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!

Conclusions

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 www.WWEDVD.co.uk (https://www.wwedvd.co.uk/money-bank-2016-p-12147.html) 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 www.WWEDVD.co.uk from £19.99. (https://www.wwedvd.co.uk/attitude-unreleased-free-mini-book-p-12144.html)

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

WWE Extreme Rules 2016 DVD Overview By Dave Adamson



WWE Extreme Rules is the PPV where takes the rules and throws them away - insofar as we’ve got a couple of matches that could be considered “extreme rules”, a few matches that were “extreme” by PG standards and far too much in the way of extreme disappointment.

The card for Extreme Rules featured:
 
Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows vs The Usos (Jimmy Uso & Jey Uso) in a Tornado tag team match

Rusev (with Lana) vs Kalisto for the WWE United States Championship

The New Day vs The Vaudevillains tag team match for the WWE Tag Team Championship

The Miz vs Cesaro vs Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn in a Fatal 4-Way match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship

Dean Ambrose vs Chris Jericho in an Asylum match
Charlotte vs Natalya in a submission match for the WWE Women's Championship
Roman Reigns vs AJ Styles in an Extreme Rules match

The Highpoints:

The Fatal 4-Way was an absolute dream of a match, bringing the skills of Owens, Zayn and Cesaro - all still very indy influenced, but with the showmanship and professional brought of the WWE system together with the pure WWE training of The Miz (alongside Maryse, who has completely revitalised her partner).

The women’s match highlighted the strengths of the women’s division, even with the Ric Flair stipulation, as Charlotte and Natalya pretty much extinguished memories of the old Diva’s era and continued to bring about the Women’s era.

Roman Reigns vs AJ Styles showed how Styles continues to exist at the top of his game, able to reach for the headiest of heights and bring credibility to the much maligned Roman Reigns.  The finale, with Seth Rollins making his much anticipated return, was a standout moment in the whole event.

Anderson and Gallow and Rusev, in their matches, were superb.

The Low Points:

The Asylum match, which was a ponderous affair that could have been a true showstealer, especially with Ambrose and Jericho throwing their all into it.  Sadly, the paint-by-numbers approach to weaponry showed how far away WWE are from doing this type of thing credibly - it didn’t help that it seemed to be a struggle to reach the weapons and keep the momentum going.

The tag team match, for the WWE Tag Team Championship, didn’t feel particularly special, despite both teams being hugely popular.  In a PPV environment, especially one with this name, it should have been bigger, bolder and more eventful, but felt like a filler, disappointingly. 

Extreme Rules, overall, had the feeling of a missed opportunity - a chance to push the boundaries in terms of “extreme” or surprising, yet managed to feel just above ordinary.  With the WWE card now featuring some of the best “outside” talents, including many who have spent years on the independent circuit, this was an ideal opportunity for these people to showcase their talents - it didn’t need to be blood and gore, just more brutal, yet it fell short and felt, at times, stilted.

Extras:

The DVD features the WWE Extreme Rules kickoff show featuring Dolph Ziggler vs Baron Corbin - a match that could have easily featured on the show itself.  Corbin has huge potential as the “lone wolf” of WWE, and certainly stands out, whilst Ziggler is a member of a cadre of underrated performers that bolsters the quality of WWE’s roster without being the focus.

Sound and video quality is good and the commentary team are slick, even if they occasionally fall flat.

The question, for WWE DVD's, especially for their secondary PPV's like this one, will always be whether it’s worth it when the WWE Network is so readily available.  

You can buy the DVD HERE



Thursday, 21 July 2016

The WWE Future Has Finally Arrived By Gary R. Ward

 While most expected it to happen, it was still the biggest news of the night as the WWE shook things up again with the WWE Draft.

Finn Bálor went 5th overall in a pretty exciting first round in the 2016 WWE Draft, Finn went before some established WWE Superstars such as John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns, Randy Orton and The WWE World Tag Team Champions The New Day, what surprised my most wasn't that Bálor a former 3 time  IWGP Jr Heavyweight was drafted it was with what pick.

Bálor has shown since joining the WWE in May 2014 that not only does he have a unique look and ring style, it's that he can continue to improve in every aspect of being a sports entertainer, once Finn joined WWE's developmental NXT it was obvious to most that he didn't need to improve much inside the ring, infact as shown on his WWE Network special, close friend Matt Bloom (head coach in NXT) confirmed that the WWE didn't need to improve his in ring work, if like myself you've watch Finn as Prince Devitt in NJPW or anywhere across Europe you'd of expected his ring work to be some of the best the WWE has, my initial thought was that Bálor might struggle with his promo work, now as any followers to my twitter will know, I'm a Pro Wrestling fan, I want a storyline to follow, some unique look, mixed with great inring work, the promo/mic skills doesn't really matter to me unless you're on commentary.  

Where I believe  developmental has helped Bálor is infact with his mic skills, if you go back to when he debuted in May 2014 he seems a little awkward and maybe not too sure on what he was saying, what I think we need to understand is that in NJPW he could and mostly did say what he wanted being the leader of the Bullet Club, if you watch NJPW now you can see that the American wrestlers seem to have a licence to say and do as they please, now we all know this wasn't going to be the case with the WWE so this is where I think Finn struggled as following a script didn't seem quite him.

Recently following some fantastic feuds with Samoa Joe, Kevin Owens and an extremely well built match with Shinsuke Nakamura, it really hit me that Bálor 's microphone skills has massively improved, enough so that once he moved to the main roster on promo heavy shows like Raw he wouldn't look out of place while building a storyline, I had the same doubts over AJ Styles as well, WWE and more importantly Raw is so promo heavy that hugely talented in ring workers like Styles and Bálor might struggle with the long drawn out promos, safe to say that following the 14 month stay in NXT  Bálor now has all the tools ready to be an instant success on the WWE main card.

Once Finn was drafted by Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon on Tuesday night, my mind instantly started to dream up matches for him and what's likely to be in his immediate future. The Bálor Club is surely something the WWE is going to go with, before they were drafted I tweeted out saying that Gallows/Anderson is going to be on Raw and with this as a reality I can't not see the original Bullet Club reforming under the WWE umbrella.

As the night continued I took a keen interest on my favourite wrestlers in Balor, Rollins, Styles, Owens and Bray Wyatt, but mostly in Finn Bálor, once the draft began to end I looked at the possibilities open to the WWE and Raw for future matches with the likes of Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens... again, Y2J, Cesaro and even the Beast himself Brock Lesnar, these are all WrestleMania matches in themselves.

I truly hope the WWE give Finn Bálor the debut he deserves and build him into the mega star that he's been outside of the main roster, I don't think I've met or spoken to anyone that doesn't enjoy everything that Bálor brings to the ring with his outstanding entrances, the paintwork and he's in ring work, this is truly a once in a generation type star, Triple H has seen what this man can do in NXT and now the future of the WWE has arrived on its flagship show Monday Night Raw.

Let the fun begin.........

Untill next time

Twitter - @GaryRWard

Monday, 4 July 2016

Living on the Razor's Edge - The Scott Hall Story DVD Review By Richard Edmund

Disc 1: Living on the Razor's Edge

The latest DVD release from WWE Home Video focuses on the life and career of one of wrestling's most iconic and controversial figures, Scott Hall, AKA 'The Bad Guy' Razor Ramon. As with most WWE documentaries, the main feature here is a well produced piece that does an excellent job of providing insight into the ups and downs of Scott's story, with interviews from his friends and family and a multitude of clips from his wrestling career. We see how a young Scott fell in love with wrestling, how he got his start in the wrestling business and how a traumatic event would haunt him for years to come. Through interviews with his peers we see the passion and drive Scott had to become a success, including a few words from the late, great Dusty Rhodes, Scott mentioning that being hired by Dusty and given his break in the wrestling business meant more to him than any pay cheque he ever received.

Scott's career hit a few bumps in the road and he tells us how close he came to quitting altogether, until his close friend and former AWA tag partner 'Mr. Perfect' Curt Hennig got him an opportunity in the WWF. It paid off big time, and 'The Bad Guy' Razor Ramon was born. We chart his rise through the WWF and, ultimately, the factors that led him and Kevin Nash to hand in their notices and jump ship to WCW. Vince McMahon talks in fairly open terms about the mistakes he felt Scott & Nash made, but also saying that the biggest mistake was on him for not doing enough to keep hold of two guys who, by their own admission, would have gladly stayed in the WWF. For their part, Scott talks about how the guaranteed money offered by WCW was too good to turn down, while Vince laments the structure of his business at the time that didn't allow him to match that, as well as his regrets about attempting to replace Razor & Nash with impersonators.
 
Curt Hennig & Hall as AWA TagTeam Champions
 The documentary takes a darker turn as we hear about the addiction problems that overtook Scott's life and the effect that had on those closest to him, as well as his career before and after the collapse of WCW. This section pulls no punches, as Scott recounts his bouts in rehab and we hear from the likes of Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash and Triple H, who talk about the effects a life on the road can have on a wrestler and the struggles they faced in trying to deal with a friend who was spiralling out of control. There's footage from Scott's most infamous indie appearance, where it seemed that his addictions had all but consumed the man he once was, but it was this footage that prompted Diamond Dallas Page and Jake the Snake to call up Scott and get him back on the road to recovery. 

It all wraps up on a much lighter note, as we see numerous examples of what an inspiration DDP and his program have proven to be in turning around Scott's life and getting him to tackle his problems head on. This all culminates with Scott's induction into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014, with 'The Bad Guy' looking better than he had in years as he addressed the crowd and relished his moment back in the spotlight. Kevin Nash mentions how his own induction the following year didn't mean as much to him as Scott's did, as there were times during Scott's darkest years that Nash couldn't imagine that his friend would recover a semblance of the man he once was. Suffice to say, he was happy to be proven wrong and the documentary closes with happy scenes of Scott and his son Cody Hall, who himself is making his own way in the world of wrestling, and Scott getting to impart his valuable knowledge to the young wrestlers hard at work in the WWE Performance Center.
 
The Diamond Studd w/Diamond Dallas Page
 Overall, this is one of the better documentaries I've seen from WWE Home Video as of late. It doesn't seek to gloss over the problems Scott faced in his personal life and his career, but rather frames its story around them. The opening scenes in the parking lot of an Orlando strip joint where Scott was forced to kill in self defence illustrates how Scott still has to deal with that trauma, before showing us how he got to that point, how he carried on after it and how he struggled to resolve his feelings of guilt. When the film returns to the parking lot, there's a sense of resolution and from that point on the tone becomes much more positive. It's difficult not to be touched by the way Scott has worked to put his life back on track and by the belief of those who did what they could to help him, while the dual message of not being afraid to seek help and to never stop dreaming is an uplifting note for such a comprehensive and unflinching documentary to end on.

Discs 2 & 3: The Matches

The second half of this collection starts with all the original Razor Roman vignettes, as well as some out-takes and a few stories that didn't fit in the main documentary, but the real meat of the set is in the matches and there's a wide selection of twenty three bouts curated from all the major sections of Scott's career. While there's just the one NWA match (Scott teaming with Dan Spivey as American Starship), there's a healthy selection of matches from Scott's time in the AWA, the highlight of which is a raucous AWA tag title defence for Scott & Curt Hennig at the AWA WrestleRock supershow. While these matches showcase Scott's early ability in the ring and his phenomenal look, it's not until the first WCW matches on the set that we see hints of the character he would become, as he teams with Diamond Dallas Page as the Diamond Exchange.

The first big match of the set is one of my favourites from both men's careers, as Razor Ramon challenged Bret Hart for the WWF World Heavyweight Title at Royal Rumble '93. This is such a well paced match that really holds up well today, it has one of my favourite near-falls ever (backslide counter to the Razor's Edge for a huge reaction from the crowd) and a very inventive finish as an injured Hitman has to find a way to get the much larger Ramon into the Sharpshooter. That's followed by another great match from a few months later, the famous meeting between Razor Ramon and the 1-2-3 Kid which in one fell swoop made the Kid's career and set 'The Bad Guy' on a path to becoming a huge fan favourite. There's a whole bunch of intercontinental title matches, including a nice little match with the often-underrated Rick Martel.
 
The infamous match vs 'The Kid'
But the crown jewel of the set is the Intercontinental Title match vs Shawn Michaels from WrestleMania X in 1994, a match that is full of action and drama and one that set in stone many of the ideas that make up what a ladder match should be. Later ladder matches may have taken things a step further, but this still remains a brutal, hard-fought match that really got over the intensity and passion of both men's desire to prove who the real Intercontinental Champion really was. Razor shoulder tackling the ladder and Shawn getting crotched on the top-rope is still a jaw-dropping moment of danger and that's what is so well emphasised here: the danger both men were putting themselves in to prove themselves and to win. Rounding out the set are some matches from Scott's second stint in WCW, including a fun Outsiders vs Harlem Heat tag match, plus his matches vs The Rock and vs Stone Cold from his WWE return in 2002.

In conclusion, this is a solid set for any fans of 'The Bad Guy'. The matches on offer provide a good cross-section of Scott's career, while the documentary is a well produced, well paced piece that doesn't shy away from talking about the difficulties that have beset Scott throughout his life. It was great to see the transformative process that DDP took Hall through, as well as seeing Scott get to give the gift of his knowledge to the next generation of WWE Superstars. Many wrestlers have remarked on what a great mind he has for the business, as guys like Triple H, Kevin Nash and Shawn Michaels are keen to point out on this very set, so it's great that Scott's in a place where he can impart that valuable knowledge and experience. 

'Living on the Razor's Edge - The Scott Hall Story' is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray from WWE Home Video.

Friday, 3 June 2016

WWE Wrestle Mania 32 DVD Review By Shaun Nichols

This was the biggest and most successful Wrestlemania of all time from a commercial point of view but for those watching live it was widely considered to have been a bloated show that dragged badly at the end.

A DVD release gives a golden opportunity to put things into context, was this really as bad as the forums were saying? The answer to that is No, though some of the criticisms are certainly valid.

It's fair to say that this Mania did not have the classic match which generally makes fans nostalgic to a particular event. Nothing in the calibre of a Bret vs. Austin, Shawn vs. Razor, Savage vs. Steamboat or even Brock vs. Reigns from the previous year.

The two most pushed matches of the show were The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon and Triple H vs. Roman Reigns were unfortunately badly booked and with no real idea of how they would actually come across to the live crowd.

It was a terrible idea to give the Hell in a Cell match not including entrances over 30 minutes. Although the crowd cared at the start it became clear that they were losing steam and yet the smart move of wrapping the match up was ignored.

In time Shane's dive from the top of the cell may be re-packaged as the greatest Mania moment of all-time but live it was nothing of the short. The story itself wasn't helped by the fact that the fans didn't want to see either guy lose and the storyline as since has proved we shouldn't have cared anyway.

Triple H vs. Roman Reigns does benefit from the DVD treatment and not having to watch over 6 hours (including the pregame) to get there. Hunter wants his moment has a Wrestlemania main eventer, but this was similar to his Randy Orton match in that he failed to see how burnt out the crowd was. Here it was even more noticeable in that the live crowd did not want to see Roman win. It's not a Mania classic but it is better than you probably remember.

The early matches actually indicated that this could be a really good show, the 7 way Ladder match was a highly entertaining way to kick things off with particularly Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn standing out, though everyone had their moment to shine. In the end Zach Ryder got his very brief moment in the sun and Kevin Owens selling at the end was so good I thought he was seriously hurt.

That though was MOTN, the women's three way was also a contender for the MOTN honours and delivered an entertaining match but felt a bit hindered by the fact that everyone live wanted and expected Sasha Banks to have won.

Speaking of suspect booking decisions leads us directly to Chris Jericho beating AJ Styles which made even less sense when we realised that Styles would main event the next 2 PPVs for the World title. The match was good but not great.

Falling also into that category was Dean Ambrose succumbing to death by German Suplex at the hands of Brock Lesnar. I liked this more than a lot of fans but I do understand the criticism of how this match has done nothing for the career of Dean Ambrose.

Arguably my biggest complaint is the use of former legends to basically steal the show. The New Day although over with the live crowd were put clearly in their place by Mick Foley, Shawn Michaels and especially Steve Austin.


The Rock also got into the act in a segment that really wasn't needed with the Wyatt Family especially that late in the show, also featuring a cameo from John Cena.

Rounding off the Mania experience was the Andre the Giant Battle Royal which included a surprise appearance from Shaquille O'Neal. Just imagine that the WWE wanted to keep Shaq on the quiet.

The three pregame matches are all included and are perfectly fine in their spot although they don't add a great deal. Special note of acknowledgement to Lana's outfit in the 10 person Diva match though.

As well as the show itself we get the Hall of Fame 2016 event in which the highlights include speeches from The Freebirds, Michael Hayes is especially good and you won't believe how Jimmy Garvin has aged.

Sting is a worthy main attraction but he is outshone by a tremendous introduction by Ric Flair that is a particular highlight. Stan Hansen gives a nice speech as well and the HOF is a decent enough addition to the set.

As an event it doesn't deserve the criticism that was heaped upon it and it's nowhere near the worst Wrestlemania of all-time. It has a number of strong and entertaining matches and the biggest issue of watching the show live isn't an issue at all on DVD. It might just be time to re-evaluate the biggest wrestling of the year.

For European customers you can buy the Collectors Edition HERE

Friday, 27 May 2016

You All Know Who I Am But You Don't Know Why I'm Here - 20 Years To The Day That Scott Hall Appeared on WCW Nitro By Tim Ricketts




An immortal line in wrestling history, and if you're a fan of WWE then you've more than likely heard it a hundred times or so on DVD or the Network. Well that was now 20 years ago, and it is an anniversary of some note.

Some people may look at the first episode of Nitro, replete with returning Lex Luger and live-event atmosphere, as the first shots in the Monday Night War.  Some may point to the signings of Hogan and Savage as Ted Turner's first great body blows to the then WWF's New Generation, who were struggling to replace the Superstars of the 1980s and now competing for ratings with them.  However, in comparison, these were mere skirmishes, the rumblings of disaffection, the water straining at the dam.  Scott Hall's one-line introduction was wrestling's equivalent of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in 1914.  War was not only inevitable, it was here.

Hall himself was on familiar ground, and some loyal stalwarts may have been forgiven for thinking “Yeah, you're the Diamond Studd!” after his previous WCW stint in DDP's Diamond Mine stable, but to the wider wrestling public he appeared in full gimmick as Razor Ramon.  No on-screen caption, no “It's Razor!” from the commentary desk; with the oiled-back hair, the toothpick and familiar grin, we were in no doubt as to who he was.  Most importantly, this didn't feel like a début.

With such blurred lines, in an era when kayfabe was still king, we didn't need the hindsight of 20 years of repetition to know this was going to be huge, ongoing, and industry changing.  Whilst it might not have been “still real to us,” after the McMahon court cases of the early 90's, mostly we were still reliant on dirt-sheets or the promotions themselves for news.  The curtain call incident at Madison Square Garden between the leaving (including Hall) and remaining members of the Kliq, was not common knowledge, nor was their industry influence, but it was still a potential threat to this angle.  Too little respect has been given to the WCW staff and talent for the sell they did on this, it was convincing, with the shock being palpable and making it seem for all the world like a genuine invasion from WWF.  Razor Ramon, the former Intercontinental Champ and star bad guy (pardon the pun) of the New Generation, was standing in a WCW ring with his ego showing for all the world.
 
Pictured: The following week when Kevin Nash joined Hall on Nitro
Like any War in all time though, no one can tell exactly what will happen once the first shot is fired.  We would undoubtedly have casualties, not least of which would be WCW itself; we would have stunning allegiances in the nWo and DX, both born from the ashes of the Kliq; and most importantly, we would have the fiercest battles in wrestling history. Mostly over ratings...

“You all know who I am, but you don't know why I'm here.”

Get ready for a summer of great 20th anniversaries of the Monday Night War and the birth of the “New World Order of wrestling, Brother!”