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!

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

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

TNA Sale News By Gary R. Ward

The wrestling is world is awaiting news of TNA Wrestling impending sale, recent reports have Vince McMahon and the WWE as potential new owners but I've been told from a reliable source that the sale was actually completed last night, with Billy Corgan.

Now the sale is said to be extremely complicated with the level of debt at TNA being more than it possible sale value, from what I understand Billy Corgan is the new TNA owner and has put up the money for Fridays Bound For Glory PPV event, while no official announcement has been made it seems the likely reason that has Billy Corgan join several radio shows today and tomorrow.

Other rumours that came out this morning were that Vince and WWE had acquired the TNA video library to assist with the debts being cleared and Billy Corgan buying the company which includes the talent contacts, while this seems a good deal for everyone involved it seems a while too complicated to complete what with Aroluxe still owning part of the company aswell.

Now there is alot of rumours floating around, I can confirm the information is from a person working inside TNA who was told last night of the sale.

What will Billy Corgan has in store as the companies new owner ? Tell will tell but personally the wrestling world needs TNA around and health so it can be an alternative place for wrestlers to grow and develop, while giving us fans other options than a monopolized industry completely.

Now lets all get behind Billy Corgan/TNA and its resurgence starting this Sunday at Bound For Glory.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

WWE Battleground DVD Review by Tim Ricketts

The background of Battleground gives us an exciting proposition for this event: the return of the Brand Split to WWE.  Held less than a week after the roster draft, Battleground offers us the chance to see the end of long-running feuds, decisive matches regarding the future destination of championships and the presumable final matches of some factions and tag-teams.

Charlotte & Dana Brooke vs. Sasha Banks & Mystery Partner

The show opens with a tag match featuring the WWE Women's Champion Charlotte and Dana Brooke against title contender 'The Boss' Sasha Banks with a mystery partner, continuing Banks' and Charlotte's ongoing rivalry.  The overwhelming sense of anticipation for this bout however lay in the unknown competitor, so when the music of the un-drafted, former NXT Women's Champion Bayley hit, the pop from the crowd was enormous! 

The match itself seemed  like an opportunity to advance the notable feud and introduce Bayley to the wider WWE Universe rather than any great technical exposition.  The competitors, familiar with their time together in NXT, faced each other in turn, but other than Dana Brooke breaking up the first Bank Statement on Charlotte by nefarious means, there was little action of consequence, and the Sasha's second attempt at her submission finisher was successful.  A great pop to open the show, it's just a shame the match wasn't to the same level.

The New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods) vs. The Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt, Erick Rowan & Braun Strowman)

The second match is a non-title, 6-man tag match between the champions New Day and the Wyatt Family, and is notable as the probable end to their feud as the draft has split the Wyatts.  We're shown footage of their 'Compound' match, which has left Xavier Woods without his normal effervescent positivity.  In fact, the opening of the match leaves no doubt that Woods is petrified as he freezes into inaction.

Kofi Kingston and Big E do their best to work around the gradually recovering Xavier, that is until a huge spear from Big E leaves Woods alone in the ring with Bray Wyatt.  In the creepy way that only Bray can achieve, he sends him back to square one by dropping into his spider walk and hitting the Sister Abigail's Kiss.  An adequate match, but it could have been so much better.

Rusev (w/Lana) vs. Zack Ryder – WWE US Championship

Our third match is for the US Title, currently in the possession of RAW's recently-married Rusev, ably and personally announced his by wife Lana, against Smackdown Live's perennial underdog Zack Ryder who parades his red-white-and-blue ring attire with the obvious patriotic pomp.

Rusev grapples Ryder on the mat in the early stages, applying his superior upper-body strength to gain dominance, whilst Ryder mainly counters with resounding strikes, kicks and knees until he finally manages a Broski Boot on the second attempt.  Ringside, the Bulgarian Brute leaves Long Island Iced Z painfully dropped across the barrier, only to get a superb dropkick to the face in return.  A Rough Ryder leaves Rusev prone but able to counter the follow up Elbrodrop.

The Accolade is inevitable though, and following a kick to Zack's head Rusev locks it on, however he needs to fully snap it back to make the resilient Ryder tap out and keep the title on RAW.  Incensed, the Bulgarian refuses to release the hold until Mojo Rawley (Ryder's tag partner) hypes down to the ring to stare him out.

Seth Rollins is backstage with Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon and is bullishly ebullient about his chances of bringing the WWE Championship to RAW.  This is followed by highlights of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn's feud throughout NXT and the main roster to bring us up to speed for the next match.

Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn

These two have a long and storied history together, and even casual fans probably know by now that a match between them will see them try and knock the proverbial lumps out of each other, and this match starts no different both in and out of the ring.  Kevin Owens takes advantage of a Zayn high risk climb 'up top' to drop him apex first on to the ropes to gain his first spell of dominance, all the time mocking both Zayn and the crowd, whilst delivering cannonballs and sentons where possible.

Sami slips mid-springboard-moonsault and lands awkwardly on his recently repaired shoulder, so KO starts targeting it single-mindedly.  Zayn manages a Blue Thunder Bomb, Brainbuster to the apron and even attempts one of his through-the-ropes Torando DDTs only to meet Owens' foot and a follow-up cannonball.  Zayn finally catches Owens with a sweet suplex to the turnbuckles, leaving him dazed and open for the Helluvakick which is an obviously agonising decision for Sami, but rather more steeled, he delivers a determined second kick and pins his rival for the three-count.  A superb, and possibly final, instalment in this interminable feud.

We get some punditry on the matches so far from the Kickoff Show panel, and highlights of the pre-show victory for Breezango over the Usos.

Natalya vs. Becky Lynch

Smackdown Live's nascent Women's division is represented by Natalya and Becky Lynch settling their differences after their Money in the Bank mix-up.   Lynch starts the bout in aggressive style, striking and kicking Natalya with a waist-lock takedown for a pin attempt.  The Canadian uses the ropes well, both to break the Irish Lass-kicker's holds and to apply leverage in her own, and works over Lynch's leg obsessively.

Becky opportunistically counters and executes an Enziguri and an Exploder Suplex for a two count, but Natalya's groundwork for the Sharpshooter pays off, locking it in mid-ring and getting the submission on the second attempt.   In my opinion, this was a much better match than RAW's female offering, both technically and in the psychology.  A short but impressive match.

The Miz (w/Maryse) vs. Darren Young (w/Bob Backlund) – WWE Intercontinental Championship

Darren Young unexpectedly won a Battle Royale two weeks prior to this event, not knowing it would be for a chance to bring the Samckdown-bound Intercontinental Championship to RAW, but looked determined in the opening stages to do just that by aggressively taking the fight to the champ.  As usual, it takes a little interjection by his wife for the Miz to gain any kind of dominance, shoving Young hard to the floor from the cornerpost after a distraction.  Miz dominates the ringside brawling, but loses control of the match again when the action gets back between the ropes.

Frustrated with his lack of demonstrable prowess, the Miz tries to walk from the match, but finds his path blocked by Young's mentor Bob Backlund.  He returns to the ring, but whilst his back is turned, Maryse pretends that she was struck by the former WWF Champion.  Both Backlund and Miz are incensed and confront each other, however, Darren Young is livid.  He locks the Cross-face-Chickenwing in on Miz just as the ref throws the match out as a No Contest.

John Cena, Enzo & Big Cass vs. AJ Styles & the Club

With John Cena and AJ Styles heading to Smackdown but the Club and Enzo & Cass heading to Monday Night, this is a last chance for the former New Japan boys to #BeatUpJohnCena.  We're treated to quite probably the best Enzo Amore (and to a great extent, Big Cass) pre-match promo to-date, including plenty of medical and 'Soccer Mom' analogies, and the excellent advice to '...never make eye-contact with anyone, while eating a banana!'

Enzo and Cass make good going early on against the Club members, Cass even using his partner and AJ as projectile weapons, before Enzo becomes trapped by the experienced tag techniques of the Club.  When the hot tag to John Cena finally arrives, he springs into immediate action with a five-knuckle-shuffle and an attempt at an AA on AJ.  Styles counters into a stunning bicycle kick.

A period of breakdown and interference leads to Cena being left back in the ring with AJ, Styles hitting the 'Clash for a Pin-attempt. Just to note, that has to be the smoothest Styles-Clash on a big-guy that I have seen.  Big Cass pays for breaking up the pin by taking a Magic Killer from the Club for his efforts, before Enzo retaliates to leave the legal men in the ring.  AJ gets to his feet first and heads to the higher-ground of the cornerpost, only to be caught out by the recovering Cena.  A Super-Attitude-Adjustment is enough to wipe out Styles and get the win with a mid-ring pin.  Excellently executed six-man tag, with a little bit of everything barring some chain-wrestling.

Chris Jericho's Highlight Reel feat. Randy Orton

We have a special Battleground version of Chris Jericho's Highlight Reel next, to celebrate Randy Orton's return from a 9-month injury lay-off and promote his upcoming match with Brock Lesnar at Summerslam.  Whilst pointing out that it may take 15 or 20 suplexes to arrive at Suplex City, Randy commented ' only takes one RKO to get to ViperVille... No Enhancement Needed...' followed by an actual Mic drop.  What a stunning dig, with even Orton admitting he might pay for it!  Randy provides us with a much teased RKO on Y2J to wrap the segment.

Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns – WWE Championship

Our Main Event is a No-DQ Triple-Threat for the WWE Championship, with many excellent angles on it to whet the whistle.  Firstly, if either challenger dethrones Smackdown's Dean Ambrose, the historic title will be heading to RAW instead. Second is the opportunistic events surrounding Ambrose's win at Money in the Bank, where all three of tonight's competitors were champion within a ten minute window.  Finally we have the fact that these three were once a very successful faction in the form of the SHIELD.

The match itself is fast-paced and balanced, Ambrose brawling well, Rollins stunning with his high-flying athleticism and Reigns, back from a 30-day 'Wellness' suspension, taking out his obvious frustration with explosive power; all demonstrating the complementary styles that made them such a great team.  Ambrose launches himself via the commentary desks on to the RAW pair, brawling in the Timekeepers' area, to good effect, and the announcers' tables are put to good effect again as Ambrose and Rollins team up SHIELD-style on Reigns to try and keep it one-on-one.

It was Ambrose however, biding his time whilst recovering ringside, that took advantage of Reigns wiping out Seth with a Spear to employ his own Dirty Deeds and get the 3-count.  Fantastically well executed Triple-threat that delivered a lot of uncertainty and suspense with the fast and brutal action.  Looks like RAW will have to get their own senior male championship!


A significant point in WWE history demands a decent Pay-Per-View event to mark it, and by-and-large this delivered, with the Zayn/Owens match, the failure to #BeatUpJohnCena and the Main Event all outstanding.  Seeing where the chips fall regarding championships was also a great hook, and gives this its particular place in history.

Available now from

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The History of the WWE Hardcore Championship Review by Tim Ricketts

Wrestling Championships have, historically, been treated with a lot of reverence, respect and seriousness – rightly so, given that they represent being at the zenith of a promotion or division – but with this DVD we are being presented with the Championship that was as mould-breaking as the Era from which it was borne.  The WWE Hardcore Championship, initially conceived as a creative opportunity to capitalise on Mick Foley's hardcore heritage, injected unpredictability, humour and relevance as it picked up on the wrestling zeitgeist of ECW and presented it to a wider audience.  This should be 3 discs of pure nostalgia, brutality and, above all, fun.

With previous 'History of...' offerings majoritively being match compilations linked by studio-based segues from luminaries like Jim Ross or JBL, this rightly differs with a unique take on the format.  After the standard 'Then, Now, Forever,' 'Don't try this at home,' and a quick introductory highlight-reel, the inaugural champion, Mick Foley, appears in a somewhat derelict – or as he puts it 'post-apocalyptic' – warehouse.  He, in turn, introduces the final champ, Rob Van Dam and the 39-reign record holder Raven as they take their seats around a scrap-lumber table bedecked with a replica Hardcore belt.  So we're in for a round-table discussion as well as no-holds-barred action; this should add some welcome flavour to a match compilation DVD, considering that these three Legends are not only appropriately experienced in the division, but also represent three distinct periods in it.

So after a brief discussion between the three hosts regarding their relationships with the Title at hand, we head to the real nitty-gritty: around 50 matches over 3 disks, many with multiple title changes, interspersed by the 'studio' discussion.  Disc one covers the origins of the Title being awarded to Mankind for his solitary reign, through two absolute classic Al Snow matches, first against Road Dogg ending up in the snow, then against Bob Holly ending up in the Mississippi river!

Hardcore Holly deservedly becomes the focus for a while; his transformation from Thurmann 'Sparky' Plugg was firmly established between the ill-fated Brawl-for-All and subsequent exploits in the hardcore division, even taking on his former tag-partner (and fellow legitimate bad-ass) Bart Gunn.  'Hardcore' isn't the only kayfabe cousin in the Holly family with heritage in this Championship though, as Crash Holly's rise brought in the 24/7 rule.  If, as previously discussed by the panel, the No-disqualification, falls-count-anywhere nature of the title was a huge creative release, then the addition of round-the-clock defences (providing proximal referee access) was a creative explosion.  The remainder of the first disc is dedicated to these fun, fast and frenetic fights, the obvious highlights of which are Crash being ambushed by The Mean Street Posse at an Airport luggage carousel, and by The Headbangers in a kids' ball pit.

The early days of the WWE Hardcore Championship were marked with backstage brawling and the ridiculous locations of the 24/7 free-for-all, but we start to move on from that in disc two as the style progressed (or regressed, depending on your view) more to bringing your weapons to the ring.  The first featured Superstar is 'The Lethal Weapon' Steve Blackman, who held the title a record number of days, including his outstanding feud with Shane McMahon (cue trademark Shane-o-Mac long drop) and a very good triple-threat-cum-handicap-match against Edge & Christian.

The spotlight moves on again, this time to Raven, who's presence on the hosting panel allows some extra insight into his perspective of the Hardcore Championship as well as the well-chosen example matches, before we hit the heady-heights of early 2001.  If the Hardcore title had started as a rib but gained acceptance as a significant mid-card championship, then it was about to peak as WWE's main-event talent got involved in the picture: Wrestlemania X-7 featured a hardcore triple-threat (with brief punditry from the panel) and we're given matches involving Big Show, Kane and Y2J to round out the disc.

With the influx of wrestlers from ECW and WCW during the Invasion of 2001, in particular the talent with ECW heritage, we have yet another change of style and increase in pace for the first part of disc three, Jeff Hardy also adding his brand of TLC in bouts against Mike Awesome and RVD.  Rob Van Dam cut himself a solid niche in the division at this time, he gets to explain how important that was himself before examples against Tajiri, Kurt Angle, The Rock and The Undertaker.  Not only did these project him in to the main event picture, it seems to me that the Jeff Hardy and RVD matches on this DVD set-up the prevailing WWE hardcore style over the coming years, of Tables, Ladders and Chairs, in effect today more than ever.  Van Dam himself at least concurs that both his and Hardy's ideas were in the same zone of 'cool'.

The Undertaker's single but durational reign is briefly highlighted, with the Legend in 'American Bad-ass' mode and giving the Championship another Main-Event feel, even as Maven finally dethrones him.  Within weeks of this however the Brand Extension occurs, giving life once more to the 24/7 rule and rapid-fire title changes; even interviewer Terri 'Marlena' Runnels manages to have an opportunistic reign.

The fun times wouldn't last forever though; the Brand Extension was a new era for the expanded WWE, and with the many inherited championships amongst the spoils of the Monday Night War it was only natural that some would be unified in the spirit of rationalisation. On RAW August 26 2002, The WWE Hardcore Championship became the third title unified with the Intercontinental within 10 months, in an absolutely fitting send-off match between Tommy Dreamer and Rob Van Dam that famously left Dreamer in tears.

Whilst the Championship lineage died out only four years after establishment, its influence is still felt today in our contemporary TLC and Extreme Rules pay-per-views.  It usually forms a large part of any Attitude Era Fan's nostalgia, and for good reason: it was a breath of fresh air that provided genuine 'attitude' as well as novel matches. Also it provided something that WWE has since lacked: situations and settings that could be creatively exploited without it being at the expense of either wrestler's character, particularly with humour.  You could throw the most po-faced of athletes into 24/7-rule hilarity, but it wouldn't tarnish their character because they were just reacting to the same crazy dilemmas as anyone else.  At least we have this nigh-on nine-hour gem to remind us of these fantastic times, talents and all-out fights; quite literally the best WWE DVD set released in years.

Available now from

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

WWE Money In The Bank 2016 DVD Review By Tim Ricketts

For the past eleven years, WWE have held an annual Ladder Match with the prize of a cash-in contract for the WWE Championship, held in a 'Money in the Bank' briefcase above the ring. A significant reward for an important match, so it's no surprise that it has often been a feature match at Wrestlemania or, as in this case, its own event. With past Money in the Banks not necessarily living up to their potential to be explosive, it has often led to them being considered one of the 'lesser' events in the WWE calendar, but I disagree.  The contracts themselves are a significant prize (q.v. Seth Rollins' run as 'Mr. Money in the Bank') and on the night cash-ins have happened before if you're not a fan of these extended Title-esque runs too.  The point is that this event injects a wild-card sense of anticipation to the WWE title picture from the moment a wrestler successfully climbs that ladder.

If the premise alone doesn't whet your appetite sufficiently, then we also have an under-card featuring a Fatal 4-Way for the Tag Titles, more tag action involving the Woman's Champion Charlotte and some recent contenders for her title, a Cena-Styles 'dream' match, a US Championship match and a main-event of the former SHIELD brethren, Reigns and Rollins, for the WWE Championship.

As 'Extra Features' are Blu-Ray exclusive, I shall dive right into the event!

Tag Championship Fatal 4-Way
The New Day (c) vs. Enzo & Big Cass vs. The Vaudevillans vs. The Club

The New Day and Enzo Amore warm up the crowd well for this, with their usually good promo patter being on form.  The Club being involved also reduces their chances of interfering with the Styles-Cena match later, which is probably a good thing, if not for Styles, then for Cena.

This is a great match to kick the DVD off, as it is action packed from beginning to end. With plenty of in-ring work, ringside cheating, double-teaming, interrupted counts and the best of both four-way and tag-team styles applied. With only 20-odd days left until they (potentially) beat the record-length WWE Tag Title reign, it's no surprise that The New Day go all out to retain their belts.

Following a back-stage interview that just ends in insults between Owens, Del Rio and Jericho, we have:

Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin

Despite winning the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at Wrestlemania, the WWE crowd have not taken too well to Baron Corbin, and they let him know here.  The raucous jeers don't put him off as he deflects Ziggler's plucky attack, time and time again. Dolph's resilience is well known though, and he keeps at the tall NXT graduate with his agile offence, until a slip on the ring steps leads to a Deep Six to the floor from Corbin. Neither competitor held back, but after repeated attempts, Corbin hit the End-of-Days for the 1-2-3.

Natalya & Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte & Dana Brooke

After Dana Brooke took over Ric Flair's duties in interfering in his daughter's matches, both Natalya and Becky have a major grievance with her and Charlotte.  This tag match was classic bad-guys versus good-guys and all the tactics that this entails.  Lynch and Natalya for their part keep it clean, fast and dexterous, whilst Brooke and Charlotte remain true to type in order to cheat, distract and eventually steal the win after the ref's back was turned.

Apollo Crews vs. Sheamus

The Irishman has an issue with these 'New Era' NXT guys coming through and taking his spot, so he's taking it out on Crews.  The strapping underdog with the mile-wide smile is having none of it though; belying his un-favoured billing he takes the match to his more experienced, multi-time Champion opponent for a deceptively even bout.

As Sheamus' experience starts to tell, he puts a brutal White Noise on Apollo for a two-count.  Sheamus shouldn't have tried to argue with the referee for as long as he did though, Crews cheekily grabbing him from the mat for a roll-up pin.

John Cena vs. AJ Styles

Prior to this 'Dream Match,' AJ Styles was given the opportunity to sign one of two contracts: one for Cena vs. The Club or Cena vs. Styles.  Styles chose to go it alone and prove what a bonafide Superstar he is, foregoing the assistance of Gallows and Anderson.

This match was one of terrific work-rate, and good quality, with trademark moves in abundance. Both proved to the house crowd how good they are, even if it was not quite the 'Wrestlemania quality' many had hoped for.  Finally, and with AJ out of it, the Club did make a run-in to cost Cena victory.  Styles capitalised on it to steal the win, but was it valid enough to be the proof he needs from himself in the long run?

Money in the Bank Ladder Match:
Cesaro vs. Zayn vs. Ambrose vs. Del Rio vs. Owens vs. Jericho

Ladder Matches with this many competitors are often fast-paced frenetic things and this captures that to a tee, with plenty of early ringside action.  Whilst the ring is still relatively clear of ladders, and the corners filled with staggered athletes, we're treated to Uppercut, Cannonball, Helluva Kick and Cesaro Spin Parties. When the ladders do come into play, no body escapes a painful blow, either on to, or from one; Del Rio locks in a cross-arm-breaker through one, and The Lunatic Fringe elbow drops from the top of one!

Kevin Owens and Sammy Zayn continue their perennial feud in this match too. Zayn delivered a particularly nasty Michinoku Driver, which left Owens draped over the side-edge of the ladders in agony, only moments after he'd Frog-splashed Ambrose.

The zenith of this match comes when all six men are battling atop two ladders, dropping one by one until only Ambrose and Owens are left, the former SHIELD man grabbing the Canadian through the top rungs and smashing him unconscious.  Taking the briefcase and the opportunity, Dean Ambrose also adds a new potential threat to the main event.

US Championship Match:
Titus O'Neil vs. Rusev.

The opening blows of this bout sets the tone, as both competitors lay prone from a double lariat on to the ringside matting.  Strong, hard strikes and kicks are the signature of this brutal encounter, Rusev using them to take it to the mat for a submission, while Titus makes several creditable attempts to finish the Bulgarian Brute with some slam variations.  On his second attempt at applying the Accolade, Rusev squeezes the submission from the challenger to extend his impressive US Title run.

WWE Championship:
Roman Reigns (c) vs. Seth Rollins

Seth Rollins, back from injury and determined to regain the belt he was stripped of, has Reigns firmly in his sights. However, Roman has other ideas; even if he has given up trying to win over the still largely hostile WWE Universe, he still needs to prove that he actually is 'the Guy' by putting away this particular personal demon.

Roman Reigns starts the match with methodical control, making every strike, kick and manoeuvre as hard as possible, Rollins only retaliating occasionally on the counter.  The brutalised Architect finally establishes himself on to the match with some high-flying action from the turnbuckle to remind his former SHIELD team-mate why he was champ too, even so far as to successfully test his injury by using the buckle-bomb that put him out.

These two impressive athletes took each other to the point of exhaustion, Roman following Seth to ringside as he tried to escape for some respite, only to put himself through the barricade as the wily Rollins dodged.  Incensed, Reigns takes it to Rollins back in the ring, fails to get the pin as the referee is knocked down, so goes for the Spear. Mid-air, the staggered Seth reacts instinctively to turn it into a Pedigree. One repetition on Roman is enough to get the pin, vindication and the Title.

This story isn't over yet though.  The 'forgotten man' of the SHIELD trio, fresh with the opportunity of Money in the Bank, adds one last twist to the proceedings.  Dean Ambrose's music hits, as does the briefcase with Rollins' head, and all it takes for us to have our third WWE Champion of the evening is one sweetly struck Dirty Deeds!


This show has some great twists, a brilliant climax and the build for Ambrose's opportunistic success, all of which will be remembered well for their execution and passion.

While some reviewers have pointed out that the Network has removed some of the shine from DVD releases, I would argue that they still play as important a role as ever.  If you are a big fan of the SHIELD, and in particular Dean Ambrose, then this is an absolute treat, or just as a self-contained one-off watch for a beautiful underdog story.  This is much better than average fare from a PPV that isn't a 'Big Four' and well worth adding to your collection.

Available for pre-order in the UK now from ( from £12.99. Out 22/8/2016.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Attitude Era Volume 3: Unreleased DVD Review By Tim Ricketts

When I received this DVD set to review, I honestly had no preconceptions of it: whilst the first two volumes of the Attitude Era were respectively excellent and very good, recent WWE DVD offerings have had a tendency to repetitively use the same footage to cover the late 90's, with different opinions attached to the surrounding Vox Pops.  At the very least this set promised to take a different approach to that, if the 'Unreleased' moniker is anything to go by.  The DVD menu is well presented, as usual for a WWE release, and each disc's Chapters screen is well defined with full match details.

Disc One

The DVD is presented by the rising star of the WWE presenting team, Corey Graves, who introduces the concept of this compilation: the matches featuring Attitude Era stars that never made it past the editing suite.  Foreign Tours, PPV 'dark' matches, non-televised 'house shows' all finally get to see the light of day, and for those of you not as aged as this toothless old badger, Corey informs us about the vagaries of Hi-8 video too.  They've polished up that 'ancient' video technology as well as possible for the first match, 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin versus Bret Hart in Germany from the 1996 European tour.  A ringside camera captured a match that is a good example of the mat-based styles both were using at the time, and a fairly good way to kick-off the DVD.

Graves gives us some background on Undertaker and Mankind's feud, as we move on to match two, a 'dark' match (an non-broadcast match from a TV or Pay-per-View event) between them from In Your House: Good Friends, Better Enemies.  This first meeting was only a taste of the hardcore nightmare that would be their Hell-in-a-Cell bout a year-or-so down the line, but good value in it's own right.

The next two matches, from WWE's 1996 visit to Kuwait, both play massively to the tour crowd. Undertaker and Bret Hart versus the British Bulldog and Owen Hart is the classic fan-favourites against despised villains, both in the build-up and match tactics, whilst Million Dollar Champion 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels go at it full throttle for the WWE Championship.

At this point in the DVD, it is pretty clear that we are not going to be getting the 'luxuries' here like commentary or the WWE's usual multiple cameras, but if you watch a lot of Independent Wrestling, like me, then it's probably something you can live with.  The other obvious thing is that there are technical reasons why these have not been seen before, like the lighting rig going in the previous match.

Still in 1996, we're back in the familiar WWE stomping-ground of Madison Square Garden for Ultimate Warrior's first appearance in 5 years producing an excellent match against Owen Hart to cover for the latter's legitimate injury, and an Austin versus Undertaker bout that broke down via interference, conveniently leading in to the last two matches.

Rounding out Disc One are two more In Your House dark matches. Goldust takes it to Shawn Michaels on the mic' and in the ring for the championship and lastly Michaels, again, defends against Mankind.

Disc Two

Disc Two kicks off with a bang as Bret Hart, champion Shawn Michaels and Sycho Sid face off in a triple-threat match in Toronto's Skydome; all three worked well with Bret playing up the valiant underdog role to his compatriots. This Non-televised RAW match is a bit of a corker, and certainly warmed the Canadian crowd up for the Montreal Screwjob later in the year when Michaels dives in to steal the win, as Bret tries to submit Sid.  RAW dark matches take over from In Your House on this disc, with Chainsaw Charlie (Terry Funk) making his début, just before New Years 1998, teaming with Cactus Jack, Stone Cold and Undertaker against the Nation of Domination in a solid hardcore tag-match.

An inexperienced-looking Ken Shamrock is rattled by The Rock and his Nation stable-mates at an Anaheim house-show, followed by Cactus Jack's MSG première in a Falls Count Anywhere match against Billy Gunn.  Seeing Cactus, as opposed to Mankind, carrying a bin full of weapons to the ring was beautiful sight, and the crowd produced a good atmosphere as a result.

The spotlight shifts to Triple-H in the next pair of matches.  Standing in for his Degeneration X partner, HHH takes on 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin before Shaun Michaels is due to meet him in the infamous match involving Mike Tyson, demonstrating his ability to shine on his own at that time.  This is followed by a match against the Big Show in which we get to appreciate Helmsley's technical range, in comparison to the previous match it's a switch in styles to meet the challenge of an opponent.

With WWE's late-90's boom period, it was somewhat inevitable that they would 'go public' at some point.  When they did, they did it in full Sports Entertainment style by closing Wall Street to put on a wrestling show.  For the final match on the disc, we get to see the legendary Dudley Boyz make short work of Test and Albert in front of the Stock Exchange, “Get the Tables” echoing off the building's walls!

Throughout these two discs, the matches have been punctuated by Corey Graves giving some historical perspectives directly to the camera, but also some fly-on-the-wall segments in the style of out-takes.  He wraps up the collection with one final slightly surreal moment.  These seem a little too post-modern ironically self-aware for me to 'get it', but they had my wife chuckling so I'm assuming it's just not to my taste!

Disc Three

Wait... What?  Yes, a DVD compilation of what is essentially 'Extras' content has its own 'Extras' (or 'Special Features') DVD, and as you might expect, the production errors were even more significant than in the main content. But let us not be hasty, despite not having the pinfall recorded, or a major spot or move missed, these matches are some of the most fun.

Here are my personal highlights: The exception that proves the rule, the first match on this disc is the only one with commentary and broadcast-quality production values as Yokozuna takes on The Sultan (Rikishi) in South Africa. Owen Hart and Jim Ross are a blessed delight and underline how important the vocal feedback is to the WWE product, and the local pundit is also good value for his additions.  'Stone Cold' Steve Austin, Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie versus The Rock and the New Age Outlaws was another fun but brutal encounter, even if the cameraman was often out of position. The final match in the set sees Tag Champs the Hardy Boyz in their early pomp, accompanied by Women's Champion Lita, as they demolish Lo-Down on Wall Street.

Final Thoughts

Rather than giving us the same clips recycled again for another look back at their history, WWE have really pulled out the stops to give us the polar opposite.  They may have hit the cutting-room floor for a reason, but for the wrestling archivist, completist or collector this is a little gem of uncovered history.  This is probably not one that a casual viewer could appreciate in one sitting though, the lack of polish and commentary taking the product  back to its live event roots over WWE's usual TV glitz and glamour, but with the Era's biggest Superstars going head-to-head each match has it's own individual appeal.

Available in the UK from the 8th August 2016 at from £19.99. (