Monday 5 November 2018

WWE: AJ Styles – Most Phenomenal Matches DVD Review By Martin Bentley

Since making the move to the WWE nearly three years ago, AJ Styles has proven himself to be one of the promotion’s most elite and dependable stars, and his quick rise to the top of the card is documented in his first WWE DVD collection, “AJ Styles – Most Phenomenal Matches”.

With the WWE Network allowing the ability to tell Styles’ story in previous documentaries, including his 365 special, “Most Phenomenal Matches” features just under 9 hours of The Phenomenal One’s best matches since his arrival in WWE at the 2016 Royal Rumble, where he was a surprise entrant after finishing his storied run in New Japan Pro Wrestling. The collection features short interview segments where Styles goes over various events in his WWE career, including the possibility that he could have been introduced with a new name, but the giant “AJ” tattoo on his ribcage led to the decision to stick with the name he had been using for his whole career. Anyone wanting footage from his time in NJPW as well as Ring of Honor or TNA have to make do with various still photos in a short summary of what he accomplished before arriving in WWE.

 Disc One starts the night after his Royal Rumble debut, and the beginning of his first WWE rivalry with Chris Jericho. Their bout on the January 25th 2016 episode of RAW is a decent introduction for Styles to a new audience, giving a taste of what was to come. Styles and Jericho then formed a short-lived alliance known as Y2AJ, which came to a head when they challenged The New Day for the WWE Tag Team Titles on the March 7th 2016 episode of RAW. The conclusion of a well-worked tag bout led to Jericho turning on Styles, setting up Styles’ first appearance at WrestleMania, where he and Jericho had a good bout which could have been capable of better, but was still one of the highlights of a not-fondly remembered WrestleMania 32 in Dallas.

Styles vs Jericho At Wrestle Mania 32
Styles eventually gets the better of Jericho in a Fatal Four Way also involving Kevin Owens and the returning Cesaro the night after WrestleMania on the April 4th episode of RAW, which made him the number one contender for the new WWE Champion Roman Reigns. Their two PPV bouts are shown back-to-back, the first at Payback 2016 is affected by the stop-start nature near the end that served to build up a storyline at the time between Shane and Stephanie McMahon, but the in-ring work is exemplary. The follow-up at Extreme Rules 2016 is a step up, even with interference by The Club and The Usos, and it showed that Styles was more than capable of hanging with “The Guy”. The end of Disc One details Styles’ heel turn on John Cena, skipping over their forgotten Money In The Bank 2016 match to go right to their first classic encounter at SummerSlam 2016, where Styles got his first marquee victory in WWE.

Disc Two begins at the start of the most recent WWE brand extension, which saw Styles head over to SmackDown Live. It would not take long for him to begin his dominance of the Blue Brand, as The Phenomenal One wins his first WWE Championship against Dean Ambrose at Backlash 2016. Styles would go on to feud with The Lunatic Fringe over the title for the rest of 2016, culminating in their crazy Tables, Ladders and Chairs match at TLC 2016 which demonstrated their hatred for each other, although interference by James Ellsworth throws things off a touch.

Styles’ first reign with the title comes to an end with another classic with John Cena at Royal Rumble 2017, which gave Cena his WWE-recognised record-equalling 16th World Title reign, but this was an incredible performance by Styles in what was regarded as the best main roster match of 2017. Cena and Styles met again on the February 14th 2017 episode of SmackDown, but by this point, Cena had lost the WWE Championship to Bray Wyatt, so the two challenged the Eater of Worlds in a great Triple Threat bout in what was by far the highlight moment of Wyatt’s lacklustre title reign.
Styles then began a rivalry with SmackDown Commissioner Shane McMahon over what was perceived as a lack of respect, leading to their bout at WrestleMania 33 in Orlando. Styles and McMahon engaged in a fun weapons brawl which set a pace that the rest of the card struggled to live up to, and not long afterwards, Styles turned back babyface after having earned McMahon’s respect. The final bout on Disc Two saw Styles welcome Sami Zayn over to SmackDown Live as part of the Superstar Shakeup on the April 11th 2017 episode of SmackDown, in another fun Triple Threat match also involving Baron Corbin, which made Styles the number one contender for the United States Championship.

Styles vs Shane McMahon At Wrestle Mania 33

Disc Three begins with a fun TV bout against Chad Gable on the July 4th 2017 episode of SmackDown, three days before Styles would win the United States Title from Kevin Owens at a Madison Square Garden house show. Styles lost it back to Owens by accident at Battleground 2017, but two nights later, Styles wins it back in a Triple Threat match on the July 25th episode of SmackDown which also includes his old rival Chris Jericho. The rivalry with Owens over the summer of 2017 didn’t have the killer matches fans hoped it would, which is why it does not feature heavily in the collection.

By November 2017, Styles had lost the US Title, but would surprise fans by claiming his second WWE Championship against Jinder Mahal at the November 7th episode of SmackDown in Manchester, marking the first time in the over 50 year history of the title that the WWE Championship had been won outside of North America. It also began a year-long reign with the title that Styles still holds as of the release of this DVD collection and the publication of this review. The title win set up a Champion vs. Champion showdown with Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series 2017, where Styles put on the best one-on-one bout with The Beast in the last couple of years, despite ending in defeat.

2018 began with a rivalry against Shinsuke Nakamura, following The King of Strong Style’s Royal Rumble win. Their WrestleMania 34 bout in New Orleans was billed as a dream match following their classic at New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom 10 in 2016, and while this bout was very good, it failed to live up to their Tokyo Dome showdown. Nakamura turned heel on Styles following the match, setting up a series of matches throughout the summer, culminating in their Last Man Standing Match at Money In The Bank 2018 which did a great deal to make Nakamura look good in defeat, and make Styles look strong as champion. The collection unfortunately cuts off before Styles’ current rivalry with Samoa Joe, with the last match being a very good TV bout against Andrade “Cien” Almas on the July 17th 2018 episode of SmackDown.

Styles vs Nakamura At Wrestle Mania 34
Most hardcore AJ Styles fans will own the various collections of his matches issued by Ring of Honor and Impact Wrestling, and will have access to New Japan World to see his legendary NJPW bouts, and “Most Phenomenal Matches” will sit along nicely with those collections. As Styles heads towards the tail end of his career, “Most Phenomenal Matches” demonstrates that he certainly isn’t letting up into his early forties, and that his WWE run is more than a match with what he accomplished earlier in his career.

You can purchase this great DVD set right NOW over at

Thursday 27 September 2018

WWE Presents Shawn Michaels - The Showstopper Unreleased DVD Review By Richard Edmund

New from WWE Home Video, 'Shawn Michaels - The Showstopper: Unreleased' takes a look at the legendary career of the Heartbreak Kid with (as the title would suggest) thirty five matches never before released on DVD. Across the three discs in this set we are treated to action from Shawn's humble beginnings in Mid-South and the AWA, through his formative years in the WWF as one half of The Rockers, to the singles run that led him to the WWF World Heavyweight Championship and beyond. In addition, the set features brand new interview segments with Michaels as he gets used to his new role as coach, helping to shape the WWE SuperStars of tomorrow at the WWE Performance Center in Florida.  

The first disc is a real treat, with a strong selection of matches from the first eight years of Shawn's career. Beginning in Mid-South wrestling, we see a young Michaels less than four months after his pro-wrestling debut, teaming with Tim Horner to take on Chavo & Hector Guerrero. Also from Mid-South, a hugely important bout for the youngster from San Antonio, TX as he goes one-on-one against the merciless Jake 'The Snake' Roberts, who gives his unseasoned opponent a resound beating! Next, it's on to the AWA where Shawn was paired with another young talent named Marty Jannetty. With a few more years of wrestling under his belt than Shawn, the already impressive Jannetty was able to shape his less experienced tag partner into a great tag wrestler as one half of The Midnight Rockers.
We see a great example of that with a pair of matches that put The Midnight Rockers across the ring from the AWA World Heavyweight Tag Champions, Buddy Rose and Doug Somers, managed by a young Sherri Martel! Both these are great matches, not only showing Shawn's progression but also highlighting why Rose & Somers were an underrated tag in their own right. There's one last AWA tag match on here with Marty & Shawn taking on Dennis Stamp and a young Brian Knobbs, before we enter the next stage of Michaels' career with the WWF. The first offering comes in a solid tag bout that saw The Rockers (having dropped the Midnight from their name) taking on The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers, followed by Marty & Shawn's first shot at the WWF Tag Team Championships as they took on Demolition on Prime Time Wrestling.

There's also tag bouts pitting The Rockers against The Legion of Doom, The Orient Express, The Natural Disasters and Demolition once more, but the real highlight of Disc One are two very rare tag matches from 1989 that rank amongst some of the very best tag matches Marty & Shawn were involved in. First, from a taping for the New England Sports Network, The Rockers put on a true classic against The Brainbusters of Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson, a match that's still as exciting and clever today as it was then. Finally, a dark match from a house show in Canada a few months later saw The Rockers across the ring from the hugely popular Hart Foundation of Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart, a similarly excellent match that definitely holds it own by modern standards.

Disc Two starts by recounting the famous events that led to Shawn Michaels leaving The Rockers to embark on a singles career as The Heartbreak Kid, first hated and then later beloved by many as he became one of the most popular (and divisive) WWF SuperStars of the 1990's. The matches on offer chart the six year journey Michaels took from Intercontinental Champion, to World Tag Team Champion, to WWF World Heavyweight Champion, many of them never seen before. There's a previously un-aired episode of Piper's Pit featuring Shawn and his manager Sensational Sherri, plus an excellent Intercontinental Title dark match that pits H.B.K. against 'Mr. Perfect' Curt Hennig and features a title change that was later overturned. We also see the beginnings of Shawn's association with 'Big Daddy Cool' Diesel, plus a pair of tag matches that align Shawn with some of the biggest names in the WWF in Bret Hart and The Undertaker.

The second half of the disc focuses on Shawn's time as WWF World Heavyweight Champion, kicking off with a great singles bout from SuperStars that saw the new champion challenged by The 1-2-3 Kid. Although that bout wasn't for the title, a dark match from Des Moines was as H.B.K. defended the belt against a highly regared up-and-comer managed by Ted DiBiase, 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin! There's also a title match that sees Shawn defend against Yokozuna in front of a rabid Kuwaiti audience during WWF's 1996 tour of the Middle East, with his gargantuan opponent appearing to be more popular with the locals than even the champion. Rounding out the disc is an awkward house show singles encounter between Michaels and Vader that typifies their relationship inside and outside the ring, a Superstars bout that marked the first ever shot at the WWF World Heavyweight Championship for Justin 'Hawk' Bradshaw and a one-sided match against the Brooklyn Brawler that sees interference from Degeneration-X of Triple H and Chyna.

The final disc of the set fast forwards five years to Shawn's return to the WWF, or rather the WWE. It's by far the weakest disc of the set, with many matches taken from episodes of RAW and a handful of largely inconsequential dark matches thrown in for good measure. That being said, we do get a fun WWE World Heavyweight Championship match with R.V.D. shortly after Michaels return, where he wasn't yet certain if he could still "be" The Showstopper. Also from RAW are some good singles bouts against the likes of Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, Ric Flair and Christian, while the dark matches on offer see Shawn team with John Cena against Rated RKO, reunite as Degeneration-X with Triple H, and a Triple Threat WWE World Heavyweight Championship match also featuring Batista and Chris Jericho. 

Overall, this is a worthwhile release from WWE Home Video and (as Michaels himself remarks in the intro) it's remarkable they still have worthwhile H.B.K. matches that before now have never been available on DVD. The first disc of the set is undoubtedly the strongest and a must-have for fans of The Rockers, if only for the amazing back to back tag classics vs The Brainbusters and vs The Hart Foundation. The rest of the set is much more of a mixed bag, but does an admirable job of charting the course of Shawn's career before and after the back injury that would sideline him for five years. The new interview segments provide some context, but are most keen on highlighting Shawn's new role as an NXT coach, with many of the young WWE SuperStars effusively praising the experience of training under a veritable legend of the business. For even the most ardent fan of Shawn Michaels there's good value here, with a number of matches and segments that have never been publicly available before now. 

'Shawn Michaels - The Showstopper: Unreleased' is available to pre-order now from WWE Home Video and releases on October 1st.

Friday 13 July 2018

DVD Review: WWE Presents: The Shield - Justice For All By Martin Bentley

In late 2017, WWE pulled the trigger on a reunion of The Shield in a bid to try and get Roman Reigns more popular with the fans ahead of another WrestleMania push, and while the reunion and Reigns’ push both didn’t kick on the way they were intended, it did result in the release of the second career retrospective of the Hounds of Justice, following on from 2015’s “Destruction of The Shield”.

“The Shield: Justice for All” takes on a different format to the first collection – while “Destruction” repackaged a WWE Network documentary and included matches as a bonus, “Justice for All” features several new mini interviews with Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, along with their peers, and pairs them with key matches from 2015 onwards. In total, there’s nearly 9 hours of action included, with several TV matches that have yet to be released on DVD.

“The Lunatic Fringe” takes the focus of Disc 1, with Dean Ambrose’s story beginning here with his challenge of the newly-crowned United States Champion John Cena on the episode of RAW held the night after WrestleMania 31, which set the tone perfectly for Cena’s great run with that championship throughout most of 2015. The end of that year saw Ambrose enter a feud with Kevin Owens, and their battle for the Intercontinental Championship at TLC 2015 is showcased here, with Ambrose winning the title. In the buildup to WrestleMania 32, Ambrose entered a short rivalry with then-WWE Champion Triple H, and their match from Roadblock in Toronto for the title is included – a bout that proved to be far superior to what both men ended up doing in Dallas a few weeks later.

A huge career break happened at Money in the Bank 2016, where Ambrose competed against Owens, Sami Zayn, Alberto Del Rio, Cesaro and Chris Jericho in the eponymous Ladder Match – while the result of that bout is featured on Seth Rollins’ disc, it led to the much-anticipated Shield Triple Threat Match, which surprised fans by taking place at Battleground 2016 rather than at SummerSlam that year. Ambrose enters as the newly-crowned WWE Champion looking to take the title to SmackDown Live against RAW’s Reigns and Rollins, and in the end manages to take the championship to Team Blue despite being outmatched physically and fitness-wise by his two former partners.

The first SmackDown Live episode of 2017 sees Ambrose win back the Intercontinental Title against The Miz in an entertaining bout, an example of the regular great matches on SmackDown in that time-period. The final match on Ambrose’s disc sees him transferred over to RAW, detailing the lengthy build to his reunion with Rollins, as it was Ambrose who took Rollins’ betrayal in 2014 the hardest. They enter No Mercy 2017 as RAW Tag Team Champions against The Bar, a match made infamous by Cesaro badly damaging his teeth during the contest, but also showcasing how well Ambrose and Rollins had gelled back together again.

Disc 2 looks at “The Architect” Seth Rollins, whose collection of matches starts later than his partners, as his heel run post-breakup is chronicled on last year’s “Seth Rollins: Building the Architect”. The first match of his collection also features on that DVD set, as he challenges Roman Reigns for the WWE Championship at Money in the Bank 2016, a match that sees him win back the title, but not for long, as Dean Ambrose cashes in on him to win the title. 2017 saw Rollins move away from his heel role and start to rebel against his former leader Triple H, leading to their unsanctioned match at WrestleMania 33, which is a technically good match, if about 5 minutes or so too long. The next match is the only one on the whole set to feature The Shield in their entirety teaming up, as they took on The New Day at Survivor Series 2017, which was by far the highlight of the Hounds of Justice’s disappointing reunion marred by injuries and poor booking.

Rollins kickstarted the momentum that has so far carried him through a career year in 2018 with his 65-minute run in a gauntlet match on the February 19th episode of RAW. His portion of the match is featured here, as he kicks off against his on-again partner Reigns, defeating him to then go up against John Cena. Once the Architect outlasts the Cenation Leader, he ends up running into Elias, but by the time the vagabond guitarist manages to defeat him, Rollins has already created a legendary RAW moment which sparked his popularity with the fans. The final match featured is his Intercontinental Title win at WrestleMania 34 against The Miz and Finn Balor in a Triple Threat Match, which was among the high-end of bouts in a lob-sided Showcase of the Immortals in New Orleans.

Disc 3 is all about the “Big Dog”, as we track the rocky road of Roman Reigns towards becoming “the guy” in WWE. Reigns’ collection begins with his first WWE Title victory against Dean Ambrose in the final of the mini-title tournament at Survivor Series 2015, ironically caused by an injury to Seth Rollins. The joy is short-lived as Sheamus then cashed in the Money in the Bank briefcase on him to win the title, but the December 14th 2015 episode of RAW sees Reigns win it back from the Celtic Warrior, at a time where Reigns was arguably the most popular he had ever been in his career.

Any good will towards Reigns had evaporated by the time WrestleMania 32 rolled around, as his absolute bore-fest with Triple H in the main event saw him win the title back for the third time, with the fans in attendance completely disinterested. We fast-forward a year to WrestleMania 33, where Reigns managed to infuriate fans in a different way, by supposedly retiring The Undertaker in another weak main event – one retconned the following year when Undertaker returned.

A potential WrestleMania main event that the fans could have enjoyed with John Cena instead takes place at No Mercy 2017, one that was preceded by both men doing worked shoot promos on each other. It doesn’t quite hit the mark, but it is far better than the two WrestleMania main events featured on this collection, as well as his second Brock Lesnar bout that does not make the cut here. However, we get their follow-up Steel Cage Match from the Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia instead, which gets a better reaction than their WrestleMania 34 stinker, but the in-ring action is just as bad.

“Justice for All” tells three stories in the tale of one stable – the wasted potential of Dean Ambrose that was affected by inconsistent booking and his triceps tendon injury at the end of 2017, the redemption of Seth Rollins towards becoming arguably the best overall performer in WWE today, and the fruitless pursuit towards making Roman Reigns the top man in the company, when the fans at large have clearly rejected him. This collection shows that while Vince McMahon and his team want to make one Shield member their top star, evidence points towards another member being a far more suitable candidate for that role. Although this is another essential DVD collection for Shield fans, other mat-watchers should avoid the Reigns disc like the plague.

You can purchase this DVD set from WWE DVD UK