Saturday, 18 February 2017

WWE 'Best PPV Matches 2016' DVD Review By Tim Ricketts.

The Best Pay-per-View Matches compilation is often one of the most worth-while DVD sets to pick up, offering up an interesting selection that chronicles the year, barring Survivor series onwards presumably for production reasons. 

This year's iteration is presented by Lita, and whilst I normally enjoy her role as a talking head on the WWE Network, this one did not suit her talents.  Her reading of an autocue was obvious, with noticeable micro-pauses that left her sounding (and often looking) slightly uncomfortable. Nevertheless, her infrequent interjections add context to this match compilation.

DVD one focuses on the Road to WrestleMania, with the first stop being the time-honoured Royal Rumble and a Last Man Standing Match for the Intercontinental Championship between Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens.  A perfectly set match for two of the roster's most inventively dangerous brawlers, in which anything available at ringside was used a weapon.  Ambrose retained the championship by sending Owens through a stack of tables, unable to respond to the ten-count. Good match to open the Rumble, and this DVD set.  A highlight package of the PPV follows, including AJ Styles' WWE debut at number 3 in the Rumble match and Triple-H winning the Championship.

AJ Styles Enters The Royal Rumble

Next up are a pair of matches from Fastlane.  Styles' initial feud with Chris Jericho is featured in their bout from this event, a nicely-paced technical exposition from these experienced ring masters, whilst the number-one contender triple-threat main event of Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns sees Reigns meeting 'The Game' at WrestleMania.  I can see why this match was included for narrative continuity, although it isn't really up to the 'best' moniker in my opinion, largely due to the pace and predictability of the conclusion.  Fastlane highlights follow, but the Network-only 'Roadblock' event is understandably omitted from this set.

A hat-trick from the record-shattering WrestleMania XXXII in Arlington, Texas, completes the first disc.  Zack Ryder finally had a pay-off for all his hard work over the years, taking Owen's Intercontinental Championship in a 7-way ladder match.  Every competitor added something acrobatically exciting to this match, and with a couple of continuing or burgeoning feuds in operation there was some good psychology too.  The Triple Threat Match for the newly-forged Women’s Championship was up to its historic importance, Charlotte defeating Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch in the gritty technical style that these revolutionary ladies have become famous for.

The Undertaker Facing Off Against Shane McMahon

 The last match of the disc is the almost nostalgic Hell in a Cell between Shane McMahon and The Undertaker.  Shane-o-Mac rolled back the years to take one of those ultra-high dives that made him so famous, but other than that, these two competitors past their prime proved they can still put on a brutal bout in the WWE's famous steel structure.

The middle DVD starts with a continuation of modern wrestling's most enduring feud.  For those not familiar with Steen versus Generico, thankfully WWE brings Owens versus Zayn with a barnstorming encounter from Payback in May.  Highlights follow, with a subsequent rematch of the Payback main event, this time an Extreme Rules bout from the Extreme Rules event.  Roman retained his championship against the on-fire AJ Styles; but with both having a point to prove about being on the top of the card, what started as a promising anything-goes brawl ended up interference-laden as first The Club, then The Usos appear.

Money in the Bank is up next with its titular 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 captured that to a tee, with plenty of early ringside action. The zenith of this match came when all six men were battling atop two ladders, dropping one by one until only Ambrose and Owens were 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, conveniently next on this DVD.

Action from The Crazy MITB Match
 
Seth Rollins, back from injury and determined to regain the belt he was stripped of, had Reigns firmly in his sights. Roman had other ideas; even if he had given up trying to win over the still largely hostile WWE Universe, he needed to prove that he actually is 'the Guy' by putting away this particular personal demon.  He started 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 established himself on to the match with some high-flying action from the turnbuckle to remind his former SHIELD team-mate why he had been champ too. Back in the ring, after some ringside brawling, Roman went for the Spear. Mid-air, the staggered Seth reacted instinctively to turn it into a Pedigree. One repetition on Roman was enough to get the pin, vindication and the Title.  This story wasn't over yet though.  Dean Ambrose's music hit, as did the MitB briefcase with Rollins' head, and all it took for us to have our third WWE Champion of the evening was one sweetly struck Dirty Deeds!

The Brand Split between RAW and SmackDown changed the layout of WWE before the next PPV, Battleground, and so the drafting of Superstars and titles came to the forefront.

The overwhelming sense of anticipation for the next bout lay in Sasha Banks' unknown teammate to face Charlotte and Dana Brooke, 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 was an opportunity to advance Charlotte and Banks' feud and introduce Bayley to the wider WWE Universe rather than any great technical exposition, compared to other Women's matches in this set.

Following up on the WWE Championship storyline, we have a No-DQ Triple-Threat match.  If either challenger dethrones SmackDown's Dean Ambrose, the historic title will be heading to RAW instead. The match was 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.  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. 

'Big Match John' versus AJ Styles at SummerSlam is probably my main-roster match of the year, so an excellent choice to start Disc three. Both athletes pulled out their extensive arsenals immediately, although each was countered into another then back into yet more.  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 left 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.

Next up we get to see WWE's inaugural Universal title holder. With the necessity of crowning the champion buy either pinfall or submission, it effectively makes the match no disqualification. Finn Balor, the demon king who battled his way past the cream of the RAW roster to earn his opportunity, started aggressively. Seth Rollins, the number one draft pick and automatic Challenger, responded with athletic resilience and powerful offence. A sickening blow to Balor's shoulder from Seth Rollins' bomb to the Barricades slowed him momentarily, and would prove to be significant in the coming days.

Finn Balor vs Seth Rollins From Summer Slam

They traded increasingly powerful manoeuvres, frustration and exhaustion building, until Finn unleashed another volley of feet which culminated in his coup de gras double-foot stomp. Former NXT champion was victory over former WWE champion, to be the first Universal champion.  A suitably great match, where Seth Rollins' agile and usually effective attack was no match for the supernatural resilience and single-mindedness of Finn Balor.  As usual, the highlight packages bookend each PPV.

September's SmackDown Live event, Backlash, is featured with a 6-Pack Challenge Match to crown the inaugural WWE Smackdown Women’s Champion.  Becky Lynch defeated Nikki Bella, Naomi, Natalya, Alexa Bliss and Carmella. While none of the women had excessive amounts of ring-time, each and every one gave enough to show exactly why they deserved to be there. In particular, the more recent NXT graduates were surprising in how aggressively engaging they were with the more experienced roster members.  The elimination stipulation also left the finish nice and clean with Lynch forcing Carmella to submit with the Dis-arm-her.

The clean finish contrasts starkly with that of the next match, the culmination of the Best of Seven Series between Cesaro and Sheamus at Clash of Champions.  Set up as a knife-edge encounter with the series at 3-3, the match itself was a take-no-prisoners brute-fest between two of RAW's rather under-appreciated heavyweights.  Rather than coming to a nice satisfying conclusion, however, the match ended when both men took a spill over the top rope and came crashing down on the floor.  A ringside Doctor declared them unable to continue. A No-Contest.  Whether this was legitimate or not, it was subsequently leveraged to pair these gents into a tag-team.

Another post-draft rivalry had formed on SmackDown, between Dolph Ziggler and intercontinental champion The Miz, culminating in a Career versus Title match at No Mercy.  Ziggler used rope-breaks well, and countered the incessant duplicity of Miz's camp (with wife Maryse and Dolph's former tag partners from the Spirit Squad interfering) to save his career and leave 'The King of Soft Style' humiliated and title-less.  Inspiring resilience from the ever durable Dolph.

The DVD set wraps up with another slice of history, as the RAW Champion Sasha Banks defends her title at Hell in a Cell, taking on Charlotte for the first women's match in the eponymous structure.  The action got started before the cell had descended, Charlotte taking it to Sasha, followed by a very long injury tease as Banks was stretchered away.  Abandoning the medics, the match finally got under-way in the cage.  This was a fully executed hardcore cell match, no halfway measures for such a momentous occasion, and a fantastic conclusion to this year's 'Best of' set.  Charlotte regained her championship, reversing Banks through a table before applying her Natural Selection finisher.

Every year, the 'Best of PPV Matches' DVDs are a fantastic summary of the most significant matches, but the 2016 vintage is a very refined one.  The acquisition of AJ Styles seems to have bought the best out of John Cena in years, the NXT production line is starting to deliver the goods on a consistent basis.  Add the continuing Women's Revolution, the Brand Split that seems to have learned the lessons of last time and a genuine atmosphere of change, and we have a collection of the best matches in years. Long may it continue.

Available now from www.WWEDVD.co.uk

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

A Woman's World: The Evolution of Womens Wrestling By Nathan K. Major


Many fans will get bleary eyed about how great the Attitude Era was, the big matches, the celebrities and the outlandish goings on are what sticks in the mind from that period of time, but not many people tend to remember the negatives about this time. Say what you want about the current product lacking a certain something, but I think we're spoiled when it comes to in-ring talent. The mid-card is filled with talented wrestlers, while others wait in the wings in NXT. The main glaring difference from the Attitude Era to now however, is this: The treatment of women.

Now, I may not be the best qualified person to speak of the injustices women face each day for daring to be different and in charge of themselves, but I am a big believer in Equality for all, and if that means I'm called a feminist then so be it, as if such a thing would be an insult. Besides, I don't tread on this sensitive topic alone, as I'm assisted on this look through history by Christy from @wrestlingsexism who is the fountain of knowledge and wisdom one needs in these situations (you can also check out Christy's blog here: www.wrestlingsexism.blogspot.nl)

Way back when, your only exposure to women in the wrestling world was WWE, and it's questionable, at best, portrayal of women, yes they had a title, but it seemed like they couldn't be on screen without Jerry Lawler (don't get me started) yelling: “Puppies!” or something along those lines, and matches would consist of slapping, hair-pulling or spanking, because women, am I right lads? The women would be paraded around in various costumes like dress your own love dolls and not one of them was treat like you know, a human being with thoughts and emotions, no, to the WWE they were just bimbo's, in the tightest costume their seamstress could make.

And then there was the piece de resistance, the Bra and Panties match, can you imagine any other workplace where this would happen? Imagine for a moment you work in an office and your boss tells Sandra from accounts that she has to work in her underwear the next day, there'd be uproar! Recently Sasha Banks came out and mentioned this on RAW, and how women had evolved, this caused former writer Vince Russo to critisise Banks' as according to Russo they 'drew money' was this justification for having these matches? Christy thinks not: “No, absolutely not. That shows you consider money more important than respecting women and treating them like human beings.”

You're probably now thinking: “It wasn't all bad, what about Trish Stratus and Lita?” Ah yes, Lita, let's explore her background shall we? The first thing that springs to mind is her story with Kane and Gene Snitsky, anyone remember that little chestnut? Of course you do, it was that time that WWE thought that a miscarriage was a great story. Long story short, Kane forcibly marries Lita, oh did I forget to mention that he WON Lita's marriage? Yes, won as if she was a prize, anyhow, Lita eventually comes round to married life and they conceive a Demon baby, until one fateful night Snitsky hits Kane with a chair and he falls on his pregnant wife. Ugh. This makes me uncomfortable just typing about it. Snitsky would go on to say: “It wasn't his fault” and punt a baby doll into the crowd, Lita however would go without getting comeuppance, I assume because WWE just saw her as a prop that can be used and then forgotten about.

That wasn't all that poor Lita had to put up with though. In 2005 Lita had an affair with Edge, while she was in a relationship with Matt Hardy, an affair that went public online and got Matt fired for airing his dirty laundry in public. Obviously to cheat on someone is an awful thing to do, but she wasn't the first person to do it, and why for the rest of her run was she seen as somewhat of a 'whore' while Edge's 'Rated R Superstar' gimmick was supposed to be positive, he went on to be an 11 time World Champion and his retirement was met with emotion and a celebration of his career. Lita? Not so much. “When she retired from WWE, after years of putting her body on the line and being disrespected by fans and WWE alike, her send-off was being mocked and abused by Cryme Tyme. This was WWE's way of thanking one of their best and most popular women's wrestlers ever. With abuse and disrespect. And that just solidified my belief that WWE doesn't respect women. It had me in tears.” says Christy. The WWE thought it appropriate to send Lita off, by having Cryme Time (don't even mention the racial undertones of THAT gimmick) sell her panties to the audience. Yikes WWE, way to have tact, you afforded Trish a great send-off less than a year earlier, why do this to Lita?

It isn't even the more modern crowd that can land on the wrong side of offensive when it comes to women wrestling, the older guys, with their old school views unsurprisingly land themselves on the wrong side of internet debate, for instance, the always controversial Jim Cornette recently stated that it was 'unconvincing' for women to wrestle men as well as insinuating that women were weaker than men and this would be why, what does our sexism consultant Christy have to say about this? “I find it silly. Mostly because wrestling is, sorry to say, 'fake' and we're happy to accept smaller guys beating huge, big, tough guys, yet women beating men is a bridge too far? If it's written well, anything can be believable. If you start judging on what you think is believable, then you need to do this for all wrestlers and limit interaction between those in different weight classes, etc. Not just the women. You need to write it well, but that's the case for everything.”

It seems someone else disagrees with you there Corny. Even if you think about it though we shouldn't need to be told this, there are certain people who could beat the crap out of you no matter whether they were a man or a woman, would you say that Ronda Rousey or Amanda Nunes couldn't beat up say someone like, Kofi Kingston? Even in the wrestling world, would you tell Awesome Kong that she was weaker than you because she's a woman, if you would you're braver, or stupider than I.
Cornette however, doesn't take issue with Women's Wrestling, there are some old guys who are, take for instance, Greg Valentine, who a few years back said that women should be, and I quote: “Women should be at home, cooking, barefoot and pregnant.” Wow Greg wait to enter the 21st Century. What does Christy think? “He clearly doesn't belong in this century and I refuse to give his ancient, ridiculous opinions any serious thought. I don't have the energy to deal with men like that, really.” Not an entirely surprising response, but in all honesty what did he expect people to think? Did he expect society to see the ill of it's ways and set itself back another century or two? At what point does a wrestler, and not a very interesting one at that, think that it';s justifiable to say stuff like that?

Anyway, at least we're through the woods now right? Right? Well, not quite. While presentation of women has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, we still have some ways to go, take for example the recent Enzo Amore/Big Cass feud with Rusev and Lana. Don't get me wrong I like Enzo, he's a charismatic guy, I don't like what he's had written for him, the sort of half-sexual misogynistic comments that somehow make him a face, yet make Lana and Rusev heels because they're 'foreign'. “I have much more of an issue with the way Lana was treated there than Rusev. WWE seems to like writing their faces attack the heel's wife/girlfriend while feuding with the heel and it's so unnecessary. And almost all of these women only went through this for the sake of a man's storyline. It's not even their story. They don't come out the hero, or the victor. They facilitate a man's evolution. As if they're props. Just as Lana was the prop used for Enzo to feud with Rusev. Just as Eve was used for Kane and Cena to feud. To make Cena a bigger hero who could 'save the damsel'. That whole Enzo/Lana/Rusev angle still makes me angry.” More strong comments there from Christy, There's much to think about in this feud, and it just seems like women are given these sort of storylines by a writing staff and upper management made up of: “Mostly white, straight, middle-aged yes-men.” As Christy put it to me, this seems to be a problem widespread in all media that women aren't well written because they're frequently not written by women either.

Still, no-one can deny the progress made in-ring in the last few years, we've seen women headline PPVs, and weekly TV broadcasts, participate in matches that were previously for the men only, we've seen the hideously outdated term 'diva' phased out and the Women's Championship reinstated. “I'm not sure how much of it is willing and what is forced by society, but they treat their women so, so much better. Fewer degrading matches, more time given, more distinct characters and better chances to have excellent matches.” Says Christy of recent developments, but where do we go from here? Well I'd say the first big step should be more women in positions of power and creative (who don't have the surname McMahon) and the lessening of use of degrading relationship stories, I'd say that'd be the first step in a bold new direction.

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.