moments, making up for the low moments, and so this is a twin-disc DVD that I would recommend.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 - Good

Friday, 10 November 2017

DVD Review: NXT - From Secret To Sensation

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 408 Minutes
Certificate: 12
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: November 13 2017

(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)

The second DVD release dedicated to NXT, From Secret To Sensation takes a different approach to the original Greatest Matches DVD. In this new compilation, we get a countdown of the top 25 NXT performers in history, along with more than a dozen matches from 2011 to 2017. I'm not sure whether the title is relevant, considering that we only get a basic run-down of the history of NXT (it would have been more appropriate if we were treated to a full-length documentary here), but otherwise fans should be excited at getting another home release on what is arguably WWE's most popular brand, at least amongst the die-hards.

Part of the reason for this is that the countdown feature is really enjoyable. It's a tried-and-tested formula, and we have actually just had a countdown on the 30 Years Of Survivor Series DVD. However, what differentiates this particular main feature is that we're shown the evolution of each performer during their time on NXT, which in many cases was pretty dramatic. For example, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks both showed up as plain performers with no distinguish features. They left NXT as The Lass Kicker and The Boss, two clearly-defined and unique characters with an appetite for stealing the show in the ring and with huge fan followings which have followed them to the main roster.

It's fascinating to see the likes of Bayley, Sami Zayn and Alexa Bliss during their earliest days in NXT. It's particularly notable to see Tyler Breeze begin his NXT career as the bland Mike Dalton, whose persona was nonexistent. Contrast that with Prince Pretty, whose selfie-obsessed character was a real highlight of NXT, and his current work alongside Fandango in the current Fashion Files segments on SmackDown. Add to that some cool comments from NXT performers past and present (even if we get some occasional kayfabe opinions), and plenty of archive footage, and you have a pretty compelling countdown programme, arguably the best of this nature that WWE has put out.

From there, we move onto the bonus matches. Up first is a real rarity, a clash between future New Day members Big E Langston and Xavier Woods from an NXT pilot show in December 2011, though it is on the short side. Next is Seth Rollins defending the NXT Championship against Corey Graves, though it came at a time when NXT tapings would be considered a separate world from main roster WWE, which includes a lack of storyline progression. For instance, Rollins had previously been a white-meat babyface champion, but without explanation on NXT TV, he was suddenly a heel as a member of The Shield.

Bo Dallas vs. Bray Wyatt is a decent showcase of both men, and it's now bizarre to see Bo in the babyface role. Antonio Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn is the forgotten chapter of their NXT feud, coming after Sami's first night on NXT but before their Match Of The Year contenders in August 2013 and February 2014; that being said, it's still a really good encounter. Then, Alexander Rusev puts in a strong showing against Dolph Ziggler, which likely boosted his odds of making the main roster the following year, and Paige vs. Sasha Banks is fun too, though the big moment comes after the match when Sasha turns heel on Paige, paving the way for her to become The Boss.

Adrian Neville and Tyler Breeze put on a fine battle in an early 2014 NXT clash, which fans are more than fired up for, and Bo's NXT exit against Big E (who had been on the main roster for ages by this point) is entertaining too. But the next match is the first truly great match on the compilation, as Neville, Zayn, Breeze and Tyson Kidd collide in a terrific Fatal Four Way clash from the first NXT TakeOver. A quick-fire win by Baron Corbin over then-jobber Elias is followed by a slow-burning epic between Kevin Owens and Finn Balor for the NXT crown, which predates their more famous battles in the summer of 2015.

Disc three opens with an outstanding NXT Women's Championship clash between Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch, the match that made me a real fan of NXT at the time. The subsequent Sasha-Charlotte battle is also very good, though it's a shame that Sasha vs. Bayley under Iron Man rules is nowhere to be found. What makes up for this is the inclusion of the superb Sami-Shinsuke Nakamura bout from TakeOver: Dallas, which may just be the best NXT match ever. Following this is the house show bout between Finn Balor and Samoa Joe, which features great action prior to a title switch that very few saw coming (certainly not the fans in attendance, who go crazy when Joe earns the gold crown).

Bayley makes her only in-ring appearance against Alexa Bliss, shortly before both ladies left for the main roster; they put in a great effort, and this may be better than any of their main roster collisions this year. Bobby Roode vs. Tye Dillinger at TakeOver: Toronto, in what is essentially a battle of the super-over entrances, and Asuka vs. Ember Moon from TakeOver: Brooklyn III (held less than three months ago) bring the DVD to a close. Asuka vs. Ember is particularly impressive, and at the time I was convinced that Moon would finally end Asuka's undefeated streak that night. Obviously, I was wrong.

I was disappointed that there are no tag team matches on this DVD, because NXT does doubles wrestling better than just about any other brand or promotion (or at least they did during the division's 2016 peak). The Revival alone had more than one classic match with both American Alpha and DIY, so it's unfortunate that none of these bouts made it in. It would have also been nice to see Finn Balor vs. Neville from TakeOver: Rival (an amazing contest), Zayn vs. Cesaro from the first ever TakeOver, and a couple of other vintage NXT contests which weren't on the original Greatest Matches collection. This leads me to believe that we will indeed get a full DVD documentary on NXT in around 12-18 months, likely featuring these matches and others, such as the upcoming War Games showdown in Houston.

Otherwise, though, this is a fantastic wrestling DVD. The countdown is a lot of fun, and almost every match has something to offer, with several contests being of a classic standard. I think it's a slight step down from Greatest Matches Vol. 1, but if you're new to NXT, or if you're a longtime fan of the brand wanting to relive some of its biggest moments to date, then you should really enjoy From Secret To Sensation.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10 - Excellent

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

DVD Preview: WWE Double Feature: No Mercy 2017 & Hell In A Cell 2017

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Provided By: Fetch Publicity

The following story is courtesy of Fetch Publicity ...

The latest Double Feature DVD from WWE, combining two exciting Pay-Per-View events. From the Raw brand is No Mercy, headlined by the huge clash between “The Beast” Brock Lesnar and “Monster Among Men” Braun Strowman. And from SmackDown LIVE comes Hell in a Cell, which sees Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn do battle inside the demonic 20-foot steel structure.

Match Highlights:

No Mercy 2017

Universal Championship Match
Brock Lesnar (Champion) vs. Braun Strowman

John Cena vs. Roman Reigns

Raw Women's Championship Fatal 5-Way Match
Alexa Bliss (Champion) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley vs. Emma vs. Nia Jax

Raw Tag Team Championship Match
Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose (Champions) vs. Sheamus & Cesaro

Hell In A Cell 2017

Hell In A Cell Match
Kevin Owens vs. Shane McMahon

WWE Championship Match
Jinder Mahal (Champion) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

SmackDown Tag Team Championship Hell In A Cell Match
The New Day (Champions) vs. The Usos

SmackDown Women's Championship Match
Natalya (Champion) vs. Charlotte Flair

United States Championship Triple Threat Match
AJ Styles (Champion) vs. Baron Corbin vs. Tye Dillinger

Plus even more action!

We like it because:

This is the most exciting Double Feature DVD from WWE Home Video UK yet!

No Mercy features two of the biggest clashes in recent history, with the epic collision between Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman – plus the battle of generations between John Cena and Roman Reigns. It’s a historic contest that takes no prisoners. Can Cena prove he’s still the face of WWE? Or will he have to step aside for the hungry young warrior, Roman Reigns?

Elsewhere, the Raw women’s division puts on an incredible display the Fatal 5-Way match, while Rollins and Ambrose vs. Sheamus and Cesaro is a Match Of The Year contender.

The Superstars of SmackDown LIVE prove they can match Raw at Hell in a Cell.

The New Day vs The Usos brings a new level of brutality to WWE tag team competition, while there’s a shock ending to the Hell In A Cell match.

Don’t miss out!

WWE Double Feature: No Mercy 2017 & Hell In A Cell 2017 will officially be released on DVD on Monday November 27 2017.

For more information, click here.

Friday, 3 November 2017

DVD Preview: NXT - From Secret To Sensation

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Provided By: Fetch Publicity

The following story is courtesy of Fetch Publicity ...

NXT – where WWE Superstars compete before appearing on Raw and SmackDown LIVE – is responsible for producing some of the greatest talents and most successful champions in WWE. Hear from current and former NXT Superstars themselves, as From Secret To Sensation counts down NXT’s 25 greatest Superstars. Includes interviews with NXT favourites like Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Finn Bálor, Shinsuke Nakamura, Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, Samoa Joe, Bobby Roode, and more – plus some classic NXT matches!

Match Highlights:

NXT – January 2 2013
NXT Championship Match
Seth Rollins (Champion) vs. Corey Graves

NXT – September 11 2013
Paige vs. Sasha Banks

NXT TakeOver: Fatal 4-Way – September 11 2014
NXT Championship Fatal 4-Way Match
Adrian Neville (Champion) vs. Sami Zayn vs. Tyler Breeze vs. Tyson Kidd

NXT – March 25, 2015
NXT Championship Match
Kevin Owens (Champion) vs. Finn Bálor

NXT – July 15 2015
NXT Women’s Championship Match
Sasha Banks (Champion) vs. Charlotte

NXT TakeOver: Dallas – April 1 2016
Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III – August 19 2017
NXT Women’s Championship Match
Asuka (Champion) vs. Ember Moon

Plus more action and Blu-ray extras!

We like it because:

Since Seth Rollins was crowned the first NXT Champion in 2012, NXT has been the hottest brand in the world of sports-entertainment – first as the industry’s best-kept secret, now as a hotbed of world-class action.

Counting down NXT’s top names, this exciting set proves just how much raw talent has passed through NXT – and why it continues to be THE place for the Superstars of tomorrow come to compete.

Most interesting is its behind-the-scenes look at NXT, with candid interviews from some of NXT’s most important superstars, many of whom have gone on to become champions on the main WWE roster.

It’s fascinating to see how some of your favourite WWE Superstars got their start – and which of NXT’s names will be future WrestleMania headliners.

It’s not just the story of individual superstars though. From Secret To Sensation is the story of the NXT brand itself, and how it has grown to become an integral part of WWE.

And this wouldn’t be a WWE home video release with incredible action, featuring some of the best matchups to take place in NXT rings over the last few years.

Don’t miss out!

NXT - From Secret To Sensation will officially be released on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday November 13 2017.

For more information, click here.