Thursday, 12 October 2017

DVD Preview: 30 Years Of Survivor Series

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Provided By: Fetch Publicity

The following story is courtesy of Fetch Publicity ...

On Thanksgiving Day thirty years ago, WWE's second pay-per-view event was born with a new twist. In the early days, teams of five strived to survive. Over the course of the next three decades, Survivor Series evolved into one of the greatest spectacles on the WWE calendar, where championship matches, iconic face-offs and unforgettable moments take place. Join us as we countdown the 30 greatest moments from 30 remarkable years of Survivor Series.

Match Highlights:

Survivor Series 1988 – November 24 1988
Ten-Man Tag Team Elimination Match
Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Hercules, Koko B. Ware & Hillbilly Jim vs. Ted DiBiase, Akeem, Big Boss Man, King Haku & The Red Rooster

Survivor Series 1991 – November 27 1991
WWF Championship Match
Hulk Hogan (Champion) vs. The Undertaker

Survivor Series 1995 – November 19 1995
WWF Championship No Disqualification Match
Diesel (Champion) vs. Bret Hart

Survivor Series 2001 – November 18 2001
WWF & WCW World Tag Team Championship Unification Steel Cage Match
The Dudley Boyz (Champions) vs. The Hardy Boyz (Champions)

Survivor Series 2002 – November 17 2002
WWE Championship Match
Brock Lesnar (Champion) vs. Big Show

Survivor Series 2011 – November 20 2011
The Rock & John Cena vs. Awesome Truth (The Miz & R-Truth)

Survivor Series 2013 – November 24 2013
Ten-Man Tag Team Elimination Match
The Shield (Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose) & The Real Americans (Jack Swagger & Cesaro) vs. Cody Rhodes, Goldust, Rey Mysterio & The Usos

Plus more action and extras!

We like it because:

After WrestleMania only, Survivor Series is WWE’s second longest-running pay-per-view spectacular – and as this incredible 3-disc set proves, it’s an event rich with history!

And 30 Years Of Survivor Series counts down every historic moment: Andre the Giant’s earth-shattering win over Hulk Hogan at the inaugural event. Both The Undertaker and The Rock’s first WWE Championship wins. The controversial Montreal Screwjob. John Cena’s amazing recovering from neck surgery to become World Heavyweight Champion. The surprise debut of Sting. And Goldberg’s shock victory over Brock Lesnar!

From the days of Hulkamania and the Attitude Era to Ruthless Aggression and the New Era, this set examines one of sports-entertainment’s greatest legacies. It’s also action-packed, with over 15 full matches included, featuring the biggest and most dominant Superstars to ever compete at Survivor Series!

Essential viewing for all WWE fans!

30 Years Of Survivor Series will officially be released on DVD on Monday October 23 2017.

For more information, click here.

Friday, 6 October 2017

DVD Review: SummerSlam 2017

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 267 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 2
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: October 9 2017

(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)

There are two issues with SummerSlam these days. One is that it immediately follows an NXT Takeover show which greatly emphasises the in-ring product over sports entertainment. The second is that the show's four-hour length means that certain matches are guaranteed to come across as filler, which is why the overall reactions to recent SummerSlams has been mediocre at best.

The same response applied to this year's show, and the 2017 SS definitely isn't one of the greatest in the history of the event. However, there are still some topnotch battles and fun moments to be had when reliving the card, meaning that certain parts of the 30th annual SummerSlam are definitely worth checking out.

This doesn't include the underwhelming opening match, though, where John Cena doesn't leave second gear and Baron Corbin's nightmare week (having lost his Money In The Bank cash-in bout the previous Tuesday) ended with a defeat in a match that he had to win. I enjoyed Naomi vs. Natalya as the Queen Of Harts earned her second Women's Championship in style, even if the Brooklyn crowd seemed disinterested.

Big Cass' win over Big Show serves the purpose of giving him an, erm, big victory, though the match is not the best that I feel these two could deliver. Randy Orton's quick-fire defeat of Rusev is something different, but another potentially enjoyable match is denied as a result. Alexa Bliss vs. Sasha Banks is pretty good, though, and the result is a pleasant surprise.

The Demon rises next as Finn Balor meets Bray Wyatt in a decent fight. Then, we finally get a truly thrilling match as Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins challenge Cesaro and Sheamus for the Raw Tag Team Championships in a great doubles scrap (though Cesaro randomly running into the crowd to burst a beach-ball was the highlight of the match, and the entire show, to me).

Shane McMahon as special guest referee adds a new layer to the AJ Styles-Kevin Owens rivalry, which ends here having generally undelivered compared to what it could have been in the eyes of the fans. Jinder Mahal vs. Shinsuke Nakamura is predictably disappointing, and those who expected Shinsuke to tear it up here must now be wondering whether the 'old' Nakamura will ever make a return.

Fortunately, SummerSlam ends on a high note with one of the best WWE matches of the year. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman vs. Samoa Joe is a terrific brawl, a classic example of a four-way in a WWE ring, and a superb showcase of Strowman as an absolute monster. If you only watch one match from SummerSlam, this has to be it.

The DVD extras are the three Kick-Off matches. The six-man tag is hampered by taking place in front of an almost-empty arena, but Akira Tozawa vs. Neville is really good, and The New Day vs. The Usos is outstanding, somehow topping their previously exceptional clash at Battleground.

So, SummerSlam 2017 covers every spectrum on the quality scale, with some great matches, some good bouts, some average scraps and some major disappointments. The bonus matches elevate this to the rating below, as the main show seemed a bit of a let-down with only two excellent matches out of a possible ten. But it's still a really fun DVD to watch, as you will recognise when reliving the Biggest Party Of The Summer.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 - Good

Friday, 29 September 2017

DVD Review: 1997: Dawn Of The Attitude

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 450 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: October 2 2017

(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)

When analysing the history of WWE, previously the WWF (and the WWWF before that), a pivotal year is 1997. During that time, business was way down, and the company lagged behind WCW in almost every key area. However, a revolution was happening on-screen, and years of promoting wrestling to please the kids and bringing the families was being slowly replaced by a rebellious product which focused on entertainment via strong language, sexuality, bloody violence and more mature themes to the storylines. This would eventually lead to a massive boom period for the WWF and for wrestling in general, with 1998-2001 being the company's most successful years in history. Seriously, the word "ass" and the ever-so-frequent use of it made the WWF millions.

But most of this was still to come when 1997 began. At that time, traits of Attitude were being gradually introduced (Steve Austin swearing and flipping people off, slightly more violent matches involving the likes of Mankind, the sexual nature of Goldust's "psychological" tactics, and the infamous "gun" angle involving Austin breaking into Brian Pillman's home, during which Pillman said "fuck" live on the air, which almost got the WWF kicked off the USA Network), but it was still marketed as a family-friendly show. Throughout the year things would change, and as 1997 came to a close, the "new" WWF had arrived. A few weeks into 1998, Mike Tyson came on board to help promote WrestleMania, and subsequent angles along with other plotlines would bring about the success that Attitude is most remembered for.

This DVD is intended to provide an overview of that year. A round-table hosted by Renee Young (who is very good in her role as host here), the discussion involves Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley, The Godfather, Ron Simmons and Kane as they reminisce and reflect on key events from the year within the WWF and, in some cases, their own careers. After some brief introductions, Young breaks down pivot points such as the rise of Steve Austin, the evolution of the Three Faces Of Foley, the Nation Of Domination, DX, Montreal and the edgier content in general. There are also smaller sections devoted to the likes of the divas (watching some of these clips is bizarre when compared to how WWE treat the females today) and presentation aspects such as the new Raw stage (the Titan Tron, which debuted on March 10 1997).

The tone is relaxed with plenty of wisecracks and a fair few amusing stories. If you're hoping for a ton of revelations, however, then this won't suffice. Obviously, the fact that this is a WWE production means that the tone does not stray too far from the party line (indeed, WCW is only mentioned in passing, despite their dominance in the Monday night ratings providing the greatest catalyst for change within the product, and ECW isn't mentioned at all, despite being a major influence on WWF Attitude). In fact, although the likes of Shawn occasionally touch upon the way things were, no official reason is ever really given as to why the WWF completely transformed its product. If you'd never heard the background details and relied solely on this DVD, then you'd assume that Vince McMahon decided to change the presentation of WWF programming for the hell of it.

This is still very enjoyable, though. The hour-long running time of the main feature flies back, and it comes across as a feel-good trip down memory lane. As noted, there are plenty of laughs to be had, and some intriguing anecdotes relating to how certain performers reacted to key moments. For instance, with the exception of the main players - Bret Hart, Shawn and Vince - we never really hear what the WWF wrestlers at the time thought about the Montreal Screwjob, so it's cool to get some different perspectives here. It's also cool to hear some insight on Shotgun Saturday Night which, when originally launched, was completely different from the likes of Superstars and Wrestling Challenge, and provided the first true look at what the WWF would be like with risqué elements incorporated into the branding of the show. So, this is still an enjoyable look back at a crucial year in WWF history, but just don't expect it to be as thorough a breakdown of behind-the-scenes events as Jim Cornette's Timeline storytelling with Kayfabe Commentaries was (and this, by the way, was an absolutely hilarious production and features the often foul-mouthed Cornette at his very best, so it's well worth checking out).

The rest of the DVD comprises matches from 1997 and a few angles. It doesn't appear as if WWE has gone down the route of choosing "unreleased" matches here; the second bout on this collection is the only one to have never been previously released. This means that there are a few glaring omissions, as I will explain. Nevertheless, the match selection provides a fine demonstration of how much the WWF changed in 1997, which is the main purpose of the DVD, and there are some spellbinding battles and exciting moments throughout discs two and three.

The first match is a bout that few would associate with Attitude: it's Sid vs. Shawn Michaels from Royal Rumble 1997 and, though it's no classic, it's enjoyable enough. It's also bizarre that more people attended this Rumble than they did for any WCW show, despite WCW destroying the WWF at this point in terms of business. Then, it's onto a hidden gem between Bret Hart and Mankind from Shotgun Saturday Night (one of the most intriguing shows ever when you consider the context of when it originally aired and in what form), along with a fantastic Raw clash between Owen Hart and British Bulldog to crown the first European Champion.

Next is a Steel Cage clash between Sid and Bret for the WWF Title just six days before WrestleMania 13, which is most notable for Bret's post-match tirade (during which the word "bullshit" made the airwaves, uncensored, more than once, at a time when kids were still the WWF's target audience). A humorous Owen acceptance speech for a Slammy Award that he didn't even win is followed by one of the greatest WWF/WWE matches ever, an incredible Submission match between Bret and Steve Austin. This is the match that featured the famous double-turn for Hart and Austin, and it's the match that some could argue reversed the company's long-term fortunes.

The two clash again in a Street Fight on Raw, which is more angle than match. By this time, the tone of the WWF product was changing, which is underlined by the next two parts involving Mankind. One is a gripping and emotional interview with Jim Ross (which introduced the world to Dude Love), and the other is a hard-hitting King Of The Ring final match against Hunter Hearst Helmsley, who had yet to evolve into the de-generate known as Triple H. Disc two ends with Bret Hart addressing his Canadian compatriots on Raw at the height of the anti-American angle which was a company first for specific crowds reacting to certain performers in a particular way (I bet WWE wishes they didn't have to put up with this so often nowadays).

The first two matches of disc three are familiar to collectors: Dude Love's debut alongside Austin against Owen and Bulldog, and a six-man Flag match (Bret, Owen & Bulldog vs. Austin, Dude & The Undertaker) which has been released far too many times. If WWE had to reuse a match from this rivalry, the Canadian Stampede top-liner would have been ideal. Following this is Shawn vs. Undertaker from Ground Zero, a forgotten brawl which has only been released a couple of times on DVD. That being said, at the risk of contradicting myself, their subsequent Hell In A Cell match was a ground-breaking classic, and it really should have been here for historical purposes.

It's disappointing that the DVD doesn't include either of the superb Bret vs. Undertaker matches from that year, but we do get the infamous Bulldog vs. Shawn showdown from One Night Only, as well as Austin's first Stunner on Vince McMahon, and the promo DX cut the night after the first HIAC match, which included footage of the Curtain Call and a subtle (okay, not so subtle) acknowledgement of backstage politics within the company.

By Survivor Series, the transformation was almost complete, evidenced here by Kane's debut match in a stunning scrap against Mankind. But it's the notorious Bret-Shawn main event featuring that double-cross (and Vince's "Bret Screwed Bret" promo, which isn't shown here) which would really trigger the Austin-McMahon rivalry (although I still maintain that this was unintentional), which would carry the company throughout 1998 and 1999 and contribute greatly to the boom period of the Attitude Era.

Austin vs. Rock from In Your House: DX is the last proper match, and though it's short, it's a great example of just how over Austin was, as he prepared to truly break through the glass ceiling and take his place as the WWF's main man. The DVD ends with two angles which can also be found on the Raw 15th Anniversary DVD: Sable wearing a potato sack and removing it to reveal, well, not very much (no, the kids weren't the target audience anymore!), and a Shawn-HHH "match" which is entertaining, though it ultimately buries the European Title that they are supposed to be battling for. Mind you, at least it wasn't the WWF Championship; 13 months later, WCW would learn what happens when you make a mockery of a World Title in the Fingerpoke Of Doom match between Kevin Nash and Hollywood Hulk Hogan.

Overall, Dawn Of The Attitude is plenty of fun, and does a decent job at highlighting the intriguing transition period between the kid-friendly New Generation and the adult-orientated Attitude Era. If you're looking for hard-hitting revelations or a true study into the WWF business practices of 1997, then you will be disappointed, but plenty of fun stories with a relaxed tone to the group discussion, combined with memorable matches and moments to prop the analysis of 1997 up, leads to an enjoyable DVD set that is worth watching.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 - Good

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

DVD Preview: SummerSlam 2017

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Provided By: Fetch Publicity

The following story is courtesy of Fetch Publicity ...

WWE’s second biggest show of the year and the biggest party of the summer ... it’s SummerSlam! Coming from the Barclays Center, the main event shakes the foundations of Brooklyn when Brock Lesnar defends the Universal Championship against Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman and Samoa Joe in a Fatal Four Way Match. And “The King of Strong Style” Shinsuke Nakamura gets his first chance at WWE gold when he faces “The Modern-Day Maharaja” Jinder Mahal for the WWE Championship. Plus much more!

Match Highlights:

Universal Championship Match
Brock Lesnar (Champion) vs. Samoa Joe vs. Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns

WWE Championship Match
Jinder Mahal (Champion) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

Raw Women’s Championship Match
Alexa Bliss (Champion) vs. Sasha Banks

Raw Tag Team Championship Match
Sheamus & Cesaro (Champions) vs. Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose

SmackDown Women’s Championship Match
Naomi (Champion) vs. Natalya

United States Championship Match with Special Guest Referee Shane McMahon
AJ Styles (Champion) vs. Kevin Owens

Bray Wyatt vs. Finn Bálor

John Cena vs. Baron Corbin

Plus even more action!

We like it because:

Second only to WrestleMania, SummerSlam is one of the most exciting and hotly anticipated events in the WWE calendar, and this year’s edition was earth-shattering!

The Universal Championship Fatal Four Way is simply electric, with four of WWE’s most powerful Superstars demolishing each other for a chance to hold Raw’s number one title. Particularly impressive is Braun Strowman’s man-handling of “The Beast” Brock Lesnar – a moment that turns the “Monster Amongst Men” into an unlikely anti-hero!

But it’s far from a one-match show, as there’s incredible action from top to bottom!

Sasha Banks proves she really is The Boss as she tries to win her fourth Raw Women’s Championship. Baron Corbin challenges the veteran 16-time champ John Cena in a sizzling match-up. And Shinsuke Nakamura tries to overcome the odds by striking Jinder Mahal and the Singh Brothers wit his patented “Strong Style”!

There’s also major drama as Shane McMahon referees a heated grudge match between AJ Styles and Kevin Owens over the United States Championship. Shane promises to call it down the middle, but anything can happen in WWE.

Also unmissable is the reunion of former Shield brothers Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, plus Finn Bálor unleashing the “Demon” on Bray Wyatt!

Be sure to pick up this historic night of action on DVD & Blu-ray!

SummerSlam 2017 will officially be released on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday October 9 2017.

For more information, click here.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

DVD Preview: 1997: Dawn Of The Attitude

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Provided By: Fetch Publicity

The following story is courtesy of Fetch Publicity ...

For the first time ever, Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley, Ron Simmons, The Godfather and Kane sit together with host Renee Young and share their behind-the-scenes experiences during 1997 – one of the most unforgettable and influential years in WWE history. With a selection of matches and moments, witness the rise of Stone Cold Steve Austin, the birth of D-Generation X, the summer of The Hart Foundation, and how The Attitude Era was created with one pivotal year in WWE history. Welcome to 1997: Dawn Of The Attitude. Also featuring The Rock, Undertaker, Psycho Sid, Goldust, Sable, Ken Shamrock, D-Lo Brown, The Sultan & more!

Match Highlights:

Shotgun Saturday Night – January 25 1997
Bret Hart vs. Mankind

Raw – March 3 1997
European Championship Tournament Final Match
Owen Hart vs. British Bulldog

WrestleMania 13 – March 23 1997
Submission Match with Special Guest Referee Ken Shamrock
Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin

In Your House: Ground Zero – September 7 1997
Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker

Survivor Series 1997 – November 9 1997
WWE Championship Match
Bret Hart (Champion) vs. Shawn Michaels

In Your House: D-Generation X – December 7 1997
Intercontinental Championship Match
Stone Cold Steve Austin (Champion) vs. The Rock

Plus more action, extras, and Blu-ray exclusives!

We like it because:

There’s a reason 1997 is still one of the most talked about years in WWE history. It didn’t just transform WWE, but the entire world of sports-entertainment.

This special roundtable discussion pulls back the curtain further than ever before, giving insights into how it all went down backstage – and the superstars who would go on to dominate the Attitude Era.

There are fascinating stories along the way, such as how The Rock came up with his “Know Your Role” catchphrase, and what it was like behind-the-scenes before Kane made his epic debut in the first ever Hell In A Cell match. In addition, longtime fans will enjoy getting up close and personal with the legendary superstars.

It also delves into serious subject matters as they look at the fallout from the Montreal Screwjob and the real-life hatred for DX.

But it wouldn’t be WWE without some hard-hitting in-ring action – and this set boasts an incredible collection of matches. There are some Stone Cold classics – such as Bret Hart and Steve Austin’s WrestleMania 13 war – but also lesser-seen matches from Shotgun Saturday Night and Raw, which were just as important in changing the landscape of WWE.
A must-have collection for diehard fans, and an important lesson on the history of WWE!

1997: Dawn Of The Attitude will officially be released on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday October 2 2017.

For more information, click here.

Friday, 15 September 2017

DVD Review: WWE Double Feature: Great Balls Of Fire 2017 & Battleground 2017

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 363 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 2
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: September 18 2017

(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)

For the third time, the Double Feature PPV sets demonstrate which is the superior brand in WWE right now. The Raw show Great Balls Of Fire is a real thrill-ride (but not the Ultimate Thrill Ride; that was WrestleMania 33, remember?), whereas the SmackDown show Battleground is pretty poor. The way in which Raw has gained momentum and SmackDown has lost momentum since the Superstar Shake-Up is fascinating, and yet the evidence is clearly on show here, with big matches and star power carrying the red brand, whereas baffling pushes, strange booking and disappointing performances mostly define the blue brand.

Great Balls Of Fire starts with a decent battle between Seth Rollins and Bray Wyatt. It's not the greatest match you'll see this year, nor is it backed up by a particularly strong storyline, but it's worth watching nonetheless. Next up is Enzo Amore vs. Big Cass as part of their well-booked divorce of sorts. Cass looks totally dominant here, which he needed to be if he is to succeed as a heel going forward. Up third is an excellent doubles encounter: a 30-minute Iron Man Match between Sheamus & Cesaro and The Hardy Boyz for the Raw Tag Team Championships. It favours storytelling and believable action over spots, which is refreshing, and the final moments are as dramatic as any finish that you'll see.

Sasha Banks' challenge for Alexa Bliss' Raw Women's crown is a little disappointing; the action is fine, but the finish sucks, if I'm being honest. The Miz' Intercontinental Title defence against Dean Ambrose is also underwhelming, at least compared to their longer and superior effort at Extreme Rules a few weeks earlier. Fortunately, things pick up big-time with the Ambulance match between Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman: this is an incredible match presentation, with some great brawling throughout leading to a surprise finish, and a memorable post-match angle that sees Reigns ram an ambulance with Strowman (who won, by the way) inside into an 18-wheeler truck.

The shenanigans from this continue into the abruptly-staged Heath Slater vs. Curt Hawkins match, for which we don't even see the finish due to the focus on Strowman. The only downside to this huge angle is that, within two weeks, it was essentially abandoned, though it did help move Braun even further up the card as a true monster. Finally, Brock Lesnar's Universal Championship defence against Samoa Joe could have benefitted from lasting a few more minutes, but it's still a gripping fight to see, and fans are on their feet throughout for this epic dream match. Overall, then, it's not without its flaws, but Great Balls Of Fire is a strong show that leaves a positive lasting impression on the viewer.

If only the same could be said for Battleground. It starts in grand fashion with a fantastic SmackDown Tag Team Title match between The Usos and The New Day, which is the underrated feud of the year in my opinion. But the show falls off a cliff from there, starting with Shinsuke Nakamura's disappointing clash with Baron Corbin. As things stand, Nakamura's main roster run is the let-down of the year, and despite what some fans may say, you have to put some of this down to Shinsuke; do you think WWE would tell him to basically wrestle in second-gear for months on end, as he has mostly done? Corbin wasn't an ideal opponent at this point, and the crap finish does nothing to help matters.

The problem with the subsequent Fatal Five Way to determine Naomi's next contender to the SmackDown Women's Championship isn't the action, but the fact that it's the fourth PPV running where the blue brand ladies are thrown into a multi-person affair, making this feel like incredibly lazy booking. It would have been better if Naomi had at least faced someone else (say, Tamina), but with the champion on commentary, it just feels second-rate. Speaking of which, AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens for the United States Championship is a big disappointment, and the finish feels like something from Botchamania as something clearly goes wrong which leads to Owens becoming champion, mere weeks after AJ won the title on a house show at Madison Square Garden. In fact, Chris Jericho even admitted on a recent podcast that the finish was a balls-up, which is why AJ would regain the title days later by beating Owens and Jericho himself.

John Cena vs. Rusev in a Flag match isn't bad, but it's a re-run of a feud which had covered four supershows in 2015, and it reverts Cena, who rediscovered his edge earlier this year with shoot-style promos, into his former, bland, patriotic self. Plus, due to the stipulation, the outcome is very predictable. The same cannot be said of Sami Zayn against main roster newcomer Mike Kanellis, but the action is just average (which may explain why Kanellis hasn't featured on SmackDown very much since).

Finally, the Punjabi Prison match between Jinder Mahal and Randy Orton starts very slow, to the point that fans soon turn on the match. Things improve as the match progresses, with The Singh Brothers taking some insane punishment, and a surprise appearance by The Great Khali forming a big part of the finish. But the stipulation lets the participants down here; take away the trap door stuff and it would have been easier to create drama but, with the four doors that required a minute of what amounts to non-action, plus the two bamboo cages making it hard for fans in the arena to see, and with Jinder not being the greatest champion from an in-ring standpoint (plus Orton not always shining in long matches regardless of the opponent), this match is likely to top Worst-Of lists at the end of 2017. There have been far worse matches this year, but when you consider all the factors, this is a fitting end to a damp squib of a PPV. It speaks volumes that this lasted more than four times as long as Lesnar vs. Joe from GBOF, yet that match was far better than this one.

For some reason, the Kick-Off Show matches from both cards (Neville vs. Akira Tozawa and Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English) are omitted; hopefully, this is a one-off, because otherwise these Double Feature sets would have no extras going forward. Also strange is that the Great Balls Of Fire song by Jerry Lee Lewis, used as the theme for the Raw PPV and is obviously the whole point of using that PPV name in the first place, is not included here. Note to WWE: if you're going to base a PPV name around a very famous song, make sure you can use it in all formats before giving it the go-ahead.

That aside, Great Balls Of Fire is by far the best of the two shows here. Great Balls merits a purchase on its own, whereas Battleground's opening contest is the only reason I would suggest to invest in that particular card. If I were ranking these separately, I would give Great Balls an 8 and, for Battleground, either a 5 or maybe a generous 5.5. With the two blended together, I've roughly gone halfway and awarded this set a 6.5.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10 - Okay

Friday, 1 September 2017

DVD Review: WWE Unreleased 1986-1995

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 501 Minutes
Certificate: 12
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: September 4 2017

(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)

Following on from last year's similar WWE The Attitude Era Volume 3 - Unreleased, which featured previously unseen matches from 1996-2000 (not necessarily all from the Attitude Era, but you can read more about that in my review here), we now have a new release covering hidden gems from 1986-1995.

Hosted by Charly Caruso and legendary personality Sean Mooney, Unreleased is a straight-up collection of bouts which only the live crowd will have seen. No matches here had previously been televised; all of these were only seen by those in attendance. It's possible that some of these bouts were intended to be broadcast, but if so, they obviously weren't.

Anyway, there are so many matches included that I won't break them down, one-by-one. Instead, I'll provide overall thoughts by grouping the various bouts together based on participants, formats or their significance, whether it be for curiosity or other purposes.

Beginning with Hulk Hogan, he pops up a fair few times here. He teams with The Machines against Bobby Heenan, Big John  Studd and King Kong Bundy (he is Hulk Machine for this one), and as the compilation progresses, he teams with Roddy Piper, Randy Savage and Brutus Beefcake, as well as fighting Earthquake and Ric Flair in singles action. He also inexplicably appears to rescue The Rockers from a post-match attack by The Powers Of Pain, bizarre because he had no on-screen link with either team at that point. Hulkamaniacs will enjoy seeing some unseen bouts from Hulk's career, though they largely follow the same Hogan formula as most of his matches did.

Savage appears frequently too, facing Pedro Morales, Andre The Giant (which is very poor, largely because it is so short), Ultimate Warrior (twice), Jake Roberts (as "Mr. Madness", basically Randy with a gimmick name to avoid disrupting his "retirement" stipulation) and Crush. As for Warrior, his first appearance here is actually as The Dingo Warrior, and once he becomes Ultimate, we also see him battle The Undertaker in one of the WWF's earliest Casket matches, as well as teaming with The Texas Tornado and even Bret Hart (in the latter bout, Hart does virtually all of the work before Warrior comes in to seal the win).

We also see WrestleMania previews and Mania rematches/fall-outs, like Andre vs. Studd, a Blindfold test run between Rick Martel and Jake Roberts, Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzales, Bret vs. Yokozuna (during which Yoko randomly calls Bret "a son of a bitch", though few notice it) and The Colossal Connection vs. Demolition. There are plenty of tag bouts including established teams like The Rockers, The Hart Foundation, Demolition, The Legion Of Doom (their match with Demo' literally lasts seconds) and Money Inc. There are matches with special stipulations (Jeff Jarrett has Ladder bouts with British Bulldog and Razor Ramon, and Diesel meets Yokozuna inside a Steel Cage), alternatives to famous bouts (Bret vs. Bulldog, Hulk vs. Flair), feuds which weren't really resolved on television (Flair vs. Piper, Lex Luger vs. Ludvig Borga, Shawn Michaels vs. Mr. Perfect), and interesting teams formed for one night only (the most intriguing being Bret and Shawn teaming together in a 1995 bout).

Perhaps the most unusual part of this DVD concerns the inclusion of tryout matches. As well as an early Dingo Warrior bout, we see future stars competing under their original gimmick names, such as War Eagle (Tatanka), Earthquake Evans (erm, Earthquake), Brian Adams (the real name of Crush) and The Tazmaniac (Tazz, though he wouldn't be hired for many years). We also see two tag team tryouts with the winning teams having totally different careers: Kip Winchester and Brett Colt would become successful as The Smoking Gunns, whilst The Toxic Turtles ... didn't. It is clear from the mild camera set-ups, the use of on-screen timers and the general "warm-up" nature of these bouts that they were not necessarily intended for the live crowds, but they would have been of great interest to the decision-makers backstage: back then, especially, matches like this were crucial if potential stars were to earn a WWF contract, so it's cool to see a few featured here.

There are other bouts too starring Owen Hart, Sid Justice, Ted DiBiase, Bam Bam Bigelow, Jim Neidhart and more; there really are too many matches to properly analyse here. I will make special mention of the Piper's Pit angle featured, which happened days after Mania VIII. The focus is that The Brooklyn Brawler taunts Piper about his loss at that show, but the most memorable part is Piper saying "Half the WWF wrestlers are in a scandal". Acknowledging the ongoing steroid scandal in this manner, in front of a live crowd (even if it wasn't televised), is shocking, and is a reminder about how much things have changed since 1992; a WWE talent today would be fired on the spot if he/she acknowledged a massive company scandal on a live microphone without approval from the office. Elsewhere, the production is mostly good, considering what matches are featured here, though some have dodgy camera work and audio, and the links with Charly and Sean are decent, with a few funny inside references along the way (such as Mooney tossing aside a cardboard box with Tom Magee's name on it to a cartoon sound effect; Magee was a "star of the future" who was ultimately so awful that he was barely ever shown on television).

I have to mention that for all of the matches featured here - 45 in all - only a small number are actually any good. Some are pure squashes, some barely last two-three minutes, and many have disqualification/countout finishes which I normally wouldn't mind, but seeing so many in one go becomes frustrating as a viewer. That being said, these are/were dark matches, so they weren't necessarily designed to be classic matches, and the years covered here (1986-1995) aren't really renowned for athleticism and outstanding chain wrestling; even the 1992-1995 era, where Bret was on top, doesn't include a lot of actual great wrestling. Nevertheless, I would go as far to say that Bret vs. Bulldog is the only really good match on the entire DVD; there are a fair few adequate matches spread out across the three discs, but Bret vs. Bulldog is the only one which could be transferred to a PPV event and have fans raving.

But this era was all about showmanship and entertainment. And it must be noted that, besides the tryouts, fans are almost always reacting extremely enthusiastically to what they are seeing. The mere fact that they're getting to see Hogan, Warrior, Undertaker etc was good enough for them, and it's clear from the crowd reactions that they're having a great time. Those pops dwindle towards the end as the arenas get smaller and the popularity of the WWF was declining, but those who were on hand are still appreciative of what they are seeing. It's a far cry from the die-hard fans of today's WWE, where in some cases even first-class wrestling is less appealing to audiences than tossing around a beachball and chanting "We are awesome" (I'm looking at you, Brooklyn).

Obviously, longtime WWF fans who were watching the product during this time will be well aware of this and, therefore, they should gain a great deal of entertainment from this DVD. I can't imagine this being a collection which people would watch more than once, but it's fascinating as a longtime fan myself to see all of these hidden gems, from the one-off battles to the eye-catching tag team pairings to the previously-unseen tryouts. It's a great compilation for collectors, who will have plenty of bouts to add to the likes of classic old-school WrestleManias and memorable moments from Saturday Night's Main Event. Modern fans and those who watch wrestling for the wrestling will not be impressed; but if you're a longtime fan, a true collector, or you just want a healthy dose of nostalgia, then this is definitely worth owning.

Overall Rating: 7/10 - Respectable