Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Randy Savage 'Unreleased' DVD Review By Richard Edmund

New from WWE, 'Randy Savage Unreleased: The Unseen Matches of the Macho Man' is a three disc DVD set that provides die-hard Macho Man fans with a glimpse at some rare matches never before released on DVD and, in a few cases, matches that have never aired anywhere. Covering the entirety of Macho's run in the WWF from his debut in 1985 to his departure in 1994, the set also touches on his time at rival promotion WCW and in total has over forty matches on offer. These are interspersed with clips from a round-table discussion hosted by Corey Graves (a self-confessed Macho Man fanatic), with guests Bayley, WWE Hall of Famer Diamond Dallas Page and legendary WWF announcer Sean Mooney, providing anecdotes about the Macho Man, as well of context for and remembrances of his legendary career.

The first disc contains some of the most interesting matches on the set, although many are short affairs with the fledgling WWF Superstar Randy Savage mostly facing enhancement talent, but it's an era of the Macho Man's career that is rarely highlighted. It's great to see the Macho Man at this point, already in his prime and being treated as such in his WWF debut against Aldo Marino (a young Ricky Santana) as the WWF's ensemble cast of managers come out mid-match to watch the promotion's newest hot prospect have his hand raised in victory, and to vie for his contract. There's also a short match against perennial jobber Mario Mancini and another against a young Paul Roma, before the set talks about Macho's decision to have Miss Elizabeth as his manager and how that changed the dynamic of the character.
While a lot of fans will have seen Randy playing the bad guy with his cartoonishly unhinged 'Macho King' persona, perhaps they'll be less familiar with the early incarnation of the Macho Man, who cowardly puts Miss Elizabeth in the line of fire and routinely demeans her in public, which drew great ire from crowds at the time. This we see in the next few matches, as Randy faces more enhancement talent such as Scott McGhee and Troy Martin (a young Shane Douglas), teams with Jesse 'The Body' Ventura, puts in a good shift against the up and coming Tony Atlas and defends the WWF Intercontinental Title against Pedro Morales. Next, the set turns to Macho's famous rivalry with Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat and we get treated to a never before seen house show version of their fantastic Intercontinental title match from WrestleMania 3. 

The set then fast forwards a year to Macho Man as Undisputed WWF World Heavyweight Champion, defending his newly won title against Ted DiBiase in a steel cage. Savage, now a huge fan favourite, has changed his attitude towards Miss Elizabeth by this point, far more complimentary of her ability as a manager and the role she plays in the Macho Man's success. The next match is a largely forgettable title match against Akeem (who the ring announcer introduces as One Man Gang), that's notable for the fact that it came from the WWF's first ever visit to France. Although broadcast live on Canal+ in France, this is the first time the match has been internationally available and, while not a great match, the crowd are electric and the scale of the celebration for Macho's victory to close out the show is impressive.

Disc two picks up shortly after the implosion of the Mega Powers, Macho Man is once more somewhat reviled by large portions of the crowds and in the first match on this disc he defends the WWF Intercontinental title against a wildly popular new superstar in the Ultimate Warrior from a 1989 house show in Chicago. Next, the set covers the introduction of Sensational Sherri as the Macho Man's new manager and, over the course of the next series of matches, we see the much more direct influence Sherri had in Randy's bouts compared to Elizabeth. Firstly, there's an entertaining WWF title match from Toronto that sees the Macho Man go one on one with Hulk, before a somewhat less exciting match vs Brutus the Barber Beefcake. The Macho King vs Hercules match is surprisingly fun, but is followed by a farcical mixed tag with Macho & Sherri vs Dusty & Sapphire, with Miss Elizabeth.

The set covers Macho Man's feud with Jake 'The Snake' Roberts and subsequent forced retirement, which leads into his campaign to be reinstated by WWF President Jack Tunney. The next match is a never before seen six man tag from December 1991, as Savage teams with Roddy Piper and Hacksaw Jim Duggan against the team of Ric Flair, Jake Roberts and The Undertaker! Then, another never before seen match as the Mega Powers reunite for the first time in two years to take on Jake Roberts and The Bezerker. We jump forward post-WrestleMania VIII to now two-time WWF World Heavyweight Champion Randy Savage teaming with The Undertaker to face Flair and The Berzerker, before heading onto a solid pair of singles matches against Razor Ramon and Terry Taylor to close out disc two.

Disc three starts with the absolutely '90s-riffic 'Gets Your Heart Pumping' music video WWF produced for the Macho Man, as well as some great blue screen outtakes from its production before getting on with the matches. Unfortunately the quality isn't terribly high in this last gasp of Randy's WWF career, after a solid match against Yokozuna there's a plodding singles bout against Lex Luger, an entirely forgettable match against Mr. Hughes, a Macho & Perfect vs Hughes and the awful Giant Gonzalez and a short match from Monday Night RAW with Randy taking on Fatu before the set heads into WCW territory. Randy's WCW work was a mixed bag, and there's not exactly many 'must see' matches in this portion of the collection, but still a few cool bouts here and there such as Randy vs 'Stunning' Steve Austin, or taking on Kurasawa (a young Manabu Nakanishi) or facing off against Sir Robert of Eaton.
Overall, while this set most definitely can't be considered a 'best of', it's a solid accompaniment to the WWE's other Randy Savage DVDs 'The Randy Savage Story' and 'Macho Madness - The Ultimate Randy Savage Collection'. It's great that newer fans can get a taste of the earliest days of the Macho Man in WWF, as well as seeing him at the peak of his abilities and the matches on offer from later in his career provide a few nice highlights and some notable oddities. Also, it's cool to see a bunch of promos and video packages here, including the great 'Macho Lifestyles' segment that saw Mean Gene take a trip to Randy's home for a candid interview. I'm not a huge fan of the round-table format and think a 'talking heads' approach with a greater cast of characters would've been better, although Corey Graves does a good job as host and DDP and Sean Mooney both provide some great insight.

'Randy Savage Unreleased: The Unseen Matches of the Macho Man' is available now on DVD from:

Thursday, 26 April 2018

DVD REVIEW: Twist Of Fate: The Best Of The Hardy Boyz By Richard Edmund

After a lengthy absence from the grandest stage in all of professional wrestling, 2017 saw the return of The Hardy Boyz, Matt & Jeff Hardy, to a WWE ring. One of the most accomplished and innovative tag teams in WWE history, the Hardyz paved the way for a faster paced, high intensity (and high risk) daredevil style which changed the face of tag team wrestling within the WWE. After returning to great acclaim at WrestleMania 33 and winning the WWE RAW Tag Team Titles, WWE have set out to mark Matt and Jeff's homecoming with this 3-disc DVD set 'Twist of Fate: The Best of the Hardy Boyz' featuring over 25 matches and newly recorded interview segments at the Hardy Compound that add some context and behind-the-scenes information to the storied careers on display. 

The first disc begins, where else, with the WWE debut of Matt and Jeff as a tag team from way back in 1996. Facing off against the short-lived duo of The New Rockers (Marty Jannetty and Leif Cassidy, AKA Al Snow), the young Hardy brothers acquit themselves well while taking a resounding beating. Jeff takes a huge back body drop over the ropes and to the floor, before suffering a doomsday powerbomb to give the Rockers the victory. Fast forward a couple of years and The Hardy Brothers (now both out of high school and able to compete full-time with the WWE) have become The Hardy Boyz, but are still in search of victory as they take on the Kai En Tai team of Funaki & MEN's Teioh. The Hardyz get to display some innovative offense, but their risk taking is almost their undoing as Jeff misses a step-up tope and crashes hard to the floor. But when Kai En Tai's nefarious tactics backfire on them, the young Hardyz take full advantage and pick up their first WWE win in the process.
A VERY young Matt & Jeff Hardy in the WWF
Their first taste of WWE Tag Team gold came in 1999 against The Acolytes of Bradshaw & Farooq. With the help of Michael Hayes as their manager The Hardy Boyz steal a win over their intimidating opponents, thanks to a tombstone on the ring steps Kane delivered to Bradshaw the night before, and a shot to the head from Hayes' cane. Next we're treated to two of the earliest matches in the long-standing rivalry of The Hardy Boyz and Edge & Christian. The first of the two is a fast-paced Tornado Tag match from an episode of Smackdown, while the second is the very first (but most certainly not last) ladder match in which both teams faced off against one another. 

Here we get a glimpse of the inventiveness of The Hardyz and Edge & Christian, the chemistry they had together in the ring and the death-defying lengths they would go to in order to steal the show. Next up is another big first, the first time The Hardy Boyz wrestled each other on WWE television. Forced into the match by Stephanie McMahon, the reluctant Hardyz soon find their competitive spirit and the result is a brief but entertaining singles bout pitting brother against brother. Another tag match vs Edge & Christian follows, this one from No Way Out 2000 is a bit more grounded than the last and notable for The Hardyz manager Terri turning on them. 

The year from WrestleMania 2000 to WrestleMania X-Seven was an important one for The Hardy Boyz and the first disc of the set closes out with four huge bouts that went a long way to cementing their status as one of the most exciting tag teams in the world. First, the 3-way ladder match from WM 2000 introduced the destructive Dudley Boyz to the Hardyz/E&C mix, while SummerSlam a few months latter saw all three teams collide again in the first ever TLC match. At Unforgiven Edge & Christian faced the Hardyz in a memorable cage match, while WM X-7 saw the three-way TLC match return for a second year. These four matches include some of the most memorable moments in the careers of all six men involved, and set the bar for tag team wrestling in the WWE. 

Disc 2 begins with The Hardy Boyz at the very top of the tag team game, having seen it all and done it all as a tag team their increasing popularity grants more and more opportunities for them outside of the tag division and in the main event. Case in point, a huge Monday Night RAW main event match pitting The Hardy Boyz & The Brothers of Destruction vs Stone Cold, Triple H, Edge & Christian. Matt & Jeff talk about what it meant to them to get to work with some of the biggest names in the WWE and how they used the experience to improve their game. Next, old enemy Edge teams with The Hardyz to take on Test & The Dudleys, setting up a unification match between The Hardyz & The Dudleys for the WWF & WCW Tag Team Titles in a steel cage at Survivor Series 2001 that saw a memorable (but disastrous) Swanton Bomb off the cage. 

Over the next year or so Matt & Jeff would branch out more as singles competitors with varying degrees of success. While Matt established himself with his Version 1.0 character, Jeff struggled to find his footing on his own and would end up leaving the WWE in 2003. The matches chosen here reflect that, with Chris Jericho taking on a Jeff Hardy struggling to find his identity in the "solo dimension", as Jeff puts it, and two great matches from a popular feud between Matt Hardy and Rey Mysterio for the Cruiserweight Title. The second of which is an important match in the career of Mysterio, his first singles title in the WWE.
Fast forward to December 2006 and the Hardy Boyz are once again teaming together in a WWE ring for the first time in just under 3 years. The match vs MNM is a bit of a mixed bag, although it drags in places and goes longer than necessary it was the one bright spot of a generally ill-remembered ECWWE PPV, but the crowd were definitely pleased to see The Hardy Boyz teaming again. Next up a solid tag bout pitting the newly minted WWE Tag Team Champions (The Hardys won the belts in a Battle Royale on RAW) against Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch, notable for being the first Hardy defence of the tag titles in six years.

The final match on this portion of the set is a show-stealing ladder match from One Night Stand 2007 that saw The Hardy Boyz defend the World Tag Titles against The World's Greatest Tag Team of Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin. A classic car crash of a bout that illustrates how well matches these two teams were, and what a shame it is they didn't face off again. Shelton has the athleticism and will to put his body on the line like Jeff, Charlie has the skills to handle Matt in the ring, but The Hardys have the experience and the result is a great tag contest that is deservedly highlighted here.

Disc 3 picks up the action in 2009 with the Hardy brothers locked in an embittered feud stemming from Matt's jealousy of Jeff's popularity, and resulting in a memorable storyline where it's revealed Matt burned down Jeff's house (a real life event incorporated into the tale). They face off in a ladder match at WrestleMania XXV that sees both brothers test the extremes to which they'll go in order to gain victory, before the feud is settled at Backlash 2009 in an I Quit match where Jeff finally defeats his brother. 

A few months later Jeff would again leave the WWE, and a year after that Matt followed him. They reunited in TNA and ROH, a period of their career covered here by a ten minute interview segment and a few scant clips courtesy of the Global Wrestling Network. Quickly, however, the set races towards The Hardy Boyz big return to the WWE at WrestleMania 33 in Florida. Fresh off a gruelling ladder match to finish up their time in Ring of Honor, Matt & Jeff were brought back to the WWE in the utmost secrecy and, although their return had been widely speculated upon, the response from the crowd was no less rapturous.

The match itself is a chaotic 4-way ladder match for the RAW Tag Team Championship, pitting The Hardy Boyz against Sheamus & Cesaro, Enzo & Big Cass and Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson. While much of the action inevitably revolves around the other teams in the match, the experience of the Hardyz pays off and they pick their moment perfectly to win the tag titles (as well as reminding everyone that they're still as crazy as ever, Matt with a Twist of Fate off a ladder, and Jeff hitting an insane Swanton to the outside).

The next two matches on the set come from The Hardy Boyz feud with Cesaro & Sheamus over the RAW Tag Team Championship, namely the cage match from Extreme Rules 2017 and the Iron Man Tag Team Match from WWE's Great Balls of Fire PPV. The name of the show being 'Extreme Rules' only highlights how different the modern WWE cage match is from the sort of cage matches Matt & Jeff were innovating nearly two decades prior. That being said, all four guys work hard in this one, as they do in the Iron Man match. Not a rule-set terribly suited to tag wrestling, but they make it work here and after a bit of a rough start the crowd get really into the final third of the match.

Rounding out the set are two singles matches from Monday Night RAW with the Hardy brother in turn trying to wrest the WWE Intercontinental Title away from the hands of The Miz. Compared to the other singles matches on the set these show a different side of the Hardyz, older, a bit wiser and more experienced, but still with a spark of that same energy they possessed when the were in their prime. Afterwards Matt talks about Jeff's recent injury and how that gave him an opportunity to bring his 'Woken' character to the WWE, before the brothers contemplate what the future will bring for their careers to bring the interview to a close.

Overall this is a content-rich set that will please any fan of The Hardy Boyz. While not a definitive collection, the matches have been selected to tell the story of Matt & Jeff's careers from the beginning up to the present day and, to that end, the selection suceeds with only a small number of matches feeling superfluous. The interviews are a welcome addition and provide good context where needed as well as a number of backstage anecdotes, and it was cool to see early footage of the Hardyz as kids and some clips of their time in TNA. 

'Twist of Fate: The Best of the Hardy Boyz' is available on DVD from WWE Home Video UK

Friday, 12 January 2018

DVD Review: WWE Best Pay-Per-View Matches Of 2017 By Tim Ricketts

Once more, WWE release their annual compendium of Pay-per-View matches 'The Best PPV Matches of 2017'. As usual with these type of DVD sets, one should expect samples and highlights of the year's best feuds and championship matches - greatly expanded once again as the two brands establish their own respective titles.

Disc One, at first glance of the contents list, appropriately appears to be very SmackDown-heavy, considering the critical positivity surrounding the brand going into 2017. First up was the WWE championship bout that saw perennial poster-boy John Cena claim the title from AJ Styles, a refrain of 2016's arguable feud-of-the-year, to tie with the legendary 'Nature Boy' Ric Flair at 16 WWE-recognised world title reigns.  This wasn't the year for the Rumble match itself to get on the 'best-of' list, but second-time winner Randy Orton had his subsequent Elimination Chamber PPV match with Luke Harper included, foreshadowing a feud with the winner of the event's eponymous match. The Elimination Chamber match itself was one of the most coherent of recent times, and provided overdue WWE championship recognition for Bray Wyatt as he surprisingly defeated Cena, Styles, Dean Ambrose, The Miz and Baron Corbin.

Whilst that would have set up the traditional WrestleMania main event, the three examples from this year's 'Superbowl of Wrestling' didn't include Orton's almost inevitable victory. Instead, we get Styles versus 47-year-old boss-man Shane McMahon (which, to be fair, built a slow start into a serviceably entertaining bout). The Cena & Nikki Bella mixed-tag against The Miz & Maryse was turgidly paced, and whilst the ensuing marriage proposal was highlight-worthy, the match itself is hideously misplaced on any 'best-of' list. In contrast, the feud between the phoenix-like Universal champion Goldberg and Brock Lesnar has been denoted by explosively brief, almost terse, matches. Lesnar's WM33 victory here was almost an epic by their standards, and began to approach double-figures in terms of minutes' length... almost as long as Goldberg's entrance down the interminable ramp. The crowd had fun counting the suplexes and spears though.

The second DVD features more RAW, with two post-Superstar-Shakeup matches from Payback opening the disc. Alexa Bliss becomes the first woman to have held both brands' titles when she takes the RAW women's championship from Bayley, whilst the second features the objectively brilliant feud between Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman beginning to peak. A brief sojourn back to SmackDown sees the start of Jinder Mahal's initially unlikely but ultimately productive WWE championship run, taking the belt from Orton at Backlash.

The first of three excellently free-flowing 'Fatal' matches on the set, this one a 5-Way match to determine the number-1 contender for WWE Universal championship, sees Samoa Joe overcome Reigns, Wyatt, Seth Rollins and Finn Balor. The Universal title bout at the rock-n-roll-retro Great Balls of Fire is one of that archetypal 'big fight feel', full of impassioned brawling, but ultimately unsuccessful for Joe. Sandwiched in between was the first ever Women's Money-in-the-Bank ladder match, but the good-to-excellent bout was marred by the thoroughly objectionable finish. Carmella comes away with the case in circumstances shrouded in understandable feminist controversy.

The final fight of the DVD is the tag-team championship match between The Usos and The New Day. New Day gain the SmackDown gold after previously holding their RAW equivalents for so long; Xavier Woods looking particularly dogged, enough to get his first belt-winning pin.

Summer Slam opens the third DVD, and the long-awaited reformation of SHIELD (two-thirds of). Ambrose and Rollins take the RAW tag-titles from Sheamus and Cesaro in a bout that manages to be both brutal and technical. The other match from the 'big-four' PPV is the delightfully outstanding Universal championship Fatal Four-way. Seeing Strowman manhandle Lesnar like a cruiser-weight to demolish consecutive announcement tables is a rare sight, but the champion returned after
 medical attention to retain against a resurgent Reigns.

Bliss underlines her 'Five Feet of Fury' moniker, defeating Bayley, Emma, Nia Jax and Sasha Banks in the final fine 'Fatal' fight to retain her title at No Mercy, which also provided a clash of titans in the form of Cena versus Reigns. No matter which side the perennial detractors fall, this is an exemplar match of WWE's heavyweight Sports-Entertainment style, both technically and narratively.

A casual observer, using this DVD set to stay moderately up-to-date on WWE goings-on, may be forgiven for thinking that Shane McMahon is a top-tier major draw, judging by a second inclusion. The match with Kevin Owens at Hell-in-a-Cell is a worthy addition though, if inevitably a little formulaic. Sami Zayn makes a timely intervention to cement the restoration of his and Owens' friendship, and save his Canadian compatriot from Shane-o-Mac's 20-foot cage-top plunge.

The set concludes with the strongest technical match-up: Styles versus Balor, a veritable exposition of intricacy and almost Indy-level pace, but one, no-matter how you look at it, that missed the gun narratively. As a last-minute replacement match it is mind-blowing, but a year-or-so before it would have been the battle of the Bullet Club (even if they couldn't call it that), or with some build-up it might well have been 2017's pure gold.

The opportunity cost and logistics of getting this set out for the biggest (Christmas) market, means that Survivor Series onward is absent from the set, a grave omission in terms of narrative build for 2018, but commercially understandable. Other than a somewhat weak WrestleMania selection, this represents a great value-for-money coherent anthology of WWE's year, and a solid addition to a fan's

You can buy this DVD set from our good friends over at WWE DVD UK and give them a follow on twitter @WWEHomeVideoUK

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Jinder Mahal: Someone To Look Up To And Admire By Pete Stevens

Mahal in his previous incarnation with the WWE
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the pro wrestling business. I’ve been a part of it (10 years) and a fan for a combined 30 years. I’ve taken just lately to writing about my thoughts and feelings on certain subjects and this is another one. 

I recently read online that during a press tour of India to promote WWE’s upcoming show, Kane was quoted as saying that Jinder Mahal is a superstar that should be admired for his change in attitude. Kane makes reference to Mahal’s 2014 release and spoke about the way Mahal conducted himself while being away including becoming a better wrestler and the drastic changes to his physical appearance. I understand that this interview took place in India to promote the forthcoming show which Mahal is due to headline in a match against the COO of the company Triple H however, it got me thinking. 

In the bigger picture, should we all not respect Jinder Mahal for his most recent accomplishments a little bit more than we do? 

I understand that some purists and wrestling die hards were outraged when the company went left field and chose to put the WWE Championship on Jinder and the rise of the ‘Modern Day Maharaja’ began. I admit, I thought it was going to be a transitional champion kind of situation and the company would keep with the safe cards like AJ Styles (champion now) or Randy Orton. A near enough 6 month reign would be the result of it all which even if you appreciated it or not brought fresh new light into the tired and tested main event scene. 

Mahal with his 3MB cohorts heath Slater & Drew McIntyre
In 2014 Jinder Mahal was released from his contract. At the time of his release he was a member of 3MB. Prior to 3MB he had bounced around the mid card with a couple of mediocre winning streaks. He was the runner up to Seth Rollins in the final of the NXT Championship Tournament and was also the on screen brother in law to The Great Khali. Jinder was re-hired by the company along with Curt Hawkins, Rhyno, Shelton Benjamin and a few others to bulk out the rosters during the brand split. Not long into Mahal’s return he begun to make some big changes to his physic and attitude in the ring whilst finding himself in a team with Rusev. Mahal would look like an absolute beast leading intro Wrestlemania where he again came second in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal however, the ground work was already being laid down for him to rise to the top of the Smackdown brand and lead it as it’s champion.

Mahal in more recent times when he was WWE champion
Taking a step back from his accomplishments during all of this I’d like to go back to concentrating on the point Kane was making. Jinder Mahal is a character. Love him or hate him he isn’t real. Yuvraj Singh Dhesi was giving a second chance with a company that doesn’t really give second chances very often (okay goldust being the exception) and he chose to reinvent himself to give himself a fighting chance to survive.

As I said earlier wither you like him or not as a performer it’s immaterial.  Personally I feel he should be admired and ultimately looked up to as someone who took the measures to better himself within his workplace to stand out from the pack instead of just filling the hole in the roster which ultimately he was brought back to do. Take a quick second to look at the rest of the returning stars. Rhyno was Tag Team Champion and got a push on smackdown but has done nothing since the brand switch moved him to Raw. Curt Hawkins gimmick is that he’s lost every match since the start of his career and Shelton Benjamin has been shoved into a 2.0 tag team. You may argue that Mahal has done nothing but alter his appearance and that his level of wrestling skill hasn’t changed at all. Against the skill of the veterans I mentioned above I would strongly argue that if his push was solely based around in ring skill then chances are he would be jobbing to the stars as well and in some way maybe he knows that. Look into his past again for a second. WWE tried multiple times with Jinder to make something of him and nothing happened. When he was Average Mahal you never saw him knocking down doors to get to any championship glory. 

In an industry STILL (WWE at least) dominated by big men with impressive physical appearances Mahal has perfectly played the one card he did have for success and he played it extremely well. 

Changing his physical appearance is the best thing Jinder Mahal has ever done for his career and it says a lot about his personal character and his willingness to want to succeed. He was given a second chance at a dream career where he hadn’t made the best of it the first time round and has hit a home run this time round. 

Surely that’s something to look up to for anyone in any industry. 

I’d call this a dream come true. 


Monday, 20 November 2017

WWE Network: We Wish You The Best In Your Future Endevours By Joel Yentis

I have decided, I am cancelling my WWE Network subscription. I don’t use it. New content doesn’t appeal to me. The nail in the coffin will depend on this weekend’s quality – no pressure then WWE.

You see, my problem is time and environment. Once the kids are in bed, I have a few hours to spend with the wife which, lies the second problem; trying to negotiate a night watchingwrestling. WWE isn’t easy to watch at the best of times, let alone when the current product just doesn’t make any sense. When I introduced the wife to wrestling back in 2009, her first comment was “do they do risk assessments?” when watching a money in the bank ladder match. A fair point, I suppose. Then a large amount of reasonable  questions followed, “why do they always do moves facing the camera?” or “why are they always distracted when someone else’s music plays?”. Dearest wife, I have no answer. I don’t think many people have answers, including the decision makers.

So my valuable, marital time is at a premium, WWE is not an option. Fortunately, I have two other subscription services which, are cheaper than the “New York” territories offering and more importantly, a more common sense approach to content. Another subscription service we have is Netflix and, we really enjoyed watching GLOW together as well as non-wrestling related shows such as American Vandal, Toast of London to name but a few. A few hours of free time every night and, with all these options available, we tend to go for Netflix (also cheaper than the WWE Network) then, if I feel lucky I will offer up a New Japan English Commentary show or, if I am really feeling lucky, a Rev Pro Cockpit show.

With time at a premium, this week I have found having plenty of free time. Once I get the kids to bed, I am on my own. The wife is out doing a play (because we are middle class… Amateur Theatre Dahling). I can sit in and watch whatever I want (and play Football Manager at the same time – MULTITASKING!). What have I chosen to watch this week? Well, to watch Rev I have to plug in my Chromecast, connect my Macbooks Chrome, log in and then Cast. New Japan is the same process – but this has improved greatly (I now no longer need Google Translate – Huzzah!). For the WWE Network, I just hit the apps button on my remote and go to the WWE App, Michael Cole told me how to install it and everything (I have a Smart TV – told you I was middle class). Ease of use doesn’t seem to affect me. I can log onto the site nice and easy and browse the network. I even get emails from John Cena, Roman Reigns and Charlotte Flair to tell me amazing new events are coming to the Network. Thanks guys. This week, I have been mostly watching Rev Pro Global Wars Shows 1 and 2, New Japan Power Struggle (again) and PWG BOLA 2017 Night 1. Really enjoyable ways to spend an evening or two.

Why don’t I use the Network then? Well, I have lived throughmost of their 90s to date archives. Putting in the hours when I wasn’t married, with kids and a mortgage. No, I lived these events when I had a social life – which I didn’t have because I was in my room watching wrestling.

Nostalgia seems to be a big reason to have the network, but I don’t need nostalgia in my current free time. I have vintage video games for my nostalgia fix, plus a lot of the content from the Attitude Era for example doesn’t age particularly well. There are plenty of more qualified folk to point this out, but the way women were portrayed at the time has no place in my house. The Attitude Era and all ECW shows are a no go option for me these days. I want new, up and coming, different, challenging viewing options and, in its current form the WWE just doesn’t offer me that. Even with NXT – it is formulaic; focused on being a TV product rather than a sport on TV. Can you imagine Ronaldo getting screamed at for not turning to the hard cam to do his celebration? Or how about Roger Federer serving for the match and accidently lookingstraight into the camera? If it is “Sports Entertainment” why isn’t there emphasis on the sport? We don’t scream at the Sky Sports commentators for talking about what is trending online during a match or the editors cutting away every time someone completes a tackle. It’s time for me to just give up on the network. I thought it was everything I ever dreamed of, but in reality, Over the Top services such as Rev Pro, Progress, NJPW World etc IS what I dreamed of. Current product of the highest of qualities with an archive should I wish to go back. 

My £9.99 a month saved will go back into wrestling, through live attendance, merchandise, subscriptions etc. It will not go to corporate America any longer. Yuk, I am turning into one of “those guys”.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

WWE Presents NXT: From Secret To Sensation DVD Review By Keagan Barnes

NXT is WWE’s third brand, well known for it’s tendency to create stars in such a short time. This DVD was dedicated to that with a list of NXTs top 25 of all time. In the last review I did, I covered the ‘30 Years of Survivor Series’ DVD and in that I was very critical. However, the things I criticised were improved and I can’t see a fault in this DVD. 

 Disc 1:
We start off with Tom Phillips giving a brief introduction to NXT. He name drops a few alumn who’ve gone on to do great things and then the list gets underway.. The list entries have a video package but with sections in between, quizzing other WWE/NXT stars about the performer. This was really well put together and this is what the survivor series dvd, in my opinion, was lacking. 
The top 25 were all deserving of their place on the list. There was a few surprise entry numbers. That was bound to happen though. The list of illustrious superstars included greats like: Triple H, William Regal and John Cena. It was also very cool to see the NXT Superstars and alumn talk about their peers in such a positive way. Also, it was great to reminisce and look back at some great gimmicks and matches. 
Cesaro made the list, which wasn’t a shock considering what he did for the brand in its early days. A lot of people picked up on that. His feuds with Sami Zayn and William Regal should definitely be in the conversation for best rivalry in NXT’s early days. Like I just mentioned, it was great to see peers praise Cesaro and his contribution to NXT. 
One which surprised me was Paige. She defitnitely deserved to be put on but due to the situation she’s in with WWE at the minute, I wasn’t sure that she would be. A big name who didn’t make the list such as: Roman Reigns or Dean Ambrose could’ve made the list instead. It was easily done. In my opinion, Paige definitely deserved a place on the list over those two.
The superstar input wasn’t scripted and you could definitely tell. It added a sense of sincerity which can’t be faked. It was wrestlers giving their genuine thoughts on their colleagues. This was made more apparent on Alexa Bliss’ entry more than anyone’s. Many stars said that they didn’t believe she was going to do much in the WWE. Reminiscing about her old cheerleader gimmick, it was crazy to see how far she’s come. The change from over-the-top cheerleader to intense bad girl was drastic and will arguably go down as the best image change in NXT history.
Tyler Breeze made the list! I love Tyler Breeze, he’s my favourite NXT wrestler of all time.. His schtick was so original and he had the charisma to perfect it. He put on solid matches and the NXT higher ups thought that much of him, they used Liger’s one off WWE appearance in a match against him at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn. The fact that he’s gone to SmackDown Live and is now doing something completely different to his NXT gimmick while perfecting it to the same degree, proves that he’s a fantastic performer. 
NXT Tag Teams got their own segment prior to the Top 10 countdown but none of them were ranked. It was a collection of video clips for each team. The Vaudevillians were included and it was cool to see Simon Gotch again I guess. The Ascension was really cool to see at their most dominant. A lot less like the Road Warriors cosplayers they later became. Enzo and Cass at their best, The Revival in their earlier days and DIY were all welcome additions to the list. It was a great compilation of teams and the tributes were fitting to the guys that made NXT weekly TV so entertaining.
The new generation of NXT was represented by none other than Ember Moon. Although receiving a low placement on the list, it was still cool to see her on it. It felt like just yesterday she debuted and wowed everyone with her appearance and unique in ring offence. It just adds to the point I started off this review with, NXT are really great for creating stars in a short time. 
Finn Balor. His position is high obviously and I think it’s also pretty predictable. However, it’s predictable with good reason. Finn Balor elevated NXT and is the longest reigning champion in the brands short history, putting on barnburners every time his championship was on the line. Every time Balor was in a feud with someone it felt like a big deal. 
This disc finished on a positive note, looking to the future of NXT and all the stars on the rise. Superstars name dropped here included: Aleister Black, Billie Kay & Peyton Royce and Ruby Riot.
Disc 2: 
This disc had a collection of classic NXT matches including an untelevised contest between Xavier Woods and Big E Langston from 2011. 
My 5 Match Recommendations:
  1.  Non-Televised Match - Big E Langston vs. Xavier Woods - NXT (Pilot Episode) 
  2. NXT Championship Match - Seth Rollins vs Corey Graves - NXT January 2, 2013.
  3. Fatal 4-Way Match for the NXT Championship - Adrian Neville vs. Sami Zayn vs. Tyler Breeze vs. Tyson Kidd - NXT TakeOver: Fatal 4-Way. 
  4. Adrian Neville vs. Tyler Breeze - NXT January 15, 2014. 
  5. Antonio Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn - NXT June 12, 2013.
Disc 3: 
Like the disc before it, this had a collection of NXT classics. From this disc I recommend the following 5. 
My 5 Match Recommendations: 
  1. Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura - NXT TakeOver: Dallas 2016
  2. NXT Women’s Championship Match - Asuka vs. Ember Moon - NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II
  3. NXT Championship Match - Finn Bálor vs. Samoa Joe - NXT (Lowell, MA) April 21, 2016
  4. Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss - NXT July 6, 2016
  5. NXT Women’s Championship Match - Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch - NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable 2015.
Final Thoughts:
All in all, I believe this DVD is an all round fantastic set. Great list, great matches and I for one, thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. Definitely recommend.
Rating: 8.5/10
Buy or Not to Buy: BUY HERE

Sunday, 22 October 2017

WWE '30 Years Of Survivor Series' DVD Review By Keagan Barnes

On the 23rd of October 2017, WWE will release the '30 Years of Survivor Series' DVD set. I sat and watched the discs back to back to back and have the following to say about the set.
Disc 1: 
The DVD kicks off with no introduction or host/s with the only thing given being the Survivor Series transitions they've been using for the last few years. The first disc is a top 30 of the best Survivor Series moments. It felt like an hour long YouTube video. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the disc but I feel like it could've been put across better. 
Each place on the list has a video package similar to those used in WWE today and boy have the video team knocked it out of the park here. I have a few issues with placements on the list but nothing too drastic. Do I believe that number 1 should've been number 1? Yes, without a doubt. Despite being controversial and pretty obvious, it couldn't have been anything else. It also felt nice that everything on the list deserved to be on it and that none of it was just there to fill places up. It was also nice to see people no longer affiliated with the WWE involved in the list too. People like Demolition, CM Punk, Hulk Hogan and Alberto Del Rio all featuring prominently. 
Another thing that could've been improved was the amount of information given. We were just presented with the video and had to make our own assumptions. There is a list with names of moments online at wrestlingdvdnetwork(dot)com but you shouldn't have to go out of your way to find it. I'm not going to spoil the list placements but I'm going to give you my personal favourite moments that were put on the list. 
  1. The Undertaker Returns at Survivor Series 2004
  2. The Shield Debut
  3. The First Elimination Chamber 
  4. Winner Takes All - Team WWE vs Team Invasion
  5. Team Cena vs Team Authority / Sting Debut.
I don't have much to say about the first disc besides the lack of information and the presentation of the list leaves this DVD with the untapped potential of being fantastic. 
Disc 2:
The second disc is a collection of matches from the earlier Survivor Series which were mentioned on the list. This collection of matches is nice and are definitely must watch. 
My Top 5 however: 
  1. WWE Championship Match: The Undertaker vs Hulk Hogan @ Survivor Series 1991.
  2. 5-on-5 Elimination Match: The Bad Guys (Razor Ramon, 1-2-3 Kid, The British Bulldog & The Headshrinkers) vs. The Teamsters (Jeff Jarrett, Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Owen Hart & Jim Neidhart) @ Survivor Series 1994.
  3. No Disqualification Match for the WWE Championship: Bret “Hitman” Hart vs. Diesel @ Survivor Series 1995.
  4. WWE Championship Match: Shawn Michaels vs. Sycho Sid @ Survivor Series 1996.
  5. Triple Threat Match for the WWE Championship: Triple H vs. The Rock vs. The Big Show @ Survivor Series 1999. 
It was so nice to listen to Brain on commentary again too. 
Disc 3: 
Similarly to Disc 2, this was a very nice collection of matches beginning from the attitude era spanning to the current era. Like the previous, must watch matches. The last two discs are what makes the set worthwhile in my opinion. 
My Top 5 Matches: 
  1. Steel Cage Match to Unify the WWE & WCW Tag Team Championships: The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz @ Survivor Series 2001
  2. WWE Championship Match: Brock Lesnar vs. The Big Show @ Survivor Series 2002
  3. 6-Pack Challenge Match for the Vacant WWE Women’s Championship: Trish Stratus vs. Lita vs. Jacqueline vs. Molly Holly vs. Jazz vs. Ivory @ Survivor Series 2001
  4. 5-on-5 Elimination Match: The Shield (Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose) & The Real Americans (Jack Swagger & Cesaro) vs. Cody Rhodes, Goldust, Rey Mysterio, & The Usos @ Survivor Series 2013
  5. Tournament Finals for the Vacant WWE Championship: Roman Reigns vs. Dean Ambrose @ Survivor Series 2015
The set was good. Not fantastic, not bad, just good. The list was mediocre but was made up for by the quality matches on the other discs. I still do recommend it but I just thought you might want to know what you're buying before you buy it. 
Buy or Not To Buy: BUY from WWE DVD UK 
Rating: 6.5