Friday, 2 June 2017

DVD Review: WrestleMania 33

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 569 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: June 5 2017

(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)

WrestleMania 33 has finally hit DVD. WrestleMania remains the WWE DVD to own each year, regardless of whether the event is good or bad. Fortunately, WM 33 had more to like than to dislike, and while it's not a flawless show by any means, it is an improvement over WM 32 and contains several memorable moments, all of which justify a purchase even before you consider the Hall Of Fame ceremony being included, as is tradition.

The opening video is spectacularly produced in line with the "Ultimate Thrill Ride" theme, and the first match - AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon - is a belter which greatly exceeds expectations. Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens for the United States Championship is another enjoyable match, though a shade below being considered a Match Of The Year candidate. The Raw Women's Championship four-way, meanwhile, feels rushed and, whilst a commendable effort by all involved, it's inferior to the Women's Championship three-way from WM 32.

Conversely, the four-team Ladder match for the red brand doubles straps is a huge success, in large part because of the surprise return of the Hardyz to an enormous reaction, which is as surreal as it is shocking and incredibly welcome. The subsequent mixed tag match (John Cena and Nikki Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse) exists solely to set up the post-match proposal by Cena to Nikki. Judged by that criteria, it's a feel-good moment, though it won't be to everyone's tastes.

After that, we get Seth Rollins vs. Triple H. It's a lengthy and often slow match, but it maintains interest and peaks at the finish, so it's better than other HHH Mania matches which have been considered disappointments in the past, though it's still no classic by any means. Mind you, it's still better than Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton which is a complete let-down as a WWE Championship match on a stage like Mania; the intriguing ring projections of creepy creatures aside, the match isn't memorable at all, and feels like a standard TV bout. The result of Wyatt losing the title so quickly doesn't help, and it's all made worse by the fact that the storyline leading into this one (Randy joining the Wyatts to destroy it from within) was booked perfectly and was one of WWE's best plotline in years.

Many were dreading Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship, but it crammed a lot of hard-hitting action into a short span of time (even if it was Spears, suplexes and finishers, and nothing else), and ultimately it was met with positive feedback on the whole, and funnily enough is one of the best matches on the show based on merit. The SmackDown Women's Championship match has a filler feeling to it, but it's not bad by any means and gives Naomi a big hometown title win. (Just realised that I forgot to mention that The New Day were hosts, and so they made occasional appearances throughout the show.)

Finally, Roman Reigns battles The Undertaker in a match which would have been great three or four years earlier, but at this stage Taker is clearly showing the signs that, despite his best efforts, he only has so much left in the tank to give. That is conveyed in the match story, with Reigns doing everything he can to slowly take Taker down and, ultimately, keep him down. Besides one noticeable botch and the slow pace to proceedings, all before an exhausted crowd (who had been there for north of six hours by this point), it's still an enjoyable match, albeit one perhaps not worthy of main event status. But we find out post-match why it went on last, as we get a very well-produced and emotional retirement ceremony for The Undertaker character, which is undoubtedly the most memorable aspect of WM 33. Amazingly, some believe that he will wrestle again, but after watching this, it's impossible to envision that this wasn't his Last Ride, as a Hall Of Fame induction in 2018 seems inevitable.

Speaking of which, the Hall Of Fame ceremony for 2017 is here. Kurt Angle leads the way for the inductees, the class for which includes Diamond Dallas Page, The Rock 'N' Roll Express, Beth Phoenix, Ravishing Rick Rude, Teddy Long and Eric LeGrande (Warrior Award winner). As with every HOF ceremony in recent years, it runs very long, and there's not as many "stories" as you might expect, but it's still a lot of fun with a fair few memorable moments and one-liners. Jim Cornette appearing to induct Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson is particularly surreal, and hopefully Corny will end up being inducted into the HOF himself in the next few years. Plus, this marks Angle's long-awaited return to WWE after many years away, so it has its place in history for that reason too. Overall, not the best HOF ceremony that you'll have seen, but still a very entertaining presentation at the same time.

The set is rounded off by the Kick-Off Show matches, which Fremantle Media squeezed onto the UK version of the DVD (meaning that US fans didn't get this bonus content). Neville vs. Austin Aries is a great Cruiserweight Championship match, proving that having a bout on the pre-show, where there is potentially more time, can be considered a good thing. Conversely, the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal is the weakest to date, with any attempt at promoting a future star jettisoned for a celebrity moment (involving Rob Gronkowski) that was forgotten before the show had come to an end. The final pre-show match, Dean Ambrose vs. Baron Corbin for the Intercontinental crown, isn't terrible but it does feel phoned-in, and it does nothing to suggest that WWE were wrong to place this match before the main card (incidentally, this spot was meant to go to the SD women's bout, but the online backlash convinced those in charge to make this switch; we only found out moments beforehand on the night that Dean vs. Baron had been relegated to the pre-show, which is darkly comical since fans had originally been up in arms weeks earlier when there were rumours of Ambrose not making the main card).

There have definitely been better WrestleManias, and the sheer length of the card will prove taxing for the viewer (it also means that there are no other extras on the DVD; hey, they only just got to fit in the Kick-Off Show matches). It's also a show which peaks early, with the first half being almost completely enthralling, whilst the second half has more disappointing elements than spectacular ones. Nevertheless, WM 33 has something for everyone and is definitely a fun show to watch. Some of the most memorable Mania moments from recent years occurred at this show, not least the retirement of the legendary Undertaker. Add to that the HOF and the three bonus matches, and WrestleMania 33 is a set well worth owning. I've given a bonus half-point in the score below to reward Fremantle for essentially rewarding fans, since that's what wrestling is all about, right?

Overall Rating: 8.5/10 - Excellent

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Seth Rollins - Building The Architect

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 526 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: May 29 2017

(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)

WWE's latest match compilation focuses on Seth Rollins, who in less than five years has gone from NXT star to perennial WWE main eventer and one of the company's biggest names. Promisingly, his best days may be yet to come; for the time being, Building The Architect focuses on Rollins' WWE adventures to date, with some candid comments by Seth himself between matches.

The first few matches are from Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), WWE's developmental territory after OVW (but before the NXT revamp). These bouts include a clash with Hunico in the final match of the Jack Brisco Classic tournament, an FCW 15 title contest with Dean Ambrose, and his FCW title-winning performance against Leo Kruger. The Ambrose match is the best of the three, though all have their moments, and it's fascinating to consider that FCW was the equivalent of NXT during this era, because the thought of FCW ever expanding beyond its studio setting into major arenas worldwide, in the manner that NXT has in recent years, seems unfathomable.

Speaking of NXT, it's revealed through some blink-and-you'll-miss-it footage that Rollins was meant to be a contestant on a season of NXT during its "reality show" days, alongside Big E Langston, Bo Dallas, Hunico, Leo Kruger/Adam Rose and Damien Sandow. As it turned out, this season didn't happen, which has to be considered a good thing given that Rollins, Big E and Sandow all carved out careers on the main roster which wouldn't have been possible had this season actually happened. It's debatable as to whether or not Hunico, Dallas and Kruger would have had a greater chance of succeeding if this version of NXT had occurred.

Rollins did appear on NXT, though, becoming the first NXT Champion after the brand was relaunched from its home base of Full Sail University, taking up the form that we know today. Within a few months, though, Rollins had arrived on the main roster alongside Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose as part of The Shield, the faction which changed the WWE landscape forever and would make main event stars out of all three. Rollins still had to lose the NXT title, though, and that he did in the next match featured here against Big E.

I should mention at this point that most of The Shield's key matches were included on the 2015 DVD The Destruction Of The Shield (as well as Seth's NXT title-winning battle against current WWE Champion Jinder Mahal), so Building The Architect is light on Shield matches. There's a couple to savour, though: their match against John Cena, Sheamus and Ryback is underrated and really helped to make the three members stand out on the roster, as did their first WrestleMania appearance opposite Randy Orton, Sheamus and Big Show at WM 29, which has some great spots. The third and final Shield match comes against Cody Rhodes and Goldust from Battleground 2013, one of the better matches from that year which also features Dusty Rhodes' final significant on-screen appearance. Why the group's Extreme Rules battle against Evolution from ER 2014 is not here, I do not know.

We do see The Shield implode, though, through a major swerve that saw Rollins smash his Shield "brothers" with a steel chair. Since TDOTS covered much of the fall-out from that break-up, the next match here isn't until Royal Rumble 2015, and an awesome three-way against Brock Lesnar and John Cena. Not only was this probably the best match on the main roster in 2015, but it was also the match which truly made Rollins a singles star, and most likely played a part in his championship success later that year. After we relive Rollins vs. Randy Orton from WrestleMania 31, and that RKO, we jump ahead to the end of that card, where Rollins cashed in Money In The Bank during a Lesnar vs. Reigns match and became the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion. That Seth was a heel was not evident by the massive pop which greeted this moment (largely because it meant Roman hadn't won the title when he "wasn't ready"; over two years later, Reigns is unfortunately still being booed every night), and Rollins had officially hit the jackpot.

The next match is Rollins vs. Ambrose in a Ladder bout from MITB 2015. I've written about how I didn't particularly enjoy this in a few previous reviews, so I won't repeat that here. Instead, I'll go straight to Rollins vs. Neville, which is a fantastic Raw match whereby Neville almost does the unthinkable and so very nearly dethrones Seth. Rollins proved there why he was The Man, and he repeats this against John Cena in a slightly overrated double title match from SummerSlam of that year, which has the stench of a finish involving Jon Stewart that still seems inexplicable in hindsight.

Not many people remember that Rollins and Cena battled again inside a Steel Cage on a live Network special from Madison Square Garden, but we're treated to that match here, and it's a really good clash between the two men who were arguably WWE's best in-ring performers at that time. Sadly for Seth, a devastating knee injury sidelined him weeks later, forcing him to vacate the WWE title. After a brief appearance at the 2015 Slammys to collect his Superstar Of The Year trophy, which is shown here, Rollins would resurface at Extreme Rules 2016 to Pedigree Roman Reigns, and their follow-up match from MITB 2016 here, which along with the post-match shenanigans created the unique distinction of all three former Shield members holding the WWE title within minutes of each other.

The DVD ends with three matches that sees Rollins on the losing side, which perhaps demonstrates how his knee injury reduced his profile somewhat in the company. The first all-Shield three-way on the main roster from Battleground 2016 was overshadowed by the Draft days earlier, but it's still very good. Seth vs. Finn Balor for the Universal Championship from SummerSlam is overshadowed even more by the ridiculously negative crowd reactions to the visual look of the title, and also in hindsight by the torn labrum injury Balor suffered minutes into it; despite these, it's still an exciting match. Finally, Seth's battle with Kevin Owens under No DQ rules from a November 2016 episode of Raw thankfully has nothing to distract the viewer, and it's a strong brawl with a finish that humorously makes a reference to the real-life fight between Chris Jericho and Sin Cara from around that time.

Because so many crucial Shield matches aren't here for understandable reasons, along with a few solo Rollins bouts of note, this DVD isn't the comprehensive collection of The Man that fans may be hoping for. It does, however, contain a lot of great action, and Seth's post-Shield career contains almost all of his singles highlights from the last two years. (This DVD was produced before Seth battled Triple H at WrestleMania 33, meaning this match isn't here, which depending on your point of view is either a good thing or a bad thing.) Seth's pre-match comments add a level of insight and honesty to proceedings, which round off the package nicely. As noted earlier, Rollins will be in WWE for a long time to come, so we'll likely get another DVD at some point in the future; for now, though, fans of the Architect will love this compilation, which provides sufficient evidence that Rollins really is The Man in WWE.

Overall Rating: 8/10 - Very Good

Friday, 28 April 2017

DVD Review: WWE Double Feature: Elimination Chamber 2017 & Fast Lane 2017

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 363 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 2
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: May 1 2017

(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)

WWE are now releasing solo-brand DVDs as part of a twin-disc set, which makes a lot of sense given that we now receive approximately two supershows per month, between the biggies like WrestleMania and SummerSlam. This particular Double Feature set is a cool one as it shows how both brands set the stage for their major matches at WrestleMania 33, although from an in-ring and booking standpoint, there's a lot left to be desired.

Beginning with Elimination Chamber, then, and the best way I can describe this card is that it was a one-match show. That match is, of course, the Elimination Chamber clash for the WWE Championship. It's in the top five Chamber matches of all-time as everybody involved (defending titleholder John Cena, AJ Styles, Bray Wyatt, The Miz, Baron Corbin and Dean Ambrose) gets a chance to shine and puts forth maximum effort, all within a new-look Chamber which allows for more spots, and slightly safer risk-taking, than ever before. This is one of the year's best matches so far, and I can see the participants in the 2018 Chamber match struggling to top this one next year.

Elsewhere, it feels like more like a special episode of SmackDown than an SD-only PPV. Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James is okay but not as good as most people were hoping. The psychology for Dolph Ziggler vs. Kalisto and Apollo Crews is all wrong (I've never worked as a wrestling booker, but I don't think it's unfair to make that claim, as it negates the fairly decent action that we get). The Tag Team Turmoil clash is alright, although it would have been more exciting if one of the teams challenging for American Alpha's titles had been built up enough to come across as a serious threat to the straps.

Nikki Bella vs. Natalya is watchable but has a screwy ending, which extends the feud but adds to the B-level nature of the card. Randy Orton vs. Luke Harper is the strongest match on the under-card by a mile, as it makes Harper look great against the selfless Viper, making the most of Orton's free time as he awaited the identity of his WWE Title opponent at Mania. Finally, Alexa Bliss vs. Naomi for the SmackDown Women's Championship could also have been better, partly as the crowd were anticipating the main event by this point, and the finish is a little off which left Naomi with an injury.

Therefore, Elimination Chamber isn't exactly the best WWE card of the year; judged as a whole, it's the weakest SmackDown-only supershow since the second Brand Extension began. Fortunately, the main event saves the day, and makes the event worth watching (although Orton vs. Harper is also a strong showing by both). The first disc also has the Kick-off Show clash between Mojo Rawley and Curt Hawkins as a DVD extra.

As for Fast Lane: wrestling-wise, it's the better of the two cards overall, but booking-wise, it starts well and then slowly declines. Besides the (included) Kick-Off show tag match pitting Akira Tozawa and Rich Swann against The Brian Kendrick and Noam Dar, Samoa Joe vs. Sami Zayn is a strong start to the event, with Sami helping to make Joe look like a million bucks, as the saying goes, in Joe's first PPV match since joining the main roster. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson vs. Enzo Amore and Big Cass is alright; it's not the best doubles match that you'll see this year, but it serves its purpose and has some cool spots. Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax is another David vs. Goliath-style match which works based on the more crowd-pleasing result, so in that respect it's a success.

Something which definitely wasn't a success was the two-bonus-matches-in-one segment, where Jinder Mahal somehow manages to earn a PPV match with Cesaro (little did fans know then that Jinder would get a shot at the WWE World Heavyweight Championship just weeks later, in a match which will happen at Backlash), which is okay but has no drama due to the predictable result, and then a first-class burial by Big Show of the (apparently-injured) Rusev. I hate to use the "b-word", since a lot of fans nowadays throw it around willy-nilly without understanding what it means (John Cena and Roman Reigns apparently "bury" everybody they ever defeat, which is nonsense), but I do feel that the term is applicable to this situation. Frowns turns to smiles with the best Cruiserweight Championship match on the main roster since its revival up to that point, an excellent and brutal Neville vs. Jack Gallagher clash (Gallagher's headbutts look vicious).

Roman Reigns gives Braun Strowman his best match to date in a great big-man battle, and though many fans disapproved of the result, WWE was never going to sacrifice Roman to Strowman right before he would face (and defeat, and ultimately retire) The Undertaker at WM 33, nor should it have. (Incidentally, the aforementioned "b-word" came out again from fans disgusted at Roman giving over, which given the way that this match played out was ridiculous.) The booking goes bonkers with Bayley vs. Charlotte for the Raw Women's Championship: Charlotte had regained her title after losing it to Sasha Banks on Raw so often that WWE probably felt doing that again here, after she lost the title to Bayley on Raw, was counterproductive. However, in putting over Bayley (and Sasha is involved in the finish, so it's not a clean win), everyone is left scratching their heads: why didn't WWE a) save Bayley's first title win for WM, b) make a bigger deal of Charlotte's much-hyped PPV winning streak ending here, c) save Bayley's first title win for here, at Fast Lane, or d) book a Charlotte DQ win would have maintained both Bayley's reign and Charlotte's streak, adding further justification for what would be the four-women match at WM 33 for the title? This isn't Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, but I think that option D would have been the way to go; any of those would have been better than what we received.

And then there's the main event between Kevin Owens and Goldberg for the WWE Universal Championship, which lasts 22 seconds, and features much stalling from Owens before a Chris Jericho distraction leads to a Spear-and-Jackhammer title win for Goldberg (sorry to post a spoiler, but you surely cannot spend money on this DVD if you do so to watch a long title match between Owens and Goldberg). I have to be honest, I didn't mind how this played out because the Goldberg push made sense in its execution, because Goldberg had previously smashed Brock Lesnar in 1:26, and because I find Owens to be slightly overrated (let the Internet come crashing down now!). If Goldberg had beaten Lesnar in a 20-minute epic and then became the champ in 22 seconds, then it would be a different story. Nevertheless, it's still not an ideal way to end a PPV, and this should have happened on Raw where the manner of the main event would have been deemed more tolerable and not resulted in so much (inevitable) outrage from "smarks".

So, if nothing else, it's an eventful twin-disc set. The best match is on disc one, but most of the remaining action is adequate at best. Disc two has more to offer from an in-ring standpoint, but the booking is occasionally very frustrating, and the main event lasts less time than an average trip to a urinal. Considering that you really are getting two DVDs for the price of one with this Double Feature set, I'd recommend it so long as you take everything that you see with a pinch of salt and just enjoy the action for what it is in the better matches, not to mention that the Chamber match is exceptional. Others may wish to save their money for the bigger, and superior, show that these two events set up when it comes to DVD, which of course would be WrestleMania 33.

Overall Rating: 7/10 - Respectable

DVD Review: WWE: Best Of 2000s

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 666 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 4
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: April 24 2017

(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)

WWE's latest compilation brings together a plethora of impactful matches from 2000-2009, spread over four discs and more than eleven hours (check out the actual number of minutes for this DVD above). It's a weighty collection compared to other DVDs on the market, but that's okay because, to truly showcase the best of the decade, three discs simply wasn't enough given the length of some matches here. Oh, and many of the matches are superb, making this a truly epic DVD set.

Hosted by Mick Foley (who sort of reprises his old Commissioner gig with one-liners and suitably nostalgic props, along with guest appearances by current WWE stars), the DVD opens proper with Triple H vs. Cactus Jack, a belting Street Fight from Royal Rumble 2000 for the WWF Championship. Foley at the time cited this match as one of his very best, and almost everybody agrees that this bloody war truly put HHH on the map, having slightly struggled to gain acceptance as a main event heel. Next is the original TLC clash between Edge and Christian, The Hardyz and The Dudleyz from SummerSlam 2000, which is simply amazing; the rematch at WrestleMania X-Seven arguably topped it, but regardless this was unbelievable, and the deserving Match Of The Year in most polls.

Disc one continues with the first ever Three Stages Of Hell clash between HHH and Stone Cold Steve Austin from No Way Out 2001. It's fought at a slower pace (understandably, given the three-falls trifecta of stipulations) and Austin's crowd reactions aren't quite as strong as they were in, say, 1999, but this is still a really good brawl, and the personal rivalry between the two is maintained throughout, an almost alien experience when watching today's WWE product. Next up, we have the incredible WM X7 main event between The Rock and Austin, a simply mesmerising battle which shockingly ended with the much-discussed Austin heel turn, hence why many consider this to be the end of the Attitude Era. That's not the end of the disc, though: that would be Rock vs. Booker T from SummerSlam 2001, an entertaining battle but a slightly anticlimactic end to the first quarter of the DVD after four matches which were very good or outstanding.

The second disc opens with the spectacle that was Rock vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan from WM X8. From a wrestling standpoint, it's probably the weakest match on the DVD, but forget about the technical side of things: there's a strong argument that this is one of the most memorable matches of the entire decade, if not WWF/WWE history, and therefore it more than warrants its place here. If technical wrestling is still what you came to see, though, then Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho from WM XIX will be down your alley, as it's a really good match that helped to kick-start Shawn's modern-day run as Mr. WrestleMania (that being said, I'd have preferred HBK vs. HHH from SummerSlam 2002, as that brawl just edged this contest in my opinion).

Speaking of technical wrestling, there's a real treat up next on the DVD as Kurt Angle defends his WWE Championship against Brock Lesnar from a 2003 episode of SmackDown in a 60-minute Iron Man match. Relying little on major spots and more on simply absorbing wrestling, psychology and conditioning, this is an excellent contest, probably the best SmackDown match ever, and this collection includes the complete version with commercial breaks absent, which is a nice touch. Disc two ends with a match that is entirely different but no less gripping: the brutal No Holds Barred match between Foley and Randy Orton from Backlash 2004. This probably did more to put Orton on the map than the Rumble 2000 clash did for HHH, since Randy was still a rising star at this point. Funnily enough, it still probably remains Orton's best ever match, while Foley also considers this to be his finest work.

Disc three opens by spotlighting the women's division, with a strong effort between Trish Stratus and Lita from when they main evented Raw in December 2004 (Lita almost breaking her neck is unfortunately the most memorable aspect of the bout). Then we enter absolute classic territory again with one of the greatest WWE matches ever: Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle from WrestleMania 21, which is wrestling perfection in every sense of the word, and a must-watch for all WWE fans. This match alone would have been enough to put either man in the WWE Hall Of Fame, a dream match which totally lived up to the hype and surpassed it too.

The DVD rolls on with the violent Batista vs. Triple H Hell In A Cell contest from Vengeance 2005. This ended their famous rivalry and, while fans had warmed to Batista hence his rise up the ranks, this was the first time when The Animal truly shone from an actual in-ring performance standpoint, albeit with HHH doing everything possible to put him over as a killer. Yet another amazing match follows as Kurt Angle and The Undertaker put on a phenomenal match at No Way Out 2006; the undisputed in-ring highlight of the year, it was every bit as good as Angle vs. Michaels from WM 21, and an early sign of the string of show-stealing Streak-defending performances we would get from Taker at WrestleMania in the future (more on that shortly). Disc three ends with Edge vs. John Cena under TLC rules from Unforgiven 2006, which despite some blown spots is an absorbing battle, held in front of a red-hot hometown (for Edge) Toronto crowd.

The final disc kicks off with Cena and Michaels colliding for nearly an hour in London in April 2007, in one of the best Raw matches of all-time. Strangely enough, a filler (yet very good) Edge vs. Orton bout from the following edition of Raw comes next, which feels like an odd inclusion. I can't even suggest that it is here to showcase both men since they make appearances elsewhere on the DVD. It's still worth going out of your way to see, though, as is HHH vs. Jeff Hardy from No Mercy 2008, a great back-and-forth bout which almost sees Jeff finally become WWE Champion. In hindsight, this probably should have been the night when he did so, because his Armageddon 2008 success was tempered by his sudden title loss at Royal Rumble 2009.

The standard reaches "all-time great" territory yet again as we see Michaels and Undertaker put it all on the line, and then some, in their five-star classic from WM 25; considering the level of action we had already seen on the DVD, it says something that this may be the very best match of them all. Finally, we get another excellent outing between Chris Jericho and Rey Mysterio from The Bash 2009, in the best match of what I consider to be the year's best feud. Some of the spots in this match are so simple, and yet so very good. Michaels vs. Taker might have seemed like the more appropriate way to close proceedings on this set, but Y2J vs. Rey is also a fine way to bring this incredible collection to a close.

Some quick notes: you may notice that some chairshots are shot from different angles or trimmed entirely, as are instances of choking. I don't mind this, given the reasoning, but if you own these matches already, these edits could put you off buying the DVD. On a more positive note, we get the pre-match promo videos for many of the matches featured here, which is really cool in the early portion of the DVD when the videos effectively persuaded you to want to watch a match to see two guys tear each other apart. Oh, and My Way remains the soundtrack for the Rock-Austin promo video, which if you have ever seen it before is a very good thing.

So, there you go. What a wrestling compilation this is: there are at least half-a-dozen genuinely classic matches, with a lot of strong support from other bouts featured. I would like to see this simple yet effective DVD theme continue in the future, and no doubt we'll get a Best Of 2010s set at some point (which could feature HBK vs. UT from WM 26, the two UT-HHH battles, Cena vs. CM Punk from Money In The Bank 2011 and a lot more). There is probably enough material to even warrant a sequel to this set, since there are a fair number of high-profile contest absent here (such as TLC II, HBK vs. HHH from SummerSlam '02, Rock vs. Austin from WM XIX, Foley vs. Edge from WM 22, any of the Undertaker-Batista battles and HBK vs. Ric Flair from WM XXIV, and that's just for starters). What this DVD does demonstrate is that, despite the decline in WWE's popularity throughout the decade, and the general negativity about the product which would grow over time, the company delivered plenty of truly incredible matches and moments throughout the decade, probably more than any other ten-year stretch in its history.

This set won't be for everyone, simply because all of the matches have been previously released on multiple occasions. That aside, this is one of the best wrestling DVD compilations that I have ever seen, stacked with classic matches, memorable feuds and iconic moments, along with recapping a large portion of WWF/WWE history from the first decade of the 21st century. Sure, I would have possibly switched the occasional match for a bout not featured here, but the DVD has virtually no weak points, and the pre-match promo videos which are included, and Mick Foley's hosting segments, are the icing on the cake. A brilliant collection.

Overall Rating: 10/10 - Perfect

Friday, 14 April 2017

DVD Review: Finn Balor: Iconic Matches

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 73 Minutes
Certificate: 12
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: April 17 2017

(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)

The Iconic Matches series continues with Finn Balor. It's a cheap and cheerful series of WWE compilations, featuring just a couple of bouts at a bargain price. It's also debatable as to whether the matches in question are truly "iconic". However, all three showdowns included on the Finn DVD are worth watching, and the timing of its release is clever since Balor has just returned from a long injury lay-off (although he may now be looking at more time off following a concussion suffered at the hands, or the forearm, of Jinder Mahal on Raw this past Monday).

The first match pits Balor against (Adrian) Neville from NXT Takeover: Rival from February 2015, which is a superb encounter, and Neville's last major scrap before departing the NXT brand. Next up is Balor vs. Tyler Breeze from NXT Takeover: Unstoppable from May 2015, a clash which is a fine start to what was a(nother) exceptional Takeover event, and a demonstration as to what Breeze can do if given the opportunity (which he rarely is on the main roster). Finally, it's Finn challenging Kevin Owens for the NXT Championship at Beast In The East from July 2015, and in the intimate surroundings of Tokyo's Budokan Hall, a venue synonymous with Balor while he competed in New Japan Pro Wrestling as Prince Devitt, there's a big-fight feel to what is another strong battle. Incidentally, Balor is the Demon for all three of these bouts, so if you're a fan of the Demon persona (and who isn't?), this is an added treat to the action on offer.

Considering the budget-friendly nature of this DVD, this is as good a mini-collection of Finn Balor as one can expect. All three matches are either really good or excellent, and the Demon entrances are worth reliving too. Finn Balor fans will obviously be interested in this, but other WWE fans should pay the fiver or so to get this one, since it's a perfect retrospective of Balor's early days in NXT, as well as a glimmer of what we can expect from Finn on the main roster over the next few years in WWE.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 - Good

Monday, 3 April 2017

DVD Review: WrestleMania Monday

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 363 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: April 3 2017

(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)

Over the last few years, the episode of Raw held the day after WrestleMania has become almost as anticipated as Mania itself. Whilst the post-WM Raw has always served the purpose of pressing the reset button, so to speak, and acting as a platform for debuts, returns and even retirements, since 2012 the combination of truly major developments and increasingly raucous crowds have led to this being the most watched, and most eagerly-awaited, television show of the WWE Calendar.

The latest WWE release focuses on this phenomenon, with a documentary being accompanied by a selection of matches and moments from down the years, all of which, of course, come from post-Mania editions of Raw. They include some of the most memorable and historic Raw moments of all-time, and some of the loudest crowd reactions in Raw history provided the soundtrack for them. All of which makes for a pretty entertaining DVD.

Beginning with the documentary, then: it's actually the same as the WWE 24 feature recently added to the Network, albeit with around 20 minutes extra footage. It is a behind-the-scenes look at last year's Raw-after-Mania, with comments from the talent who were about to make their Raw debuts that night (Apollo Crews, Enzo Amore & Big Cass, Baron Corbin), return (Maryse) or were set to debut/return shortly afterwards (The Vaudevillains, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson). We're treated to footage of some wrestlers being informed about their promotion to the main roster, along with candid thoughts on their WWE journeys to date (Cass notes that an unnamed WWE employee told him that he would have been fired a long time ago had he not been seven feet tall; to be fair, you can't teach that). There's also discussion and clips relating to the increasingly-crazy crowds, and quick highlights of past Raw-after-Mania moments, which I'll explain shortly as they're included in full on the remainder of the DVD.

The documentary is good, and it's cool to see the preparations for debuting talent (such as the new faces practicing their entrances, presumably so that the production team can ensure the best possible camera angles and lighting effects). I would have liked to have seen a greater focus on the classic post-Mania moments, as they weren't allocated a lot of time in the main feature, and the sound levels are unusually inconsistent near the beginning; one cannot hear what the wrestlers are saying at times as the volume of the background music is much louder. Otherwise, it's a watchable doc, but as noted you can watch a (shorter) version of this on the WWE Network.

The rest of the DVD takes us through the history of the Raw-after-Mania. Bearing in mind that Raw debuted in January 1993, we aren't given any clips from 1993 or 1994 (if my memory serves me correctly, Hulk Hogan becoming WWF Champion was barely even acknowledged on the post-WM IX edition of Raw), so our trip into the past begins with 1995. Bull Nakano vs. Alundra Blayze is one of the better Women's Championship matches from the era, and has a notable post-match angle. From the same show, Diesel and Shawn Michaels rekindle their friendship after an incident involving Michaels' bodyguard Psycho Sid, but bizarrely, there must have been an issue with the show's running time on the night (it was a one-hour show back then), because the key moments took place during a commercial break, the recap is very brief, and so when we're given a full replay of the events, it actually comes from the opening scenes of Raw from the following Monday. Weird.

Next up, Mankind makes his in-ring debut the night after WM XII against Bob "Spark Plugg" Holly, with the attendees who recognised Mankind as being Cactus Jack in ECW making their voices heard, but not so much as to dominate proceedings. We then jump to 1998 and, despite it only being two years later, the WWF product couldn't be more different as we get a Steve Austin-Vince McMahon angle and X-Pac's memorable return as a member of D-Generation X, on a night which some say marked the true beginning of the Attitude Era. There's nothing from 1999, strangely, so after that, it's a quick Chris Jericho-Eddie Guerrero European Championship match from 2000, but 2001 isn't represented at all, which is disappointing since that show included a Steel Cage showdown between newly-turned heel Steve Austin and The Rock.

So, it's onto 2002, and Hulk Hogan officially confirming his babyface turn in a promo alongside The Rock, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall (Nash genuinely took offence to Rock amusingly calling him "Big Daddy B---h" as it wasn't a scripted line, supposedly), and Brock Lesnar making his WWF debut by interrupting a Hardcore Championship match. Then, from 2003, we see a promo which essentially marked the end of Steve Austin's career (most fans assumed it was an angle that would lead to Austin wrestling again later in the year or the following year at a push; as it turned out, Austin has never wrestled again since), an enjoyable three-team match for the World Tag Team Championships (Chief Morley & Lance Storm vs. Rob Van Dam & Kane vs. The Dudleyz), and Goldberg's WWE debut in an angle involving The Rock, who was on fire as a heel whose fame from Hollywood had gone to his head. The years 2004 and 2006 aren't covered, so disc two ends with a forgotten gem of a three-way Intercontinental Title match from 2005 (Shelton Benjamin vs. Christian vs. Chris Jericho) and not one but two 10-team Battle Royals for the World Tag Team Titles from 2007, in an unusual slice of booking that dissolves the shaky John Cena-Shawn Michaels alliance (I found it funny that Jerry Lawler suggested during the first BR that Chavo Guerrero and Gregory Helms were involved, but they didn't show up until the second BR, and Lawler again mentioned them being participants without realising his earlier mistake).

Disc three kicks off in unforgettable fashion via Ric Flair's retirement ceremony from 2008, and is followed by a forgotten Lumberjack match for the Unified Tag Team Titles between Carlito & Primo and The Miz & John Morrison from 2009. Batista's return from injury that night isn't here, nor is Shawn Michaels' retirement speech from 2010 (although it is on the Blu-ray). Therefore, we next turn to 2011, and the night when The Rock and John Cena officially confirmed that they would collide at WrestleMania the following year. However, the true reputation of the post-Mania Raw, from the truly massive moments to the red-hot crowd, began in 2012, as on a night filled with "Yes!" chants and some other unexpected shouts, Brock Lesnar makes a stunning return to WWE by flattening John Cena, which gets one of the loudest pops in Raw history. Amazingly, this reaction is trumped by the next moment, from 2013, as Dolph Ziggler finally cashes in Money In The Bank for a World Championship clash against Alberto Del Rio.

The crowd on that night took things to another level when it came to bizarre yet (mostly) amusing chants, which peaks when Fandango battles Kofi Kingston, only for the crowd to start singing his music, which soon led to his theme tune climbing the iTunes charts and momentarily making him a star. The 2014 show was less notable, though it still has its moments as featured here: The Ultimate Warrior cuts a promo in what would be his final televised appearance, as he would tragically pass away just 24 hours later, and Paige debuts against AJ Lee in a short Divas Title match (with a regrettably botched finish). The crowd was a bit hit-and-miss in 2015, with some chants taking things too far, but there was still fun to be had in the ring, with two enjoyable bouts included here: Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler for the Intercontinental Title and John Cena vs. Dean Ambrose in the first United States Championship Open Challenge. The DVD ends, as one would expect, with the 2016 moments, as Zack Ryder defends the IC gold against The Miz and we're treated to a really good Fatal Four Way, with number one contendership for the WWE World Championship at stake, starring AJ Styles, Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens and Cesaro (who replaced the "injured" Sami Zayn, although we see Sami backstage during the show after his injury angle took place at one point on the documentary, hmm ...).

There's a lot of fun to be had watching this, especially if one gets the Blu-ray version which includes further matches and moments. There are a couple of downsides, though. Although the Raw-after-Mania has become an event in its own right, I'm not sure if the proceedings warranted a full DVD release, as it focuses more on angles than matches, and the vast majority of those have previously been released on DVD. The other thing is that, if you have the WWE Network, you'll be able to find the vast majority of the content here (along with other moments like the aforementioned Austin-Rock Cage collision) in a dedicated collection, meaning that you could just watch everything there, and that's not to mention that every episode of Raw ever is now on the Network if you wanted to watch, say, the 1998 or 2012 shows in their entirety. The documentary on the DVD doesn't remove the references to WWE 24, a Network-exclusive series, despite adding further scenes, and the artwork for the DVD sleeve feels a little lazy, rather than something uniquely designed for this specific release.

Those aside, however, this DVD is a fun one to watch, and a worthy tribute to WWE's most unpredictable television show of the entire year. The timing of its release is clever, since we are just hours away from the 2017 Raw-after-Mania. It remains to be seen what we'll get from tonight's show (or SmackDown tomorrow, since it's the first live SD after WM, meaning that we may be treated to some magical moments there too), and one does wonder if it's always a good thing for the crowd reactions to go completely off the rails (it's great for one night, but with some performers it has spread to crowds throughout the year, and caused a bit of damage in the process). At its core, though, people watch WWE to be entertained, and this DVD definitely succeeds in that regard. The documentary is enjoyable, there's a few good matches here, and if nothing else, you'll be treated to plenty of the biggest or most memorable Raw moments ever, particularly over the last ten years.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 - Good

Friday, 24 March 2017

DVD Review: Diamond Dallas Page: Positively Living

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 424 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: March 27 2017

(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)

Fans who have only discovered wrestling, and primarily WWE, within the last ten years may wonder why the latest personality DVD is based around Diamond Dallas Page. Besides appearances in the 2015 Royal Rumble and the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 32, DDP hasn't wrestled for WWE since 2002, and his WWF/WWE run was a disappointment to him and his fans. So, at first glance, it's a confusing choice. However, when you factor in the man's unlikely journey to stardom, his major WCW success, his popularity, his high-standard ring skills and psychology, and the tremendous work he has done to help other people since retiring as a full-time grappler, you realise that DDP is the perfect candidate for the DVD bio treatment.

The DVD (which unfortunately uses a redone version of Page's theme instead of his WCW theme Self High Five, which in itself was a copy, albeit a very effective one, of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit) begins with a documentary focusing on the life and times of Dallas. We're told about his initial sports success in college and how working as a bar manager led him, after becoming a wrestling fan of course, to send in trial videos to become a manager in the AWA. Then in his early 30s, DDP spent the next few years in the AWA and later WCW, filling the void left behind by great managers who had moved on whilst developing an over-the-top personality with plenty of gimmick props. As Page states here, in WCW he was told that he wouldn't be used as a manager going forward because he was overshadowing the wrestlers, but that's where DDP's journey really begins.

Page, then aged 35, wanted to try his hand at wrestling, age and cynicism be damned. The doubters were legion, but after training in The Power Plant (WCW's training facility, not Mr. Burns' factory from The Simpsons), Page soon made it onto the WCW roster in 1991, albeit as a bottom-of-the-rung level grappler. He busted his behind and honed his craft over the next few years but, whilst he began earning respect and recognition as time went on, it wasn't until 1996 that WCW began using Page in meaningful roles. In early 1997, he declared war on the nWo as part of WCW's biggest ever storyline, and he never looked back.

Having dropped the gimmicks, and adopting the "People's Champion" persona (as well as getting his Diamond Cutter finishing move massively over), Page became one of WCW's biggest stars in a legendary rivalry with Randy Savage, and put on show-stealers against everyone from Sting to Goldberg to Raven. He was also a key factor in two major celebrity-related WCW encounters, which I'll explain more about later. DDP finally became World Champion in 1999, and Page illustrates here how much that honour meant to him, given how he had defied the odds to even become a wrestler (he tells an interesting anecdote about Dusty Rhodes when reflecting on his biggest achievement).

Unfortunately, by this point, WCW had begun slowly crumbling, so Page (who was a heel during his first two WCW Title runs, both of which were brief, so neither factor helped) was a soldier aboard a sinking ship as 1999 progressed and 2000 came along. Surprisingly, there's no mention of the David Arquette situation which, on-screen, Page played a vital role in; it was DDP who Arquette won the WCW Title from in one of the most controversial and criticised booking decisions ever (that Page was Arquette's partner for said title change was one of many problems). Either way, the documentary jumps ahead to the WWF buying WCW and Page coming over as part of the Invasion, cast as a stalker to The Undertaker's then-wife Sara. Page acknowledges that it didn't go well, which was an understatement; the angle began well, if in somewhat questionable taste, but plummeted as DDP was rarely given a chance to succeed, and his character was a stark contrast to his WCW persona. It's also weird, looking back, to see Undertaker cast as a regular human being, with a normal person rather than a supernatural character as his wife. Newer fans may also be confused to learn that Sara, Taker's real-life spouse at the time who appeared on-screen for the plotline, is no longer his wife; that would be former wrestler Michelle McCool, who Taker married in 2010.

Anyway, Page then tells us about his "motivational speaker" character and its modest success in 2002. We're not really told why his WWF/WWE run ended there (he retired in June 2002 due to a back injury), nor what he did in wrestling over the next few years (DDP spent a fair amount of time in TNA, where he returned to the ring as a competitor). The documentary jumps to the early launch and rise of DDP Yoga, which has since defined the man perhaps more than his wrestling exploits. As well as designing an innovative yoga programme that has had worldwide success, Page particularly helped out Jake Roberts and Scott Hall by allowing them to live at his home and, partly via DDP Yoga and partly via his own particular methods of care and assistance, he transformed the lives of two wrestlers who had fallen on very bad times. Although this is covered, it's shorter than I expected; last year's Scott Hall DVD goes into a lot more detail about this, so I would suggest watching that (painfully honest, yet extremely captivating and inspiring) section of the Hall documentary for further details. After covering Page's WWE cameos in recent years, we get a very cool end to the documentary with Triple H calling DDP to inform him about his upcoming Hall Of Fame induction (and the footage is shot in such a way that this is clearly a surprise to Page rather than an orchestrated event). For those who have ever wondered what it's like when someone receives "the call", here's a great example.

I enjoyed the documentary, although it could have done with more time to breathe. Up until he turns babyface in WCW in 1997, the main feature is well-paced, but it seems to be rushed as we cover the next few major years of Page's career, and as noted, the chapter on Jake and Scott is somewhat brief considering that this played a major role in not only their lives but that of Page too, since it opened the eyes of many as to what DDP Yoga could do. It's still a fun and informative documentary, though, and it emphasises not only what a good wrestler DDP was, and how amazing his journey in life has been, but also what a genuinely caring person he is away from the ring. We also get comments from Page's ex-wife Kimberley and his current wife Brenda, as well as family, friends and wrestling personalities such as Eric Bischoff, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, Chris Jericho, Mick Foley, Jake Roberts, Steve Austin and others.

Before we get to the matches, there's the extras, which include a bunch of additional stories from various talking-heads, and a highlight reel of DDP's initial tryout videos at the AWA (this was after he sent the original "practice" tapes, but before he became an official manager at the company). The stories are worthwhile and the highlight reel is fascinating but, in the case of the latter, it goes on so long and has such poor production values (this was in the late 1980s for the third biggest wrestling company in the States, to be fair) that it's a struggle to watch it, even though the tryout section only lasts around 5-6 minutes in total. (By the way, there's a hidden scene if you right-click the middle option on the right-hand side of the story menu.)

The match selection begins with a couple of tag bouts from early on in DDP's WCW career; in fact, the first of these, whilst teaming with The Diamond Studd, is actually his first televised WCW match from what we are told. These early bouts are essentially filler, to be honest; a way to showcase DDP's transition from manager into wrestler, as opposed to being stand-out contests in their own right. One match is of note, for curiosity reasons really, and that's his teaming alongside Mike Graham against Brad Armstrong and Jushin Liger. It's a bizarre set-up, as part of the equally bizarre Lethal Lottery concept which was the basis for Starrcade 1991. It also lasts a long time for a match which, really, has no reason to exist, and on WCW's biggest card of the year too. It is cool to see Liger, though, and it's equally intriguing to see Page teaming with Vinnie Vegas (Kevin Nash), the future Diesel and, erm, Kevin Nash, and Scotty Flamingo, the future Raven, in a quickie from WCW television. Page was definitely made to earn his spot as a valued member of the roster, and perhaps it's only when you consider when these matches took place and when his future PPV main events would be held, and how popular he had become by then in the face of stiff competition, that you truly appreciate how remarkable his progression really was.

The first major DDP match on the DVD, if you can call it that, comes against Johnny B. Badd from Spring Stampede 1994. It's a decent affair, one designed to showcase Badd (Marc Mero) far more than Page, but at this point of his career DDP was still very much considered an opening match act (and sure enough, this bout kicked off that particular PPV). In addition, these two would have much better and more fondly-remembered matches on future WCW supershows, making this particular inclusion slightly confusing. Nevertheless, over the next two-to-three years, Page would hone his act, his skills and, perhaps most importantly, his character; as Eric Bischoff notes in his comments on the documentary, Page needed to shed the over-gimmicked nature of his persona if he wished to really progress. Some meaningful feuds would follow as fans began to take notice of Page and, in particular, his Diamond Cutter finishing move, which by late 1996 was starting to really get over. Nevertheless, DDP wouldn't really make much noise in WCW until he found himself in the crossfires of the nWo, which included the next bout on this collection, DDP vs. Eddie Guerrero from Starrcade 1996 for the vacant United States Championship.

This sounds like a great match on paper, and it's very much watchable, but it's clear for the first half that fans aren't massively interested, and the ending is an nWo interference special (plus, the announcers spend much of the match discussing the nWo and the Hogan-Piper main event). Mind you, it does play a part in setting up what was to come, which we get to see in the next match from Nitro in January 1997, DDP vs. Mark Starr. It's a quick squash win, but after the match comes the big moment, as Page officially becomes a marked man to the nWo by getting revenge on Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. The New Orleans crowd that night, which didn't quite sell out the Silverdome (sorry, Superdome), come unglued, and Page's popularity essentially stems from this simple yet very effective incident. By the way, the narrative that the nWo didn't create any stars or help any careers is totally false, because DDP obviously benefitted, Sting's career was revamped as the Crow and reached new heights, Goldberg would later become one of the biggest stars in the business by taking down the nWo, and even Lex Luger enjoyed previously-unimaginable popularity against the new World order.

Following this major angle, we come to the match that truly "made" Page, a wild main event against Randy Savage from Spring Stampede 1997. Although the theory for 1997-era WCW is that it was all about Hogan (and understandably so, for reasons good and bad), other members of the roster were given a chance to shine too, and this match took DDP from a popular rising star to one of the major babyfaces in the company. The result is a surprise, and the action is gripping, partly due to Savage's maniacal destruction of not only DDP but the ring announcer and even the referee. The lasting impression is of DDP, though, and he was forever grateful to the Macho Man for this bout, which only marked the beginning of a long and highly entertaining feud. We're then treated to a rare Hogan vs. DDP match from an October 1997 edition of Nitro, which unsurprisingly has a somewhat familiar ending to anyone watching Nitro in 1997. By the end of the post-match shenanigans, you almost forget whose DVD you're actually watching.

After a respectable U.S. Title bout against Curt Hennig from Starrcade 1997 and a quick Nitro win over Chris Jericho (who is just evolving into the crybaby, narcissistic and very entertaining heel that essentially launched his career), a strong Raven's Rules brawl against, erm, Raven from Spring Stampede 1998 is next, and it's clear by this point that part of Page's appeal as a wrestler is that he can adapt to any style and any situation. The contrast between this and the upcoming three matches, as well as the previous Savage and Hogan battles, indicate how reliable, talented and effective DDP could be. In another era, and had he entered wrestling a few years younger, with his popularity, it's not exaggerating to suggest that DDP could have become WCW's top babyface above even the likes of Sting and Goldberg, with the right push. Of course, Page would later taste World Championship glory a few times, but more on that shortly.

We then move onto not one but two celebrity matches: DDP and Karl Malone vs. Hollywood Hogan and Dennis Rodman from Bash At The Beach 1998, and Page teaming with Jay Leno against Hogan and Eric Bischoff from Road Wild '98 a month later. Taken for what they are (novelty bouts, albeit both PPV main events), they're entertaining; the BATB clash is the better of the two since the two celebs involved are genuine athletes, and their offence looks more credible (especially Malone's). The fascinating thing watching these two matches is how, by this point, WWF Attitude had really taken off and Raw was beginning to dominate Nitro in the ratings, for the most part, yet it's clear that WCW was still massively popular and came across as a really big deal. Who could have foreseen that, in hindsight, the company would be about to enter a serious decline and little more than 2 ½ years later, would no longer exist?

It was still going strong as 1998 rolled on, though, despite the problems which meant that, due to an overly-long running time, most fans didn't get to see the main event of Halloween Havoc, Goldberg vs. DDP for the World Title. The match was shown again on Nitro the next night (earning the show its final ratings win over Raw, but upsetting those who ordered the PPV, funnily enough), and it is also the next match on this DVD. Good thing, too, since it's a short but great encounter, arguably Goldberg's best prior to his undefeated streak coming to an end. Page has the crowd almost at a frenzy as he aims to be the first man to defeat Goldberg and, in hindsight, perhaps he should have been the man, and this should have been the moment. Nevertheless, it's still a topnotch scrap, and one of the true career highlights for both men. (Incidentally, by this point on the compilation, it almost starts to feel like a Best Of Michael Buffer collection as he has introduced a good half-a-dozen bouts by this point, in his own unique style.) Next up is a U.S. Title match against Bret Hart, which coincidentally happened to be the following night after Havoc 98, which is okay but will be familiar to collectors, as this was also featured on last year's United States Championship collection.

Unsurprisingly, the DVD includes the Fatal Four Way main event from Spring Stampede 1999, pitting Page against Hogan, Ric Flair and Sting, with Macho Man as the referee. This is the night where DDP's big dream would come true, and against some of the industry's biggest stars to boot. The match is good; it could have been better, I suppose, but I couldn't imagine that Page would have been disappointed with how things turned out for his big moment, even if some of the spots involving Savage are very much a head-scratcher. After that, we get what might have been Page's greatest ever match, a 20-minute plus thriller against Sting for the WCW World Title on Nitro. This has been seen on previous DVDs too, but it's so damn good that it's worth revisiting. On this DVD, we're also given the Four-Way match from the same night, involving DDP, Sting, Goldberg and Kevin Nash, which unfortunately is nowhere near as dramatic despite the addition of two more of WCW's top names.

A somewhat strange inclusion is next as Page and Bam Bam Bigelow battle Perry Saturn in a 2-on-1 match with the WCW Tag Team Titles at stake. What makes it odd, besides it not exactly being a classic, is how the DVD suggests that Raven was Saturn's partner, but Raven had apparently been taken out earlier on, with the void eventually being filled by Kanyon. Puzzling, but then again WCW was puzzling by this point, which contributed to its then-ongoing decline and, ultimately, its demise (along with other factors, of course). The DVD ends with a short match, yet an understandable one, as DDP defends the European Championship against Christian at WrestleMania X8. The match is alright, and it allows DDP to finally enjoy a WrestleMania moment as an in-ring competitor.

It may be stating the obvious, but the DVD as a whole does a great job of showcasing the career of Diamond Dallas Page, and why DDP meant so much not only to his fans but also to his co-workers and friends. Although one or two (minor) match selections may have been questionable, overall the bouts on offer tell the DDP story brilliantly, as he goes from an almost laughable manager-turned-wrestler to respected worker to rising star to super-over babyface to World Champion, followed by his slide in WCW's final days and more so once he came to the WWF. The documentary is engaging and informative, if a little on the short side (and, as noted, I would have liked this feature to go into more detail on how he helped Scott Hall and Jake Roberts), but it nonetheless captures exactly why so many people inside and outside the industry have a high opinion of Dallas. The Hall Of Fame tease at the very end is a great touch to end upon, and with his HOF induction imminent (Eric Bischoff will be doing the honours of inducting his old friend), there's no better time to discover why DDP deserves to be in the Hall Of Fame for his work outside the ring as much as his work in it.

It is disappointing to see how the WWF missed the boat on DDP, because he was such a big part of WCW during the 1996-2001 period, but otherwise any DDP fan will treasure this three-disc set. If you still find yourself gesturing for the Diamond Cutter today and you're ready to "Feel The Bang", I strongly recommend this DVD for you. Besides, if you watch it, it's not a bad thing, it's a good thing!

Overall Rating: 8.5/10 - Excellent