Wednesday 21 December 2016

The WWF Hardcore Diaries Parts 1 & 2 By Tony Quant

 Part 1

The WWF Hardcore Title was introduced to the WWF Universe on November 2nd 1998 and changed hands a total of 240 times before it was unified with the WWE Intercontinental Title on August 22nd, 2002. 

Of those 240 Title changes, Raven was the man who captured the belt more than anyone else, winning the belt a total of 27 times. Whilst Raven may have won the belt on more occasions than anyone else, it was Steve Blackman who was the longest holder of the belt with a total reign of 172 days.

This series will focus purely on the Title matches of the WWF/WWE Hardcore Championship and will start back on November 2nd. On a weekly basis we will review the following Title change and give you a complete overview of the Championship match. We hope that you will enjoy reading it as much as we have enjoyed reviewing the WWE Vault (OK we don’t have a vault we just have the network like you guys)!

So without further ado here is the first entry in the Hardcore Diaries which start with Vince McMahon presenting Mankind with the belt.

November 2nd, 1998 - Raw Is War Houston, Texas

We move over to a backstage segment which includes Vince McMahon, The Big Boss Man and Mankind. Vince is in a wheelchair and is sitting opposite Mankind. Vince pleads with Mankind not to interfere in the next match which is between Ken Shamrock and The Rock. Vince tells Mankind he has a present for Mankind but will only give it to him if he promises not to get involved.

Mankind duly agrees to Vince’s request and Vince presents Mankind with the new WWF Hardcore Championship Belt. Mankind tells Vince that he “loves it” and Vince says to Mankind “in some respects I feel like I have lost a son tonight. But maybe I have gained another.” As Vince starts to wheel himself out of the room, Mankind replies “Jeez, thanks Dad.” Vince leaves the room with a bewildered look on his face.

Conclusion - No action to report but it is definitely fitting that the first ever WWF Hardcore Champion is Mankind. His history in hardcore matches speaks for itself and I can see the WWF thinking that his willingness to take bumps in these kind of matches will bring something extra to Raw and create a niche. Its definitely interesting to see them going the “Hardcore” route but having just overtaken Nitro in the head to head ratings the needed to keep momentum and viewership on their side.

Part 2 

November 2nd, 1998 - Raw Is War Baltimore, Maryland

The Hardcore Championship is on the line under Ladder match rules between the Champion Mankind and The Big Boss Man. 

The challenger the Big Boss Man comes to the ring accompanied by the WWF Commissioner Shawn Michaels. Mankind comes out with the J.O.B squad who are quickly sent backstage which seems bizarre? Bossman attacks with a night stick on the outside of the ring and Shawn joins Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler on commentary. 

Mankind slams the Boss Man head first into the steel steps then fetches a ladder and throws it directly in Boss Man’s face. Shawn on commentary slams Mankind saying he has “been there and done that. He can’t wrestle for 45 minutes like me.” Mankind continues to beat Boss Man with the ladder outside the ring. Mankind finally gets into the ring and sandwiches Boss Man in the ladder and drops an elbow on him. 

In one of his only offensive moves since the start of the match Boss Man tries a sloppy Irish whip but ends up getting double DDT’d for his efforts. Shawn tells Mankind to “drag that fat butt up that ladder” this is vintage Shawn on the commentary.  Boss Man pulls Mankind off the ladder and sets it up in the corner, follows it up by tossing Mankind into it. 

Both men finally made their way to the top of ladder and Bossman gets his finger tips on the Title. Mankind hits him a few times and gives him a mandible claw on the ladder. Bossman falls down but is able to get back up to stop Mankind getting the gold. Out of nowhere The Rock appears and pushes Mankind off the ladder onto the ropes. The crowd go absolutely wild for The Rock’s interference which really is the highlight of the match so far.

Mankind is able to get back up and after kicking The Rock in the nuts repeats the same on the Boss Man. After getting back up the ladder The Rock pulls Mankind down and gives him a Rock Bottom. Boss Man lays some boots on Mankind before climbing the ladder and grabbing the belt to become the new WWF Hardcore Champion.

After the match Boss Man hits Mankind with the night stick and Michaels and The Rock lay some boots on him. The Corporation stand supreme.
Conclusion - Definitely not one of the finest Hardcore matches of all time, largely in part due to Boss Man’s work which was lacklustre to say the best. Mankind is more than at home in these hardcore matches and was carrying the match throughout. The Corporation angle got over big and the crowd where hot when The Rock got involved. Michaels was brilliant on commentary playing off of the King’s set-ups.

Monday 5 December 2016

WWE The True Story Of The Royal Rumble DVD Review By Tim Ricketts

The True Story of The Royal Rumble takes the fan favourite Pay-per-view event, and gives it the same historical documentary treatment as WWE did with their WrestleMania and Starrcade DVDs.  Now approaching it's thirtieth iteration, The Rumble's unique structure means that never fails to be entertaining or controversial. Either way, every year it is must see Wrestling.

This look into the traditional start of the Road to Wrestlemania, consisting of a traditional documentary DVD - with plenty of clips, highlights and vox pops of Legends and SuperStars - and two discs of 'Special Features' and Featured Matches, also delves into the setup and surroundings of Royal Rumble 2016. To start the whole thing in context, the progenitor of the concept - first Intercontinental Champion Pat Patterson - describes how his refinement of the traditional Over-the-top-rope Battle Royale to include timed entrances was presented to NBC TV.  At a time when a star's entrance was a relatively new and effective addition to his gimmick, TV executive Dick Ebersol saw this as the perfect feature for a (then) WWF special for his network.  The concept was refined at House Shows, and the first Televised version was such a success that it became a permanent addition to the 'Big Four' of Pay-per-Views.

With the first few years being treated as their own self-contained tournament in the era of only a handful of annual PPVs, and the majority of subsequent matches rewarding a main-event at Wrestlemania, winning the Royal Rumble has always held a high level of prestige.  More talking-head segments of notable competitors relate this, as well as the challenge and honour of either starting as number 1, 2, or 30 in particular.  All further tweaks and touches that has kept this as quite probably the most popular annual show outside of Wrestlemania.

The Rumble has had it's own fair share of controversies over the years, which is only to be expected from such a long-running concept, and this DVD does not shy away.  The only time the Rumble has settled the Championship prior to this year, Ric Flair's win in '93, came about as the result of contentious matches between Hogan and Undertaker.  Bret Hart and Lex Luger having to share the 'victory' in '94, Shawn Michaels' single foot on the floor prior to his win in 1995, BOTH of The Rock's feet touching in 2000, and the Quad-busting mutual elimination of Cena and Batista, all dally with iffy eliminations.  The fans' reactions to the 2014 & 15 events, and their Daniel Bryan-related disappointments, are covered with revealing backstage footage which paints Reigns in a very sympathetic light.

If there is one single thing in the anticipation of a rumble that builds fan interest, it is the surprise entrants, the Superstars that you don't expect to see.  This year's event has AJ Styles making his debut and the backstage secrecy this involves, whilst seeing the Legends of days gone making a cameo - from The Honky Tonk Man to DDP - gets a great pop from 'the Universe'.  Add to this the stealthy returns from injury over the years, of the likes of Edge or John Cena, and there is always a shock or two amongst the 30 men selected. Although the documentary has a chapter dedicated to this phenomenon, the number of significant inclusions over the years could have seen it expanded somewhat.

The Royal Rumble match itself isn't the only reason to pay attention to this PPV, the Undercard has it's historic gems too. In particular, the Rumble 2000 gets it's due recognition with the first Tag-team Tables match in WWE between the Dudley Boyz and Hardy Boyz, Tazz's début suplex battle with Kurt Angle and Cactus Jack & HHH in hardcore heaven.  A look at Rowdy Roddy Piper's Intercontinental reign that began at the Rumble kicks off a look at that title's storied history at this event, leading right up to this year's brutal slug-fest between Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose.  In a moment of candid remorse, Scott Hall (Razor Ramon) talks regretfully about his reaction to the homoeroticism in his match with Goldust, 20 years ago.

The format of the Royal Rumble lends itself to the notion of statistical Records, all there to be admired or beaten: from the Shortest time in the ring (Santino Marella, 1sec) to the Longest (Rey Mysterio, entered first & won, 62mins+), Stone Cold holds the record for most wins (with three).  One man stands tall in the record books however, Kane with Most Eliminations (42), Most Rumbles, and had held most eliminations in a single match until he was beaten in 2015 (11-12) by Roman Reigns. Reigns becomes the First to defend the WWE title in the Rumble Match itself, as number one entrant no less.  This segues nicely into the 'Moments' chapter of the DVD as we see the start of the 2016 bout, and Styles vaunted debut at number three.

Dedicating itself to the more esoteric highlights of history, this chapter covers such diverse topics as Too Cool & Rikishi dancing mid match, Tough Enough rookie Maven eliminating Undertaker, Demolition Fighting each other and Andre the Giant being scared of Jake's snake. Chyna, as the first female Royal Rumble entrant gets a significant mention, as does Kofi Kingston's regular rumble acrobatic escapology act. As Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker fight out their huge ending in '07, we get taken forward in time to the ending of this year's as Reign's valiant defence ends and Triple-H eliminates Ambrose to become 14-time Champion at the same time as looking after his boardroom duties.

At only an hour and five minutes long, the Royal Rumble has had plenty of history to provide more flesh to the bones of this documentary, but for it's length it does cover all the important events, even if only briefly. Still a worthy addition to any completists, collectors or fans of the format like I am.  Let's see how the other discs support or complement the documentary.

The 'Special Features' section of disc two would have been a lot of the missing 'flesh' I mentioned.  From interesting anecdotes, the star power of Pamela Anderson in the mid-nineties, to Mae Young winning 'Miss Rumble 2000' and a featurette on significantly less puerile female appearances at the Rumble, this adds some value to the set.  The 'Matches' section starts with the première Royal Rumble match from 1988, which holds up very well for it's age and shows excellent construction and progression throughout.  The Rockers vs The Orient Express is a good tag match and better technically, but Ultimate Warrior vs Sgt. Slaughter - also from 1991 - feels the stronger historic inclusion.

The 1994 'draw' between Bret Hart and Lex Luger is included in it's entirety, whilst the 1997 Championship Match between Sycho Sid and Shawn Michaels, as well as the aforementioned Tazz/Angle match from 2000, round out the disc.  The 2001 Rumble match, notable for the first Celebrity entrant in comedian Drew Carey, the Hardy Boyz fighting each other, the Return of the Honky Tonk Man and as Stone Cold's record breaking third win, starts disc 3. The 2007 iteration ended with an all-out bloody battle between Michaels and Undertaker and is the last full rumble match on the set.  The final two matches are the surprisingly technical bout between The Rock and CM Punk from 2013 that ended Punk's 434 day reign as Champion, and the fiery and contentious Divas' Championship match from this year between Becky Lynch and Charlotte.

Whilst there have been stronger DVD sets from WWE this year, this stands out for it's documentary format, and that the included bonuses and matches really do back up the content of it.  Whilst I'd have been quite happy for the whole of Royal Rumble 2000 to be included as an Extra, the length of the event's long and storied history means that in summarising it, we are always going to be missing something.  A must have for any WWE collector, and despite the length of the first disc, great value for money.

Available in the UK now from,