Friday 18 November 2016

WWE Randy Orton: RKO Outta Nowhere DVD Review By Tim Ricketts

Whether you know him as 'the Viper', 'the Apex Predator' or 'the Legend Killer', Randy Orton has been at the top of the wrestling food-chain for well over a decade.  His uniquely capricious character and subtle charisma have established him as a man not to be reckoned with, or particularly trusted either, but it has kept him in the main event picture all those years; even if only as a dark horse for a time.  I am utterly certain that I am talking about a future Hall-of-Famer here, and a definite Legend.

It has been five years since WWE released their last Orton DVD, and like a lot of the past releases of their more enduring Superstars it is due for an update.  Cue 'Randy Orton: RKO Outta Nowhere' to fill this void.  WWE's other updated biographies, like the recent Brock Lesnar one, have shied away from any repetition of matches from previous offerings, but with over a dozen WWE/World Championships behind Orton this should contain some quality viewing.  A quick check through the contents of the three discs confirm that WWE are sticking by their current format of a chronological match compilation, interspersed with highlight packages and short interview-style segues, rather than a documentary followed by a match compilation.

The set begins with Randy ruminating on his start in the business at WWE developmental territory OVW, being thankful for it being easier than most due to his family background as a third-generation wrestler. It quickly  moves on to his first 'dark' (or un-televised) match against Flash Flanagan which has no commentary for obvious reasons, but shows Orton's immense power and potential.

Orton's career has paralleled that of John Cena in so many ways, and we slip back to OVW to see one of their first (of very many) encounters, after The Viper gives his early impressions of the then 'Prototype'.  Orton also discusses how he was treated by senior figures whilst establishing himself on the main Roster, with highlights of his TV debut vs Hardcore Holly, and in particular how the Undertaker dealt with the (included) early championship match he was given.  Triple-H's run-in at the end leads us neatly to the formation of Evolution, the alliance of Orton, HHH, Ric Flair and Batista.  A 6-man elimination tag match against the Dudley Boyz provides a fantastic example of this most excellent faction.

The next two matches highlight the beginnings of the 'Legend Killer' gimmick and Orton's substantial run as Intercontinental Champion, the longest for seven years, with a defence against 'Legend' Chris Jericho, and his championship rematch against Edge after finally losing the title at Vengeance. Despite this title run and the ascension to his first World Heavyweight Championship bringing prestige to Evolution, its permanent dissolution was inevitable once Triple-H revealed his jealousy of Orton's title. An un-televised match from their subsequent feud rounds out disc one, and adds some substantial rarity value as well as Randy's insights into working with the now WWE Chief.

After talking about working against Edge earlier, Orton focuses on their tag-team, Rated-RKO, at the start of disc two.  Their brief title-run is demonstrated with a match against the Hardys, before attention is switched to Randy's next WWE Championship reign with an absolute humdinger of a stipulation match with Shaun Michaels at Survivor Series '07.  This is followed by the Champion vs Champion match against Jeff Hardy at the following Royal Rumble and then an incongruous four-year jump in time to 2011.  I was mildly disappointed that The Legacy, the faction that formed the bulk of his work during this time, has seemingly been airbrushed from Orton's history.  Though, this may have more to do with Cody Rhodes' recent departure from the company than anything.

Ignoring that gap, the Last Man Standing match with CM Punk at Extreme Rules is a beautiful example of pacing and psychology over spectacular 'spots'.  Another Champion versus Champion match, this time against US title holder Dolph Ziggler who Orton refers to as a 'top three' talent, rounds out the second disc.

If a four year jump is a bit much, then the third disc commences in contrast.  The next match occurs only a day after the previous one against Ziggler, a feud-ending Steel Cage match  against Christian to retain his World Championship.  Another jump, this time of just under two years, brings us into another period of dominance for the Apex Predator and a brief discussion about ladder matches.  The Money in the Bank Ladder Match 2013 is the platform from which this success launched, and is filled with the athletes that he has spent the intervening time feuding with.

After using his MITB contract to win the WWE Championship, we get to the point of most historic significance on the entire set: The Unification Match.  WWE Champion Randy Orton met World Champion John Cena in a TLC match to become the final World, and new WWE World Heavyweight Champion.  The two young titans of the 2000s give a showing worthy of the occasion, which is just as well with the establishment of the new Universal Championship virtually ruling out any resurrection of the Big Gold Belt in the New Era.

After the significance of that match, the remaining three bouts may seem a little lacklustre, but the wrestling content is still watch-worthy, and significantly we get to hear Orton's opinions on the Superstars of Today.  Randy obviously likes working against Dean Ambrose, considering the compliments he gives, and the intensity of the match shown.  The intensity continues for the high-profile Wrestlemania XXXI fight with Seth Rollins, on his own steamroller course for the title.  Probably the highest praise is reserved for Cesaro and his strength, and a spectacularly explosive triple threat between him, Orton and Kevin Owens concludes the DVD set.

Whilst the gaps and total resistance to any repetition from any other sets makes this collection a little disjointed in terms of chronology, it is, quite appropriately, a beautifully coherent record of Randy's evolution, and well worth owning.  From The Legend Killer to Legend, from Rookie to Ring General, this set successfully documents Orton's legacy and The Viper's place as WWE's Apex Predator.

Available now from

Monday 7 November 2016

WWE Annual 2016 DVD Review By Tim Rickets

The WWE Annual 2016 is a six-DVD behemoth of a compendium set, consisting of The Best of RAW and SmackDown 2015 and The Best PPV Matches 2015.  Once you get your head around the anachronistic cognitive dissonance of a 2015 set packaged as 'Annual 2016' when it's nearly 2017, then this is a potentially good time-capsule of an interesting transitional year for WWE.

The TV show and PPV sets are presented by Byron Saxton and Corey Graves respectively, providing the necessary talking-head and segue sections to link the chronology of the highlight packages and matches.  Talking of highlight packages, the match selections are heavily enhanced by them, with each Pay-per-View getting it's own, and the month's major happenings and d├ębuts on TV are similarly summarised too.

To minimise any jumping backward and forward in time, I've viewed and reviewed the DVDs in pairs, starting with the first Best of RAW and SmackDown disc then The Best PPV Matches disc 1, and so forth alternating between the sets. I found that the sets are very complementary when viewed like this, although I expect that some will view this as 'not the right way'.

The Best of RAW and SmackDown commences with a superb Ambulance Match between Bray Wyatt and Dean Ambrose, but, by-and-large, the first disc of both sets focus on the 'Road to Wrestlemania' starting at the Royal Rumble.  In particular, the complex situation involving the contenders to Brock Lesnar's WWE Championship are covered in depth.  The returning underdog hero Daniel Bryan, Mr Money in the Bank Seth Rollins and his former SHEILD brother Roman Reigns all fight it out to claim the championship or face Paul Heyman's client at Wrestlemania.  Reigns eventually wins the official opportunity, but Rollins finally cashes-in his contractual advantage to leave the 'Granddaddy of them All' with the WWE title, and we get to see John Cena bring home the US Championship from vicious villain Rusev.

The first disc of the TV content also covers the emergence of Superstars and alliances, such as Sting, Neville and The New Day, #GiveDivasAChance and the nascent beginnings of the Women's Revolution.  Both discs conclude with focus on the Tag-Titles and the start of New Day's domination, as well as the fallout from Wrestlemania, running up to and at Extreme Rules.

The second discs of the sets start in and around the Payback PPV, Dean Ambrose managing to earn a spot in a fatal four-way with Rollins, Reigns and Randy Orton for Seth's newly acquired hardware. Both also cover John Cena's US title Open challenge, including a stand-out match against the fresh NXT graduate Sami Zayn on RAW, and feud with NXT champion Kevin Owens. The slobberknocker ending to this grudging series, however, is left for PPV disc 3.

Whilst the Pay-per-view DVD finishes with both the WWE Championship and titular ladder matches from Money-in-the-Bank, where Rollins retains and Sheamus leaves with the briefcase, The Best of RAW and SmackDown covers the continuing Diva's Revolution and the formation of Teams Bella, BAD and PCB.

The Divas are also well honoured on the third round of DVDs too, a triple threat between Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Brie Bella representing their teams, is later followed-up with Ms Flair's Title victory at Night of Champions, ending Nicki Bella's record-breaking reign, and a defence against Paige from RAW.

More mutual coverage is of Sting's brief return to battle Champ Rollins, also at Night of Champions, and the more prolonged series of straight-up bloodied fights between The Undertaker and his nemesis Brock Lesnar between SummerSlam and Hell in a Cell.

Despite the Best of PPV Matches DVD ending with October's Hell in a Cell, the Best of RAW and SmackDown continues on through November to cover the WWE Championship Title Tournament in the wake of Seth Rollins' vacation due to injury, and The League of Nations' first match, a 7-on-4 handicap.

With around 15 hours of content, this set is tremendous value-for-money, and did prove to be the time-capsule that I'd hoped for.  If you're a collector who hasn't managed to get the two original sets that this compilation is composed of yet, or want to get a great festive gift for a casual fan, then this is might be a hit in the stocking-filler department.  Whilst the material is now rather more historic than current, it does show a lot of the rapid changes WWE has made in the run up to it's 'New Era' in both style and talent.  The number of wrestlers who have left ('future endeavoured') or graduated from NXT since 2015 is bought home by this set too. A remarkably high turnover.

Out November 7th from and I'll be back next week with the Randy Orton: RKO Outta Nowhere DVD review, which you can also pre-order here.