WWE Highest Flyers - Disc 1 DVD Review By Shaun Nichols
Ricky Steamboat vs. Brian Pillman ***1/4
Evan Bourne vs. Zack Ryder **1/4
Jimmy Snuka vs. Samu **
Juventud Guerrera, Hector Garza & Lizmark Jr vs. Psychosis, La Parka & Villiano IV ***3/4
Shelton Benjamin vs. Shawn Michaels ****
Ultimo Dragon vs. Rey Mysterio ***3/4
Eddie Guerrero vs. Dean Malenko ****1/4
Ultimo Dragon vs. Psychosis ***1/4
Chavo Guerrero vs. Jamie Noble *3/4
This is the first of three discs and this release is hosted by Josh Matthews who indicates that this is some kind of unofficial countdown of the best high flyers. Before the disc starts you get the usual trailers which were the Jericho dvd which is excellent, details of a new Cena dvd which looks pretty good if you're a fan and finally the Big Show's film Knucklehead which looks horrendous.
We start with a quick package on Steamboat and then onto his Halloween Havoc 1992 match against Pillman, Pillman had recently turned heel but it was before he joined up with Steve Austin to form the Hollywood Blonds. Match was very well worked and told a very simple and straight forward story. That being that Steamboat was able to outwrestle Pillman, until much to Brian's amusement he had to resort to cheating to take control. What we didn't get is any high flying, surely that would be the point? Steamboat wins coming off the top and pinning Pillman with a sunset flip. Come on guys we could have got the legendary crossbody finish. Also interesting is that Jesse Ventura's commentary was removed so we had Jim Ross going solo.
Next wrestler highlighted is Evan Bourne, the quick 60 second packages are very well done. Shockingly we get a match from Superstars (the WWE C show) against Zack Ryder which was fine for what it was but again very little in high flying. What is clear is that WWE fans really like Bourne as a talent and you have to wonder why the WWE have so far refused to use him to the best of his ability. In the only high flying move of the match Bourne gets the win with the 450. He also demonstrates the move in a skycam segment which sounds interesting but really isn't.
Back to the time machine and we head to 1984 and onto Jimmy Snuka. His match against Samu (called Somoan #3 in this) was very basic especially when Samu was on offence. Come the big comeback, our commentators Gorilla Monsoon & Pat Patterson go crazy putting over Snuka and to be fair the fans react big as well. Again we don't get the finish you would expect as Snuka gets the win with a crossbody and not the Superfly splash as I was expecting.
A fantastic package showcasing WCW Cruiserweights is next, followed by a Lucha Libre 6 man tag from WCW Bash at the Beach 1997. Some fans and the unique WCW commentary team, Mike Tenay apart don't really know what to make of this. Psychology isn't a factor at all and the match follows the usual Mexican formula of the technicos outsmarting the rudos who make a fine job of bumping into one another in a form that the Three Stooges would have enjoyed. We did get a lot of crazy dives and the match is very fast paced and also very enjoyable. The rudos come unstuck when they substitute Villiano V for Villaino IV when Hector Garza hits a standing moonsault for the win.
It's the Shelton Benjamin package next and then we see the match that should have made him a big star which was his match against Shawn Michaels in the Goldrush tournament from Raw in May 2005. Like many Shawn Michaels's matches this told a very clear story which was that in the early stages HBK was being out-wrestled and out-thought by his younger opponent. This works to such an extent that the fans really get into this match and start buying the close falls and teased finishes. Then to top off this really good matches we get arguably the greatest finish to a match seen on Raw. Benjamin attacks with a springboard only for HBK to nail him absolutely perfectly with his superkick for the win. An excellent match.
In the spotlight next is Ultimo Dragon and his J-Crown title defence against Rey Mysterio from World War 3 in 1996. I always enjoy watching Dragon wrestle but never understood why apart from the fact he was Japanese that he was lumbered with Sonny Onoo as his manager. He wrestles such a clean babyface style it doesn't work having a heel manager in his corner. This tells the story of Dragon using his superior mat wrestling to control Mysterio for long periods of time which keeps the crowd a little bit quiet. From the ten minute mark we start to see Rey's big comebacks which are slick reversals and great dives. However it's not enough to stop the champion retaining his titles.
The last wrestler featured on Disc 1 is Eddie Guerrero and of all the matches they could have featured they chose a mat wrestling classic from ECW in 1995 when Guerrero and Malenko were battling over the TV title with Eddie defending in Dean's hometown of Tampa. Fans were surprisingly quiet for a lot of this and I was surprised to see a fan sitting opposite the hard camera wearing a builders hard yellow hat for absolutely no reason. This was a superb wrestling encounter but again you don't really see much high flying, you get the odd dropkick, headscissor takedown and Eddie hits a frog splash for a close two count. There's a good spot where both wrestlers end up on the floor and a fan this being ECW offers Eddie a chair to use which Eddie reacts angrily to, I found this really funny. Malenko gets the win with a roll up after a series of reversals. Eddie takes this well and presents Dean with the TV title before he suckers him a short arm clothesline to keep the feud going. Really good stuff.
Each disc gets extras and Disc 1 we get to enjoy a solid Ultimo Dragon match against Psychosis from Uncensored 1997 which no doubt one match of the night because Uncensored PPV's always tended to be awful. We also see a six minute match featuring Chavo beating Jamie Noble with the frog splash from a Smackdown taping in the UK from 2008 in a typical TV match. There was a funny sign saying that Wenger needs Batista, as what I'm not sure of. There is also a 90 second feature called Flight Turbulence where you see wrestlers taking big bumps such as Brock nearly breaking his neck at Wrestlemania after screwing up a 450, Undertaker falling into a pile of tables, Kurt Angle's classic moonsault miss in the cage against Benoit and the Foley dive off the HITC and onto the commentators table. It finishes with the message that we should not try this at home.
Disc one certainly presents a strange selection of matches and the first three I felt were missed opportunities, the worst of which was the match choice for Evan Bourne which beggars belief. Surely they could have chosen his PPV match against Jericho this year would have been far better. Some matches like Guerrero-Malenko I'm really pleased that they featured but would not describe it as anything remotely built as a high flying wrestling match. However it is still a very entertaining disc overall and I'm looking forward to watching the other two discs which I will also review shortly.
WWE Highest Flyers - Disc 2 DVD Review By Shaun Nichols
Chris Jericho vs. Ultimo Dragon ****
1-2-3 Kid vs. Hakushi ***1/2
John Morrison vs. Tyson Kidd ***1/4
Edge & Christian vs. Dudley Boys vs. Hardy Boys ****1/2
Super Crazy vs. Tajiri vs. Little Guido ***1/4
Brian Pillman vs. Alex Wright ***3/4
Great Muta vs. Sting ***
Rob Van Dam vs. Jerry Lynn ***1/4
Hardy Boys vs. Kaientai **
Disc 2 starts with Chris Jericho defending the WCW Cruiserweight title at Bash at the Beach 1997, this is your typical babyface vs babyface match with Dragon especially being in excellent form. Jericho keeps himself in the match with a number of springboard moves. Mike Tenay on commentary discusses Jericho's previous matches with Dragon for the WAR promotion a few years earlier. Match really does pick up in the last few minutes and the fans react pretty big when Jericho successfully retains.
Moving over to the WWF and a look at the 1-2-3 Kid and then his match at Summerslam 1995 against Hakushi, I was a big fan of Hakushi when he signed with the WWF in 1994 and although he was never allowed to do his full repertoire due to infringing on other wrestlers gimmicks most noticably his awesome rope walking spot which made Undertaker look like an amateur. So I'm thrilled to see a rare Hakushi match on a WWE compilation. Match is unlike anything else in the promotion at this time because they were definitely behind the times when it came to high flying fast paced action. Hakushi wins after catching the Kid with a powerbomb after the Kid was using a springboard.
Next comes John Morrison and shockingly a second Superstars match on this compilation, this is from July 2009 so Tyson is playing heel with the rest of the Hart Dynasty running interference for him. This again is pretty standard fare and seems like a missed opprtunity to find a better match for Morrison who athletically is very gifted though this match also indicates that he's not particularly over with the fans.
Moving onto to the tag teams we get a decent video highlighting among others the Rock 'n' Roll Express, the Killer Bees and the Rockers. The match we get to showcase tag team wrestling is the ladder match from Wrestlemania 16. This is chock full of frankly insane dives, carefully orchestrated ladder and table spots that builds and builds to more dangerous spots. What's really interesting to note is that Edge is rarely involved in the major highspots of the match. Jeff Hardy and Bubba Dudley are easily the craziest people involved. With Hardy writing himself in history with his ridiculous senton off a very high ladder onto Dudley who was laid on a table. Fans live went mad for this and I really enjoyed it for what it is a slice of car crash wrestling. Which took ladder matches to the next stage in regards to what reckless moves the fans would see.
Up next is the insane luchadore Super Crazy and the match is the three way from ECW One Night Stand in 2005, we also see the full range of FBI members including JT Smith while the Sinister Minister and Mikey Whipwreck are supporting Tajiri. Loads of stiff kicks and reversals until Crazy lands the first big move with a moonsault from the balcony with all members of the FBI acting as his safety net. While this is going on Mikey hits Guido with a Whippersnapper and Tajiri gets the pin. Crazy back in the ring secures victory with another moonsault. Fans really liked this and I think this is partly down to nostalgia of seeing everyone including as I said Smith who hadn't been a part of ECW since the mid 1990's.
Brian Pillman's match with Alex Wright is very strange, a lot of it is very good. Some parts are horrible including Pillman's attempt at a crossbow which Wright equalised using a dreadful attempt at a surfboard. Bobby Heenan helps tremendously on commentary basically burying not only both wrestlers, his co-commentator Tony Schiavone and the fans in attendance. Wright wins when he blocks a Pillman sunset flip for the surprise pinfall.
Shock of the compilation is next when NJPW's Great Muta is next to be featured. The match against Sting comes from the WCW Japan Supershow in March 1991. Within the first 30 seconds we get Muta's patented handspring elbow and an attempted moonsault. Muta though is gimmick over the wrestler though he's still entertaining to watch. Sting goes someway in matching him in the ring as well. Unfortunately we get a cheap finish when Muta uses the dreaded mist and then a crossbody for the win. Sting immediately attacks him afterwards to get his heat back.
When you think of RVD vs. Jerry Lynn, which match are you thinking of? Either of the two ECW PPV matches? No, before there was WWE Superstars there was Sunday Night Heat and this is where we go to from August 2001 in a pretty decent ten minute match. I can't lie they should have picked a different RVD match although at least this doesn't have the legendary RVD posing or Bill Alfonso and his whistle. Match features everything you would expect including the impressive five star frog splash from RVD for the win.
This discs extra is a 4 minute TV match from Sunday Night Heat on the pre-game show of Breakdown 1998 PPV, this is about as good as you can get for a match with such a short time frame and it's always really fun to see Men's Teoih wrestling.
The second disc is also very entertaining with the standout match being the ladder match from Wrestlemania 16 but there is nothing on this disc that could be considered even average. Match choices could always be better, with Disc 2's RVD match being the one that should have been replaced with something else. If they wanted RVD vs. Lynn there were far better options available. Disc 3 features among others Shawn Michaels, Jeff Hardy, Taka Michinoku and saving the best until last Rey Mysterio.
WWE Highest Flyers - Disc 3 DVD Review By Shaun Nichols
Shawn Michaels vs. Vader ***1/2
2 Cold Scorpio vs. Sabu ****
Kofi Kingston vs. Christian ***3/4
Taka Michinoku vs. Pantera ***1/2
Lita vs. Trish Stratus **
Sabu vs. Rob Van Dam ***1/2
Jeff Hardy vs. Umaga ***1/4
Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero *****
Juventud Guerrera vs. Billy Kidman ***3/4
Disc 3 starts with a look at Shawn Michaels and his WWF title defence against Vader at Summerslam 1996. At the time this was considered to have been a bit of a disappointment but time as not treated this match badly at all. After the initial HBK flurry it's Vader that takes control for the majority of the match. Shawn makes short lived comebacks which every time lasts a little bit longer than the last one. Vader initially wins by count out after dropping Shawn on the guard rail. Jim Cornette as Vader's manager then demands that Shawn agrees to restart the match. Shawn agrees to this and the match runs for another few minutes until Cornette tries to interfere and Shawn uses his tennis racket on both Cornette and Vader. This causes the DQ finish but Cornette again demands that the match should continue. Shawn agrees again and Vader looks to have the match won until he fluffs a moonsault attempt and HBK immediately hits a moonsault press for the win. Considering the match restarts twice the fans are surprisingly into this. Cornette also must have broke a world record for the using the word 'stinking' into a wrestling promo.
Next is Scorpio who because his WWF run was so uneventful in his highlight package we get a lot of ECW clips and Scorpio dancing including a clip of Vince dancing. His match is against Sabu at Cyberslam 96 for the ECW TV title, this is all action from start to finish. Within the first sixty seconds Sabu has used a chair and hit two dives, one of which was into the crowd. Match was full of insane dives and never showed any signs of slowing down. The highlight was Sabu doing his running jump from a chair onto the top rope and then doing a somersault onto a table located in the third row. Fans went crazy for it and then started to worry that he was seriously hurt but fortunately he wasn't. Scorpio kept his side of things by hitting a 450 splash and his tumbleweed legdrop. Match ended in a excellent 30 minute draw.
Kofi's 2010 match against Christian where the winner was supposed to win the IC title is the next match. Although Kofi can be pretty exciting to watch he does mistime a lot of moves in a match. This means that a lot of his matches that should be good end up as average. However Christian fortunately as the ability to get the best out of the majority of his opponents. Both guys wrestle as upstanding babyfaces and the fans react great to this. This as to be Kofi's best WWE match by a mile at this stage and is the best match that the WWE could have picked for Kingston.
The WWE then openly admitted that they were slow to pick up on the popularity of WCW cruiserweights. However they did have the very talented Taka Michinoku as their first lightweight champion. His main rival was Brian Christopher who popped by to do commentary with his old man. Hence much entertainment from Jim Ross telling Jerry Lawler to keep his son in line. At this time they were still not open that Lawler and Christopher were related. Match was absolutely fine but the commentary was top draw, after Taka wins with the michinoku driver it's time for the Lawler family to attack the champ. One dive to the floor from Taka and he's able to make a safe getaway while JR puts him over like a true star.
What was not entertaining was Lita, the positives were that at least the fans wanted to see the girls wrestle and I had forgot how great Trish was a heel. Lita hits a suicide dive which nearly causes her to break her neck and then to win the womens title she hits a nice moonsault for the pin. This really shouldn't have featured especially not on disc 3.
One of the great ECW rivalries was Sabu-RVD with the added intrigue being that both men were being managed by Bill Alfonso, it turns out that he doesn't turn on either man but RVD still kicks him into apparent unconsciousness. Match is all big dives, dropkicks and slingshot offence in front of a rabid ECW fans. Match was good but nothing amazing.
In an attempt to show Jeff Hardy how much the WWE Universe love him he features in the number two position. Strangely they show a cage match against Umaga from the run up to his WWE title match at the 2008 Royal Rumble against Randy Orton. Orton turns up to cheer on the Somoan Bulldozer. Umaga dominates most of the match including backdropping Hardy into the cage and then splashing Jeff into the cage moments later. Jeff makes his comeback with a twist of fate. He then climbs the cage to escape which Orton tries to block, Hardy then changes his mind and hits whisper in the wind from the top of the cage onto Umaga for the win. Visually the finish was very good and I'll give Orton a lot of credit for his performance on the outside.
Finally we get the match we've all been waiting for even though if you've got the Rey DVD set you will already have it. It's the Title vs. Mask classic against Eddie from Halloween Havoc 1997. Eddie as the classic heel is absolutely outstanding and they work the match slightly differently from what you would normally expect to see. From the start Eddie completely outwrestles Rey, which the commentary team put down to Rey having the pressure of possibly losing his mask. Rey does get the odd and always high flying moments of offence before Eddie once again cuts him off. Like the HBK match, everytime Rey gets a hope spot it lasts a little bit longer. It takes approx ten minutes before the match gets even closer to being a 50-50 match as they start trading big moves and setting up false finishes. Finish comes when Eddie is about to nail Rey with a Razors Edge from the middle rope, one huracanrana reversal into a pin and we get a new champion. This match is absolutely fantastic is fittingly saved until the end.
The extra is another very entertaining WCW cruiserweights this time from the World War 3 PPV from 1998 between champion Juvi and Billy Kidman. This PPV was the one where they had three rings and both guys take full advantage of extra options of springboard offence that they can deliver. Fans really liked it as well and reacted to Billy Kidman's title triumph.
I do think that as a compilation it really is an excellent effort. Sure there are matches that should not have made the cut or wrestlers that should have had other matches chosen for them the main examples would be Evan Bourne, RVD and Jeff Hardy. There are also a few real hidden gems that would never have featured on any other WWE compilation. These included matches that featured Hakushi, Taka and a superb mat classic between Guerrero and Malenko. The only wrestler that I really objected to being featured was Lita who moonsault apart as very little to offer. But this takes up only ten minutes. I would easily recommend the Highest Flyers set as extras apart I've only rated three matches out all three discs less than *** stars.