Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The Top 5 Rematches That Need To Happen in 2017 By Tony Quant

 Rematches in any sport are always tricky to predict. Inside the squared circle the outcome is not so much the issue, more the quality that the fans can expect from the bout. After all, there is a reason that the original contest is considered a classic match leaving fans desperate for more.

That first match took the fans on an emotional roller coaster that allowed them to fully commit and invest themselves into that match. The rematch therefore is often looked upon with cautious eyes, fearful that the second installment will not be able to live up to its original self.

Looking at the history books, the reality is that rematches in wrestling don't usually live up to the hype and expectations that were set by the original. Whether that is down to the ageing of the performers, the pressure on duplicating an excellent first encounter or just the performers not caring as much is all open to interpretation.

But whilst the history doesn't defend rematches, there are some golden nuggets which were most certainly better second time around. Bret Hart vs Mr Perfect at the 1993 King of the Ring, Bret Hart vs Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13 and John Cena vs The Rock from WrestleMania 29 to name just a few.

Whilst 2016 will largely be remembered for one particular rematch, Lesnar vs Goldberg, fans across the globe were treated to a number of incredible matches and here are five of them that we want/need to see duplicated as we head into 2017.

5. The Revival vs DIY

The Revival and DIY (Sorry but this name just doesn’t do anything for me) tore the roof down when they competed in a two out of three falls match at NXT Takeover Toronto. It was without a doubt the true highlight of the weekend for many wrestling fans across the globe and whilst The Revival dropped the Tag Titles in the match, argument could be had that their contribution to the match took it up a few notches. Dawson and Wilder desperately forcing each other not to tap out at the end of the bout is an image that will stay with wrestling fans for a long time.

But why should we care for a rematch that we have seen on numerous occasions? Well because every time the four have come together we have been treated to something quite spectacular. Both teams could slot right in on the main roster and with a lack of depth in strong tag teams 2017 could be a great opportunity for both teams. The Revival in particular stand a great chance of making the main roster due to the lack of top heel tag teams and a run with DIY later on in 2017 is all that the promotion would need to push forward the Tag Team division under either brand.

4. Young Bucks vs The Hardy Boys

The Young Bucks vs The Hardy Boyz initial match may not go down in history as one of the best tag matches ever, however, there is a method to this madness which means that we truly must see these four go at it again in 2017. The initial match was littered with the expected array of Superkicks, Twist of Fates and Indytaker’s but the phenomenal character of “Broken” Matt Hardy was very much absent from this “Dream Tag Match.”

Fast forward to 2017 and the ground work has already been laid for the foursome to put on a true wrestling spectacle. That is everything we wish for, a spectacle. We know that it won’t be the most technically sound match we could see but the air of mystery makes it an even more attractive proposal. Matt Hardy’s character is one of the hottest things on the independent scene and having called out “The Bucks of Youth” on numerous occasions it surely has to be just a matter of time before these four are back within a squared circle/eight sided ring giving the fans just what they need.

3. Nakamura vs AJ Styles

Nakamura vs AJ Styles from Wrestle Kingdom 10 was simply phenomenal (That’s once). The co-main event of the biggest NJPW show of the year and these two men left absolutely everything in ring, lets not forget Styles had a back injury going into this one. This match had absolutely everything from drama, to near counts to the classic heel vs face tactics that left us begging for more.

Moving onto 2017 and we simply must be treated to this phenomenal (That’s twice) encounter again, this time on the grandest stage of them all. Ok right I get we won’t see it at Mania but stay with me. It simply has to be a matter of time before Nakamura joins the main WWE roster and if they truly intend to carry on with his mysterious, charismatic ways then they need to put him in there with the right dance partner. No dance partner is better suited to him that AJ Styles on the main roster which is why we have to see these two get at it again, hopefully in 2017.

2. Chris Hero vs Ishii

The initial match which took place during the Revolution Pro Global Wars shows was such beautiful, unadulterated violence that truly needs to be seen to be believed. Chris Hero and Tomohiro Ishii literally tore the roof off of York Hall en route to four and a half of Dave Meltzer’s finest stars. Without the need for a gimmick or Title belt to add to the hype of this match, the hard hitting duo proved that pure talent will always shine through and capture a crowd.

The sheer brilliance of seeing a match like this take place again is more than enough justification for seeing these two go at it again. But with the rumours of Hero signing with the WWE it may be too little too late for us to witness such an intense battle between two veterans of the independent wrestling scene. But what better swan song than a rematch with Ishii anywhere in the World to give Chris a Hero’s (C’mon you got to give me that one) send off on his way to pastures new.

1. Ospreay vs Ricochet

If there is one thing that 2016 taught us, it’s that “Flippy poop” is just like marmite and you either love it or hate it. It takes something special to get the Korakuen Hall audience chanting “This is awesome” and “One more match”, something Will Ospreay and Ricochet achieved back in May. The pair laid on an instant classic during the NJPW Best of Super Juniors Tournament which featured some insane spots and some of the craziest “flippy poop” we have ever feasted our spot monkey eyes on.

The rematch, (whilst already having been done on a number of occasions) in 2017 should stand for something and have certain Title ramifications for either man. Both of these guys are undoubtedly the future of the wrestling world and if you are too ignorant to understand that then you simply cannot be helped. The hype both good and not so good, that these guys created inside one match far surpassed most other matches throughout the entirety of 2016 and it is for that simple reason alone that we must simply see more of it in 2017."

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The WWF Hardcore Diaries Parts 1 & 2 By Tony Quant

 Part 1

The WWF Hardcore Title was introduced to the WWF Universe on November 2nd 1998 and changed hands a total of 240 times before it was unified with the WWE Intercontinental Title on August 22nd, 2002. 

Of those 240 Title changes, Raven was the man who captured the belt more than anyone else, winning the belt a total of 27 times. Whilst Raven may have won the belt on more occasions than anyone else, it was Steve Blackman who was the longest holder of the belt with a total reign of 172 days.

This series will focus purely on the Title matches of the WWF/WWE Hardcore Championship and will start back on November 2nd. On a weekly basis we will review the following Title change and give you a complete overview of the Championship match. We hope that you will enjoy reading it as much as we have enjoyed reviewing the WWE Vault (OK we don’t have a vault we just have the network like you guys)!

So without further ado here is the first entry in the Hardcore Diaries which start with Vince McMahon presenting Mankind with the belt.

November 2nd, 1998 - Raw Is War Houston, Texas

We move over to a backstage segment which includes Vince McMahon, The Big Boss Man and Mankind. Vince is in a wheelchair and is sitting opposite Mankind. Vince pleads with Mankind not to interfere in the next match which is between Ken Shamrock and The Rock. Vince tells Mankind he has a present for Mankind but will only give it to him if he promises not to get involved.

Mankind duly agrees to Vince’s request and Vince presents Mankind with the new WWF Hardcore Championship Belt. Mankind tells Vince that he “loves it” and Vince says to Mankind “in some respects I feel like I have lost a son tonight. But maybe I have gained another.” As Vince starts to wheel himself out of the room, Mankind replies “Jeez, thanks Dad.” Vince leaves the room with a bewildered look on his face.

Conclusion - No action to report but it is definitely fitting that the first ever WWF Hardcore Champion is Mankind. His history in hardcore matches speaks for itself and I can see the WWF thinking that his willingness to take bumps in these kind of matches will bring something extra to Raw and create a niche. Its definitely interesting to see them going the “Hardcore” route but having just overtaken Nitro in the head to head ratings the needed to keep momentum and viewership on their side.

Part 2 

November 2nd, 1998 - Raw Is War Baltimore, Maryland

The Hardcore Championship is on the line under Ladder match rules between the Champion Mankind and The Big Boss Man. 

The challenger the Big Boss Man comes to the ring accompanied by the WWF Commissioner Shawn Michaels. Mankind comes out with the J.O.B squad who are quickly sent backstage which seems bizarre? Bossman attacks with a night stick on the outside of the ring and Shawn joins Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler on commentary. 

Mankind slams the Boss Man head first into the steel steps then fetches a ladder and throws it directly in Boss Man’s face. Shawn on commentary slams Mankind saying he has “been there and done that. He can’t wrestle for 45 minutes like me.” Mankind continues to beat Boss Man with the ladder outside the ring. Mankind finally gets into the ring and sandwiches Boss Man in the ladder and drops an elbow on him. 

In one of his only offensive moves since the start of the match Boss Man tries a sloppy Irish whip but ends up getting double DDT’d for his efforts. Shawn tells Mankind to “drag that fat butt up that ladder” this is vintage Shawn on the commentary.  Boss Man pulls Mankind off the ladder and sets it up in the corner, follows it up by tossing Mankind into it. 

Both men finally made their way to the top of ladder and Bossman gets his finger tips on the Title. Mankind hits him a few times and gives him a mandible claw on the ladder. Bossman falls down but is able to get back up to stop Mankind getting the gold. Out of nowhere The Rock appears and pushes Mankind off the ladder onto the ropes. The crowd go absolutely wild for The Rock’s interference which really is the highlight of the match so far.

Mankind is able to get back up and after kicking The Rock in the nuts repeats the same on the Boss Man. After getting back up the ladder The Rock pulls Mankind down and gives him a Rock Bottom. Boss Man lays some boots on Mankind before climbing the ladder and grabbing the belt to become the new WWF Hardcore Champion.

After the match Boss Man hits Mankind with the night stick and Michaels and The Rock lay some boots on him. The Corporation stand supreme.
Conclusion - Definitely not one of the finest Hardcore matches of all time, largely in part due to Boss Man’s work which was lacklustre to say the best. Mankind is more than at home in these hardcore matches and was carrying the match throughout. The Corporation angle got over big and the crowd where hot when The Rock got involved. Michaels was brilliant on commentary playing off of the King’s set-ups.

Monday, 5 December 2016

WWE The True Story Of The Royal Rumble DVD Review By Tim Ricketts

The True Story of The Royal Rumble takes the fan favourite Pay-per-view event, and gives it the same historical documentary treatment as WWE did with their WrestleMania and Starrcade DVDs.  Now approaching it's thirtieth iteration, The Rumble's unique structure means that never fails to be entertaining or controversial. Either way, every year it is must see Wrestling.

This look into the traditional start of the Road to Wrestlemania, consisting of a traditional documentary DVD - with plenty of clips, highlights and vox pops of Legends and SuperStars - and two discs of 'Special Features' and Featured Matches, also delves into the setup and surroundings of Royal Rumble 2016. To start the whole thing in context, the progenitor of the concept - first Intercontinental Champion Pat Patterson - describes how his refinement of the traditional Over-the-top-rope Battle Royale to include timed entrances was presented to NBC TV.  At a time when a star's entrance was a relatively new and effective addition to his gimmick, TV executive Dick Ebersol saw this as the perfect feature for a (then) WWF special for his network.  The concept was refined at House Shows, and the first Televised version was such a success that it became a permanent addition to the 'Big Four' of Pay-per-Views.

With the first few years being treated as their own self-contained tournament in the era of only a handful of annual PPVs, and the majority of subsequent matches rewarding a main-event at Wrestlemania, winning the Royal Rumble has always held a high level of prestige.  More talking-head segments of notable competitors relate this, as well as the challenge and honour of either starting as number 1, 2, or 30 in particular.  All further tweaks and touches that has kept this as quite probably the most popular annual show outside of Wrestlemania.

The Rumble has had it's own fair share of controversies over the years, which is only to be expected from such a long-running concept, and this DVD does not shy away.  The only time the Rumble has settled the Championship prior to this year, Ric Flair's win in '93, came about as the result of contentious matches between Hogan and Undertaker.  Bret Hart and Lex Luger having to share the 'victory' in '94, Shawn Michaels' single foot on the floor prior to his win in 1995, BOTH of The Rock's feet touching in 2000, and the Quad-busting mutual elimination of Cena and Batista, all dally with iffy eliminations.  The fans' reactions to the 2014 & 15 events, and their Daniel Bryan-related disappointments, are covered with revealing backstage footage which paints Reigns in a very sympathetic light.

If there is one single thing in the anticipation of a rumble that builds fan interest, it is the surprise entrants, the Superstars that you don't expect to see.  This year's event has AJ Styles making his debut and the backstage secrecy this involves, whilst seeing the Legends of days gone making a cameo - from The Honky Tonk Man to DDP - gets a great pop from 'the Universe'.  Add to this the stealthy returns from injury over the years, of the likes of Edge or John Cena, and there is always a shock or two amongst the 30 men selected. Although the documentary has a chapter dedicated to this phenomenon, the number of significant inclusions over the years could have seen it expanded somewhat.

The Royal Rumble match itself isn't the only reason to pay attention to this PPV, the Undercard has it's historic gems too. In particular, the Rumble 2000 gets it's due recognition with the first Tag-team Tables match in WWE between the Dudley Boyz and Hardy Boyz, Tazz's début suplex battle with Kurt Angle and Cactus Jack & HHH in hardcore heaven.  A look at Rowdy Roddy Piper's Intercontinental reign that began at the Rumble kicks off a look at that title's storied history at this event, leading right up to this year's brutal slug-fest between Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose.  In a moment of candid remorse, Scott Hall (Razor Ramon) talks regretfully about his reaction to the homoeroticism in his match with Goldust, 20 years ago.

The format of the Royal Rumble lends itself to the notion of statistical Records, all there to be admired or beaten: from the Shortest time in the ring (Santino Marella, 1sec) to the Longest (Rey Mysterio, entered first & won, 62mins+), Stone Cold holds the record for most wins (with three).  One man stands tall in the record books however, Kane with Most Eliminations (42), Most Rumbles, and had held most eliminations in a single match until he was beaten in 2015 (11-12) by Roman Reigns. Reigns becomes the First to defend the WWE title in the Rumble Match itself, as number one entrant no less.  This segues nicely into the 'Moments' chapter of the DVD as we see the start of the 2016 bout, and Styles vaunted debut at number three.

Dedicating itself to the more esoteric highlights of history, this chapter covers such diverse topics as Too Cool & Rikishi dancing mid match, Tough Enough rookie Maven eliminating Undertaker, Demolition Fighting each other and Andre the Giant being scared of Jake's snake. Chyna, as the first female Royal Rumble entrant gets a significant mention, as does Kofi Kingston's regular rumble acrobatic escapology act. As Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker fight out their huge ending in '07, we get taken forward in time to the ending of this year's as Reign's valiant defence ends and Triple-H eliminates Ambrose to become 14-time Champion at the same time as looking after his boardroom duties.

At only an hour and five minutes long, the Royal Rumble has had plenty of history to provide more flesh to the bones of this documentary, but for it's length it does cover all the important events, even if only briefly. Still a worthy addition to any completists, collectors or fans of the format like I am.  Let's see how the other discs support or complement the documentary.

The 'Special Features' section of disc two would have been a lot of the missing 'flesh' I mentioned.  From interesting anecdotes, the star power of Pamela Anderson in the mid-nineties, to Mae Young winning 'Miss Rumble 2000' and a featurette on significantly less puerile female appearances at the Rumble, this adds some value to the set.  The 'Matches' section starts with the première Royal Rumble match from 1988, which holds up very well for it's age and shows excellent construction and progression throughout.  The Rockers vs The Orient Express is a good tag match and better technically, but Ultimate Warrior vs Sgt. Slaughter - also from 1991 - feels the stronger historic inclusion.

The 1994 'draw' between Bret Hart and Lex Luger is included in it's entirety, whilst the 1997 Championship Match between Sycho Sid and Shawn Michaels, as well as the aforementioned Tazz/Angle match from 2000, round out the disc.  The 2001 Rumble match, notable for the first Celebrity entrant in comedian Drew Carey, the Hardy Boyz fighting each other, the Return of the Honky Tonk Man and as Stone Cold's record breaking third win, starts disc 3. The 2007 iteration ended with an all-out bloody battle between Michaels and Undertaker and is the last full rumble match on the set.  The final two matches are the surprisingly technical bout between The Rock and CM Punk from 2013 that ended Punk's 434 day reign as Champion, and the fiery and contentious Divas' Championship match from this year between Becky Lynch and Charlotte.

Whilst there have been stronger DVD sets from WWE this year, this stands out for it's documentary format, and that the included bonuses and matches really do back up the content of it.  Whilst I'd have been quite happy for the whole of Royal Rumble 2000 to be included as an Extra, the length of the event's long and storied history means that in summarising it, we are always going to be missing something.  A must have for any WWE collector, and despite the length of the first disc, great value for money.

Available in the UK now from, www.WWEDVD.co.uk.

Friday, 18 November 2016

WWE Randy Orton: RKO Outta Nowhere DVD Review By Tim Ricketts

Whether you know him as 'the Viper', 'the Apex Predator' or 'the Legend Killer', Randy Orton has been at the top of the wrestling food-chain for well over a decade.  His uniquely capricious character and subtle charisma have established him as a man not to be reckoned with, or particularly trusted either, but it has kept him in the main event picture all those years; even if only as a dark horse for a time.  I am utterly certain that I am talking about a future Hall-of-Famer here, and a definite Legend.

It has been five years since WWE released their last Orton DVD, and like a lot of the past releases of their more enduring Superstars it is due for an update.  Cue 'Randy Orton: RKO Outta Nowhere' to fill this void.  WWE's other updated biographies, like the recent Brock Lesnar one, have shied away from any repetition of matches from previous offerings, but with over a dozen WWE/World Championships behind Orton this should contain some quality viewing.  A quick check through the contents of the three discs confirm that WWE are sticking by their current format of a chronological match compilation, interspersed with highlight packages and short interview-style segues, rather than a documentary followed by a match compilation.

The set begins with Randy ruminating on his start in the business at WWE developmental territory OVW, being thankful for it being easier than most due to his family background as a third-generation wrestler. It quickly  moves on to his first 'dark' (or un-televised) match against Flash Flanagan which has no commentary for obvious reasons, but shows Orton's immense power and potential.

Orton's career has paralleled that of John Cena in so many ways, and we slip back to OVW to see one of their first (of very many) encounters, after The Viper gives his early impressions of the then 'Prototype'.  Orton also discusses how he was treated by senior figures whilst establishing himself on the main Roster, with highlights of his TV debut vs Hardcore Holly, and in particular how the Undertaker dealt with the (included) early championship match he was given.  Triple-H's run-in at the end leads us neatly to the formation of Evolution, the alliance of Orton, HHH, Ric Flair and Batista.  A 6-man elimination tag match against the Dudley Boyz provides a fantastic example of this most excellent faction.

The next two matches highlight the beginnings of the 'Legend Killer' gimmick and Orton's substantial run as Intercontinental Champion, the longest for seven years, with a defence against 'Legend' Chris Jericho, and his championship rematch against Edge after finally losing the title at Vengeance. Despite this title run and the ascension to his first World Heavyweight Championship bringing prestige to Evolution, its permanent dissolution was inevitable once Triple-H revealed his jealousy of Orton's title. An un-televised match from their subsequent feud rounds out disc one, and adds some substantial rarity value as well as Randy's insights into working with the now WWE Chief.

After talking about working against Edge earlier, Orton focuses on their tag-team, Rated-RKO, at the start of disc two.  Their brief title-run is demonstrated with a match against the Hardys, before attention is switched to Randy's next WWE Championship reign with an absolute humdinger of a stipulation match with Shaun Michaels at Survivor Series '07.  This is followed by the Champion vs Champion match against Jeff Hardy at the following Royal Rumble and then an incongruous four-year jump in time to 2011.  I was mildly disappointed that The Legacy, the faction that formed the bulk of his work during this time, has seemingly been airbrushed from Orton's history.  Though, this may have more to do with Cody Rhodes' recent departure from the company than anything.

Ignoring that gap, the Last Man Standing match with CM Punk at Extreme Rules is a beautiful example of pacing and psychology over spectacular 'spots'.  Another Champion versus Champion match, this time against US title holder Dolph Ziggler who Orton refers to as a 'top three' talent, rounds out the second disc.

If a four year jump is a bit much, then the third disc commences in contrast.  The next match occurs only a day after the previous one against Ziggler, a feud-ending Steel Cage match  against Christian to retain his World Championship.  Another jump, this time of just under two years, brings us into another period of dominance for the Apex Predator and a brief discussion about ladder matches.  The Money in the Bank Ladder Match 2013 is the platform from which this success launched, and is filled with the athletes that he has spent the intervening time feuding with.

After using his MITB contract to win the WWE Championship, we get to the point of most historic significance on the entire set: The Unification Match.  WWE Champion Randy Orton met World Champion John Cena in a TLC match to become the final World, and new WWE World Heavyweight Champion.  The two young titans of the 2000s give a showing worthy of the occasion, which is just as well with the establishment of the new Universal Championship virtually ruling out any resurrection of the Big Gold Belt in the New Era.

After the significance of that match, the remaining three bouts may seem a little lacklustre, but the wrestling content is still watch-worthy, and significantly we get to hear Orton's opinions on the Superstars of Today.  Randy obviously likes working against Dean Ambrose, considering the compliments he gives, and the intensity of the match shown.  The intensity continues for the high-profile Wrestlemania XXXI fight with Seth Rollins, on his own steamroller course for the title.  Probably the highest praise is reserved for Cesaro and his strength, and a spectacularly explosive triple threat between him, Orton and Kevin Owens concludes the DVD set.

Whilst the gaps and total resistance to any repetition from any other sets makes this collection a little disjointed in terms of chronology, it is, quite appropriately, a beautifully coherent record of Randy's evolution, and well worth owning.  From The Legend Killer to Legend, from Rookie to Ring General, this set successfully documents Orton's legacy and The Viper's place as WWE's Apex Predator.

Available now from www.WWEDVD.co.uk

Monday, 7 November 2016

WWE Annual 2016 DVD Review By Tim Rickets

The WWE Annual 2016 is a six-DVD behemoth of a compendium set, consisting of The Best of RAW and SmackDown 2015 and The Best PPV Matches 2015.  Once you get your head around the anachronistic cognitive dissonance of a 2015 set packaged as 'Annual 2016' when it's nearly 2017, then this is a potentially good time-capsule of an interesting transitional year for WWE.

The TV show and PPV sets are presented by Byron Saxton and Corey Graves respectively, providing the necessary talking-head and segue sections to link the chronology of the highlight packages and matches.  Talking of highlight packages, the match selections are heavily enhanced by them, with each Pay-per-View getting it's own, and the month's major happenings and débuts on TV are similarly summarised too.

To minimise any jumping backward and forward in time, I've viewed and reviewed the DVDs in pairs, starting with the first Best of RAW and SmackDown disc then The Best PPV Matches disc 1, and so forth alternating between the sets. I found that the sets are very complementary when viewed like this, although I expect that some will view this as 'not the right way'.

The Best of RAW and SmackDown commences with a superb Ambulance Match between Bray Wyatt and Dean Ambrose, but, by-and-large, the first disc of both sets focus on the 'Road to Wrestlemania' starting at the Royal Rumble.  In particular, the complex situation involving the contenders to Brock Lesnar's WWE Championship are covered in depth.  The returning underdog hero Daniel Bryan, Mr Money in the Bank Seth Rollins and his former SHEILD brother Roman Reigns all fight it out to claim the championship or face Paul Heyman's client at Wrestlemania.  Reigns eventually wins the official opportunity, but Rollins finally cashes-in his contractual advantage to leave the 'Granddaddy of them All' with the WWE title, and we get to see John Cena bring home the US Championship from vicious villain Rusev.

The first disc of the TV content also covers the emergence of Superstars and alliances, such as Sting, Neville and The New Day, #GiveDivasAChance and the nascent beginnings of the Women's Revolution.  Both discs conclude with focus on the Tag-Titles and the start of New Day's domination, as well as the fallout from Wrestlemania, running up to and at Extreme Rules.

The second discs of the sets start in and around the Payback PPV, Dean Ambrose managing to earn a spot in a fatal four-way with Rollins, Reigns and Randy Orton for Seth's newly acquired hardware. Both also cover John Cena's US title Open challenge, including a stand-out match against the fresh NXT graduate Sami Zayn on RAW, and feud with NXT champion Kevin Owens. The slobberknocker ending to this grudging series, however, is left for PPV disc 3.

Whilst the Pay-per-view DVD finishes with both the WWE Championship and titular ladder matches from Money-in-the-Bank, where Rollins retains and Sheamus leaves with the briefcase, The Best of RAW and SmackDown covers the continuing Diva's Revolution and the formation of Teams Bella, BAD and PCB.

The Divas are also well honoured on the third round of DVDs too, a triple threat between Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Brie Bella representing their teams, is later followed-up with Ms Flair's Title victory at Night of Champions, ending Nicki Bella's record-breaking reign, and a defence against Paige from RAW.

More mutual coverage is of Sting's brief return to battle Champ Rollins, also at Night of Champions, and the more prolonged series of straight-up bloodied fights between The Undertaker and his nemesis Brock Lesnar between SummerSlam and Hell in a Cell.

Despite the Best of PPV Matches DVD ending with October's Hell in a Cell, the Best of RAW and SmackDown continues on through November to cover the WWE Championship Title Tournament in the wake of Seth Rollins' vacation due to injury, and The League of Nations' first match, a 7-on-4 handicap.

With around 15 hours of content, this set is tremendous value-for-money, and did prove to be the time-capsule that I'd hoped for.  If you're a collector who hasn't managed to get the two original sets that this compilation is composed of yet, or want to get a great festive gift for a casual fan, then this is might be a hit in the stocking-filler department.  Whilst the material is now rather more historic than current, it does show a lot of the rapid changes WWE has made in the run up to it's 'New Era' in both style and talent.  The number of wrestlers who have left ('future endeavoured') or graduated from NXT since 2015 is bought home by this set too. A remarkably high turnover.

Out November 7th from
www.WWEDVD.co.uk and I'll be back next week with the Randy Orton: RKO Outta Nowhere DVD review, which you can also pre-order here.

Monday, 17 October 2016


Brock Lesnar is arguably the most physically dominant, and almost certainly the most physically intimidating WWE Superstar of the 21st Century, so it's not surprising that he has been given an up-to-date biographical DVD.  Despite a long sojourn in MMA and Japanese wrestling, Brock's run at the top of the WWE card should give this video plenty of material; those looking for an insight into the home life of the notoriously terse and private Lesnar, I expect will be disappointed.

'...I am Brock Lesnar. What makes me happy? Beating people up, that makes me happy.' The first of the three discs open with the man himself delivering the 'Nuts and Bolts', as he puts it, of being Brock Lesnar and finishing with this ominous, but apt, quote.  This soon gives way to some background on his dominant youth in amateur wrestling as 'The Manster', an appropriate appellation considering his size, and the advantages this gave him with his start in the professional sphere.

Brock Lesnar teams with fellow former collegiate wrestler Shelton Benjamin versus Chris Michaels & Sean Casey in the first match, from WWE developmental territory OVW in October 2000, showing his explosive potential.  Friend and Mentor Mr. Perfect is his opponent from a Non-Televised Match on RAW (Jan 2002) next, and has to use every ounce of sly experience to defeat the young Lesnar.  A couple of tidy matches of rarity to open the DVD and give it some collectable value.

The winner of The King of the Ring is usually tipped as the Next Big Thing in WWE, so it was no surprise that Brock Lesnar beat Rob Van Dam in the final of the 2002 iteration to earn a match against the Rock at SummerSlam for the Undisputed Championship, but first we get a re-match of the final, also for RVD's Intercontinental Championship.  Paul Heyman makes his first appearance as Lesnar's manager, interferes when it looks like his client is going to get pinned, and suffers at the hand of his former employee for his troubles.

Becoming the youngest WWE Champion in the aforementioned Rock bout, he feuded with Kurt Angle and regained the title, that he lost to The Big Show, at WrestleMania XIX.  Angle returned from injury to challenge for the title at SummerSlam 2003 in our fourth match of the disc, a classic bout that for its amateur grappling influence in which Kurt reclaimed his crown.  After Brock became champ for the third time, he defended the title in WWE's brutal first ever Biker Chain Match against The Undertaker at No Mercy 2003. Like most Superstars of the nineties and noughties, he faces an Undertaker acting as the gatekeeper to greatness.

Greatness is not necessarily a barrier to disillusionment though, and Brock's exit feud with Goldberg following his title loss to Eddie Guerrero is dealt with the haste of distaste to round out Disc 1.

Disc two begins with Brock's return in 2012, and his feud with Triple H over his lack of respect and outrageous contract demands; their visceral meeting at SummerSlam 2012 is first up, the match ending with Lesnar breaking Hunter's arm for the second time within a few months, and the subsequent fantastic feud-ender in a Steel Cage at Extreme Rules 2013 upon HHH's return.

With Lesnar's return, his former mouthpiece, Paul Heyman, reprised his role too, abandoning his managerial duties to CM Punk in the process.  The former 'Paul Heyman Guy' meets 'The Beast' in a No Disqualification Match
 from SummerSlam 2013 , in which Punk's resilience and determination are the only defence against being rag-dolled by the bigger Beast.

The fourth and final match on disc two is the shocking Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXX (2014) where Brock stunned the WWE Universe by beating the Dead-man’s WrestleMania Streak to become the One in 21-and-1, and 'Eat, Sleep, Conquer, Repeat' became 'Eat, Sleep, Conquer the Streak.'  Whether you consider this a sad conclusion to the Streak or a 'passing of the torch', it is undoubtedly one of the most significant matches of modern history for its conspicuous controversy.

The third Disc starts with Brock's WWE World Heavyweight Championship victory over John Cena at SummerSlam 2014, truncating the offence of Cena with 16 suplexes and two F-5s to utterly rule the match and start his fourth title reign.  The Triple Threat Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at the following Royal Rumble (Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins) is hard-hitting for a modern-day WWE fight, but Lesnar overcomes a bust rib to make sure he faces Rumble winner Reigns at Wrestlemania XXXI in a bloody encounter. This match spawned the 'Suplex City' catchphrase with Lesnar's opening ringside threats.  Seth Rollins finally cashes in his 'Money in the Bank' contract to interject himself late in the match to opportunistically steal the title with his 'fresh legs'.

Despite running wild on the following RAW when Rollins refused his re-match request, Brock finally gets his wish at Battleground in July, taking Rollins to the, now legendary, Suplex City (13 this time) before Undertaker gets some slight revenge for his Streak loss by costing The Beast the championship in interfering. It sets up one last match between the two historical foes, and this time it is Hell in a Cell. Notably, all three discs finish with Brock beating the Dead-man; however the fact that it is the Undertaker's own 'back yard' of The Cell that gives this a finality that the feud needed, and really underlines the dominance of Lesnar over an athlete that has consistently maintained his position at the top of the WWE Roster.

Each match of this DVD set is interspersed with vignettes of Lesnar (some new, some not) in various interviews, and well compiled highlights of the build-up to each match.  Although that means a lot of recycled footage, WWE have avoided repetition from the 'Here Comes the Pain' DVD in disc One, and used  what they have to build a compelling narrative for his more recent matches.  Brock fans, and those of us that love a 'Big Fight Feel' to a main event, will love this set, but with little new footage collectors and completists might not snap this one up.

Out now in various DVD and BluRay options from www.WWEDVD.co.uk!

Sunday, 9 October 2016

WWE SummerSlam 2016 DVD Review By Tim Ricketts

WWE's latest DVD release takes us to the Biggest Event of the Summer – SummerSlam 2016 from Brooklyn, New York – in the wake of the company's second Brand Split.  RAW has seen SmackDown Live draft both the WWE (World) Championship and Intercontinental, leaving it with only the US Title for male singles competition, so will be crowning the first WWE Universal Champion here in addition to the usual title bouts.

The Main Event is a showcase match however, between the returning Randy Orton versus Brock Lesnar fresh off his much-publicised UFC200 match and USADA infraction, which Orton has been using to cheekily taunt Lesnar.  Notably, these Superstars of decade-plus standing have never met in a major match despite the parallels in their WWE careers.

The card also features the SmackDown ladies in 6-woman tag-team action, John Cena and AJ Styles continue their rivalry, with Enzo & Big Cass tackling the burgeoning Canadian super-team of JeriKO.  With 13 matches scheduled (over 2 discs) the action should come thick and fast for one of WWE's 'Big Four' events.

After an intro filled with Big Apple iconography, and a highlight run-down through the upcoming matches, we get our first match:

Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. JeriKO (Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens) [RAW]

Enzo and Cass, being the excellent mic-men that they are, pick up on the New-York theme with a fantastic Sinatra-inspired familiar in-ring promo, the inevitable conclusion being that JeriKO are S.A.W.F.T!  I swear that the WWE haven't seen this level of catchphrase crowd interaction since the hey-day of the New Age Outlaws, superb stuff.

The match itself was showed why both teams should potentially worry the Champs, the New Day, Enzo & Cass cementing their fan-favourite status with deadly double-teaming, Cass in particular a dominant threat with his size and strength, picking up his opponents and partner to use as projectile weapons over the ropes with consummate ease.  JeriKO respond with guile and Machiavellian tactics, applying their nous and experience to test Enzo Amore's copious resilience by trapping him in their corner by any means necessary.

Brawls break out around the ring, leading to a devastating cannonball from Kevin Owens on Big Cass into the barricade, leaving Enzo stranded with JeriKO.  KO launches Amore air-bound, to land crashing into Chris's Codebreaker and prone for Jericho to pin. A nicely executed match to start the show and pump the viewer.

Sasha Banks (c) vs. Charlotte – WWE Woman's Championship [RAW]

A quick highlight package of these athletes' heated feud, including Banks' recent championship win on RAW, is followed by some in-ring verbal sparring as the announcer is reading the billing. These aren't the only signs of how heated their rivalry has become, the opening minutes of the bout is fast ans frenetic with traded counters and pin attempts. That is right up to a nasty slip by Charlotte up high on the turnbuckles, dropping Sasha on the ropes which catapulted her to the mat head-first and uncontrolled, wrenching her back and neck in the impact.

This noticeably changes the pace of the match, every stretch and backbreaker bringing a wince to my face as Charlotte takes advantage of the injury, grinding away at Banks.  With Dana Brooke barred from ringside, this looks like a good substitute for the 'leveller' she's used to getting.  It's not all one way traffic though, any opportunity Sasha Banks has she goes for the high impact, first countering a Razor's Edge from the cornerpost into a Frankensteiner, followed shortly after with flying double knees to the former champion's chest on the unforgiving ringside floor. It takes more out of her than it does Ms. Flair, Charlotte finally countering a Bank Statement submission into a pin to regain the Title and maintain her unbeaten singles PPV streak.

The legitimate looking injury added an extra layer of gruesome interest to this match, which still managed to be impressively athletic despite its sometimes necessarily stilted nature.

The followers of Japanese and independent wrestling are treated to a little inside joke vignette. AJ is having a chat with The Club 'doctors' backstage, when fellow former Bullet Club member Finn Balor stops by then walks away without acknowledging the teased 'Too Sweet' hand-gestures. Sure to raise as many eyebrows as it does smiles.

The Miz (w/Maryse) (c) vs. Apollo Crews- WWE Intercontinental Championship [SD]

The slightly flat premise for this match is that five time and current Intercontinental champion, The Miz, is mixing up Apollo Crews for Apollo Creed, the Rocky film-franchise antagonist. Crews is understandably irked by this show of unrepentant unprofessionalism.

The Miz starts aggressively, pinning back the physically impressive Crews until he manages a pin attempt against the run of dominance.  Miz tries an Axe-handle smash from the turnbuckle, but is met mid-air with a drop-kick.  He counters one standing Moonsault, but succumbs to Apollo's second attempt to send him running scared for the entranceway.  Crews is having none of it, drags the champ back to the ring, but gets distracted by Maryse as he enters the ropes. A fatal mistake, as one Skull-crushing Finale later, Miz has the pinfall victory to retain.

Quite frankly, a match that was as inspirational as the premise it was built on.

John Cena vs. AJ Styles [SD]

These two leading lights of SmackDown Live have been feuding for months, without definitive result, but the recent roster split has bereft Styles of his backup in the form of The Club, so this could be the match to put this rivalry to bed, considering they'll be tied up in the following bout.

The opening tie-up is pretty even, with Cena stronger and AJ quicker, but that isn't where the deadlock ends.  Both athletes pull out their extensive arsenals immediately, although each is countered into another then back into yet more.  An Attitude Adjustment is met with a Styles Clash or Suplex to the apron, while Styles' springboard attacks are countered into an STF or even an astonishing Canadian Destroyer-esque manoeuver.  If that was Cena reaching deep into the weapons locker, then he did again moments later cracking out a Tornado DDT.

You can't crack out the big guns early without it taking its toll, but these two kept picking themselves up and increasing the calibre. A springboard Frankensteiner from Styles couldn't keep Cena's shoulders down, but neither could the return Super-AA floor Styles.  It finally took a combination of finishers, a Clash followed by the Phenomenal Forearm to put pay to John Cena, a fair and square pinfall.  Distraught and despondent, Cena leaves his 'Never Give Up' sweatband on the canvas before following the victorious Styles up the ramp.  In my opinion, the spiralling knife-edge one-upmanship makes this match a modern classic.

The New Day (Xavier Woods & Kofi Kingston w/Jon Stewart) (c) vs. The Club (Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows) – WWE Tag Team Championship [RAW]

Before the teams come out, Jon Stewart comes to the ring and reveals himself to be standing in for Big E, due to his groinal incapacitation with 'Ringpostitis' caused by The Club, before introducing The New Day.  The Club are still dressed as doctors when they enter, bearing specimen jars for all (now four) New Day members. Big E's jar contains two humorously over-sized spheres, whilst similarly Stewart's jar is hilariously small.

Xavier Woods gets an early pin attempt on Karl Anderson, his partner returning the favour before the match gets some double-team chaos.  When semblance of order is restored, The Club keep Kofi Kingston away from a tag, before he gets a retaliatory strike against Luke Gallows to provoke a double hot-tag situation. Woods leaps three-quarters of the way across the ring to land a tightrope elbowdrop on Anderson.

A follow-up Kingston pin attempt is broken up by Gallows to set up the Magic Killer double team move, but before the legal Club-man can get in a pin, Jon Stewart rushes the ring (despite his promises of non-interference) and draws their ire.  Cue a run-in from a returning Big E, to save Stewart from a bad case of Ringpostitis, and cause a DQ victory for The Club. A pretty average match, and the mix of New Day and Club antics are always likely to cause dubious finishes, as in this case.

Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler – WWE World Championship [SD]

A highlight video of Ziggler's notable successes and numerous frustrations lead us in to this match, but the real heat can be felt as the SmackDown management team of Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon are needed to keep the two competitors separate before the bell.

Dolph uses the technical ability of his amateur background to good effect, whilst Ambrose resorts to his strong suit too  and takes the match to ringside brawling. A Superplex from Ambrose gives him the space to slow the match, and grind Ziggler down on the mat. Ziggler responds with a sweet DDT and pulls off The Famouser on the second attempt to get Dean down for a two count.

Ambrose is constantly mocking Ziggler and has to drop down to ringside hard to break a retaliatory sleeper hold and gets a superkick for his troubles.  With both athletes battered, they return to the ring. Ziggler performs his zig zag for a pin attempt, but another sleeper can't hold Ambrose down, and neither can a superplex, as Ambrose counters into the standing position to hit the Dirty Deeds and get the victorious pin.  The match itself was definitely above average, but it didn't really feel worthy of being for this historic championship.

Becky Lynch, Naomi & Carmella vs. Alexa Bliss, Natalya & Nikki Bella [SD]

The 6 Woman tag team match featuring the SmackDown Live female roster starts with a few interesting entrances, including Naomi's excellent, rave-style Glow entrance, the billed Eva Marie being announced as on holiday in the British Isles (despite being laid off with a wellness suspension) and instead we're treated to Nikki Bella's comeback from a career-threatening neck injury.

The match itself is filled with the ladies cracking out their signature moves, to demonstrate their excellent skills, and quick tags.  Alexa Bliss is by far the smallest athlete but makes up for it by having the biggest aggressive attitude, whilst Nikki Bella seems determined to take out her pent up aggression on Carmella. Not even Becky Lynch taking on all three opponents can save her from the inevitable once she finds herself back in the ring with The Bella Twin.  A pin from the recovered Bella puts the icing on a fun and fast exhibition tag match.

'The Demon King' Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins – WWE Universal Championship [RAW]

Next up we get to see who is WWE's inaugural universal title holder and with the necessity of crowning the champion buy either pinfall or submission, it effectively makes the match no disqualification.  The match gets under-way with the controversial new title belt and the RAW management team of Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon ringside.

Finn Balor, the demon king who battled his way past the cream of the RAW roster to earn his opportunity, starts aggressively trying to apply stomps, drop-kicks and his coup de gras finisher from the outset.  Seth Rollins, the number one draft pick and automatic Challenger, responds with athletic resilience and powerful offence. A sickening blow to Balor's shoulder from Seth Rollins' bomb to the Barricades slows him only momentarily, responding with his own series of slams and throws until Rollins continues his onslaught.

Nothing can keep the supernatural demon king down though, picking himself up from a pedigree or bouncing back from a buckle bomb to launch dropkick after dropkick and stomp after stomp in return.  Even the failure of a devastating Small Package Driver has Rollins' frustration and exhaustion building, until Finn unleashes another volley of feet culminating in his coup de gras double-foot stomp, giving the former NXT champion victory over the former WWE champion, to be the first Universal champion.  A great match, where Seth Rollins' agile and usually effective attack was no match for the supernatural resilience and single-mindedness of Finn Balor.

Rusev (c) vs. Roman Reigns – WWE US Championship [RAW]

Before the ring announcer could finish his job and the timekeeper could ring the bell, Roman Reigns had launched a ringside attack on Rusev, demolishing the Bulgarian. Reigns bangs and bashes him off of every object available, leaving him with damaged ribs, unable to compete and surrounded by officials. A short, brutal, but somewhat exciting non-match.

'The Viper' Randy Orton vs. 'The Beast Incarnate' Brock Lesnar (w/Paul Heyman) [SD/RAW]

So here we are, the main event between two of 21st century wrestling's biggest names for the first time on a PPV event. A series of videos hyping the rivalry, finishing with a volley of verbal abuse from Brock Lesnar, plus the entourages ringside helps the big fight feel - and it certainly does feel more like an impending fight than a wrestling match.

From the outset, Brock seems Intent on applying his MMA style offence, sending Orton to the corners with punches, forearms and elbows. Orton himself manages to get enough space to attempt an RKO, which is deflected and only provokes Lesnar to take him to suplex City with half a dozen Germans.

The ringside area is no refuge for Randy either, Brock plucking him from the crowd to toss him through the Smackdown announce table on the second attempt, before dragging him to the ring for a 7th German suplex. The RAW announce table looks to be next, but the deadly Viper strikes with an RKO, leaving Lesnar stunned across the table instead. Back in the ring, a second RKO only serves to provoke the Beast Incarnate into an F-5.

It is at this point, with twenty-twenty hindsight, that Orton probably should have stayed down for the three-count. Brock discarded his gloves and elbow-pads and just brutalised Orton's head with a series of sickening blows, including an elbow strike that gashed deep, causing blood to pool on the canvas.  He sent the officials and doctors scattering multiple times, going back to rain down more fists.  Paul Heyman's face was ashen at his client's destruction, and not even the intervention of Shane McMahon was enough to stop the psychotic Beast, taking an unexpected F-5 to lie there nursing his ribs. Lesnar wins by TKO.

A shocking, brutal and bloody finale to this epic of an event.

But wait! There's more on this disc, the three under-card, pre-show matches included in 'Special Features' are great value for their addition.  The 12-Man SmackDown Tag match was as fast and fun as the later 6-Woman equivalent, Zayn & Neville vs. The Dudley Boyz was a good show of athleticism against experience, and the first of the, potentially epic, Best-of-Seven heavyweight series in Sheamus vs. Cesaro.

Whilst not all the matches earn the distinction of being 'Great' there are plenty of classic and shocking moments on this DVD set.  Styles versus Cena, the inaugural Universal Championship match and the bloody conclusion will all get looked upon as pivotal moments in WWE history, I'm sure, and with the bulk of the remaining matches being well constructed and entertaining, this set is fantastic value for money.

Out 10/10/2016 on www.wwedvd.co.uk.