Wednesday, 30 December 2015

WWE Hell In A Cell 2015 DVD Review By Nathan Hunt




WWE are set to release the Hell In A Cell pay-per-view from 2015 on DVD, the seventh event to bear the name since WWE began the custom of theming shows around their biggest attraction gimmick matches. Since the inception of this policy, the PPVs and titular matches have been a mixed bag, varying from excellent to terrible and contrived outings. This has led some to call for these themed shows to be dropped and the attraction bouts to be used more sparingly, rather than shoe-horn otherwise forgettable feuds into high-profile situations. At other times, everything has come together to create something special, with memorable bouts and feuds coming to a dramatic end, but would this be one of those times? With the Cell match itself being used as the blow-out to a deserving feud between two future Hall Of Famers, plus a good helping of other feuds and storylines to go at, it seemed likely (on paper, at least) that the show would be one of the success stories of the match-themed-PPV genre.
The opening vignette mainly focuses on the main event for the show, pitting Brock Lesnar against The Undertaker, setting the scene for the two to wage a war of biblical proportions to close the book on their epic feud. Opening the show is John Cena's US Championship open challenge, which sees the (very surprising, at the time) return of Alberto Del Rio. Del Rio's appearance gets a great crowd reaction and sets the audience alight for the action to follow. The two are obviously very familiar and comfortable with each other, having feuded on and off throughout 2011-2013, including some memorable matches (like the excellent Last Man Standing war from 2011). This outing is largely dominated by the returning Del Rio and serves as a showcase to re-introduce him to the fans, who WWE always assume to have a short memory. It is well executed, smooth and overall a good way to start the card. It is then onto the first gimmick match of the night as Bray Wyatt battles Roman Reigns in Hell In A Cell. This is one of those feuds which critics would argue should not have been inserted into this type of match, arguably devaluing or overexposing the gimmick of the Cell, but regardless, the match is a very good one. While the feud overall felt contrived, the action and creative offense on offer make this surprisingly recommended viewing. Starting pretty slowly the match picks up in intensity as it goes on, incorporating some weaponry and brutal-looking striking to create a suitably violent spectacle to justify their billing inside the structure. The creative use of the kendo sticks is a particular highlight.
We are then treated to a very entertaining Tag bout between The New Day and The Dudley Boys and a very strong match between Charlotte and Nikki Bella. Both are very watchable and keep the action varied, ensuring that there is no lull in the quality while each offering something different from the marquee matches on the card. It is then on to the WWE World Heavyweight title contest between Kane and Seth Rollins, followed by an Intercontinental title bout between Kevin Owens and Ryback, which are both extremely average. Both matches are predictable and lack drama, so while the action is fine, there is no real reason to revisit this section of the disc.
Finally it is on to the main event, pitting Undertaker against Brock Lesnar in the second Cell match of the show, and second one in their storied rivalry. The first Hell In A Cell match between the two in 2002 was a classic, despite being the first of it's kind where the competitors did not exit the structure for some death-defying bump. This one was, in my opinion, even better than the first. Although certain spots came under scrutiny and criticism - such the allegedly intentional bloodshed and the ripping up of the canvas to expose the wooden boards on the ring - I thought that these helped the match, emphasising and illustrating the danger and brutality that the Cell's mystique is built upon. Power moves, striking, the use of the stairs and the cage itself all added up to a believable and dramatic fight between two genuine titans. An excellent close to a fantastic feud.
The only extra on the disc is the six man tag match from the PPV kick-off show, pitting Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro and Neville against Rusev, Sheamus and Wade Barrett (prior to the official formation of the League Of Nations faction). It would have been good to have the precursor to this rematch on the disc as well to add a little more value to the disc, or perhaps some of the other TV build-up to the show, but this is better than nothing. The six men represent themselves well, with some good spots (like Neville delivering a moonsault to Sheamus off Cesaro's back and Cesaro's running European uppercuts around ringside) and all round decent action.
All in all, the show is a very good one, with only two matches that would be worth skipping through, while the rest is watchable, enjoyable and entertaining. I would recommend getting this title if only for the two Hell In A Cell matches themselves, but the rest is definitely more worthwhile than simply two matches and a load of filler. The women's match and the match from the kick-off show are both better than I remembered and ones that I am glad to have in my collection, while the US Title match is worth re-watching for the sake of revisiting the moment Cena's Open Challenge storyline comes to an end (even if only temporarily) and the crowd reaction for the return of Del Rio. A strong offering with some historic matches and moments, this is one of the best events that WWE has produced this year.

The DVD & Blu-Ray is available in the UK/Europe from WWE Video UK on January 4th, pre order now.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Owen Hart - Hart Of Gold DVD Review By Nathan Hunt




It has been an extremely long time coming, for various reasons, but WWE have finally released a DVD to celebrate the life and career of Owen Hart. The release was rumoured for a long time prior to seeing the light of day and was one of those projects that fans had always clamoured for, but had started to believe that it would never actually come to pass. One of the most talented and revered workers to ever compete in a WWF(E) ring, Owen's is a legacy which has been left untouched for years out of fear of litigation from his widow, Martha, who has been vehemently opposed to any usage of his name and likeness since his passing in 1999.

I was somewhat dubious before sitting down to watch the DVD after reading the comments from Bret Hart about his thoughts on the release, but was intrigued to see what limitations, if any, had been imposed. I was pleasantly surprised to see the amount of home video footage and interviews with Owen himself throughout the documentary, so those fears were largely unfounded. There is a really good selection of talking heads on the documentary, although some seem to be outtakes from various interviews conducted for other previous WWE releases. There is a slightly disjointed and haphazard feel to the disc due to some heavy-handed edits, particularly as they transition between the main bulk of the documentary and several side chapters of random 'Owen Tales'. Even so, the documentary is a solid effort; comprehensive, interesting and entertaining. It also covers a lot of ground, such as Owen's pre-WWE career in Calgary, Europe and Japan, his first run as the Blue Blazer and subsequent departure, his brief run in WCW and his transformation into 'The King Of Harts'. The feud between Bret and Owen is covered in great detail from various perspectives, giving a very good insight into the most important and significant feud of Owen's career. There is also a good deal of focus on the Hart Foundation and Owen's post-Montreal run. Inevitable coverage of Owen's death is brief and tasteful, focusing on the aftermath and the void he left rather than the incident itself. You also get a good feel for the person behind the performer throughout the disc, showing the genuine personality for which Owen is equally renowned in the business as his in-ring ability.

Owen Has Bret in a Sharpshooter in their epic WM X bout
The extras include another selection of stories from Owen's peers which give further insight into the man himself and his playful and hilarious antics behind the scenes. We then move onto the matches, starting with Stampede Wrestling bouts against Hiroshi Hase (as Viet Cong  Express Number 1) and Mike Shaw (as Makhan Singh). Some more Stampede and international matches (such as from New Japan Pro Wrestling or UK's World of Sport) would certainly not have gone amiss, which is probably what Bret had been referring to when he voiced his concern about the DVD. The Blue Blazer Vs Mr Perfect from Owen's first run with WWF is a really good and varied match, displaying versatility and some of the (cutting edge at that time) offense which continues to influence performers to this day. The WCW offering against enhancement talent Mark Kyle is somewhat superfluous, but welcome if only for the fact that it had previously only been available as a poor quality YouTube video. An early match against Shawn Michaels when Hart returned to WWF is the only pre-Bret-feud match from his days as The Rocket, which is a shame as well, but with such a wealth of great matches to choose from it is not surprising that there are some omissions.

Obviously we get the WrestleMania X match with Bret, along with a rare Lumberjack match between the two - both of which are excellent and well worth a watch whether you've seen them before or not. The King Of The Ring Final against Razor Ramon and the speech which follows are very entertaining and the second bout with Michaels from In Your House 1996 is a great outing by both. The finals of the European Championship tournament betwen Owen and British Bulldog is fantastic and comes highly recommended to absolutely any wrestling fan, while the ten man bout from the main event of Canadian Stampede is almost like a 'Greatest Hits of The Attitude Era' rolled into one great match. These are amongst the highlights of the entire set, but the quality of action elsewhere on the discs is high throughout, so there is plenty on offer.
Owen with his brother-in-law The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith
 This DVD is is a definite must-have for any Owen Hart fans, or for anyone who was a fan in the 1990s in general. It features some outstanding action and is generally insightful and interesting, recapping a very successful career and showcasing the great work of a highly talented individual. The nature of the stories that people tell about Owen are generally very entertaining in themselves and you can see the genuine love that was shared by all who knew him on a personal level. While some more matches from outside of WWE would certainly have been a good move, Owen's most famous work and some of his best opponents are well represented, making this a very decent offering overall. I can't help but feel that a second installment may be necessary, as there are certainly some other matches which deserve to be seen by a larger audience (such as the cage match against Bret, other matches against Shawn Michaels, any matches from his tag team runs alongside Davey Boy Smith or Jeff Jarrett and international matches against the likes of Jushin Thunder Liger and Marty Jones). Even so, whether there are plans for a second disc in the works or not, there is enough here to make this worth the cost and a welcome addition to any collection.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The Undertaker: The Streak – 21-1 (RIP Edition) DVD Review By Dave Adamson



Recapping the epic Wrestle Mania streak of The Undertaker, The Streak 21-1 takes us through The Phenom’s many Mania matches, before ending with the one that ended it all.

A five disc DVD set that shows the evolution of The Undertaker from his first Wrestle Mania in 1991, with his match against Superfly Jimmy Snuka, it wouldn’t be until Wrestle Mania XII that his matches would go over 15 minutes, as he faced Diesel, whilst his matches after Wrestle Mania XXIV go to close to 25 minutes or longer.

This DVD set doesn’t just chronicle The Undertaker, it chronicles the evolution of the WWF into the WWE, the reverence with which The Dead Man is held by the fans and the way that, over two decades WWF/E commentary has changed - from the early days of The Streak with Bobby Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon setting to the standard for exciting, confrontational commentary, to the peerless storytelling of Jim Ross and his broadcast colleagues, to what we hear today.

Though, in between matches with greats like Jake 'The Snake' Roberts, Diesel, Triple H and Shawn Michaels, we see a small number of matches that would be best forgotten - Giant Gonzalez in the only DQ victory and Big Boss Man amongst them.
Undertaker Finishing Off Ric Flair (WM X8)

A true wrestling icon, with one of the most spectacular themes in wrestling history and an entrance that is as memorable as anything he does in the ring, it’s impossible not to get blown away by the entrances for WM XXV, emotional as The Undertaker faces Shawn Michaels at Wrestle Mania XXVI and referees the match at WMXXVIII, or being on the edge of your seat as Triple H faces him at WMXXVII and it’s at this point that you start to question whether his best matches were in the later years as he proved, time and again, that he is a man who pushes himself to physical extremes, raising the bar with each event.

This isn’t to take away from earlier matches - he faced future Hall of Famers and legends of wrestling - Ric Flair, Diesel, Jake Roberts and a much younger Triple H would all fall victim to The Streak - and the fans were delighted with each victory as he left a wake of destruction and the tally rose year on year.  The emotion is there as the fans were truly behind The Undertaker, gripped by his presence and enthralled by his every move.

More than twenty years of dominance, his loss to Brock Lesnar may have sent shockwaves through the WWE Universe, but has done nothing to diminish the legacy of The Undertaker or The Streak.

The video footage shows just how fantastic the WWF always were - full frame or widescreen, the camerawork is second-to-none, the commentary and sound are well balanced and engaging, whilst the quality of the footage is still exceptional.  Some wide angle shots suffer from a degradation in quality (especially in crowd shots) due to the DVD format, but the action in the ring still looks fantastic whether it’s early 90s or early 2010's.

Probably The Best Match Of The Streak against Shawn Michaels (WM 25)
 Whilst this five disc set may not have any extra features, behind the scenes footage or commentary, it is a testament to one of the most impressive men in WWE’s history and his ability, over more than two decades, to entertain.  A must have for WWE fans and wrestling history enthusiasts, The Undertaker: The Streak - 21-1: The RIP Edition, to give it it's full name should be on everyone’s Christmas list.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Is Wrestle Mania 30 The Worst Thing To Happen To Wrestling Fans? By Paul Smiles

Daniel Bryan After His Biggest Win Ever at Wrestle Mania 30
Now before you immediately answer NO! NO! NO! Then allow me to explain why. I was lucky enough to be in the Superdome in New Orleans. It was an amazing show from start to finish and truly fitting of the 30th anniversary of Wrestle Mania. The problem I have with that isn’t the fact they ended Takers streak it was Daniel Bryan. Now again let me say I love Daniel Bryan, I have since his ROH and PWG days and no one in that stadium was happier to see him lift that title in the last match. The person wasn’t the problem it was the situation it created for us fans.
 The whole situation came out of nothing, which people forget, If Punk had not of left you would have seen Batista and Orton and Bryan Sheamus and Punk HHH. But Punk leaving left them in a hole, and a pretty big one. So they looked to Bryan and rightly so he was hot that year and he deserved every second of his spotlight going into Mania. Thinking quick they built The Authority vs Fans they has been flirting with for most of the year and used Bryan as the figure head. It took off like a rocket and using fans disdain towards their use of Bryan they had 2 months of TV already wrote. The angle came off beautifully and Mania 30 is a moment I will never forget seeing the underdog win the title. But as soon as the confetti was swept up that’s when we had a problem. 
 Fans already fuelled with internet and social media now believe they have the power because WWE gave them what they wanted once. So now we have a dire situation where the some fans current mind-set is always set to winge. Now I am a company man meaning through thick and thin I usually support WWE even when what they have done is bad and watching for 20 odd years has had me see a computer GM and some of my favourite superstars not given the spotlight their talents deserved. I am however also a realist meaning I know that for every Austin vs Tyson moment in attitude era there were 5 or six segments where people feuded over a missing gym bag or someone giving birth to a hand (all happened) If we booked WWE how some fans wanted then anyone who worked for ROH would be world champ and no internet favourites would ever loose. We only have 3 singles title on the main roster and people forget that, People have forgot that in most cases wins losses do not matter, but that’s a different column for a different time. Look at Roman Reigns, his performance at Survivor Series and Royal Rumble 2013/14 won the the adulation of the fans, he was over and during Shields battles with Wyatts. People wanted him to be next in line, it was in his blood, he was (and still is BTW) a great worker and was only natural for him to hold the title.  Fast forward a year and his moment is needlessly urinated on by the booing members in attendance. They didn’t get Bryan, they didn’t get what they want so they boo, and boo and boo. WWE has made this rod for their back and again after last night’s PPV they can do no right, people angry for Reigns winning and even worse for Sheamus cashing in.  Bryan getting the shot as deserved as it was, was in essence a gap filler we don’t decide angles, pushes, anything at all. Have we sometimes got some spotlight on people? Sure Austin, Zack Ryder, CM Punk were all helped by the fans but ultimately the man in the ivory tower has final say. And given fact he has a multimillion dollar company and fans still turning up every week then he isn’t doing as bad as people just love to make out. 
Short But Sweet: Roman Reigns Wins Then Loses The WWE Title
We need to just sit back and see where the ride takes us, Boo who you like but please take your mind-set back before Mania 30 and remember the term best for business is not a gimmick, Its sometimes the right thing, sometimes totally wrong but they will do what they want no matter how many tweets you send, memes you make or shows you claim you don’t watch (even though we all know you do) So my advice as company man/realist, Enjoy it, If you stop enjoying stop watching but that nullifies your ability to throw your proverbial toys from the pram. The story from last night should have been the near 15k fans who braved a credible terrorist threat in a world terrified of radical attack just to watch WWE, it wasn’t it was how the evil office are being boring again. Let’s just enjoy it. If we include NXT this is the greatest collection of wrestlers at any time during wrestling, anytime in history the list we have now is unbeatable, so let’s enjoy it or at least try.

Monday, 23 November 2015

WWE Christmas Collection DVD Review By Dave Adamson



WWE latest in its range of low priced, stocking filler DVDs is the perfect gift for wrestling fans at Christmas.

Presented by Mick Foley, and his daughter, Noelle, the programme itself is called “Ring in the Holidays” and gives us almost three hours of WWE Christmas-themed action from Santa’s Village as they go on a search for Santa.

Interspersed between Foley’s quirky humour, we see a collection of Christmas themed matches, all guaranteed to either raise an eyebrow or raise a smile.  WWE’s Christmas offerings has regularly thrown aside the seriousness of its product, much to the delight of the audience - watching US troops gathering to support Santa is still a wonderful experience - and we get a good representation of that silliness here - No Ho-ho-ho-holds Barred, boiler room brawls, Tajiri and Bubba Claus, Christmas Present on a Pole - the list goes on and it’s all for pure entertainment.

None of the matches will be considered the greatest of all time, but they are all wonderfully entertaining and it’s good to see WWE put such effort into their budget range.  Most of the matches come from the post-2011 WWE and many of the names will be familiar to even the newest WWE fans. It takes us up to Christmas 2014, with Dean Ambrose vs Bray Wyatt, but also includes a couple of older matches - Xanta Klaus, anyone?

Foley, has he has proved over the years, is a charismatic host and narrator and it doesn’t stop with WWE Christmas Collection.  The DVD would have been worth buying for the sheer number of matches, but Foley is the icing on the Christmas cake.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

WWE Annual 2015 DVD Review By Nathan Hunt



Best Of Raw & SmackDown 2014 & Best Of Pay Per View Matches 2014
WWE's 2014 was probably a lot more eventful than you remember. I wouldn't have said off the top of my head that 2014 was a particularly memorable year for the sports-entertainment juggernaut, but looking back over this bumper 6 disc set, which gives a good overview of the complete year, there was more good output than I remembered. There is also a lot of average output to fill up some room, but much like the TV and PPV output from month to month, they are trying to appeal to a broad spectrum of fans and there are points of interest for some people which will not necessarily appeal to everyone.
The collection is split into two sets of three discs each; 'The Best of Raw & SmackDown' and 'Best PPV Matches'. The TV part of the set is hosted by Byron Saxton (who does his best to navigate through some of the tenuous segues that he is given) and features bonus footage of fan reactions and analysis on some of the matches and performers which, although kayfabe, is usually interesting and adds a bit of context to the action.
Starting on the wrong foot, the Best Of Raw and SmackDown opens with a six man tag match pitting John Cena, Daniel Bryan and Sheamus against The Shield which, while decent, is also forgettable and formulaic. The interference at the end of the match means that it ends in a DQ, which begs the question as to why this was deemed good enough to be included on a 'Best Of' collection. Daniel Bryan vs Randy Orton is a much better bout; enjoyable action with a good pace and build of drama and suspense - a generally better example of what type of thing belongs on a disc labelled 'Best Of'. The first SmackDown offering is a fatal four way match pitting Rey Mysterio, Mark Henry, Kofi Kingston and Jack Swagger against each other for number one contendership of the IC title, which is better than it sounds on paper. The eclectic talents on display make for an enjoyable mix of action and they maintain a good pace throughout. The match between John Cena and Cesaro from Raw is brilliant and is definitely one of the more memorable matches from Raw in 2014. It leaves me with somewhat mixed emotions as this was from one of the times that Cesaro was getting a good push up the card, which was inevitably stopped and quashed without any payoff or apparent reason. Even so, despite that context, the match is excellent and well worth checking out. It's extremely hard to watch the crowd reactions and believe that Vince McMahon said that Cesaro can't connect with the WWE audience. After the match there is some bonus footage where fans give their perspective on Cesaro's performance and sing his praises, which brings that point home even more. Batista vs Dolph Ziggler from SmackDown is surprisingly good, although the lengthy promo segment before it could have been edited without losing any value. The New Age Outlaws against the Usos is a strong and emotional outing for the tag team titles and Luke Harper makes a good showing of himself in a singles match with Cena, while the visible and audible crowd reactions  for both matches demonstrate that WWE are still capable of whipping their fans into an excited frenzy. Paige's debut against AJ Lee on the Raw after WrestleMania is a sensible inclusion as the most memorable TV moment of the year for the Divas division, whereas the SmackDown debut of Bo Dallas is underwhelming and is another reminder of mishandled talent being lost in the shuffle later down the line. The best part of this was the fan comments included before the match itself on the disc. Bray Wyatt vs Chris Jericho in a Cage match and Randy Orton vs Seth Rollins from Raw are two of the highlights of the Raw and SmackDown portion of the set, while a triple threat elimination match from Smackdown in the UK featuring Ziggler, Cesaro and Tyson Kidd is a refreshingly good showcase of some of WWE's most talented in-ring performers.

 
Daniel Bryan tying up Randy Orton on RAW
The break-up of the Shield is one of the few non-match segments that deserves to have been included on the disc as it is well executed and the historical significance of this moment will make it something that will no doubt be revisited, dissected and celebrated for years to come. The story unfolds quite well in the included content across discs two and three, including promos and an excellent Falls Count Anywhere bout between Rollins and Ambrose. The promo between Cena and Bray Wyatt (with an ominous choir of children singing 'He's Got The Whole World In His Hands') is well executed, entertaining and different, making it a good inclusion on the set, and the Wyatts are represented quite well in general throughout. The other TV segments, such as the contract signing between Undertaker and Brock Lesnar and Daniel Bryan's 'Occupy Raw' segment are good accompaniments to the Best Of PPV discs, but are largely useless on their own and could have been substituted for more matches to showcase some of the good quality bouts from some of the lesser celebrated but talented workers on the roster. The same can be said for the US title Battle Royal, the SmackDown 15 man tag match and the promo segment between Rusev and The Rock, as they are far from the best representations of the company's output. A title change with no build, a clusterfuck of underutilised mid-carders trying to squeeze their spots into an overpopulated match and a segment where a guest star makes the regular talent look stupid and weak are symptomatic of a company who is out of touch with the purpose and direction of their product. Regardless, these were deemed to be suitable for inclusion in their best moments of 2014. That being said, this part of the set does include more good than bad and the matches on offer are generally well selected.
Starting off the Best Of Pay-Per-View discs is the Royal Rumble match between Daniel Bryan and Bray Wyatt which is a great back and forth battle between two of the best all-round performers on the roster. Mixing brutality with technicality, the two demonstrate great storytelling and psychology in a great opener to this part of the collection. The Wyatt Family vs The Shield is also a brutal  and exciting war between the two most memorable and successful factions of the last decade, serving as an exhibition of the differing talents on both sides. Both of these are matches which most fans will want to watch over and over again. I have to admit that I am a sucker for gimmicks like the Elimination Chamber, so the inclusion of the 2014 Chamber match is definitely a plus point for me. 

Bray Wyatt squaring off with The Shields Roman Reigns
 A diverse mix of styles, some creative exchanges and the expected barbarity that comes hand in hand with the eponymous structure make this a rounded and exciting match. One of the unquestionable highlights of the set is Daniel Bryan's double header performance to open and close WrestleMania 30, in excellent performances with Triple H and then with Randy Orton and Batista to create the most emotional moment of the year. The Wee-L-C match between El Torito and Hornswaggle has some genuinely good action and is a credit to both performers. Unfortunately the way the action is called by the combination of the regular announce team and a set of miniature dress-alikes is derrogatory and only demeans and distracts from the efforts of the two and is pretty shocking for a company who are so outspoken about their anti-bullying policies. Wade Barrett vs Big E Langston for the IC title is watchable but average, especially compared to the later bout from the same PPV where Evolution battle The Shield, which is another major highlight of the collection. Cesaro vs Sheamus is a great outing from both and leaves you wanting more, while the Last Man Standing match which follows it between Bray Wyatt and John Cena is a masterclass in creating a chaotic tour de force with some excellent spots and a creative finish. Seth Rollins' Money In The Bank win is another great match which is worthy of inclusion, with all the trademark jaw dropping moments we have come to expect from these types of matches.
Paige vs AJ Lee from SummerSlam is more of an actual match than Paige's debut on Raw, and is one of the better women's matches in recent memory at that time. Rusev vs Jack Swagger in a Flag Match on the same PPV is a strong match for both and the Lumberjack match from later that same show between Rollins and Ambose is an exciting brawl, although it begs the question as to why the stipulation was chosen when the action unfolded in the way it did.
Other bouts such as Orton vs Jericho and the Usos battles with the Wyatts and then Goldust and Stardust are also among the highlights of these discs, ganering genuine emotion from the audience and beautifully building the drama and suspense to satisfying, decisive conclusions. A battle royal from the Battle Ground PPV (again for the IC title) is just filler and harks back to my comments about the similar offering from Raw in this collection being a title change without a storyline or build-up and a pointless addition to the disc. Cesaro vs Ziggler is excellent and the final chapter in the saga between John Cena and Brock Lesnar is a no-brainer to include in the set. The Hell In A Cell match between Cena and Orton to finish the set is a match that you think you have seen to death already, but is more enjoyable and varied than you may expect.
The Undertaker's Wrestle Mania streak came to an end at the hands of Brock Lesnar
One conclusion that I can draw from the set is that 2014 was the year of the Wyatt Family, showing dominance over some of the biggest names in the business and putting on some excellent matches along the way with an assortment of stars. This makes the set a must-own title for any fans of WWE's most charismatic heels, as it perfectly illustrates every aspect of their rise to prominence in the sports-entertainment landscape as a team and separately. There is plenty of other great action on offer too, so it's not just worthwhile for Wyatt Family loyalists. The final chapter of the Shield and their transition into solo roles is well represented and the performances of Daniel Bryan, Cesaro and Dolph Ziggler provide some incredible action. There is plenty included here to make this worth adding to your collection, although the SummerSlam diomination of Cena by Brock Lesnar is notably absent from the set, which I feel would have been more suitable than some of the other choices, but there seem to be few other notable exemptions.
 You can buy this great DVD (or Blu Ray set) from http://wwedvd.co.uk

Friday, 13 November 2015

WWE Network: Short Of Classic Archive Content By Richard Edmund

 
 Twenty months into the life of the WWE Network and the classic archive content is still in woefully short supply, especially when it comes to (now defunct) non-WWE promotions whose tape libraries have been gobbled up by Vince and co. But even when talking about classic WWE content, what's available to date on the Network doesn't scratch the surface of what could be potentially made available. The often-quoted reasoning for this is that, of all the content so far uploaded on the WWE Network, the archive content that they initially put on there (old MSG house shows and a dozen or so episodes of WCCW) was some of the least-watched footage on the service. As such, it's clearly been decided that what WWE Network subscribers want isn't pre-80's WWE (WWWF/Capitol Wrestling) or footage from territory promotions.

Those 20 episodes of WCCW they initially uploaded have only been added to once, a singular episode made available out of order to celebrate black history month. Outside of this brief look at WCCW (one of the most historically important promotions in a number of great wrestler's careers) there is simply no territory footage available and (when looking at the content WWE has at their disposal) it's a crying shame. Here's the list of tape libraries WWE currently owns and yet does nothing with, at least when it comes to the Network;

. American Wrestling Association
. Central States Wrestling
. Championship Wrestling from Florida
. Eastern States Championship Wrestling
. Georgia Championship Wrestling
. Maple Leaf Wrestling
. Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling
. Mid-South Wrestling/UWF
. Smoky Mountain Wrestling
. Stampede Wrestling
. World Class Championship Wrestling

The wealth of classic wrestling content across those eleven tape libraries is simply staggering, yet it's footage most fans will never get to see and (to WWE's mind) that's just as well, because why go through the arduous process of restoring and digitising archive content when Network subscribers just will not watch said footage? To older fans, or those who have gone back and sought out wrestling from the territory days, any such uploads to the Network would be very warmly welcomed, but WWE's data suggests that those fans make up a very small minority of subscribers and, therefore, shouldn't be catered towards. It makes complete sense from a business standpoint, but it still rankles to see so much quality wrestling essentially going to waste, when it could be given a new lease of life and introduced to a whole new era of fans, with the right approach.

And therein lies the problem - WWE's approach thus far has been to upload a few dozen out-of-context episodes onto the Network and then, after said episodes are watched by only a relatively miniscule number of subscribers, throw up their hands and say "well, we tried!" before forgetting the notion altogether. Why should someone who's never heard the name Von Erich start watching World Class? The WWE Network offers no answer to that question and many others, leaving the Vault section of the service looking like the oft-forgetten black sheep of the family. It's not enough to simply upload episodes (although fans such as myself would be greatly appreciative of that gesture, all the same), you have to give the fans a reason to care about the content, an insight into its worth that is currently lacking in the extreme.

But with all the resources WWE has at its disposal, surely such a thing should be possible? Younger fans might not be clamouring to watch random episodes of a territory they've likely never heard of before, but perhaps they'd watch a current superstar introduce and explain the importance of that footage. A Steve Austin or Mick Foley type, running through a top 10 of their favourite GCW matches, for instance. Or current WWE Superstars talking about the characters and matches that were an influence to them while them growing up. An MST3k-style show where WWE Legends gather to watch a selection of classic (and not-so classic) matches and shoot the breeze. Or, put WWE's top-notch editing and video package people to work making mini-documentaries that chart the history and explain the importance of classic feuds or promotions themselves. 

The question, ultimately, is whether any of that is worth the effort to WWE and (judging by the dearth of recently uploaded archive content) it certainly doesn't seem that way, which is a real shame. Without WWE giving legal access to the libraries they own, those passionate and devoted enough will find the footage elsewhere, but it still seems a shame to me (and a real waste) that so much classic content isn't being made available and that zero attempts have been made to introduce and make such content accessible to newer fans.

WWE Night Of Champions 2015 DVD Review By Nathan Hunt


























While WWE's recent TV offerings are often under fire for being too formulaic, stale and bland, some of their Pay Per View outings from this year have exceeded expectations and have boasted some really good matches. Not every card can be jam packed with amazing action and this one is a mixed bag in terms of the quality on offer.

Kevin Owens vs Ryback starts the disc in a match for the Intercontinental Championship. The match is slow and contains far too many rest holds, but the storytelling and psychology from Owens saves it from being a total snoozefest. The pace builds towards the end, which certainly helps, but the sudden ending (while it fulfills the purpose of giving Owens a traditionally heelish means of victory) ultimately lacks impact.
Dolph Ziggler and Rusev's cheesy and unneccesarily convoluted storyline in which they are competing for the affections of Lana and Summer Rae is recapped before we get to their bout. Plenty of eye-rolling moments from WWE TV are on offer here, but the two work hard to overcome this in the action which follows. They start out with a noticably faster pace than the previous bout and maintain this throughout, but it's just not captivating and falls short of what you may expect given the obvious talent possessed by both performers. I can't help but feel that these two would be able to do something more special if they were given something that they could sink their teeth into.
In both of the opening matches every move and exchange was performed well, but the substance is somewhat lost to poor presentation in both cases. No clear, decisive victories and characters being reduced to one dimensional caricatures make these passable but entirely forgettable encounters. Barring the title change in the opener, these are not going to be the reasons you will want to rewatch this in years to come.
This is followed by a highly entertaining confrontation between the Dudley Boys and New Day, blending nostalgia with energetic action and a helping of hilarity on the side. While the conclusion is somewhat lacking (again), the overall package on offer here is actually substantial and gratifying to watch, but a disqualification ending in a Dudley Boys match is always going to leave a slightly bitter aftertaste. This is then followed by the Divas Championship match between Nikki Bella and Charlotte, which gives us the first taste of genuine emotion on the disc. A strongly performed and dramatic battle concludes with a pleasing ending and gets the best reaction so far from the live audience. One of the best women's matches produced on WWE's main roster in recent memory, which will also mark the first reign for a potential future legend makes this the first major reason to own this DVD.
The Wyatt Family squaring off with Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and everyone's favourite regular surprise, Chris Jericho (The Shield Lite) is a good back and forth battle with a bit of something for everyone. It's probably wise (although a little disappointing) that they edited out the incident with the fan jumping into the ring before Jericho's entrance and being taken down by security. Braun Strowman of the Wyatt Family makes a good showing of himself as the old-school style strong big man, Reigns does his usual John-Cena-hybrid-with-Bill-Goldberg act and Harper continues his uncanny Bruiser Brody impersonation to great effect. The bout is the kind of orchestrated chaos that you would expect, with everyone hitting their signature maneuvers in between some brawling and explosive exchanges, peppered with the occasional aerials from Jericho and Ambrose. Jericho puts over newcomer Strowman in a really strong way and the right team come out with the victory, whatever arguments might be made to the contrary.
Seth Rollins defends two championships on the show, first putting up the US Title gainst John Cena before going on immediately to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship defense against Sting. The first is a war with Cena, which is genuinely dramatic and exciting  and really enjoyable. If someone had told me a year ago that I would write that sentence about a John Cena match I would have laughed at them, but the truth is that the guy has really stepped up his game this year with his US title involvement and pair that with an incredible worker like Rollins and you have automatic gold on your hands. The battle with Sting which follows it elicits some warranted 'You Still Got It' chants for The Icon, who puts  on a really good performance. Despite a serious neck injury from a powerbomb into the turnbuckle from Rollins, the WCW legend was able to finish the match and this is a match that both can be proud of. Much more of an actual wrestling match than his WrestleMania debut against Triple H, this is a much better representation of Sting as a performer and is definitely essential for any Sting fans and collectors out there. What stands out in both matches is that Seth is just an incredibly gifted performer who can adapt to any opponent and is absolutely deserving of his place at the top of the card.
The extras for the disc are a post match interview with the Dudley Boys the six man tag match from the PPV kickoff show, pitting The Ascension and Stardust against Neville and the Lucha Dragons. The promo is well delivered but fails to really add any value to the match itself. The six man tag match meanwhile is enjoyable and showcases the high flying talents of the babyface team very well, while the heels definitely play more of a supporting role for the most part. The spot where the Lucha Dragons hit stereo somersault planchas at the same time as Neville hits an Asai moonsault is especially good and an obvious crowd-pleaser. As far as kickoff show matches go, this is a pretty good one and a welcome addition to the disc as it adds a type of match which would have been otherwise lacking. While there are obviously aerial moves and exchanges in other bouts, there was no cruiserweight stylings on offer from the main card, so this helped to flesh out the action. The decisive, clean pinfall victory finish helps too.
When you get this many inconclusive finishes and non-committed booking decisions on a card, it ultimately feels like a transitional show rather than a must-see or must-own title. There are certainly redeeming features and generally high quality action, but there is some definite filler in there too. The women's and Wyatt Family matches are two of the reasons that this ends up being a good all-round card, but without everything else being hung on Seth Rollins' shoulders (with the added incentive that this is one of only three Sting matches in WWE so far - because there was also that forgettable tag match on Raw the week before Night Of Champions), the show is largely no better than a decent episode of Raw. Two distinct, high profile and well executed matches with two of the industry's biggest stars make this a must-own for any Rollins fan and may even convert the minority who aren't already. If you're going to buy this for the main events you will enjoy the show overall, but there will undoubtedly be some chapters that will be skipped over more than others. Maybe not a 'rush out to buy it now' purchase, but one which should go on the wish-list for the good stuff on offer.
You can buy this title and many others including ones reviewed elsewhere on http://wrestlingslasthope.com over at http://wwedvduk.com

Friday, 6 November 2015

In The Midst Of A Wrestling Renaissance By Abby Maldonado



I was fortunate enough to attend the EVOLVE 49 show in Queens, NY on October, 17, 2015. Seeing Sami Zayn back in that environment, while under a WWE contract, was one of those surreal moments in Pro Wrestling that really doesn’t happen too often anymore. Another was the eruption of the crowd when HHH’s music hit, only to be fooled by the entrance of All Ego Ethan Page. And for that single solitary moment, people believed.

The landscape of professional wrestling has changed. Vince McMahon is changing his view of how to handle the sports entertainment industry outside of his domain. When McMahon went national in the 80’s, he basically tried to eliminate every territory in the country, or most of them anyway. But with declining ratings, the success NXT has become without the help of John Cena and the rising commodity of independent wrestlers on the market, I think McMahon finally sees the ability to do business with minimal investment while appealing to the most hardcore fans. Samoa Joe was the first example of this. An independent wrestler, keeping his name, his trademark, his character, and keeping an independent schedule while on the WWE network is something that no one ever dreamt would be possible. And now with Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa having similar arrangements, I believe it’s only a matter of time before this becomes the norm for blue chip prospects on the independent scene.

If we try to recall history, in a modern day representation of wrestling territories, Pro Wrestling Guerilla would become the Southwest Territory feeding a star every year to the WWE system in a Hunger Games sort of tribute with the winner of its annual Battle Of Los Angeles. Five Borough Wrestling and Beyond Wrestling would become rivaling Northeast brands, invading one another with talent and promotional feuds, but stay far enough away from each other not to affect their respective businesses. Smash Wrestling maintains its independence on the Canadian circuit. NXT will have a lock on the Florida territory, while EVOLVE grows to be another nationwide touring group. There are far more companies that could play a part in this entire situation. There are too many of them to name. But idealistically, this fantasy would culminate annually at an event where all Regional/Independent Champions defend their respective titles, cross lines and continue to tell a story…

Independent promoters can uniquely boast first time match up’s with the bountiful roster of independent wrestlers and grass roots talent. And while there are very few matchups left for us to crave at the top of the food chain, with the few exceptions being Samoa Joe, Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins and Cesaro, there isn’t much left for us to want on top. The new wrestling fans want to see their champions grow from the independent scene, all the way to the main WWE roster. Vince McMahon is finally coming around to understanding there is an entire market out there for the taking, if promoted correctly. And luckily for fans, that same environment is impervious to bad booking.

Thanks for reading. And thanks to Stu Rodgers for the invite to write for Wrestling's Last Hope.
- @AbbyTheButcher

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Sting - Into The Light DVD Review By Nathan Hunt


WWE's new Sting DVD is basically what fans had hoped that the first would have been. While WWE's Best Of Sting box set was still a must-own release in it's own right, this one offers not only matches and promos, but a feature length documentary (75mins approx) which comprehensively covers the different stages of one of the most iconic, eclectic and celebrated careers in professional wrestling. Jam-packed with some fantastic extras and good insights, this is not only a must-see for fans of Sting, but for any wrestling fan.
 
The documentary uses a 'day-in-the-life' style framework, showing Sting travelling to WWE Headquarters in Stamford, meeting with officials including Triple H and Vince McMahon (although the Vince meeting is off-camera), getting ready for his first WWE appearance at Survivor Series and first WWE match at WrestleMania 31. This framing device forms a foundation from which the body of the documentary spirals out into the usual retrospective of Sting's incredibly rich life and career. Considering how much has been said and written about Sting throughout the years, this was a good choice in presentational style as it allows the disc to cover all the usual ground but with additional insight and a contextual basis which emphasises the importance of his finally signing with WWE. The well chosen and wholly appropriate talking heads include Ric Flair, Lex Luger, Jim Ross, Jerry Jarrett, Rick Steiner and Eric Bischoff.
Sting is candid when discussing topics such as his shortcomings in his early career, his views on championships and match styles, past negotiations with WCW and WWF and his dealings with other talents. He discusses the origins of the Crow-style character he morphed into in the late 1990's and the circumstances around the famous Starrcade '97 match against Hulk Hogan. While his time in TNA is glanced over, he surprisingly mentions them by name. While there is too much coverage on his personal spiritual beliefs, which are completely irrelevant, it does add a little insight into the man behind the paint and some of the other detail on his upbringing, training regimen and personal life is fairly interesting. Sting is always humble and is quick to give credit to others he has worked with or helped him in various ways. He admits that he never watches his own matches and it is really good to see him watch some footage back and genuinely enjoy  and take pride in seeing his old work (particularly when watching his match with Flair from the final episode of WCW Nitro, when the heartfelt pride is especially evident).
Here is Sting prior to his Wrestle Mania match with Triple H
 Extras include some documentary excerpts which add some further insight into Sting's career as well as some good stories from his life in the business and on the road. While some early offerings of the Bladerunners are only included as points of interest rather than classic wrestling matches, the bouts included here with Ric Flair, The Great Muta Cactus Jack, Rick Rude and the Steiner Brothers are all fantastic and well worth watching and revisiting, standing up as outstanding matches even nearly 30 years later.
Overall this is everything you may expect from a Sting DVD, plus a whole lot more. The extensive resources and wealth of material WWE have at their disposal has been put to good use in the creation of this release and I cannot imagine that any wrestling fan would be disappointed by this. Definitely one you will be reaching for again and again, this is highly recommended, genuinely enjoyable and a great addition to any collection.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Great Expectations By Paul Smiles


Opinions change, but facts are absolute. Looking at the success of NXT can be achieved easily by looking at the brand itself, It’s sell out show in Brooklyn and its successful transition into a brand on the road that allows it to reach all over in America and thankfully for wrestling fans over here the UK too in December. The way I like to judge its success is the effect it has on the main roster, After all its original nucleus and mission statement was to create the superstars of tomorrow and today.

In looking at the sheer numbers we can look to a few. 35 is the number of PPV's since The Shield debuted at Survivor Series 2012 in which an NXT alumni has appeared on the card. That’s every single one. Of those 16 times has featured an NXT guy in the main event and between all the talents that came up there has been 15 title wins, one Royal Rumble winner and a winner of the Money in The Bank brief case.  These are impressive figures, factor in Wrestle Mania 31 had one NXT guy or girl in every match bar one, the problem with the above success stories are that it does not happen every time.

 Has NXT set itself apart from the main shows so much now that we have enlarged our expectations of people moving up to the main roster? Of the 21 people that made the jump from NXT to WWE 10 have won gold in the WWE ranging from tag gold right up to the main prize of WWE title. Some have dominated the landscape most notably Shield guys, Wyatt's, Paige and Rusev. But not every addition to main roster is seen as a success by the fans. They want to see all NXT guys do well they have a connection to it, they have passion it’s the reason NXT works because of the connection, very similar to PWG and ROH fans which I’m sure Mr H borrowed from.

What this leads to is lofty expectations when guys debut or get called up they have this fierce loyalty to these guys and any misstep or misuse leads to outcries.  We need to start reevaluating what we consider a success.

For some it’s who they feud with, others count up wins and some look to gold as the measuring stick. However is someone who is on TV every week and on PPV's whether they win or lose as successful as someone with a belt? There are only so many titles within WWE and not everyone can hold them. Within the main ranks at the minute we have a large contingent of NXT people in all positions, Divas, Mid card, lower card and main event but we have them there and when this brand was reimagined by Triple H I can see this was the infiltration he would want, No not everyone will be a Seth Rollins but as the numbers earlier suggest almost half of the crew have had a title or two, we shouldn’t feel bad when others don’t, They are performing and get their time to shine. Not everything that works in Full Sail can work on the mass audience but if they have made it to the main roster even if they have went back to NXT and back up again, making it to the same dance as Lesnar, Cena, Taker, Orton is success regardless of where you are on the card and how many titles you have won.

The impact NXT has and will go on to have on the largest company in the world of wrestling is huge, the facts prove that but maybe we need to start changing our own opinions on what we measure success as.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

WWE SummerSlam 2015 - DVD Review By Nathan Hunt

 Available From: http://www.wwedvd.co.uk/

WWE's latest DVD release, SummerSlam 2015, is a pleasantly mixed bag featuring some great action and historic matches. A light helping of celebrity involvement gives the show a big event feel and some incredible marquee matches establish this as second only to WrestleMania in terms of must-see shows of the year.

Jon Stewart more than makes up for the fairly mediocre way he opened the show when he interjects himself into John Cena's match with Seth Rollins later on. To be fair, the opening wasn't all that bad, it just seemed a little clunky and overly long. The addition of Mick Foley to the segment was a welcome and logical way to bring it home and get the show started. Randy Orton vs Sheamus is a match I feel like I've seen too many times in the last five years and the various unrelated chants from the crowd throughout this tells me that much of the audience feels the same way. The match is fine, but it's nothing you haven't seen before. New Day's pre-match promo and continued antics throughout their fatal four way with Lucha Dragons, Prime Time Players and Los Matadores make them one of the more fun and entertaining aspects of the show. The fatal four way itself is really good in terms of fast, excellent action and features a variety of styles, so this is one of the bouts which make this a show that is worth revisiting. All four teams make a really good showing of themselves here and the action and execution bring the previously distracted crowd squarely on board for the rest of the show to come. Dolph Ziggler and Rusev put in a good effort, making up for the silly booking of their rivalry with some great in-ring work. The ringside antics of Lana and Summer Rae are superfluous and unneccesary, while the lack of a satisfying ending hardly makes this one for the ages. Regardless it is a watchable and not entirely throw-away segment. Next up, Neville and guest star Stephen Amell (TV's Arrow, just in case you didn't know) take on Wade Barrett and Stardust. Cody Rhodes is absolutely impeccable as the twisted supervillain character he portrays and thankfully, this is one of the instances of celebrity involvement in wrestling that works well for everyone involved and doesn't come across as too contrived or unnatural. It is a good fit, not just because of the Superhero stylings, but also because Amell is both athletic and a wrestling fan, meaning that he understands it more than most celebrity guests. He is not really awkward or unbelievable in the ring and he certainly put in some work to pull his weight in there, which is great to see. The performances of Neville, Barrett and Rhodes are all outstanding as always too, so this is definitely another strong reason I recommend the DVD, as this is one you will want to revisit. Ryback's Intercontinental title match with Big Show and The Miz is a fair effort from the three, although it is in absolutely no danger of stealing the show at any point. The tag match which follows it pitting Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper against Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns is heated, exciting and dramatic, making this another favourite on a very decent card.

Seth Rollins vs John Cena, with both the United States and World Heavyweight Championships on the line, is testament to the unquestionable talent of Rollins and to the fact that Cena has really stepped up his game over the last year or so. Genuinely enjoyable throughout, this is a fantastic match which checks all the boxes to make it memorable and a definite keeper. Even people who can't stand John Cena (which usually includes myself) can't deny that this is a great match. The Divas match on SummerSlam is one of the first installments of the 'Divas Revolution' and features the three competing factions of Teams Bella, BAD and PCB. Whatever criticisms there may be regarding the success of the Divas Revolution, the action here is strong and serves as a far superior offering to the rushed filler that has traditionally consituted the women's contributions. Meanwhile, Cesaro vs Kevin Owens is a superb blend of power, technicality and brutality, with a sprinkling of high-flying thrown in for good measure. These guys are just excellent at everything they do and this is definitely one to watch. Lastly, the main event for the show, Brock Lesnar vs The Undertaker, is an epic installment which any fan of both or either performer will want in their collection. The rematch from their infamous WrestleMania 30 bout starts intensely and is explosive throughout. Hard hitting, suspenseful and generally gratifying, this is an excellent main event.

Overall, SummerSlam lives up to the hype of being WWE's second biggest show of the year in a year that included a very strong WrestleMania. The Cena/Rollins and Lesnar/Undertaker bouts alone make this worth owning, but the rest of the card makes this a complete package which will no doubt stand the test of time. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

WWE The Beast In The East DVD Review By Nathan Hunt


When the WWE Network was due to launch, the announcements concerning potential content referred to live events (house shows) that would be included in the proposed additional programming. While we have seen some specials from NXT, the inclusion of any other live shows outside of the regular TV and PPV shows have, so far, been limited to this single event held in Japan's Ryƍgoku Kokugikan hall back in July, although it was announced at the recent Night Of Champions PPV that a second was in the works for Brock Lesnar's Road To Hell tour; a show eminating from New York's Madison Square Garden. Hopefully there will be much more to come on this front from WWE as, if this disc is anything to go by, the Network specials will add value to the award winning on-demand service.

The audience is audibly and visibly into the action from the outset and provide a great atmospheric backdrop to the show throughout. Opening with a great, varied contest between Chris Jericho and Neville, the match is a wonderful blend of technical grappling and dazzling high-flying, as you may expect from these two. A decent triple threat match between Nikki Bella, Tamina Snuka and Paige is next, with all three putting in a good effort but ending anticlimactically, especially given the solid and decent exchanges which form the main body of the bout. Predictably, the match between Brock Lesnar and Kofi Kingston is completely one-sided and despite his novelty attraction status, it begs the question as to why the event was named for what is essentially a squash match.

The next bout unquestionably steals the show, as Finn Balor clashes with NXT Champion Kevin Owens in an absolute classic. Brutality, excellent psychology and all-round outstanding action make this a pleasure to watch and is one that will go down as one of the best NXT title matches thus far, which is no meagre feat by any means. Balor's Championship win here, in front of a somewhat hometown crowd (having trained and played out the majority of his career so far in Japan) is met with an explosive applause and rabid adulation.

Lastly, the event closes with a markedly mediocre main event, pitting John Cena and Dolph Ziggler against Kane and Wade Barrett in a match which would be more at home on an episode of SmackDown than a big event. While the action here is fine, it is completely clear that the main event spot should have been given to Owens and Balor. Ending the card on this note is a head-scratcher but then again it was a WWE live event and not an NXT show, so you can kind of understand the logic (even if it does beggar belief that any booking committee would put more value on this than on the standout stars of the development league).

The disc also includes bonus matches pitting Cesaro against Diego (of Los Matadores) and the remaining members of New Day (Big E Langston and Xavier Woods) against the Lucha Dragons. While each match is under 10 minutes (bell to bell), the action here is strong for undercard offerings and these are welcome additions to the release.

Overall, this is a strong DVD and is recommended if only for the show opener and NXT title match. In my opinion, the whole show is pretty strong complete package and is a better offering than many recent WWE TV or PPV outings.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

WWE - The Monday Night War Vol. 2 - Know Your Role DVD Review By Nathan Hunt

WWE's latest offering, 'The Monday Night War Vol. 2 - Know Your Role' is a must-own title, particularly for those who were fans during professional wrestling's most celebrated period. It also provides a fascinating insight to anyone who has simply heard of the Monday night wars, or even seen the first volume but didn't actually experience it first hand. The ratings war between WCW and WWF with their flagship programs on Monday nights provided some of the best action, creative storylines and innovative characters that the genre has ever produced and the behind-the-scenes news, rumours and tension provided an extra dimension to fans as the explosion of the internet started to permeate pro wrestling like nothing that had ever be seen before. The added drama, alongside both companies churning out some of the best output that fans could hope for, made this perhaps the most memorable and beloved period in pro wrestling history.

While the Monday Night Wars have had a lot of coverage on WWE programming, this collection of documentaries delves into the period to a degree never seen previously, and provides perspectives, stories and experiences that even the most educated fan will find informative, interesting and surprising. Completely candid accounts from the key players in the industry at the time, as well as current stars who were influenced by the wars, give this an incredible depth. The documentaries were first available on the WWE network, but the discs also include some extras which make this even more of a loaded set, courtesy of post-episode analysis for each installment by Eric Bischoff.

Disc one includes episodes on Chris Jericho and the influence of ECW. Disc two then gives us the volume's title episode by analysing the rise and career of The Rock before delving into the Women/Divas role at the time. The third disc looks at the mainstream pop culture elements of the war, with celebrity appearances and the crossover appeal of many top stars before moving on to the rosters, factions and defections which were the cornerstone of the battle between the two industry giants, then an episode dedicated entirely to the backstage faction which held perhaps the most influence, The Kliq. The final disc starts with the self-explanatory title 'Mistakes In The Battlefield', looking at the errors which cost each side (mainly WCW) their ratings supremacy, before we move on to 'The Fall of WCW' and 'Life After Wartime', where we explore the final days of WCW, Vince's purchase of the dying brand and the stars who would later appear on WWE programming.

The set covers the period from every conceivable angle, looking at the characters, promoters, storylines and performers who made the wars so memorable and helped their respective companies reach the heights that they were each able to scale at different times. The talking heads and highlight clips are all well selected and the detail and insight the viewer gets into the on-screen and behind-the-scenes happenings of the era are unparalleled. Highly recommended for any fans of any age.

WIN WWE Beast In The East On DVD thanks to our friends at Freemantle (UK Residents ONLY) - Closes October 5th 2015, details elsewhere on www.wrestlingslasthope.com

Thursday, 1 October 2015

The Very Best Of Nitro Vol. 3 DVD Review By Dave Adamson



Volume 3 of The Very Best of WCW Nitro does leave you wondering if it’s a case of diminishing returns.  At what point, for example, does “the very best” step down to being “the best”?

Running at seven hours, DDP hosts a compilation of more than thirty matches, with backstage segments filling in some of the WCW stories that were taking place at the time.  There’s very few bad matches here, though not all of them are the most memorable.  It’s a great catalogue for the wrestling greats, with many championship matches and marquee events showcased.

Watching the likes of Guerrero, Malenko, Guerrera, Jericho and others in action is a reminder of how great WCW was in its day.  Whilst the bigger names are well represented through the nWo and the all encompassing nature of that group, women’s wrestling is massively understated, as is the contribution of Chris Benoit.  That said, it’s a package that covers the breadth of WCW Nitro, with heavyweight matches of Hogan, Hall, Nash, Flair and Sting mixed in with the cruiserweight action of Guerrera, Jericho and Eddie Guerrero.  Elsewhere, there’s matches that can only be described as oddities - Rick Steiner vs Hak, anyone?

Matches are shown in their entirety, with commentary intact - so, viewers will be able to familiarise themselves with the occasionally questionable commentary as the promotion descended into the madness that it would later become.

Occasionally, additional context is added to matches by DDP, as he reveals his own recollections with the humour, but for the most part it’s a collection of isolated matches, scattered throughout the years, from 1995 to 2001.  It’s possible, for fans unfamiliar with WCW, to pick up the ongoing stories thanks to the commentary, and it certainly does leave the viewer wanting to find out more - it would have helped immensely if the matches were introduced with an on-screen graphic showing the date, instead of having to wade through the DVD menus to find out what happened when.  More DDP offering context to the matches would have also helped immensely.

nWo Black & Red:  Lex Luger, Sting, Kevin Nash & Konnan
 The decision to replace three themes - Jericho gets his WWE theme, Sting gets his Crow-era theme and Hollywood Hogan gets… a generic rock guitar theme - does stand out a bit at first.  That said, it’s not a deal breaker for the action on show here, just a tad anachronistic for anyone who is more familiar with the product.

From start to finish, it’s an entertaining, though occasionally bewildering, package - some of the backstage segments drag on with nWo takes over Nitro being longer than most matches - and there’s only so much of the nWo getting the upper hand that you’ll be able to take before it gets boring.  Despite the prominence of the nWo, the wrestling action is still superb and any opportunity to relive the cruiserweights, Flair, Bret Hart and others in action is worth watching.

If you’ve already purchased volume 1 & 2, chances are you’ll be up for purchasing volume 3.  Starting with volume 3 would be an unusual buying decision, but it’s certainly worth picking up if you’re after a bit of classic wrestling action.