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.