Tuesday 28 November 2017

Jinder Mahal: Someone To Look Up To And Admire By Pete Stevens

Mahal in his previous incarnation with the WWE
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the pro wrestling business. I’ve been a part of it (10 years) and a fan for a combined 30 years. I’ve taken just lately to writing about my thoughts and feelings on certain subjects and this is another one. 

I recently read online that during a press tour of India to promote WWE’s upcoming show, Kane was quoted as saying that Jinder Mahal is a superstar that should be admired for his change in attitude. Kane makes reference to Mahal’s 2014 release and spoke about the way Mahal conducted himself while being away including becoming a better wrestler and the drastic changes to his physical appearance. I understand that this interview took place in India to promote the forthcoming show which Mahal is due to headline in a match against the COO of the company Triple H however, it got me thinking. 

In the bigger picture, should we all not respect Jinder Mahal for his most recent accomplishments a little bit more than we do? 

I understand that some purists and wrestling die hards were outraged when the company went left field and chose to put the WWE Championship on Jinder and the rise of the ‘Modern Day Maharaja’ began. I admit, I thought it was going to be a transitional champion kind of situation and the company would keep with the safe cards like AJ Styles (champion now) or Randy Orton. A near enough 6 month reign would be the result of it all which even if you appreciated it or not brought fresh new light into the tired and tested main event scene. 

Mahal with his 3MB cohorts heath Slater & Drew McIntyre
In 2014 Jinder Mahal was released from his contract. At the time of his release he was a member of 3MB. Prior to 3MB he had bounced around the mid card with a couple of mediocre winning streaks. He was the runner up to Seth Rollins in the final of the NXT Championship Tournament and was also the on screen brother in law to The Great Khali. Jinder was re-hired by the company along with Curt Hawkins, Rhyno, Shelton Benjamin and a few others to bulk out the rosters during the brand split. Not long into Mahal’s return he begun to make some big changes to his physic and attitude in the ring whilst finding himself in a team with Rusev. Mahal would look like an absolute beast leading intro Wrestlemania where he again came second in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal however, the ground work was already being laid down for him to rise to the top of the Smackdown brand and lead it as it’s champion.

Mahal in more recent times when he was WWE champion
Taking a step back from his accomplishments during all of this I’d like to go back to concentrating on the point Kane was making. Jinder Mahal is a character. Love him or hate him he isn’t real. Yuvraj Singh Dhesi was giving a second chance with a company that doesn’t really give second chances very often (okay goldust being the exception) and he chose to reinvent himself to give himself a fighting chance to survive.

As I said earlier wither you like him or not as a performer it’s immaterial.  Personally I feel he should be admired and ultimately looked up to as someone who took the measures to better himself within his workplace to stand out from the pack instead of just filling the hole in the roster which ultimately he was brought back to do. Take a quick second to look at the rest of the returning stars. Rhyno was Tag Team Champion and got a push on smackdown but has done nothing since the brand switch moved him to Raw. Curt Hawkins gimmick is that he’s lost every match since the start of his career and Shelton Benjamin has been shoved into a 2.0 tag team. You may argue that Mahal has done nothing but alter his appearance and that his level of wrestling skill hasn’t changed at all. Against the skill of the veterans I mentioned above I would strongly argue that if his push was solely based around in ring skill then chances are he would be jobbing to the stars as well and in some way maybe he knows that. Look into his past again for a second. WWE tried multiple times with Jinder to make something of him and nothing happened. When he was Average Mahal you never saw him knocking down doors to get to any championship glory. 

In an industry STILL (WWE at least) dominated by big men with impressive physical appearances Mahal has perfectly played the one card he did have for success and he played it extremely well. 

Changing his physical appearance is the best thing Jinder Mahal has ever done for his career and it says a lot about his personal character and his willingness to want to succeed. He was given a second chance at a dream career where he hadn’t made the best of it the first time round and has hit a home run this time round. 

Surely that’s something to look up to for anyone in any industry. 

I’d call this a dream come true. 


Monday 20 November 2017

WWE Network: We Wish You The Best In Your Future Endevours By Joel Yentis

I have decided, I am cancelling my WWE Network subscription. I don’t use it. New content doesn’t appeal to me. The nail in the coffin will depend on this weekend’s quality – no pressure then WWE.

You see, my problem is time and environment. Once the kids are in bed, I have a few hours to spend with the wife which, lies the second problem; trying to negotiate a night watchingwrestling. WWE isn’t easy to watch at the best of times, let alone when the current product just doesn’t make any sense. When I introduced the wife to wrestling back in 2009, her first comment was “do they do risk assessments?” when watching a money in the bank ladder match. A fair point, I suppose. Then a large amount of reasonable  questions followed, “why do they always do moves facing the camera?” or “why are they always distracted when someone else’s music plays?”. Dearest wife, I have no answer. I don’t think many people have answers, including the decision makers.

So my valuable, marital time is at a premium, WWE is not an option. Fortunately, I have two other subscription services which, are cheaper than the “New York” territories offering and more importantly, a more common sense approach to content. Another subscription service we have is Netflix and, we really enjoyed watching GLOW together as well as non-wrestling related shows such as American Vandal, Toast of London to name but a few. A few hours of free time every night and, with all these options available, we tend to go for Netflix (also cheaper than the WWE Network) then, if I feel lucky I will offer up a New Japan English Commentary show or, if I am really feeling lucky, a Rev Pro Cockpit show.

With time at a premium, this week I have found having plenty of free time. Once I get the kids to bed, I am on my own. The wife is out doing a play (because we are middle class… Amateur Theatre Dahling). I can sit in and watch whatever I want (and play Football Manager at the same time – MULTITASKING!). What have I chosen to watch this week? Well, to watch Rev I have to plug in my Chromecast, connect my Macbooks Chrome, log in and then Cast. New Japan is the same process – but this has improved greatly (I now no longer need Google Translate – Huzzah!). For the WWE Network, I just hit the apps button on my remote and go to the WWE App, Michael Cole told me how to install it and everything (I have a Smart TV – told you I was middle class). Ease of use doesn’t seem to affect me. I can log onto the site nice and easy and browse the network. I even get emails from John Cena, Roman Reigns and Charlotte Flair to tell me amazing new events are coming to the Network. Thanks guys. This week, I have been mostly watching Rev Pro Global Wars Shows 1 and 2, New Japan Power Struggle (again) and PWG BOLA 2017 Night 1. Really enjoyable ways to spend an evening or two.

Why don’t I use the Network then? Well, I have lived throughmost of their 90s to date archives. Putting in the hours when I wasn’t married, with kids and a mortgage. No, I lived these events when I had a social life – which I didn’t have because I was in my room watching wrestling.

Nostalgia seems to be a big reason to have the network, but I don’t need nostalgia in my current free time. I have vintage video games for my nostalgia fix, plus a lot of the content from the Attitude Era for example doesn’t age particularly well. There are plenty of more qualified folk to point this out, but the way women were portrayed at the time has no place in my house. The Attitude Era and all ECW shows are a no go option for me these days. I want new, up and coming, different, challenging viewing options and, in its current form the WWE just doesn’t offer me that. Even with NXT – it is formulaic; focused on being a TV product rather than a sport on TV. Can you imagine Ronaldo getting screamed at for not turning to the hard cam to do his celebration? Or how about Roger Federer serving for the match and accidently lookingstraight into the camera? If it is “Sports Entertainment” why isn’t there emphasis on the sport? We don’t scream at the Sky Sports commentators for talking about what is trending online during a match or the editors cutting away every time someone completes a tackle. It’s time for me to just give up on the network. I thought it was everything I ever dreamed of, but in reality, Over the Top services such as Rev Pro, Progress, NJPW World etc IS what I dreamed of. Current product of the highest of qualities with an archive should I wish to go back. 

My £9.99 a month saved will go back into wrestling, through live attendance, merchandise, subscriptions etc. It will not go to corporate America any longer. Yuk, I am turning into one of “those guys”.

Sunday 12 November 2017

WWE Presents NXT: From Secret To Sensation DVD Review By Keagan Barnes

NXT is WWE’s third brand, well known for it’s tendency to create stars in such a short time. This DVD was dedicated to that with a list of NXTs top 25 of all time. In the last review I did, I covered the ‘30 Years of Survivor Series’ DVD and in that I was very critical. However, the things I criticised were improved and I can’t see a fault in this DVD. 

 Disc 1:
We start off with Tom Phillips giving a brief introduction to NXT. He name drops a few alumn who’ve gone on to do great things and then the list gets underway.. The list entries have a video package but with sections in between, quizzing other WWE/NXT stars about the performer. This was really well put together and this is what the survivor series dvd, in my opinion, was lacking. 
The top 25 were all deserving of their place on the list. There was a few surprise entry numbers. That was bound to happen though. The list of illustrious superstars included greats like: Triple H, William Regal and John Cena. It was also very cool to see the NXT Superstars and alumn talk about their peers in such a positive way. Also, it was great to reminisce and look back at some great gimmicks and matches. 
Cesaro made the list, which wasn’t a shock considering what he did for the brand in its early days. A lot of people picked up on that. His feuds with Sami Zayn and William Regal should definitely be in the conversation for best rivalry in NXT’s early days. Like I just mentioned, it was great to see peers praise Cesaro and his contribution to NXT. 
One which surprised me was Paige. She defitnitely deserved to be put on but due to the situation she’s in with WWE at the minute, I wasn’t sure that she would be. A big name who didn’t make the list such as: Roman Reigns or Dean Ambrose could’ve made the list instead. It was easily done. In my opinion, Paige definitely deserved a place on the list over those two.
The superstar input wasn’t scripted and you could definitely tell. It added a sense of sincerity which can’t be faked. It was wrestlers giving their genuine thoughts on their colleagues. This was made more apparent on Alexa Bliss’ entry more than anyone’s. Many stars said that they didn’t believe she was going to do much in the WWE. Reminiscing about her old cheerleader gimmick, it was crazy to see how far she’s come. The change from over-the-top cheerleader to intense bad girl was drastic and will arguably go down as the best image change in NXT history.
Tyler Breeze made the list! I love Tyler Breeze, he’s my favourite NXT wrestler of all time.. His schtick was so original and he had the charisma to perfect it. He put on solid matches and the NXT higher ups thought that much of him, they used Liger’s one off WWE appearance in a match against him at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn. The fact that he’s gone to SmackDown Live and is now doing something completely different to his NXT gimmick while perfecting it to the same degree, proves that he’s a fantastic performer. 
NXT Tag Teams got their own segment prior to the Top 10 countdown but none of them were ranked. It was a collection of video clips for each team. The Vaudevillians were included and it was cool to see Simon Gotch again I guess. The Ascension was really cool to see at their most dominant. A lot less like the Road Warriors cosplayers they later became. Enzo and Cass at their best, The Revival in their earlier days and DIY were all welcome additions to the list. It was a great compilation of teams and the tributes were fitting to the guys that made NXT weekly TV so entertaining.
The new generation of NXT was represented by none other than Ember Moon. Although receiving a low placement on the list, it was still cool to see her on it. It felt like just yesterday she debuted and wowed everyone with her appearance and unique in ring offence. It just adds to the point I started off this review with, NXT are really great for creating stars in a short time. 
Finn Balor. His position is high obviously and I think it’s also pretty predictable. However, it’s predictable with good reason. Finn Balor elevated NXT and is the longest reigning champion in the brands short history, putting on barnburners every time his championship was on the line. Every time Balor was in a feud with someone it felt like a big deal. 
This disc finished on a positive note, looking to the future of NXT and all the stars on the rise. Superstars name dropped here included: Aleister Black, Billie Kay & Peyton Royce and Ruby Riot.
Disc 2: 
This disc had a collection of classic NXT matches including an untelevised contest between Xavier Woods and Big E Langston from 2011. 
My 5 Match Recommendations:
  1.  Non-Televised Match - Big E Langston vs. Xavier Woods - NXT (Pilot Episode) 
  2. NXT Championship Match - Seth Rollins vs Corey Graves - NXT January 2, 2013.
  3. Fatal 4-Way Match for the NXT Championship - Adrian Neville vs. Sami Zayn vs. Tyler Breeze vs. Tyson Kidd - NXT TakeOver: Fatal 4-Way. 
  4. Adrian Neville vs. Tyler Breeze - NXT January 15, 2014. 
  5. Antonio Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn - NXT June 12, 2013.
Disc 3: 
Like the disc before it, this had a collection of NXT classics. From this disc I recommend the following 5. 
My 5 Match Recommendations: 
  1. Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura - NXT TakeOver: Dallas 2016
  2. NXT Women’s Championship Match - Asuka vs. Ember Moon - NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II
  3. NXT Championship Match - Finn Bálor vs. Samoa Joe - NXT (Lowell, MA) April 21, 2016
  4. Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss - NXT July 6, 2016
  5. NXT Women’s Championship Match - Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch - NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable 2015.
Final Thoughts:
All in all, I believe this DVD is an all round fantastic set. Great list, great matches and I for one, thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. Definitely recommend.
Rating: 8.5/10
Buy or Not to Buy: BUY HERE

Sunday 22 October 2017

WWE '30 Years Of Survivor Series' DVD Review By Keagan Barnes

On the 23rd of October 2017, WWE will release the '30 Years of Survivor Series' DVD set. I sat and watched the discs back to back to back and have the following to say about the set.
Disc 1: 
The DVD kicks off with no introduction or host/s with the only thing given being the Survivor Series transitions they've been using for the last few years. The first disc is a top 30 of the best Survivor Series moments. It felt like an hour long YouTube video. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the disc but I feel like it could've been put across better. 
Each place on the list has a video package similar to those used in WWE today and boy have the video team knocked it out of the park here. I have a few issues with placements on the list but nothing too drastic. Do I believe that number 1 should've been number 1? Yes, without a doubt. Despite being controversial and pretty obvious, it couldn't have been anything else. It also felt nice that everything on the list deserved to be on it and that none of it was just there to fill places up. It was also nice to see people no longer affiliated with the WWE involved in the list too. People like Demolition, CM Punk, Hulk Hogan and Alberto Del Rio all featuring prominently. 
Another thing that could've been improved was the amount of information given. We were just presented with the video and had to make our own assumptions. There is a list with names of moments online at wrestlingdvdnetwork(dot)com but you shouldn't have to go out of your way to find it. I'm not going to spoil the list placements but I'm going to give you my personal favourite moments that were put on the list. 
  1. The Undertaker Returns at Survivor Series 2004
  2. The Shield Debut
  3. The First Elimination Chamber 
  4. Winner Takes All - Team WWE vs Team Invasion
  5. Team Cena vs Team Authority / Sting Debut.
I don't have much to say about the first disc besides the lack of information and the presentation of the list leaves this DVD with the untapped potential of being fantastic. 
Disc 2:
The second disc is a collection of matches from the earlier Survivor Series which were mentioned on the list. This collection of matches is nice and are definitely must watch. 
My Top 5 however: 
  1. WWE Championship Match: The Undertaker vs Hulk Hogan @ Survivor Series 1991.
  2. 5-on-5 Elimination Match: The Bad Guys (Razor Ramon, 1-2-3 Kid, The British Bulldog & The Headshrinkers) vs. The Teamsters (Jeff Jarrett, Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Owen Hart & Jim Neidhart) @ Survivor Series 1994.
  3. No Disqualification Match for the WWE Championship: Bret “Hitman” Hart vs. Diesel @ Survivor Series 1995.
  4. WWE Championship Match: Shawn Michaels vs. Sycho Sid @ Survivor Series 1996.
  5. Triple Threat Match for the WWE Championship: Triple H vs. The Rock vs. The Big Show @ Survivor Series 1999. 
It was so nice to listen to Brain on commentary again too. 
Disc 3: 
Similarly to Disc 2, this was a very nice collection of matches beginning from the attitude era spanning to the current era. Like the previous, must watch matches. The last two discs are what makes the set worthwhile in my opinion. 
My Top 5 Matches: 
  1. Steel Cage Match to Unify the WWE & WCW Tag Team Championships: The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz @ Survivor Series 2001
  2. WWE Championship Match: Brock Lesnar vs. The Big Show @ Survivor Series 2002
  3. 6-Pack Challenge Match for the Vacant WWE Women’s Championship: Trish Stratus vs. Lita vs. Jacqueline vs. Molly Holly vs. Jazz vs. Ivory @ Survivor Series 2001
  4. 5-on-5 Elimination Match: The Shield (Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose) & The Real Americans (Jack Swagger & Cesaro) vs. Cody Rhodes, Goldust, Rey Mysterio, & The Usos @ Survivor Series 2013
  5. Tournament Finals for the Vacant WWE Championship: Roman Reigns vs. Dean Ambrose @ Survivor Series 2015
The set was good. Not fantastic, not bad, just good. The list was mediocre but was made up for by the quality matches on the other discs. I still do recommend it but I just thought you might want to know what you're buying before you buy it. 
Buy or Not To Buy: BUY from WWE DVD UK 
Rating: 6.5 

Wednesday 27 September 2017

WWE Presents WWF: 1997 Dawn Of The Attitude DVD Review By Keagan Barnes

Panel: Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley, The Godfather, Ron Simmons and Kane.
Going into this DVD I had mixed feelings. I wasn't sure if the lack of bigger stars would have an effect on this feature. There was no Stone Cold, there was no Rock and there was no Triple H. As time passed and as I was getting more invested, I can tell you that the star power didn't matter at all. If anything it just made it more interesting. 'Dawn Of The Attitude' was a joy to watch from start to finish and I found it to be very insightful. 
We start things off with the superstars describing the wrestling industry at the time. 1997 was a big year for WWE. Times were changing, the ratings war was in full swing and superstars were given an opportunity to use their personalities as their in ring persona. This gave a lot of stars the chance to shine. 1997 was a much simpler time in the wrestling business. You'd never have to worry about your character looking 'weak'. Wins and Losses never mattered and you wouldn't have to deal with hate on twitter. 
Slightly controversial topics included talks about Sunny and Chyna. 
The Guys: 
Shawn Michaels: Shawn recalls 1997 being a good year for him, his degenerate persona really helped him turn his negative backstage attitude into positive for the WWE. The first meeting of the Raw is War era was Vince telling the guys to put more of themselves into their characters. He remembers Vince being stubborn, the attitudes backstage were positive towards the war because all of the guys knew that WWE would be the last one standing.
Shawn was a very positive part of this DVD. He'll make you laugh, he'll intrigue you and you won't get bored of anything talks about. Definitely put in to be the leader of the table, Shawn shows that he certainly doesn't lack in charisma and makes for a good watch. 
Mick Foley: Mick never imagined himself playing Mankind. As a youngster, he always wanted to be the chick magnet. Bruce Prichard himself saw tapes of the promos Mick did as an 18 year old and this led to Mick's series of interviews with Jim Ross which he describes as really opening up his character.
Think you know all of the backstage groups? You probably don't know about this one! (If you do, well played) 'The Nerd Kliq' was a group of only 3 men. Kane, Mick Foley and Al Snow. The guys would chill out watching documentaries and reading books which completely contrasts with what was previously stated about personas. Looking back to 1997, you would never be able to guess that Mankind and Kane were avid readers.
Mick was definitely a huge part of WWE in 1997 as he is in this feature. He had rather interesting stories and takes and he just added to the natural feeling this interview gave off. None of the guys at the table were uncomfortable and I think Mick played a big part in that. 
Ron Simmons: Simmons gives us information on how he arrived in WWE. Vince would ask him a question, he'd answer bluntly with no beating around the bush. He said whenever he'd have an issue with race he'd tell the truth. Mick turns this into a light hearted joke asking if Ron asked Vince what was on his mind when Vince gave him The Sultan's helmet. This attitude of Ron's lead to the Nation of Domination's Farooq. 
Ron made his presence felt for sure. I was unsure about Ron being in this, heading in but by the end I was glad he was. He definitely contributed to discussions well.
The Godfather: The first thing The Godfather talks about was being in the background of the Nation of Domination as The Rock was being built up to become the megastar he is today. "Me and D'Lo were just there to take stunners and that's when I knew something had to change". Mick and Godfather recall the creation of his character and tell the story of how it came to be. 
Oh The Godfather is great in this. I've always found Charles Wright an interesting man to read about/listen to. Everyone frequently talks about the three faces of Foley but no one really talks about the four faces of Mr Charles Wright. I felt the same about Charles as I did about Ron coming in and once again, I'm glad he was in it.
Kane: 1997 was a good year for Kane. He mentions how the fact that the wrestling aspect of WWE in 1997 took a backdrop to the character aspect was a big help to his career. Kane is such a down to earth guy and this DVD made it apparent. 
Kane didn't really talk much throughout this feature which is made evident by my lack of notes on him. This is probably to do with the fact that Kane debuted in October of 1997 and may not have had as much to say as the other guys did. He was still a very welcome addition to the panel and I don't think he was out of place whatsoever.
Disc 2:
Disc 2 is focused on matches and segments from the first half of 1997. There are some nice little gems on here and I'm going to list the 5 you should definitely check out.
Matches and Segments:
  1. Bret Hart vs Mankind - Shotgun Saturday Night, January 25th 1997. 
  2. European Championship: Owen Hart vs British Bulldog - RAW, March 3rd 1997.
  3. Jim Ross interviews Mick Foley - RAW, May 1997.
  4. WWF Championship: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Bret Hart - Wrestlemania 13, March 23rd 1997.
  5. Street Fight - Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Bret Hart - RAW, April 23rd 1997.
This disc is my favourite of the pair, solid matches throughout even though I'd already seen a few it was great to rewatch.
Disc 3:
Disc 3 is focused on matches and segments from the second half of 1997. Similar to disc 2, disc 3 has some nice little gems on it. Here's 5 you should definitely check out.
Matches and Segments:
  1. Flag Match - The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart, Owen Hart & The British Bulldog) vs Steve Austin, Dude Love & The Undertaker - RAW, July 21 1997
  2. European Championship: Shawn Michaels vs The British Bulldog - One Night Only, September 20 1997
  3. Stone Cold Stuns McMahon - RAW, September 22nd 1997
  4. WWE Championship Match: Bret Hart vs Shawn Michaels - Survivor Series, November 9th 1997
  5. European Championship: Shawn Michaels vs Triple H - RAW, December 22 1997.
All in all I found this DVD to be fantastic. If you like shoot interviews then this is definitely the DVD set for you. 'Dawn Of The Attitude' really pulls back the curtain and gives you insight to how WWE was back then. My initial doubts were proven to be stupid and I believe if it was a table of a different 5 guys it may not have been as interesting. I can't recommend this DVD enough and the fact that there is another 2 discs of just matches makes this even better value for money. 
Buy or Not to Buy: Buy! 
You can PRE-ORDER it on DVD or Blu-Ray (which comes with extras) right now over at www.wwedvd.co.uk
Rating: 8/10

Wednesday 6 September 2017

Nathan K. Major Gives Some Thoughts On Chris Jericho's New Book – No Is A Four Letter Word

I pre-ordered this book way back in January while browsing and randomly coming across it, I didn’t even know Jericho was working on a fourth book, and up to this past week forgot all about it, until it landed on my kindle for my reading pleasure.

For those new to the Friends of Jericho, this is, as I mentioned, his fourth book, going in I was expected another volume of his consistency excellent memoirs, while there are a fair share of great stories from Chris’ time in the squared circle and music, what I read was entirely different.

You see, this book sells itself as a ‘self help’ book, a concept I’ve always been against, if you needed to read someone’s book, that isn’t self-help, that’s help, but I digress. Thankfully this book shares the same humour as Y2J’s previous entries (which means cheesy jokes and 80’s references galore, natch) and he leads into each ‘principle’ with a witty name and the story behind it, then segueing into an anecdote or two.

This being Jericho, the stories he tells are amazing, dropping more names than a clumsy name tag factory employee (god, that was awful) he tells tales of times with the usual suspects wrestling wise, as well as stories concerning Metallica and Lemmy, to name but a few.

One prevailing lesson Jericho tries to get across is he did everything he put his mind to, to the best of his abilities and this book is intended to inspire others to do the same.

Throughout the book he drops a few none-too-subtle hints at another book in the future, which in all likelihood will be a return to his memoirs, he still has stories of a certain list to tell after all…

In summary, there’s plenty here to enjoy for fans of wrestling and music for the stories alone, and maybe a lesson to pick up along the way, it serves up a healthy dollop of the gift of Jericho. READ IT IN MAAAAAAAAAAN.

Wednesday 2 August 2017

Kurt Angle: The Essential Collection review By James Russell

 Kurt Angle is one of the most historic WWE superstars of all time. He's a former two-time NCAA All American. He's a grand-slam champion in both TNA and WWE, not to mention holding the WWE heavyweight championship on 4 separate occasions. He was the 2000 King of the Ring winner and even voted #1 Wrestler of the Year in the 2001 PWI 500. And to top it all of - he's the only Olympic gold medalist in WWE history. This legend is truly one of the best of all time, and this DVD set proves it.

The first disc of this set covers the first 18 months of Kurt's WWE career and really reminds you of just how good he has been from the very start. From his debut at Survivor Series 1999 against Shawn Stasiak to winning the European Championship from Val Venus just 3 months later and then defeating Chris Jericho for the Intercontinental Championship at No Way Out 2000 and unifying both titles. His beginning in WWE is second to no one. His KOTR victory over Rikishi is also on here and reminds you just how good a match this was. Then comes his first WWE championship victory over The Rock at No Mercy 2000 and successful defences against Undertaker and Triple H. The first disc ends with the amazing match against Shane McMahon at KOTR 2001. One of the most entertaining matches from around that time and definitely helped show just how tough Shane-o-Mac is.

Here is Angle vs Shane McMahon from King Of The Ring 1998
The second disc has more great matches against the likes of Stone Cold in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Edge, the WWE debuts of John Cena and Rey Mysterio; and even a hidden gem against Hulk Hogan from KOTR 2002. Watching this DVD helps show just how good Kurt is at changing his style against opponents with such unique styles over the years. But, this disc ends with a fantastic match between Kurt and Brock Lesnar at Summerslam 2003 in a rematch from their Wrestlemania 19 classic. This, once again, was an instant classic. The third and final discs has another match against John Cena, also showing the classic footage of the infamous battle rap between the pair. It also shows a match between he and Eddie from Summerslam 2004 which is good, however I would've much rather preferred this to be their match from WrestleMania 20 earlier in the year. Then, we get the match which was match of the year 2005 in PWI against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 21. This match is nothing short of phenomenal, just like their Iron Man rematch which follows. We are then treated to a fantastic triple threat match involving the pair and John Cena. All 3 men were at the top of their game here.

The Classic Wrestle Mania 21 match against Shawn Michaels
The final match on this disc is an entertaining bout for the ECW Title against Rob Van Dam. But the true ending on this set is how Kurt Angle has finally came home to the WWE after 11 years. He is a different man to the one who left back in the Summer of 2006. He's overcome his demons, started a beautiful new family and is now the best man he can possibly be. Inside the ring, he lived a legendary career and will go down as one of the best of all time. And it's fantastic to see Kurt back on our screens again each week as the General Manager of RAW. But it's outside the ring that means most to Kurt. These days he lives his life the way he lived his Wrestling career - with the 3 I's: Intensity, intelligence and integrity. He truly is an Olympic hero, inside and outside of the ring; and this DVD set truly shows it. It's true, it's DAMN true!!!

You can purchase this DVD set from WWE DVD UK for £19.99

Sunday 2 July 2017

WWE 'The Kevin Owens Story' DVD Review By James Russell

It never ceases to amaze me how down to earth this man is. As much as he loves the wrestling business, nothing means more to him than his family and that is apparent from the very beginning of his story. Kevin Yannick Steen was born May 7 1984 and raised in Marieville, Quebec. We don't learn much of his childhood other than one day, for some reason, his dad decided to rent a wrestling tape. It was Wrestlemania 11. Shawn Michaels vs Diesel in the main event. Being a scrawny 11 year old that looked more like he was around 8 years old, he immediately looked up to the heartbreak kid because he was the smaller guy battling the giant. He became obsessed. From that day on it was "wrestling, wrestling, wrestling", according to his father. Then eventually the day came - he wanted to train. Kevin admits that when he got in the ring he wasn't particularly good at it and his elbows were hurting a lot and his head was pounding from it. He immediately started to doubt himself. His mom worked nights and when she called to ask him how training went, he admits he told her he wasn't sure it was for him and he was already thinking of quitting. She was blown away because she knew how much wrestling meant to him. Lucky for us fans, the next day he put a mattress outside, carried on practising and working hard and stuck at it. The following day he went back to the gym and thought "let's do this". We then hear a story from his old friend, Neil Felzenstein. He says he showed up to this wrestling school in the middle of a flea market and there's this kid doing 450 splashes and blowing everyone away. Kevin was definitely the star pupil. He had his first match at just 16 and made his parents proud and immediately began to make some waves. Sami Zayn then talks about how he'd heard about this Kevin Steen guy from his friend and asked if he was any good. His friend responded, "he's really good, but he knows it, he's kind of a jerk too". So even from such an early age, Kevin has never had a problem with self confidence or rubbing a few people the wrong way. Steve Corino talks about Kevin's confidence in himself at just 18. He immediately thought he was amazing and the future of the wrestling. We see early footage from his career from the IWS (International Wrestling Syndicate) promotion against guys like El Generico (Sami Zayn) and his friend Neil. He used moves from everybody. Rock Bottoms, Stunners, even split legged moonsaults were in his arsenal! But the biggest moment of his (and Sami's) career came when one of the IWS guys, SeXXXy Eddie, went down to Philadelphia based promotion CZW (Combat Zone Wrestling), for their death match tournaments. He severed an artery in his arm and began to drink the blood from his arm.

Steen with good friend and sometime rival El Generico
This made people take notice and made them think, "hey, these Quebec guys are nuts", according to his friend Neil. They then brought a couple of guys to a CZW show for a match. Kevin vs Generico vs SeXXXy Eddie vs eXceSs 69 in a fatal 4 way match. They stole the show and immediately opened up doors, not just to Philadelphia and the east coast but to America. This opened to door for PWG which led to ROH which led to wrestling around Europe. We then see some footage from Kevin's early days in Ring of Honor. 'Mr Wrestling' was his nickname back then because of how good he was. Johnny Gargano, Neville and AJ Styles talk about how amazing he was and there was nothing he couldn't do. He was untouchable, even back then. Neville then talks about as impressive as his in ring work was, it was his trash talk that separated him from everyone else. There was nobody better. However, growing up in Quebec he couldn't speak English, so he learned how to speak English from wrestling - specifically Jim Ross. Sami even talks about how back then there was a lot of 'Good God Almighty' coming out of his mouth! Kevin tells a great story about meeting Steve Austin in an airport in 2005 and asking him for any advice. Austins advice was never stop trash talking - which was fine to Kevin because he loves to talk! We then see footage from the ROH Driven show back in 2008 in Boston, where Tyler Black (Seth Rollins) and Jimmy Jacobs (Chris Scobille, who now writes for the WWE) lost their ROH Tag Team Championships to Steen and Generico. Rollins and Jacobs both say it was the biggest pop they had ever heard up to that point when the referees hand hit the mat for 3 and they won the titles. Steen and Generico definitely had something special and were well and truly made men with the ROH fans. They were only second to Bryan Danielson. Sami talks about driving back after a show and talking with Kevin. He says Kevin has always been a 'hands on kinda guy', especially when it comes to his career and he just felt like something needed changing. Kevin says he felt like they had run their course as a tag team and needed something fresh. He decided they needed to split. They mapped out a year long storyline and took it to ROH. Steve Corino talks about how he showed this sort of creativity at such a young age and knew he needed a change and took the risk. And it was definitely worth the risk. Final Battle 2009. Kevin spoke after the match to Generico about how much he loved him and they hugged in the centre of the ring. 2000 people applauding. Some crying. Goosebumps all over the building. And then Kevin turns and says..."I hate your fucking guts!" And puts Generico down. This is the moment, not just in Kevin's career but Generico too, where they both took the next step and became something special. They both had a year long feud and constantly stole the show. It was the hottest feud on the indies, according to Neville. And it was exactly what ROH needed at that time according to Corino. 12 months had gone by. Final Battle 2010. The match was made a loser leaves town match. New management had come in to ROH, specifically Jim Cornette, who clearly didn't believe in Kevin as much as everybody else did. So he gave Kevin some time off, however from Sami's POV, Kevin was basically told to leave. This left a sour taste in his mouth. This was his job, his livelihood. He made a family, had recently gotten married and now he has to sit and watch for god knows how long. So he basically abandoned wrestling, in his own words. So he made his family his number 1 priority over wrestling and essentially walked away from it for 6 months. He did a podcast with a buddy and was asked "what's next?" And he had no answer. He considered quitting. Sami says he and Kevin's father spoke to him and tried to remind him to take this seriously and not walk away from what he's wanted his whole life. Then Kevin wrestled at a PWG show and that helped turn it around for him. He decided to change things up a bit. At ROH Best in the World 2011, he returned to the promotion after Steve Corino announced 'Mr Wrestling has returned to Ring of Honor'. He stood on the balcony, in street clothes and the entire building shook. Jimmy Jacobs says he had never felt anything like that. He was carried out of the building by security and says he 'felt like Jesus on a cross'. He became the ROH version of Stone Cold in Steve Corinos opinion. No matter what he did, they loved him because he was the Everyman. Almost a year later at ROH Border Wars 2012, he won the ROH World Championship. But in his opinion it was too late.

Steen as ROH champion
They were giving him the title because they had no choice. In Jimmy Jacobs' own words it had to be him. There was nobody else. Kevin admits it wasn't as special as he'd imagined it would be. Then not long after Sami had his tryout with WWE and even signed his contract in front of Kevin. He didn't do this to rub it in his face, but because they'd been through everything together and he wanted to share it with his best friend. However, to Kevin, this stung. Knowing Generico is going to WWE and he's nobody near that. He still had 2 years left on his deal with ROH. And times were tough for Kevin. Sami admits he wanted him to join but was worried he wouldn't get his chance. Seth Rollins holds his hands up and admits "right here, I'm one of his best friends, but I never thought Kevin Owens would be a WWE wrestler because he just doesn't look like a WWE wrestler". Then we see Triple H and William Regal talking about how they changed the direction they were going in and started watching more independent guys. William Regal was backstage at a PWG show and was there specifically to watch Kevin. Triple H says he remembers Kevin telling him the story about Regal watching him and he told Kevin, "Who do you think sent Regal there to watch you?" Kevin had a great match with Johnny Gargano but was only wrestling for one person that night. He took that as maybe the only chance he has to get his foot in the door at WWE. And he more than impressed Regal. He got his tryout. Kevin admits the tryout was the hardest thing he'd ever done and even started crying when he went into the bathroom because of how much pain he was in. Then he was asked to cut a promo. Standing there in a PWG t shirt, he cut a promo on his best friend, Sami Zayn. He talked about when "Sami signed the contract in front of him. And how much he hated that because he's the best in the world. And now Kevin Steen has arrived". He says he immediately knew he was signed after that promo. But, he asked Sami if they had told him this when he was signed - "Don't expect anything..." No they hadn't said that to Sami. But they had told Kevin that he "shouldn't get his hopes up for Raw and Smackdown because he's not someone Vince is looking at right now. He should concentrate on NXT and just see how it goes". Sami says it best - "look how that turned out". Kevin talks about how he got goosebumps before his first NxT match when the WWE then now forever promo video was playing whilst he stood backstage. He thought about his family at home. His dad in the crowd. Then the promo video started and he saw his face on the screen and realised "Holy Shit. This is real. It was perfect". At the end of that same show, his best friend Sami Zayn finally won the NxT championship and was congratulated by Kevin - before being turned on and attacked. Immediately he was in the main event picture, and with his longtime best friend too. He captured the title from Sami not long after in February. A month later he was at Wrestlemania as a fan and promised himself this would be the last time he'd be there as a fan. We see some great backstage footage of him talking to Hulk Hogan and The Rock and both greatly complimenting him. Triple H admits Kevin Owens probably had the shortest term in NxT. Then not long after, John Cena hand picked Kevin for the US Title open challenge and went to Vince with the idea. It was approved. Elimination Chamber. US Champion vs NXT Champion. We see amazing, touching footage of his son at home reacting to his Dad fighting John Cena. It truly puts into perspective what I said at the beginning of this - his family mean more to him than anything in his world. The reason he chose the surname Owens when it was to be changed from Steen in NxT is because his sons name is Owen. So to be that little boy watching his Dad on TV defeating John Cena at Elimination Chamber in May in his first WWE PPV match, I can't imagine how great that felt.

Owens confronting Cena on the WWE main roster
 We then see footage of him talking after the match about how it doesn't get better than that - before saying he's going to call his son. It was only a couple of months before he was a major player in the game. He won the intercontinental championship at Night of Champions in September. That started a long feud between him and Dean Ambrose over the championship. A few months go by, and it's Wrestlemania time again. We see footage of him standing in the ring before the show and reminding us what he said the year earlier - "that would be the last time ever as a fan". He was right. We see him talking backstage with some of his peers, guys he admits he looked up to as a child - Scott Hall and X Pac. And then he bumps into Stone Cold at the Gorilla position. From when he gave him advice in an airport in 2005, to giving him advice before his first ever Wrestlemania match, his career had well and truly come full circle. Sami admits standing in the middle of the ring at Wrestlemania watching his best friend walk down the ramp was unbelievable and still gets goosebumps thinking about it now. Kevin admits after that match if that would've been his last, he would've been a happy man. We then see Jimmy Jacobs talking about how his career had come full circle when he took a writing job with WWE and now works with his good friend Kevin once again. He says one reason he's as good as he is - is because nothing is ever good enough. He's always pushing for more and more and more. He wants to the best. Neville repeats the same statement, before saying he's a bit of a prick. But, outside of the ring, he's far from a prick. He's the best father and husband his family could ask for. Without them, he would be nothing. Payback 2016. Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn. One of the best matches of the year. Jimmy Jacobs admits it's one of the best matches he's ever seen live. They well and truly stole the show and both felt on top of the world. But then Summerslam was around the corner - and he was teaming with Chris Jericho against Enzo and Cass. He admits its no disrespect against them but that wasn't where he wanted to be. He felt like he deserved better and was better than that position on the card. He was right. But, as luck would prevail, Finn Balor won the first ever WWE Universal Championship pinning Seth Rollins. However he got injured during the match and had to relinquish the title. Enter Kevin Owens. It was a fatal 4 way Elimination match on Raw to determine the new champion. Roman Reigns vs Seth Rollins vs Big Cass vs Kevin Owens. After Cass was eliminated, Triple H entered the ring and delivered a pedigree to Reigns, allowing Rollins to get the pin. Then, after entering the ring, he turned on Seth and delivered a pedigree to him before he and Kevin stared at one another. 1...2...3. Kevin Owens is the new champion. Kevin Owens is the chosen one. He admits that he owes literally everything to Triple H. From sending Regal to PWG to watch him. To the tryout. To giving him the opportunity in NxT. And now this. He literally handed Kevin the championship. We see footage backstage of them both embracing, before he hugs Vince McMahon, the man who at one time wasn't looking for someone like Kevin Owens.

Triple H raises Owens' hand after helping him win the Universal title
We see Sami taking about how he couldn't believe what he was seeing and had no emotion, it was only when Kevin walked through the curtain and they hugged. We see an emotional moment with Kevin's father talking about how proud he is of his son. Then we see footage of his son watching his dad win the championship and getting emotional. His dad is literally the man. Daniel Bryan talks about how he believes he's as good as he is because he never stops. He never thinks good is enough. Johnny Gargano reiterates this statement and mentions how he was 'never a WWE guy', well look at where he is now. He's the man. Neville admits if you'd have told him 10 years ago that Kevin would be WWE champion he'd have told you to go away. Triple H believes talent rises and Kevin has all the talent in the world, he just needed an opportunity. Seth says what separates Kevin from every other guy is the fans can relate to him. He's got his finger on the button at all times and Sami reiterates this too. He says Kevin always makes himself relevant and makes sure he's the best he can be. But, as it comes full circle, Kevin ends the story saying that as good as he is, he would be nothing without his wife and his kids. And as long as he's got them, then he will be fine. The Kevin Owens Story is one a lot of people can relate to. He's always been the underdog in a sense, always been backed into a corner. From being the scrawny kid looking up to Shawn Michaels doubting himself to doing 450 splashes in IWS. From Jim Cornette not believing in him and considering walking away from the business, to that PWG show with William Regal watching. From being told not to expect Raw and Smackdown and get his hopes up because he's not what Vince is looking for, to becoming the Universal Champion. Kevin Owens has fought to get where he is today, it's like Triple H said - "he has all the talent in the world, he just needed an opportunity". The match listing for this DVD is fantastic. The only downside is there couldn't be any ROH matches on here. Other than that, this is a stellar DVD. His debut match in NXT is on here against CJ Parker, which is just a generic match enabling Owens to show the NXT fans what he can do. But then there's his title victory over Sami Zayn at NXT Takeover: Rival and this is a great match, which should come as no surprise. His shocking debut victory over John Cena at Elimination Chamber is also on here, as well his his first Intercontinental Title win against Ryback at Night of Champions. There's a brilliant Last Man Standing match on this against Dean Ambrose from Royal Rumble 2016. However, in a match that I didn't remember but is honestly brilliant, he goes up against Dolph Ziggler on an episode of Main Event from April 2016. Definitely worth a watch! There's also another hidden treasure as KO and Triple H face off against Sami Zayn and Dean Ambrose at a house show in Paris, also from April 2016. Now, this next match is KO vs Sami from Battleground which is a stunning match, make no doubt about it - but, on the documentary, Jimmy Jacobs calls the match they had at Payback one of the best he's ever seen. And it was an unbelievable match. So to exclude it from this DVD seems very odd indeed. Nevertheless, next up is the entertaining fatal 4 way match where he wins the Universal Championship which I talked about earlier. Then there is a very good Hell in a Cell match against Seth Rollins, which I consider highly underrated. Then, the final match on this DVD is his Wrestlemania 34 match against Chris Jericho. This match is very good, however I don't think they reached their potential during the in ring aspect of that feud. Finally, I have to say this is a fantastic DVD set and definitely worth the money. It follows him throughout his career and shows enough IWS and ROH footage during the documentary. Nevertheless I still would've liked to see some ROH matches on this or at least some IWS ones. Also, excluding the match at Payback against Sami seems odd but they more than make up for the match listings with the documentary side of things.

I can be contacted on twitter @jamesrussell137 with any feedback.

The DVD/Blu-Ray is available in the UK from July 3rd from WWE DVD UK

Friday 28 April 2017

WWE 'Diamond Dallas Page - Positively Living' DVD Review By Tim Ricketts

As a 90's teen, slightly WCW obsessed to boot, Diamond Dallas Page holds a very special place in my wrestling memories: alongside Sting, he stood out as a shining beacon of hope for the good guys against the depredations of the burgeoning NWO. So with that in mind, I approached this DVD with a mixture of excitement and reticence – is this going to be a festival of my boyhood hero, or another opportunity for WWE to wave the victor's flag over The Monday Night Wars?

This three-DVD set follows the usual WWE biography format, comprising of a documentary disc and two of supporting clips and matches. Dallas himself introduces and presents his own journey from the off, immediately giving the documentary an original autobiographical feel, particularly as he describes his less-than-perfect childhood, and the traffic accident that stole his early sporting potential.

The novelty is amplified by the topsy-turvy route he took into wrestling. From owning a bar frequented by wrestlers, he ended up cutting a managerial audition tape that was picked up by the diminishing AWA, before joining 'The Dean' Gordon Solie on commentary for the Florida territory. Back into management, he represented the Freebirds in WCW; traditionally, these sort of roles went to ex-wrestlers or those in the twilight of their careers, but DDP's was only just beginning. At the age of 35, he headed to WCW's Power Plant training facility to begin his in-ring career. The vox-pops from Page's peers, present throughout the film, convey the incredulity well at this stage.

Obviously, the documentary's focus continues on Dallas's outings for WCW, which include all of that promotion's major titles as well as the European title in WWE, but with the match selections on the other discs representing this period well, I'll just make a couple of quick points. As I've already mentioned, Dallas was one of the notable few who made any significant heroic stands against the villainously anarchic New World Order stable, and one particular moment at Souled Out. Turning on Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, after accepting their invitation to join as a decoy, he sprints through the adoring crowd in the sort of organic moment that prepends the 'Super' to the beginning of 'Star'. It also struck me how honest Page is about his unsuccessful stint in WWE, considering he tore-up a contractual guarantee from Time-Warner to go there

Following the end to his improbably successful wrestling career, Diamond Dallas Page created a modified form of Yoga that spans physiques and abilities, DDP Yoga. Not only that, but he has used it (and his bottomless positivity) to give both Jake 'The Snake' Roberts and Scott Hall a new chance at life after they looked to have pressed their own personal self-destruct buttons. Whilst this film goes into that in a little detail, The Resurrection of Jake the Snake is recommended viewing on the subject. On that note, and the re-ignited relationship with WWE it provoked, this heart-warming tale reaches it's satisfactory conclusion with Page's sprightly appearance at the age of 59 in The Royal Rumble 2015 and a phone-call from old buddy Triple H to inform him of his impending Hall of Fame inclusion.

The second disc contains some more documentary clips that must have missed the cut, mostly expansions of themes from disc one, but really worth the watch. A lot of humorous stuff, but the best is saved 'til last: the full audition tape DDP sent to Verne Gagne's AWA. It really does have to be seen to be believed.

The match selection for the remainder of disc two, and the entirety of three, ranges from the solidly good (if not in technique or psychology, then for historic perspective) to the excellent. Twenty-one bouts in all on the DVD version, with the first batch focusing on the initial in-ring development of DDP. The first four matches are all tags, with the obviously still-green Dallas mostly teaming with his former managerial charges - the Diamond Exchange or Vegas Connection stables - people to whom he would become inextricably linked throughout his career. The Diamond Studd (Scott Hall), Vinnie Vegas (Kevin Nash) and Scotty Flamingo (Raven) all feature against an array of early-nineties WCW luminaries.

DDP with good friends Scott Hall & Jake The Snake Roberts
 Page also had plenty of singles feuds as he rose up the card during Eric Bischoff's tenure in charge, notably against Johnny B Badd, Randy Savage and Hulk/Hollywood Hogan, as well as United States Championship rivalries with Eddie Guerrero and Curt Hennig. All have a match included on the second DVD; not necessarily the ones I would have picked personally, but stand-up examples nonetheless.

Disc three is a library of DDP at his zenith, opening with two of WCW's most infamous 'celebrity' bouts: with 'Mailman' Malone against Dennis Rodman and Hulk, and with chat-show host Jay Leno versus Hogan again, this time with Bischoff. Unsurprisingly the match involving the sportsmen rather than the TV personalities is the better of the two.

The next pair have their own place in the tapestry of wrestling's past too. As thousands of paying customers missed DDP's Halloween Havoc '98 main event defeat to Goldberg when it over-ran the PPV time, it was repeated the following day on Nitro. At the end of the same episode, DDP got the US title from Bret Hart instead. The championships keep rolling on this DVD set, as this is followed with Page's first World Heavyweight win in an excellent four-corners fight featuring WCW's marquee talent Hollywood Hogan, Ric Flair, Sting and Special Guest Referee, Macho Man Randy Savage.

Another pair from the same night again, as Dallas firstly lost the Big Gold Belt to Sting before a No-DQ four-way (also involving Nash and Goldberg) saw him regain it. DDP's Tag Title victory with Jersey Triad partner Bam Bam Bigelow against Raven and Perry Saturn is the penultimate match, whilst the quite frankly brilliant WrestleMania X8 bout versus 'protégé' Christian represents his post-WCW 'cup of coffee' in the WWE and rounds out the collection.

There were a few matches I was a bit surprised not to see included, but they would bring the tone down somewhat. For better or worse, I expected to see DDP lose his third World title (won the previous night from Jeff Jarrett) to his own tag partner, David Arquette, in one of the greatest farces in history. I thought I might see Dallas's first major [TV] title win against WCW's ill-fated Warrior clone, the Renegade. Maybe the turn on the NWO at Souled Out. Mercifully enough, there was no source material on the Undertaker versus 'Stalker' DDP storyline.

Just like the subject, this DVD set is an uplifting, relentlessly positive thing of joy. We all need a bit of that in our lives.

Available from www.WWEDVD.co.uk