Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Kurt Angle: The Essential Collection review By James Russell

 Kurt Angle is one of the most historic WWE superstars of all time. He's a former two-time NCAA All American. He's a grand-slam champion in both TNA and WWE, not to mention holding the WWE heavyweight championship on 4 separate occasions. He was the 2000 King of the Ring winner and even voted #1 Wrestler of the Year in the 2001 PWI 500. And to top it all of - he's the only Olympic gold medalist in WWE history. This legend is truly one of the best of all time, and this DVD set proves it.

The first disc of this set covers the first 18 months of Kurt's WWE career and really reminds you of just how good he has been from the very start. From his debut at Survivor Series 1999 against Shawn Stasiak to winning the European Championship from Val Venus just 3 months later and then defeating Chris Jericho for the Intercontinental Championship at No Way Out 2000 and unifying both titles. His beginning in WWE is second to no one. His KOTR victory over Rikishi is also on here and reminds you just how good a match this was. Then comes his first WWE championship victory over The Rock at No Mercy 2000 and successful defences against Undertaker and Triple H. The first disc ends with the amazing match against Shane McMahon at KOTR 2001. One of the most entertaining matches from around that time and definitely helped show just how tough Shane-o-Mac is.

Here is Angle vs Shane McMahon from King Of The Ring 1998
The second disc has more great matches against the likes of Stone Cold in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Edge, the WWE debuts of John Cena and Rey Mysterio; and even a hidden gem against Hulk Hogan from KOTR 2002. Watching this DVD helps show just how good Kurt is at changing his style against opponents with such unique styles over the years. But, this disc ends with a fantastic match between Kurt and Brock Lesnar at Summerslam 2003 in a rematch from their Wrestlemania 19 classic. This, once again, was an instant classic. The third and final discs has another match against John Cena, also showing the classic footage of the infamous battle rap between the pair. It also shows a match between he and Eddie from Summerslam 2004 which is good, however I would've much rather preferred this to be their match from WrestleMania 20 earlier in the year. Then, we get the match which was match of the year 2005 in PWI against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 21. This match is nothing short of phenomenal, just like their Iron Man rematch which follows. We are then treated to a fantastic triple threat match involving the pair and John Cena. All 3 men were at the top of their game here.

The Classic Wrestle Mania 21 match against Shawn Michaels
The final match on this disc is an entertaining bout for the ECW Title against Rob Van Dam. But the true ending on this set is how Kurt Angle has finally came home to the WWE after 11 years. He is a different man to the one who left back in the Summer of 2006. He's overcome his demons, started a beautiful new family and is now the best man he can possibly be. Inside the ring, he lived a legendary career and will go down as one of the best of all time. And it's fantastic to see Kurt back on our screens again each week as the General Manager of RAW. But it's outside the ring that means most to Kurt. These days he lives his life the way he lived his Wrestling career - with the 3 I's: Intensity, intelligence and integrity. He truly is an Olympic hero, inside and outside of the ring; and this DVD set truly shows it. It's true, it's DAMN true!!!

You can purchase this DVD set from WWE DVD UK for £19.99

Sunday, 2 July 2017

WWE 'The Kevin Owens Story' DVD Review By James Russell

It never ceases to amaze me how down to earth this man is. As much as he loves the wrestling business, nothing means more to him than his family and that is apparent from the very beginning of his story. Kevin Yannick Steen was born May 7 1984 and raised in Marieville, Quebec. We don't learn much of his childhood other than one day, for some reason, his dad decided to rent a wrestling tape. It was Wrestlemania 11. Shawn Michaels vs Diesel in the main event. Being a scrawny 11 year old that looked more like he was around 8 years old, he immediately looked up to the heartbreak kid because he was the smaller guy battling the giant. He became obsessed. From that day on it was "wrestling, wrestling, wrestling", according to his father. Then eventually the day came - he wanted to train. Kevin admits that when he got in the ring he wasn't particularly good at it and his elbows were hurting a lot and his head was pounding from it. He immediately started to doubt himself. His mom worked nights and when she called to ask him how training went, he admits he told her he wasn't sure it was for him and he was already thinking of quitting. She was blown away because she knew how much wrestling meant to him. Lucky for us fans, the next day he put a mattress outside, carried on practising and working hard and stuck at it. The following day he went back to the gym and thought "let's do this". We then hear a story from his old friend, Neil Felzenstein. He says he showed up to this wrestling school in the middle of a flea market and there's this kid doing 450 splashes and blowing everyone away. Kevin was definitely the star pupil. He had his first match at just 16 and made his parents proud and immediately began to make some waves. Sami Zayn then talks about how he'd heard about this Kevin Steen guy from his friend and asked if he was any good. His friend responded, "he's really good, but he knows it, he's kind of a jerk too". So even from such an early age, Kevin has never had a problem with self confidence or rubbing a few people the wrong way. Steve Corino talks about Kevin's confidence in himself at just 18. He immediately thought he was amazing and the future of the wrestling. We see early footage from his career from the IWS (International Wrestling Syndicate) promotion against guys like El Generico (Sami Zayn) and his friend Neil. He used moves from everybody. Rock Bottoms, Stunners, even split legged moonsaults were in his arsenal! But the biggest moment of his (and Sami's) career came when one of the IWS guys, SeXXXy Eddie, went down to Philadelphia based promotion CZW (Combat Zone Wrestling), for their death match tournaments. He severed an artery in his arm and began to drink the blood from his arm.

Steen with good friend and sometime rival El Generico
This made people take notice and made them think, "hey, these Quebec guys are nuts", according to his friend Neil. They then brought a couple of guys to a CZW show for a match. Kevin vs Generico vs SeXXXy Eddie vs eXceSs 69 in a fatal 4 way match. They stole the show and immediately opened up doors, not just to Philadelphia and the east coast but to America. This opened to door for PWG which led to ROH which led to wrestling around Europe. We then see some footage from Kevin's early days in Ring of Honor. 'Mr Wrestling' was his nickname back then because of how good he was. Johnny Gargano, Neville and AJ Styles talk about how amazing he was and there was nothing he couldn't do. He was untouchable, even back then. Neville then talks about as impressive as his in ring work was, it was his trash talk that separated him from everyone else. There was nobody better. However, growing up in Quebec he couldn't speak English, so he learned how to speak English from wrestling - specifically Jim Ross. Sami even talks about how back then there was a lot of 'Good God Almighty' coming out of his mouth! Kevin tells a great story about meeting Steve Austin in an airport in 2005 and asking him for any advice. Austins advice was never stop trash talking - which was fine to Kevin because he loves to talk! We then see footage from the ROH Driven show back in 2008 in Boston, where Tyler Black (Seth Rollins) and Jimmy Jacobs (Chris Scobille, who now writes for the WWE) lost their ROH Tag Team Championships to Steen and Generico. Rollins and Jacobs both say it was the biggest pop they had ever heard up to that point when the referees hand hit the mat for 3 and they won the titles. Steen and Generico definitely had something special and were well and truly made men with the ROH fans. They were only second to Bryan Danielson. Sami talks about driving back after a show and talking with Kevin. He says Kevin has always been a 'hands on kinda guy', especially when it comes to his career and he just felt like something needed changing. Kevin says he felt like they had run their course as a tag team and needed something fresh. He decided they needed to split. They mapped out a year long storyline and took it to ROH. Steve Corino talks about how he showed this sort of creativity at such a young age and knew he needed a change and took the risk. And it was definitely worth the risk. Final Battle 2009. Kevin spoke after the match to Generico about how much he loved him and they hugged in the centre of the ring. 2000 people applauding. Some crying. Goosebumps all over the building. And then Kevin turns and says..."I hate your fucking guts!" And puts Generico down. This is the moment, not just in Kevin's career but Generico too, where they both took the next step and became something special. They both had a year long feud and constantly stole the show. It was the hottest feud on the indies, according to Neville. And it was exactly what ROH needed at that time according to Corino. 12 months had gone by. Final Battle 2010. The match was made a loser leaves town match. New management had come in to ROH, specifically Jim Cornette, who clearly didn't believe in Kevin as much as everybody else did. So he gave Kevin some time off, however from Sami's POV, Kevin was basically told to leave. This left a sour taste in his mouth. This was his job, his livelihood. He made a family, had recently gotten married and now he has to sit and watch for god knows how long. So he basically abandoned wrestling, in his own words. So he made his family his number 1 priority over wrestling and essentially walked away from it for 6 months. He did a podcast with a buddy and was asked "what's next?" And he had no answer. He considered quitting. Sami says he and Kevin's father spoke to him and tried to remind him to take this seriously and not walk away from what he's wanted his whole life. Then Kevin wrestled at a PWG show and that helped turn it around for him. He decided to change things up a bit. At ROH Best in the World 2011, he returned to the promotion after Steve Corino announced 'Mr Wrestling has returned to Ring of Honor'. He stood on the balcony, in street clothes and the entire building shook. Jimmy Jacobs says he had never felt anything like that. He was carried out of the building by security and says he 'felt like Jesus on a cross'. He became the ROH version of Stone Cold in Steve Corinos opinion. No matter what he did, they loved him because he was the Everyman. Almost a year later at ROH Border Wars 2012, he won the ROH World Championship. But in his opinion it was too late.

Steen as ROH champion
They were giving him the title because they had no choice. In Jimmy Jacobs' own words it had to be him. There was nobody else. Kevin admits it wasn't as special as he'd imagined it would be. Then not long after Sami had his tryout with WWE and even signed his contract in front of Kevin. He didn't do this to rub it in his face, but because they'd been through everything together and he wanted to share it with his best friend. However, to Kevin, this stung. Knowing Generico is going to WWE and he's nobody near that. He still had 2 years left on his deal with ROH. And times were tough for Kevin. Sami admits he wanted him to join but was worried he wouldn't get his chance. Seth Rollins holds his hands up and admits "right here, I'm one of his best friends, but I never thought Kevin Owens would be a WWE wrestler because he just doesn't look like a WWE wrestler". Then we see Triple H and William Regal talking about how they changed the direction they were going in and started watching more independent guys. William Regal was backstage at a PWG show and was there specifically to watch Kevin. Triple H says he remembers Kevin telling him the story about Regal watching him and he told Kevin, "Who do you think sent Regal there to watch you?" Kevin had a great match with Johnny Gargano but was only wrestling for one person that night. He took that as maybe the only chance he has to get his foot in the door at WWE. And he more than impressed Regal. He got his tryout. Kevin admits the tryout was the hardest thing he'd ever done and even started crying when he went into the bathroom because of how much pain he was in. Then he was asked to cut a promo. Standing there in a PWG t shirt, he cut a promo on his best friend, Sami Zayn. He talked about when "Sami signed the contract in front of him. And how much he hated that because he's the best in the world. And now Kevin Steen has arrived". He says he immediately knew he was signed after that promo. But, he asked Sami if they had told him this when he was signed - "Don't expect anything..." No they hadn't said that to Sami. But they had told Kevin that he "shouldn't get his hopes up for Raw and Smackdown because he's not someone Vince is looking at right now. He should concentrate on NXT and just see how it goes". Sami says it best - "look how that turned out". Kevin talks about how he got goosebumps before his first NxT match when the WWE then now forever promo video was playing whilst he stood backstage. He thought about his family at home. His dad in the crowd. Then the promo video started and he saw his face on the screen and realised "Holy Shit. This is real. It was perfect". At the end of that same show, his best friend Sami Zayn finally won the NxT championship and was congratulated by Kevin - before being turned on and attacked. Immediately he was in the main event picture, and with his longtime best friend too. He captured the title from Sami not long after in February. A month later he was at Wrestlemania as a fan and promised himself this would be the last time he'd be there as a fan. We see some great backstage footage of him talking to Hulk Hogan and The Rock and both greatly complimenting him. Triple H admits Kevin Owens probably had the shortest term in NxT. Then not long after, John Cena hand picked Kevin for the US Title open challenge and went to Vince with the idea. It was approved. Elimination Chamber. US Champion vs NXT Champion. We see amazing, touching footage of his son at home reacting to his Dad fighting John Cena. It truly puts into perspective what I said at the beginning of this - his family mean more to him than anything in his world. The reason he chose the surname Owens when it was to be changed from Steen in NxT is because his sons name is Owen. So to be that little boy watching his Dad on TV defeating John Cena at Elimination Chamber in May in his first WWE PPV match, I can't imagine how great that felt.

Owens confronting Cena on the WWE main roster
 We then see footage of him talking after the match about how it doesn't get better than that - before saying he's going to call his son. It was only a couple of months before he was a major player in the game. He won the intercontinental championship at Night of Champions in September. That started a long feud between him and Dean Ambrose over the championship. A few months go by, and it's Wrestlemania time again. We see footage of him standing in the ring before the show and reminding us what he said the year earlier - "that would be the last time ever as a fan". He was right. We see him talking backstage with some of his peers, guys he admits he looked up to as a child - Scott Hall and X Pac. And then he bumps into Stone Cold at the Gorilla position. From when he gave him advice in an airport in 2005, to giving him advice before his first ever Wrestlemania match, his career had well and truly come full circle. Sami admits standing in the middle of the ring at Wrestlemania watching his best friend walk down the ramp was unbelievable and still gets goosebumps thinking about it now. Kevin admits after that match if that would've been his last, he would've been a happy man. We then see Jimmy Jacobs talking about how his career had come full circle when he took a writing job with WWE and now works with his good friend Kevin once again. He says one reason he's as good as he is - is because nothing is ever good enough. He's always pushing for more and more and more. He wants to the best. Neville repeats the same statement, before saying he's a bit of a prick. But, outside of the ring, he's far from a prick. He's the best father and husband his family could ask for. Without them, he would be nothing. Payback 2016. Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn. One of the best matches of the year. Jimmy Jacobs admits it's one of the best matches he's ever seen live. They well and truly stole the show and both felt on top of the world. But then Summerslam was around the corner - and he was teaming with Chris Jericho against Enzo and Cass. He admits its no disrespect against them but that wasn't where he wanted to be. He felt like he deserved better and was better than that position on the card. He was right. But, as luck would prevail, Finn Balor won the first ever WWE Universal Championship pinning Seth Rollins. However he got injured during the match and had to relinquish the title. Enter Kevin Owens. It was a fatal 4 way Elimination match on Raw to determine the new champion. Roman Reigns vs Seth Rollins vs Big Cass vs Kevin Owens. After Cass was eliminated, Triple H entered the ring and delivered a pedigree to Reigns, allowing Rollins to get the pin. Then, after entering the ring, he turned on Seth and delivered a pedigree to him before he and Kevin stared at one another. 1...2...3. Kevin Owens is the new champion. Kevin Owens is the chosen one. He admits that he owes literally everything to Triple H. From sending Regal to PWG to watch him. To the tryout. To giving him the opportunity in NxT. And now this. He literally handed Kevin the championship. We see footage backstage of them both embracing, before he hugs Vince McMahon, the man who at one time wasn't looking for someone like Kevin Owens.

Triple H raises Owens' hand after helping him win the Universal title
We see Sami taking about how he couldn't believe what he was seeing and had no emotion, it was only when Kevin walked through the curtain and they hugged. We see an emotional moment with Kevin's father talking about how proud he is of his son. Then we see footage of his son watching his dad win the championship and getting emotional. His dad is literally the man. Daniel Bryan talks about how he believes he's as good as he is because he never stops. He never thinks good is enough. Johnny Gargano reiterates this statement and mentions how he was 'never a WWE guy', well look at where he is now. He's the man. Neville admits if you'd have told him 10 years ago that Kevin would be WWE champion he'd have told you to go away. Triple H believes talent rises and Kevin has all the talent in the world, he just needed an opportunity. Seth says what separates Kevin from every other guy is the fans can relate to him. He's got his finger on the button at all times and Sami reiterates this too. He says Kevin always makes himself relevant and makes sure he's the best he can be. But, as it comes full circle, Kevin ends the story saying that as good as he is, he would be nothing without his wife and his kids. And as long as he's got them, then he will be fine. The Kevin Owens Story is one a lot of people can relate to. He's always been the underdog in a sense, always been backed into a corner. From being the scrawny kid looking up to Shawn Michaels doubting himself to doing 450 splashes in IWS. From Jim Cornette not believing in him and considering walking away from the business, to that PWG show with William Regal watching. From being told not to expect Raw and Smackdown and get his hopes up because he's not what Vince is looking for, to becoming the Universal Champion. Kevin Owens has fought to get where he is today, it's like Triple H said - "he has all the talent in the world, he just needed an opportunity". The match listing for this DVD is fantastic. The only downside is there couldn't be any ROH matches on here. Other than that, this is a stellar DVD. His debut match in NXT is on here against CJ Parker, which is just a generic match enabling Owens to show the NXT fans what he can do. But then there's his title victory over Sami Zayn at NXT Takeover: Rival and this is a great match, which should come as no surprise. His shocking debut victory over John Cena at Elimination Chamber is also on here, as well his his first Intercontinental Title win against Ryback at Night of Champions. There's a brilliant Last Man Standing match on this against Dean Ambrose from Royal Rumble 2016. However, in a match that I didn't remember but is honestly brilliant, he goes up against Dolph Ziggler on an episode of Main Event from April 2016. Definitely worth a watch! There's also another hidden treasure as KO and Triple H face off against Sami Zayn and Dean Ambrose at a house show in Paris, also from April 2016. Now, this next match is KO vs Sami from Battleground which is a stunning match, make no doubt about it - but, on the documentary, Jimmy Jacobs calls the match they had at Payback one of the best he's ever seen. And it was an unbelievable match. So to exclude it from this DVD seems very odd indeed. Nevertheless, next up is the entertaining fatal 4 way match where he wins the Universal Championship which I talked about earlier. Then there is a very good Hell in a Cell match against Seth Rollins, which I consider highly underrated. Then, the final match on this DVD is his Wrestlemania 34 match against Chris Jericho. This match is very good, however I don't think they reached their potential during the in ring aspect of that feud. Finally, I have to say this is a fantastic DVD set and definitely worth the money. It follows him throughout his career and shows enough IWS and ROH footage during the documentary. Nevertheless I still would've liked to see some ROH matches on this or at least some IWS ones. Also, excluding the match at Payback against Sami seems odd but they more than make up for the match listings with the documentary side of things.

I can be contacted on twitter @jamesrussell137 with any feedback.

The DVD/Blu-Ray is available in the UK from July 3rd from WWE DVD UK

Friday, 28 April 2017

WWE 'Diamond Dallas Page - Positively Living' DVD Review By Tim Ricketts

As a 90's teen, slightly WCW obsessed to boot, Diamond Dallas Page holds a very special place in my wrestling memories: alongside Sting, he stood out as a shining beacon of hope for the good guys against the depredations of the burgeoning NWO. So with that in mind, I approached this DVD with a mixture of excitement and reticence – is this going to be a festival of my boyhood hero, or another opportunity for WWE to wave the victor's flag over The Monday Night Wars?

This three-DVD set follows the usual WWE biography format, comprising of a documentary disc and two of supporting clips and matches. Dallas himself introduces and presents his own journey from the off, immediately giving the documentary an original autobiographical feel, particularly as he describes his less-than-perfect childhood, and the traffic accident that stole his early sporting potential.

The novelty is amplified by the topsy-turvy route he took into wrestling. From owning a bar frequented by wrestlers, he ended up cutting a managerial audition tape that was picked up by the diminishing AWA, before joining 'The Dean' Gordon Solie on commentary for the Florida territory. Back into management, he represented the Freebirds in WCW; traditionally, these sort of roles went to ex-wrestlers or those in the twilight of their careers, but DDP's was only just beginning. At the age of 35, he headed to WCW's Power Plant training facility to begin his in-ring career. The vox-pops from Page's peers, present throughout the film, convey the incredulity well at this stage.

Obviously, the documentary's focus continues on Dallas's outings for WCW, which include all of that promotion's major titles as well as the European title in WWE, but with the match selections on the other discs representing this period well, I'll just make a couple of quick points. As I've already mentioned, Dallas was one of the notable few who made any significant heroic stands against the villainously anarchic New World Order stable, and one particular moment at Souled Out. Turning on Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, after accepting their invitation to join as a decoy, he sprints through the adoring crowd in the sort of organic moment that prepends the 'Super' to the beginning of 'Star'. It also struck me how honest Page is about his unsuccessful stint in WWE, considering he tore-up a contractual guarantee from Time-Warner to go there

Following the end to his improbably successful wrestling career, Diamond Dallas Page created a modified form of Yoga that spans physiques and abilities, DDP Yoga. Not only that, but he has used it (and his bottomless positivity) to give both Jake 'The Snake' Roberts and Scott Hall a new chance at life after they looked to have pressed their own personal self-destruct buttons. Whilst this film goes into that in a little detail, The Resurrection of Jake the Snake is recommended viewing on the subject. On that note, and the re-ignited relationship with WWE it provoked, this heart-warming tale reaches it's satisfactory conclusion with Page's sprightly appearance at the age of 59 in The Royal Rumble 2015 and a phone-call from old buddy Triple H to inform him of his impending Hall of Fame inclusion.

The second disc contains some more documentary clips that must have missed the cut, mostly expansions of themes from disc one, but really worth the watch. A lot of humorous stuff, but the best is saved 'til last: the full audition tape DDP sent to Verne Gagne's AWA. It really does have to be seen to be believed.

The match selection for the remainder of disc two, and the entirety of three, ranges from the solidly good (if not in technique or psychology, then for historic perspective) to the excellent. Twenty-one bouts in all on the DVD version, with the first batch focusing on the initial in-ring development of DDP. The first four matches are all tags, with the obviously still-green Dallas mostly teaming with his former managerial charges - the Diamond Exchange or Vegas Connection stables - people to whom he would become inextricably linked throughout his career. The Diamond Studd (Scott Hall), Vinnie Vegas (Kevin Nash) and Scotty Flamingo (Raven) all feature against an array of early-nineties WCW luminaries.

DDP with good friends Scott Hall & Jake The Snake Roberts
 Page also had plenty of singles feuds as he rose up the card during Eric Bischoff's tenure in charge, notably against Johnny B Badd, Randy Savage and Hulk/Hollywood Hogan, as well as United States Championship rivalries with Eddie Guerrero and Curt Hennig. All have a match included on the second DVD; not necessarily the ones I would have picked personally, but stand-up examples nonetheless.

Disc three is a library of DDP at his zenith, opening with two of WCW's most infamous 'celebrity' bouts: with 'Mailman' Malone against Dennis Rodman and Hulk, and with chat-show host Jay Leno versus Hogan again, this time with Bischoff. Unsurprisingly the match involving the sportsmen rather than the TV personalities is the better of the two.

The next pair have their own place in the tapestry of wrestling's past too. As thousands of paying customers missed DDP's Halloween Havoc '98 main event defeat to Goldberg when it over-ran the PPV time, it was repeated the following day on Nitro. At the end of the same episode, DDP got the US title from Bret Hart instead. The championships keep rolling on this DVD set, as this is followed with Page's first World Heavyweight win in an excellent four-corners fight featuring WCW's marquee talent Hollywood Hogan, Ric Flair, Sting and Special Guest Referee, Macho Man Randy Savage.

Another pair from the same night again, as Dallas firstly lost the Big Gold Belt to Sting before a No-DQ four-way (also involving Nash and Goldberg) saw him regain it. DDP's Tag Title victory with Jersey Triad partner Bam Bam Bigelow against Raven and Perry Saturn is the penultimate match, whilst the quite frankly brilliant WrestleMania X8 bout versus 'protégé' Christian represents his post-WCW 'cup of coffee' in the WWE and rounds out the collection.

There were a few matches I was a bit surprised not to see included, but they would bring the tone down somewhat. For better or worse, I expected to see DDP lose his third World title (won the previous night from Jeff Jarrett) to his own tag partner, David Arquette, in one of the greatest farces in history. I thought I might see Dallas's first major [TV] title win against WCW's ill-fated Warrior clone, the Renegade. Maybe the turn on the NWO at Souled Out. Mercifully enough, there was no source material on the Undertaker versus 'Stalker' DDP storyline.

Just like the subject, this DVD set is an uplifting, relentlessly positive thing of joy. We all need a bit of that in our lives.

Available from www.WWEDVD.co.uk

Monday, 24 April 2017

WWE Wrestle Mania Monday DVD Review By Dave Adamson

 WWE Wrestlemania Monday is a three disc boxset giving fans a behind-the-scenes look into the all important night after Wrestlemania, the “new year’s night” as Enzo Amore calls it in the WWE 24 documentary that forms the hub of this set.

With the documentary taking place in 2016, we get interviews with a cast of superstars, many of them relatively new to the main roster and the events directly after Wrestlemania 32, whilst established stars talk about their experiences.  Everyone speaks positively about the post-Mania Raw, with emphasis on how raucous the crowd are and how big an event that episode of Raw is.

We see big debuts, huge moments and it really does reinforce how important the day after Mania is.  It’s occasionally emotional (especially the speeches) and there are certainly moments where longtime WWE fans will get goosebumps (mostly for the returns).

JBL says it best when he says that, for many fans, this is the last show that the fans will do on the Wrestlemania weekend.  It’s almost like a final blow out for the fans and they want to go out with a bang.  “It’s almost like the Bizarro-world night,” says Sami Zayn, about the audience interaction, and it’s pretty much true.

Watching the NXT guys as they step up to the main roster is a great moment, they all speak highly of their experience and it’s by far the most interesting bit of the documentary.  When Amore and Cass speak about their journey from developmental, the criticisms they received and the work they put in, along with the faith that WWE have in their elevation to Raw, it’s an emotional story and reflection at its finest, especially when it's combined with historical footage of how they looked and performed in the past.

In addition to Amore and Cass, we see Apollo Cruz and Baron Corbin move to the main roster, and the arrival of Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, reunited with AJ Styles, as they begin their WWE journey and Cesaro as he prepares to return to WWE Raw.  All speak eloquently and openly about their experiences.

Whilst it’s great hearing from the WWE Superstars and experiencing the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making Raw happen as we wait to see new guys debut, there’s very little from the creative aspect as to what makes it the “new year” for the WWE.  Stories aside, it’s a great documentary if you want to experience the fans getting rowdy and watch WWE praise WWE for being WWE.  

Clearly, this one documentary - running at 55 minutes - doesn’t fill all three DVDs.

The other two DVDs are full of Raw-After-Wrestlemania moments and, with over thirty years of shows to choose from, there’s some truly great stuff here.

The two discs benefit from being full matches and segments, instead of highlights, but offer no more insight than the commentary - there’s no comments from current day stars, nor is there any context really offered to what we’re watching.

We do see Bull Nakano vs Alundra Blaze from 1995 showing how great women’s wrestling used to be before it descended into titillation before talent.  Thankfully, the other women’s match chosen for this collection is AJ Lee vs Paige from 2014.

From there, it’s a mixed bag of history, with only a couple of years missing.

There’s a handful of championship matches, a few matches and moments that WWE fans may have forgotten about and plenty of stuff that reminds fans just why they continue to watch the product - Amongst others, we see Stone Cold Steve Austin, Vince McMahon, Triple H and Shawn Michaels at their finest on the microphone (and, in Michael’s case, Psycho Sid being… well, Sid), Rick Flair’s retirement speech, Vince McMahon failing to convince Steve Austin, Rock and Cena, Ultimate Warrior’s final appearance, the return of the former 123 Kid, Goldberg, Brock Lesnar, Hogan and the nWo, the ten team battle royale which saw British legend Dave Taylor and William Regal in action, Eddie Guerrero vs Jericho and much, much more.

Hopefully, for more recent fans, they’ll want to revisit moments past to discover the story of some of these classic (and not so classic) moments, especially with the likes of Guerrero, Regal, Blaze, Helms, The Sandman and Tommy Dreamer featured, given how much footage is available on the WWE Network.

The documentary may not hold up to repeat viewings, but the two discs of matches and moments will.

Order yours right now from  WWE DVD UK

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

WWE DVD Review: Royal Rumble 2017 By Tim Ricketts

The Royal Rumble, WWE's annual take on the Battle Royale match format, has reached it's thirtieth anniversary. So San Antonio hosts a very significant event, with a potentially great card. The titular match usually holds it's fair share of surprises, shock returns and twists with the severity of hair-pin bends on the Road to Wrestlemania. Four title matches on the under-card means that this DVD should be quality from bell to bell.

With no 'Special Features' to consider, the show-proper started with melange of moments of significance in Rumble history, followed by a more up-to-date reel of of the significant feuds coming into this PPV, particularly Bayley/Charlotte, AJ Styles/John Cena and Brock Lesnar/Goldberg. A good little segment that segued to the first line-up of the continually rotating commentary team, who fervently started to build the importance of the Road to Wrestlemania, the significance of the 30th anniversary and, of course, the Alamo Dome, San Antonio Texas.

WWE RAW Women's Champion Charlotte vs Bayley

Bayley looked the epitome of her ebullient self as she entered, whilst Charlotte took the Flair familial Ring-Robe gimmick into fantasy uber-villain territory with a look of supreme arrogance on her face. It was effective, as smug always winds people up.

Opening the match, and the card, Charlotte demonstrated her physical superiority over her smaller opponent. This only fired Bayley up, which culminated in a diving enziguri from the turnbuckle to Flair at the ring-side, followed up by a massive splash. She couldn't maintain the offence however, and Charlotte resumed her grinding pace and tactics. The champion became increasingly sadistic with frustration and began trash talking, which matched the arrogance of her entrance to a tee. It left room for some typical Bayley cheeky opportunism though, as always explosively high-risk, and led to a Macho-man elbow-drop that gave Charlotte a fat lip.

Despite a good showing by the fan-favourite compulsive hugger Bayley, Charlotte cemented an imperious victory to make it 16-0 on PPV, with a Natural Selection from the top turnbuckle to her recovering adversary, right onto the ring apron. It was merely a simple task to roll her in for a pin.

A strong mix of psychology, exciting high-spots and grinding attritional power to open the show.

Following this excellent opener, we saw the 'Shark Cage' being lowered to the ring before a highlight reel of last month's Roadblock: End of the Line PPV which Kevin Owens retain his title against Reigns thanks to 'Best Friend' Chris Jericho's disqualifying interference. The frequency of similar occurrences is enough for GM Mick Foley to stipulate the old-school cage as a means of insurance for this upcoming match.

WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens vs Roman Reigns (No DQ)

Y2J played the fear of the cage to the hilt, then right at the last second jumped Reigns with Owens in tow. Reigns sent KO to the ring-side and quickly pummelled Jericho in to the cage to get the match started.
 
We were soon into some quality through-the-arena brawling, and it was no surprise when they hit the foreign announce tables. KO came out on top, so spent some time getting steel chairs in a stack. Avoiding taking that big-hit, Roman worked his power moves to eventually set up a table on the outside, only to take a massive Owens frog splash through it. No three count for the Canadian, so he went back to using the chairs to good effect before Jericho unstashed some brass knuckles and dropped them from his high vantage point. Still no luck for him though, as Reigns kept kicking out. A Samoan drop through a chair gave Roman a chance at a pin, but 'no dice' for him either, so he put a table in the corner of the ring. This gave KO chance to recover, try a stunner (another close pinfall) and climb up top, only for a recovering Roman Reigns to Superman-punch Owens through the pile of chairs that had been a tantalising tease all match. No pin attempt now though, as, playing the long-game, Reigns followed up with a bomb through the announce table.

Just as it looked like Reigns had the victory in sight, Braun Strowman surprised him (me, and probably a fair few others too) with an ambush, slamming the challenger through his own table set up. Owens had just enough wherewithal to roll his near-corpse over the remains of Reigns to retain.

An incredibly well constructed Tables and Chairs brawl, with plenty of TLC-style action and pin attempts. That tall stack of chairs provided excellent anticipation before the shocking finish too.

More Rumble 'moments' followed, building effectively for the main event, and subsequent tombola draw of Rumble entries which featured the RAW and Smackdown management teams with Sami Zayn and Dean Ambrose picking their numbers. It seemed like a bit of a throwaway comedy skit.

WWE Cruiserweight Champion Rich Swann vs Neville

A highlight package covered the background to this match, primarily concerned with the resurgent Neville's unapologetically single-minded quest to become 'King of the Cruiserweights'. It provided a meaty angle to this title match of the rebooted high-flying division.

Swann took to Neville with determination and athleticism to open the match, which demonstrated the fire and skill that landed him the belt, but soon Neville slowed the pace down and began his methodical grinding. Swann used the ropes well to break, given the opportunity, whilst the Geordie lad sadistically made full of every referee count. It wasn't all one-way traffic though, as Rich Swann managed a thunderous superkick as Neville flew in from the top turnbuckle, to mount a valorous comeback. He couldn't make good on it though, submitting when Neville twists his arms in to the brutal Rings of Saturn.

I'm not normally the greatest fan of villains, but this new no-nonsense Neville could be King of the Cruiserweights for some time yet, given this showing against the internationally experienced Swann.

WWE World Champion AJ Styles vs John Cena

Those of you who follow my DVD reviews may already be aware that I firmly believe Cena and Styles put on some of the best WWE matches of 2016, and this promised to be a gigantic reprise with the added 'sauce' of the title. Victory for AJ would mean leaving his First Anniversary show still as champion, but even more significantly for John would be that elusive record-tying Sixteenth world championship reign. In comparison to those epics, it did not disappoint: the stunning spiralling sequences of signature moves, counters, trips to the turn-buckles for some super-augmentation and knife-edge rallies of the previous bouts were all present, but with a different twist. To use the old Spinal Tap idiom, they 'turned it up to eleven'.

John Cena looked to have the match in the bag with a ring-shaking super-AA that slammed AJ to the centre of the ring from many feet in the air, but Styles kicked out of the following pin attempt. He responded by locking in his eponymous 'Clash', but that couldn't keep Cena down either. It took a further two repetitions of an Attitude Adjustment to finally finish off the reign of Styles, and claim the sweetest of spots in the history book right alongside 'The Nature Boy' Ric Flair. This match really did that significance justice.

Main Event: The 30th Annual Royal Rumble match.

The last highlight package of Royal Rumble statistics were run to lead in the match, before the commentary team took us through the rules. Essentially, 30 competitors enter with two minutes between each of them, elimination is by over-the-top-rope with both feet hitting the floor, last man wins.

Big Cass, who had the honour of the number-one draw, came out with partner Enzo Amore and delivered one of their tremendously popular promos, Pre-Rumble. 'Y2J' Chris Jericho was second, Kalisto third (who then had a good big man/little man moment with Cass) and Mojo Rawley fourth. The next music to play led to some serious excitement in my house, as Jack Gallaher entered, which meant the cruiserweights were being included, and he was utilising an umbrella to great effect. It wasn't just us British nutters who seemed to enjoy his surprise entry, the crowd in Texas were going nuts too. It was to be no fairy-tale though, Jack was eliminated first despite a Mary Poppins moment thanks to entrant six, Mark Henry. Braun Strowman was right out to cheer me back up, chucking Rawley, Cass, Kalisto and Henry over the top in short order. Sami Zayn arrived to continue his enmity with Strowman, and took two minutes of pummelling 'til Big Show entered the fray and provided a distraction. Good stare off, too. He slammed Braun, but was immediately forced out in retaliation.

At number ten, it was the perfect point for the 'Perfect Ten' Tye Dillinger to make his main roster [re]début, which popped the crowd (and me), providing another top-notch surprise. He and Zayn stuck it to Strowman as James Ellsworth made his way, tentatively, to the ring. Ellsworth still hadn't made it in when Dean Ambrose appeared, but was easily tricked into diving in and being fodder for the elimination machine Strowman. Baron Corbin came out to make it a four-on-one on Braun who responded by adding Dillinger to his list, before he received a Helluva Kick from Zayn and a lariat from Corbin which sent him over-and-out. Kofi Kingston and The Miz entered next. Kofi continued his Rumble tradition of impressive escapes by almost impaling himself on a ring-post. Sheamus in, followed by Big E then Rusev in a protective mask and Cesaro, which made it quite a melée. Proper battle royale stuff. The commentary noted that Sheamus and Cesaro lost their Tag Titles to Gallows and Anderson on the pre-show, conspicuous by it's absence from this DVD. Xavier Woods entered to complete the New Day too.

The Alamo Dome went dark and the fireflies came out as Bray Wyatt made his usual grand entrance and set to dealing some damage, although his explosiveness was one-upped by the incoming Apollo Crews. The New Day were eliminated en-masse by Cesaro and Sheamus before Jericho opportunistically tipped the squabbling pair over as well. The newest Wyatt family member, Randy Orton, rampaged at 23, Ziggler at 24 going after his recent enemies Miz, Ambrose and Crews. Another Wyatt, Luke Harper, was next, but reneged his family ties to unsuccessfully attack Bray and Orton. Brock Lesnar stormed the ring taking out Ambrose and Ziggler, and left the rest in a devastating wake of suplexes and F5's. Enzo Amore was the hapless subsequent entrant, rag-dolled straight back out by the 'Beast Incarnate'.

Goldberg made his trademark entrance as well at 28 (as if the pace hadn't increased enough), stomped down to the ring and speared Lesnar allowing him to be cast out the ring. Yet again the stadium darkened, this time for the supernatural presence of The Undertaker. Goldberg took out Rusev and Harper, whilst the 'Deadman' pitched Baron Corbin over the top before he made sure Brock's nemesis hit the deck too. Last man out to the ring, Roman Reigns, got a chorus of booing from the Texan crowd as he stared off with Undertaker. Not as much as when Roman tossed him out a few moments later, after he had taken care of Miz and Zayn. Reigns got some revenge for earlier by finally putting Jericho out, and the crowd's ire increased as another unwanted Rumble victory for the despised Samoan Superman loomed. The intense anger seemed to max-out seconds later as he took out the charismatic cult-leader Wyatt, but the pay-off came as Orton snapped off a trademark 'RKO outta nowhere' to stun Reigns enough to claim the win and his Wrestlemania Main Event slot.

And Finally...

This really does live up to my expectations of excellence from the start to finish, the under-card oozing with it's title match prestige, each one exemplary of it's genre, and a Royal Rumble that made up for a slight lack of genuine surprise entries with coherent narrative. On that note, an NXT call up and a solitary unexpected Cruiserweight competitor barely qualified as surprise, but they were timed so well that it kept the early momentum of the epically long match flowing. If moments of wrestling history that actually live up to their significance is what you want from a PPV, then this ticks every box. 

Available now from www.WWEDVD.co.uk