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.

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