Wednesday, 10 February 2016

WWE Best Of RAW & Smack Down 2015 DVD Review By Dave Adamson

So, the annual Best Of series is, at its essence, a selection of matches from across 2015, this time from the weekly Raw and Smackdown television shows.  Whether the many matches on show here would be a part of the “best of” list of the WWE Universe is open to opinion though, if Michael Cole’s commentary is anything to go by, the WWE Universe is a hugely positive place.
Some of these “best of” matches are better than others, but that’s the nature of having so much content available week after week - the collection avoids any gimmick or low-brow comedy, focusing on the bigger stories that WWE have told through 2015.  With it’s pretty much match-of-the-show approach, there’s plenty of content here, but very little context - video segments pop up every so often to give us a recap of other events, and the WWE Universe even get their say, but there’s far too little of it.  Thankfully, WWE have excelled at providing commentary that brings viewers up to speed, even if you do have to pick apart the disparaging remarks to find the story.
There were, however, some truly noteworthy moments - Sting appearing on WWE TV; Paige, Kevin Owens, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn and Neville making an impact and shaking up fan opinion; AJ Lee, Daniel Bryan and Tyson Kidd showing why the fans want them back so much; and many other special moments amongst the marquee names that the WWE regularly offers.
We dip into the stories of Rollins and Ambrose, Cena’s presence at the top of the tree and how passionate the fans are in his opinion of him, the appearances of Lesnar, Ryback’s wave of destruction, Sting’s appearance on WWE TV and touch upon The Undertaker.  We see New Day become something better, and the many familiar, safe hands of the WWE roster performing to the highest level.  For every Cena and Reigns, there’s a handful of others who stand out for their consistency - Cesaro, Kingston, Tyson Kidd amongst them.
Highlights across the three discs includes the NXT women eclipsing anything that many of the WWE Divas do, with Paige vs Charlotte for the WWE Divas Championship, as well as Paige vs Sasha Banks.  Sami Zayn’s match against John Cena for the US Title is another stand out, as is the resulting Kevin Owen’s appearances.  Brock Lesnar imposing presence is well represented, especially considering his relatively light work schedule, as is The Undertaker and departure of Daniel Bryan from active competition, albeit in through the “In Review” segments.  
Whilst it does provide a broad representation of WWE Raw and Smackdown, with almost eight hours of content across three discs, there’s only superficial depth to what is well presented in the customary WWE TV quality style.  Additional context is provided with the monthly wrap up videos and the alternate commentary tracks, but it’s a boxset really aimed at the casual WWE fan or the completists.
Taking into consideration that, even with the broadcast delay, all the matches from 2015 that feature on this three disc set are available as part of Raw and Smackdown on WWE Network, it’s almost as if The Best of Raw & Smackdown 2015 exists as a sampler set, albeit an unacknowledged one.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

WWE TLC 2015 DVD Review By Shaun Nichols

Welcome to the WWE's final PPV extravaganza of the year, hailing from Boston and hosted by the usual crew of Michael Cole, JBL and Jerry Lawler. To open up the show is a nice video package building up the main event of Roman Reigns challenging Sheamus for the WWE title, with all the back story of Reign's getting screwed and Sheamus's short lived 5:15 T-shirt although you'll spot a surprising number in the crowd.

First up we have the 3 Way for the tag titles in a Ladder match with the New Day defending against the Usos and the Lucha Dragons, the New Day do a promo to open things up which is a bit hit and miss before Xavier heads to the commentary table to add some much needed quality.

The match itself is a very entertaining stunt fest where everybody gets to show off their talent but with the clear highlight being the Slammy Award winning move when Kalisto hit the Solida Del Sol off the ladder near the end. Finish comes when Xavier realises that he can use his trombone in more ways than one.

Sadly match quality takes a bit of a hit when Ryback faces Rusev, it's clear that Ryback tries really hard and his missile dropkick is surprisingly good but also that both the company and the fans have given up on him.

It's great to see Rusev re-united with Lana as they are much better off together, the finish came when Ryback for the second straight time was distracted by Lana faking an injury leading to him getting distracted and shortly ending up in the Accolade for the loss.

Out of the concept matches on the TLC show, it's the Chairs match which is probably the hardest to work. Alberto Del Rio and Jack Swagger tried hard in this US title match but the match was hurt by everyone knowing that Swagger had no chance of winning. The fans did enjoy shouting 'We The People' though, to no surprise Del Rio successfully retained following the double stomp onto several chairs.

Onto the Tables match where The Wyatt Family take on Team Extreme (The Dudleys, Tommy Dreamer and Rhyno) this was fought on a elimination basis where all members of one team had to be put through a table. Personally I felt this was terribly out of place, Dreamer especially comes across as someone from a different era and the commentators really shouldn't be harping on about ECW Originals as the company died in early 2001.

The match did have some cool spots, mainly from Luke Harper and the match did ensure that both Bray Wyatt and Braun Strowman came across as monsters but the fans were not given the chance to see Bubba making a grand comeback as his foolish attempt to set a table on fire was both unbelievable but also led directly to his doom.

Kevin Owens was next up defending his I-C title against the man who eliminated from the WWE Title tournament at the Survivor Series, that being Dean Ambrose. These two worked really well together and had the fans reacting to pretty much everything that they did. We also saw a title change as Dean managed to reverse the pop up Powerbomb for the win.

Another title match followed but they didn't have the fans attention was Charlotte defending the Diva's Title against Paige. This was mainly because the WWE decided that Charlotte is much better as a heel (that's true) but forgot that Paige has done nothing to make anyone actually like her. The result was that the fans had no idea who to cheer for.

Charlotte also needs to stop doing all her dad's moves as it makes her come across as a cartoon caricature, she did though retain after Ric's interference distracted Paige for the finish.

Main event time as Sheamus defends the WWE title against Reigns, Reigns is still not being embraced by the fans as they still see him as someone the company is forcing upon them. They aren't too keen on Sheamus either. On the plus side both guys try really hard and work some hard hitting and creative spots in. Reigns looks to have his redemption before Sheamus's League of Nations friends (Del Rio and Rusev) swing the tide in the champion's favour.

This is the setting for the best thing on the show when Roman Reigns cannot hide his frustrations anymore and beats the hell out of Sheamus, Del Rio and Rusev. That leads to Triple H and Stephanie of all people coming out to try and calm him down. The fans are definitely excited to see the showdown between Hunter and Reigns and are delighted to see the leader of the Authority left laying on a broken commentary table.

Roman leaves to 'Thank You Roman' chants and the WWE direction of 2016 has been set, it's Roman Reigns vs. Triple H.  

The DVD also features as a special feature the PPV kickoff match where Sacha Banks beat Becky Lynch thanks to yet another distraction finish, a standard TV match and nothing like their classic NXT match.
You can pre-order the DVD or Blu Ray over at it will be released on February 22nd 2016

Friday, 15 January 2016

WWE Survivor Series 2015 DVD Review By Dave Adamson

The focus of Survivor Series 2015 was clear - The Undertaker, with 25 years of destruction behind him, still being an ominous presence within the WWE, whilst a new Heavyweight Champion would be crowned as the WWE World Heavyweight Championship tournament would conclude.

Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose, polar opposites when it comes to the crowd’s feelings, collided with Alberto Del Rio and Kevin Owens, respectively, in the opening two tournament matches, with Reigns and Ambrose heading towards a championship showdown later in the even.

Elsewhere, we’d see the WWE Divas Championship contested by Charlotte and Paige in a fine example of what women’s wrestling should be and how it should be presented.  Tyler Breeze took on Dolph Ziggler and it certainly wouldn’t be Survivor Series without the titular match… of which we get one.

Ryback, The Uso and The Lucha Dragons took on The New Day, Sheamus and King Barrett, whilst a second Survivor Series elimination match took place in the pre-show as Goldust, the recently-returned Dudley Boyz, Neville and Titus O’Neill took on The Cosmic Wasteland, The Miz and Bo Dallas and is featured as a “special feature” on the DVD.

In a marquee appearance, The Undertaker teamed with Kane, reforming The Brothers of Destruction, to take on the wily, slightly deranged and utterly captivating Wyatt Family.

It’s clear where the appreciate of the fans sits as 2015 drew to a close - Owens vs Ambrose holds their rapt attention, whilst Alberto Del Rio can do no wrong as he takes on the unappreciated Roman Reigns.   The New Day have well and truly hit their stride with their irreverent mic work (including Sheamus attempting to be cool) and considerable in ring skill.  Paige and Charlotte work wonders with each other, in the longest singles match of the show, and the fans are truly behind the match, this is also true of fellow NXT star Tyler Breeze as he takes on Dolph Ziggler. 

The awe that the WWE Universe holds for The Undertaker is tangible as they wait, with baited breath, for his arrival.  WWE, once more, do the Deadman justice as they evoke images of the Phenom of old, celebrating an impressive twenty-five years at the top of his game, a bona fide legend held in the highest of regard.  The confrontation between The Brothers of Destruction and The Wyatt Family plays to all of their strengths as the two cult-like families collide, but feels a bit short.

The main event sees Ambrose and Reigns face off in a match where Ambrose may have the fan support, a rather amusing line in humour and tough brawling, but it’s the modern-day Superman that is Reigns who gets the upper hand… until Sheamus cashes in his Money in the Bank briefcase.

Away from the matches, JoJo continues the tradition of backstage interviews without substance and Renee Young entertains with the regular panel, joined by Byron Saxton, Booker T and Corey Graves.

As always, WWE PPV releases are spot on when it comes to sound and video quality and it shows, as is oft the case, how far ahead of much of the competition WWE are when it comes to presentation.  Commentary is handled by JBL, Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler, telling the story, filling in the gaps and bringing it all together with varying degrees of success.

A single disc release that features the PPV and the pre-show, Survivor Series doesn’t offer anything more or less than you’d expect.  Whilst much is made of twenty-five years of The Undertaker with Survivor Series, it’s a shame they didn’t do a separate tribute for the DVD.  It’s a bit of a barebones release, but one that collectors will no doubt want to add to their collection.

You can pick the DVD up HERE

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

WWE Best PPV Matches Of 2015 Review By Dave Adamson

Say what you like about WWE and its booking, writing and seemingly endless stream of PPVs, weekly television and side products, it’s still at the top of its game when it comes to output and popularity - even in its worst week, WWE sets social media alight with often vicious opinion and this three disc box set is a crucible of the division of love and hate.
Introduced by Corey Graves, the three disc set acts as a selection box of matches from across 2015, with few surprises when it comes to the PPV appearances of Cena, Lesnar and company, but some arguably “fan favourite” matches in the form of Cesaro & Tyson Kidd vs. The New Day from Extreme Rules, Charlotte vs. Brie Bella vs. Sasha Banks from Battleground, as well as appearances from Daniel Bryan (vs Roman Reigns at Fast Lane), Kevin Owen (vs John Cena at Elimination Chamber), the fateful Sting confrontation from Night of Champions and both encounters between Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker (at SummerSlam and Hell in a Cell).
Further to the matches, there are highlights of the PPVs themselves, bundled together in short video packages and reminding us what happened throughout the year, without Corey Graves helping recap events that led into the key events, though it does seem to be a bit random as to when he does this.
Amongst the truly great PPV moments of 2015, it’s not a bad year for Cena - Rusev vs Cena, including the fantastic Rusev in a tank entrance, stands out, as does Cena vs Owens. Undertaker vs Lesnar, both times, are an example of the lengths that WWE talent can go to in order to entertain, whilst Charlotte features in the two women’s matches that WWE deign to be worth of the “Best PPV Matches” monicker, taking on Nikki Bella at Night of Champions for the WWE Diva’s Championship, in addition to the aforementioned triple threat. Seeing Cesaro and Tyson Kidd is a bittersweet reminder of how good and entertaining they were, especially against The New Day’s Big E Langston and Kofi Kingston who, at this stage, were still finding their feet in a stable. The various members of The Shield are well represented, too, as their individual stories crossed paths in 2015 and it, as with all the matches, make entertaining viewing. Whilst some may question the “wrestling” aspect of WWE, it can’t be denied that they provide “entertainment”.
Production values are, as is often the case with WWE, peerless and the crowd are incredible vocal, and audible, above the commentary team of Jerry Lawler, rolling out his jokes whilst offering his analysis, JBL with his cutting remarks and his ability to draw on his career as a frame of reference and Michael Cole who occasionally delivers his commentary as if he were in an old Smackdown video game.
What the disc set does show is the breadth of talent within WWE and how, for every current day main eventer, there’s a relative newcomer to the grand stage with a potentially bright future.
Whilst there’s an argument that every single match is available for a reasonable price on the WWE Network, it can’t be denied that this format, focusing on “the best” WWE has to offer, also has a place for casual fans who just want to stick a match on and enjoy it.
Buy the DVD HERE

Monday, 4 January 2016

Worst Year In Wrestling?

Well it's the end of the year and various fans, columnists, podcasters will be looking back at the year in wrestling and it was one of these that caught my attention. On a weekly basis I never miss the Don Tony & Kevin Castle Show (you can find it HERE) and on this past Monday's show towards the end, Don Tony said he thinks as a wrestling fan, which covers over 30 years, 2015 is the worst year he has seen in wrestling. His co-host Kevin Castle disagreed and brought up the 93-94 period. now, although I don't watch the current product, that period in the 90's I do remember.

In the WWF at the time, it really was poor, Vince McMahon was facing jail time and the promotion was being booked by Jerry Jarrett and was flooded with characters like Freddie Joe Floyd, The Goon & TL Hopper and over in WCW there wasn't much better going on, I mean they had 'Hacksaw' Jim Duggan defeat the then 'Stunning' Steve Austin for the US title so that sort of tells a story in itself.

As DT said to Kevin, ECW was around then doing some decent stuff at a lower level as they were still under the Eastern Championship Wrestling banner and there were promotions such as the GWF (this is where Sean '123 Kid/X-Pac' Waltman & Jerry Lynn got their break) but overall, wrestling around this time in North America wasn't the greatest.

DT stuck to his guns and said this past year WAS the worst he has seen since being a fan. As I stated above, I personally don't watch the current product, I've seen the odd match from NXT when people have said I should if it was on one of their Takeover shows but it still doesn't really appeal to me even though NXT features many of the guys I was a big fan of when they were on the indies. I bring this up because although I was watching the product along with others in 93/94 I can't compare it to this years WWE because I don't watch it and there's nothing worse ripping on a product if you haven't actually seen it what many do with the indies when they see clips and judge it on the 'production qualities'.

So fans, was 2015 really the worst year in wrestling you've seen as a fan, I think it's probably best to look at it from a WWE only point of view.

Comment below or tweet me @WLHSTU with your thoughts.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

WWE Hell In A Cell 2015 DVD Review By Nathan Hunt

WWE are set to release the Hell In A Cell pay-per-view from 2015 on DVD, the seventh event to bear the name since WWE began the custom of theming shows around their biggest attraction gimmick matches. Since the inception of this policy, the PPVs and titular matches have been a mixed bag, varying from excellent to terrible and contrived outings. This has led some to call for these themed shows to be dropped and the attraction bouts to be used more sparingly, rather than shoe-horn otherwise forgettable feuds into high-profile situations. At other times, everything has come together to create something special, with memorable bouts and feuds coming to a dramatic end, but would this be one of those times? With the Cell match itself being used as the blow-out to a deserving feud between two future Hall Of Famers, plus a good helping of other feuds and storylines to go at, it seemed likely (on paper, at least) that the show would be one of the success stories of the match-themed-PPV genre.
The opening vignette mainly focuses on the main event for the show, pitting Brock Lesnar against The Undertaker, setting the scene for the two to wage a war of biblical proportions to close the book on their epic feud. Opening the show is John Cena's US Championship open challenge, which sees the (very surprising, at the time) return of Alberto Del Rio. Del Rio's appearance gets a great crowd reaction and sets the audience alight for the action to follow. The two are obviously very familiar and comfortable with each other, having feuded on and off throughout 2011-2013, including some memorable matches (like the excellent Last Man Standing war from 2011). This outing is largely dominated by the returning Del Rio and serves as a showcase to re-introduce him to the fans, who WWE always assume to have a short memory. It is well executed, smooth and overall a good way to start the card. It is then onto the first gimmick match of the night as Bray Wyatt battles Roman Reigns in Hell In A Cell. This is one of those feuds which critics would argue should not have been inserted into this type of match, arguably devaluing or overexposing the gimmick of the Cell, but regardless, the match is a very good one. While the feud overall felt contrived, the action and creative offense on offer make this surprisingly recommended viewing. Starting pretty slowly the match picks up in intensity as it goes on, incorporating some weaponry and brutal-looking striking to create a suitably violent spectacle to justify their billing inside the structure. The creative use of the kendo sticks is a particular highlight.
We are then treated to a very entertaining Tag bout between The New Day and The Dudley Boys and a very strong match between Charlotte and Nikki Bella. Both are very watchable and keep the action varied, ensuring that there is no lull in the quality while each offering something different from the marquee matches on the card. It is then on to the WWE World Heavyweight title contest between Kane and Seth Rollins, followed by an Intercontinental title bout between Kevin Owens and Ryback, which are both extremely average. Both matches are predictable and lack drama, so while the action is fine, there is no real reason to revisit this section of the disc.
Finally it is on to the main event, pitting Undertaker against Brock Lesnar in the second Cell match of the show, and second one in their storied rivalry. The first Hell In A Cell match between the two in 2002 was a classic, despite being the first of it's kind where the competitors did not exit the structure for some death-defying bump. This one was, in my opinion, even better than the first. Although certain spots came under scrutiny and criticism - such the allegedly intentional bloodshed and the ripping up of the canvas to expose the wooden boards on the ring - I thought that these helped the match, emphasising and illustrating the danger and brutality that the Cell's mystique is built upon. Power moves, striking, the use of the stairs and the cage itself all added up to a believable and dramatic fight between two genuine titans. An excellent close to a fantastic feud.
The only extra on the disc is the six man tag match from the PPV kick-off show, pitting Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro and Neville against Rusev, Sheamus and Wade Barrett (prior to the official formation of the League Of Nations faction). It would have been good to have the precursor to this rematch on the disc as well to add a little more value to the disc, or perhaps some of the other TV build-up to the show, but this is better than nothing. The six men represent themselves well, with some good spots (like Neville delivering a moonsault to Sheamus off Cesaro's back and Cesaro's running European uppercuts around ringside) and all round decent action.
All in all, the show is a very good one, with only two matches that would be worth skipping through, while the rest is watchable, enjoyable and entertaining. I would recommend getting this title if only for the two Hell In A Cell matches themselves, but the rest is definitely more worthwhile than simply two matches and a load of filler. The women's match and the match from the kick-off show are both better than I remembered and ones that I am glad to have in my collection, while the US Title match is worth re-watching for the sake of revisiting the moment Cena's Open Challenge storyline comes to an end (even if only temporarily) and the crowd reaction for the return of Del Rio. A strong offering with some historic matches and moments, this is one of the best events that WWE has produced this year.

The DVD & Blu-Ray is available in the UK/Europe from WWE Video UK on January 4th, pre order now.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Owen Hart - Hart Of Gold DVD Review By Nathan Hunt

It has been an extremely long time coming, for various reasons, but WWE have finally released a DVD to celebrate the life and career of Owen Hart. The release was rumoured for a long time prior to seeing the light of day and was one of those projects that fans had always clamoured for, but had started to believe that it would never actually come to pass. One of the most talented and revered workers to ever compete in a WWF(E) ring, Owen's is a legacy which has been left untouched for years out of fear of litigation from his widow, Martha, who has been vehemently opposed to any usage of his name and likeness since his passing in 1999.

I was somewhat dubious before sitting down to watch the DVD after reading the comments from Bret Hart about his thoughts on the release, but was intrigued to see what limitations, if any, had been imposed. I was pleasantly surprised to see the amount of home video footage and interviews with Owen himself throughout the documentary, so those fears were largely unfounded. There is a really good selection of talking heads on the documentary, although some seem to be outtakes from various interviews conducted for other previous WWE releases. There is a slightly disjointed and haphazard feel to the disc due to some heavy-handed edits, particularly as they transition between the main bulk of the documentary and several side chapters of random 'Owen Tales'. Even so, the documentary is a solid effort; comprehensive, interesting and entertaining. It also covers a lot of ground, such as Owen's pre-WWE career in Calgary, Europe and Japan, his first run as the Blue Blazer and subsequent departure, his brief run in WCW and his transformation into 'The King Of Harts'. The feud between Bret and Owen is covered in great detail from various perspectives, giving a very good insight into the most important and significant feud of Owen's career. There is also a good deal of focus on the Hart Foundation and Owen's post-Montreal run. Inevitable coverage of Owen's death is brief and tasteful, focusing on the aftermath and the void he left rather than the incident itself. You also get a good feel for the person behind the performer throughout the disc, showing the genuine personality for which Owen is equally renowned in the business as his in-ring ability.

Owen Has Bret in a Sharpshooter in their epic WM X bout
The extras include another selection of stories from Owen's peers which give further insight into the man himself and his playful and hilarious antics behind the scenes. We then move onto the matches, starting with Stampede Wrestling bouts against Hiroshi Hase (as Viet Cong  Express Number 1) and Mike Shaw (as Makhan Singh). Some more Stampede and international matches (such as from New Japan Pro Wrestling or UK's World of Sport) would certainly not have gone amiss, which is probably what Bret had been referring to when he voiced his concern about the DVD. The Blue Blazer Vs Mr Perfect from Owen's first run with WWF is a really good and varied match, displaying versatility and some of the (cutting edge at that time) offense which continues to influence performers to this day. The WCW offering against enhancement talent Mark Kyle is somewhat superfluous, but welcome if only for the fact that it had previously only been available as a poor quality YouTube video. An early match against Shawn Michaels when Hart returned to WWF is the only pre-Bret-feud match from his days as The Rocket, which is a shame as well, but with such a wealth of great matches to choose from it is not surprising that there are some omissions.

Obviously we get the WrestleMania X match with Bret, along with a rare Lumberjack match between the two - both of which are excellent and well worth a watch whether you've seen them before or not. The King Of The Ring Final against Razor Ramon and the speech which follows are very entertaining and the second bout with Michaels from In Your House 1996 is a great outing by both. The finals of the European Championship tournament betwen Owen and British Bulldog is fantastic and comes highly recommended to absolutely any wrestling fan, while the ten man bout from the main event of Canadian Stampede is almost like a 'Greatest Hits of The Attitude Era' rolled into one great match. These are amongst the highlights of the entire set, but the quality of action elsewhere on the discs is high throughout, so there is plenty on offer.
Owen with his brother-in-law The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith
 This DVD is is a definite must-have for any Owen Hart fans, or for anyone who was a fan in the 1990s in general. It features some outstanding action and is generally insightful and interesting, recapping a very successful career and showcasing the great work of a highly talented individual. The nature of the stories that people tell about Owen are generally very entertaining in themselves and you can see the genuine love that was shared by all who knew him on a personal level. While some more matches from outside of WWE would certainly have been a good move, Owen's most famous work and some of his best opponents are well represented, making this a very decent offering overall. I can't help but feel that a second installment may be necessary, as there are certainly some other matches which deserve to be seen by a larger audience (such as the cage match against Bret, other matches against Shawn Michaels, any matches from his tag team runs alongside Davey Boy Smith or Jeff Jarrett and international matches against the likes of Jushin Thunder Liger and Marty Jones). Even so, whether there are plans for a second disc in the works or not, there is enough here to make this worth the cost and a welcome addition to any collection.