Wednesday, 28 September 2016

TNA Sale News By Gary R. Ward



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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

WWE Battleground DVD Review by Tim Ricketts



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

Charlotte & Dana Brooke vs. Sasha Banks & Mystery Partner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn

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

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

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

Natalya vs. Becky Lynch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Jericho's Highlight Reel feat. Randy Orton

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusions

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

Available now from www.WWEDVD.co.uk


Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The History of the WWE Hardcore Championship Review by Tim Ricketts



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Available now from https://www.wwedvd.co.uk/

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