“The Best of RAW & SmackDown” has been a stalwart entity on the WWE DVD release schedule for the past several years, however this has been the first year in which we haven’t seen any Blu-ray release. Last year the Blu-ray version became exclusive to the United Kingdom and Europe, but this year at the last minute the Blu-ray version was pulled (a real shame as the planned Blu-ray extras looked to be really good).
Maybe we should be thankful that the entire release wasn’t a casualty of the WWE Network though, like the Best PPV Matches release was for the fans in the United States.
“The Best of RAW & SmackDown 2014” all in all features 20 matches and 7 segments from RAW and SmackDown, meaning the set has a total runtime of 7 hours and 20 minutes across the three discs.
This year The Best of RAW & SmackDown is hosted by the newest addition to the SmackDown announce team Byron Saxton. Saxton provides introduction segments for the matches and segues between the matches/moments allowing the DVD to flow nicely through the year. There are also two new additions to the DVD this year; the first is a series of interview segments with members of the WWE Universe discussing the matches, feuds and superstars.
The other new addition is the alternate commentary, hosted again by Byron Saxton who is joined by Zeb Colter, Bo Dallas and Stardust for three of the matches. Unlike other alternate commentary we have seen on recent DVDs this time you are able to choose the original commentary track or the alternate one.
So with all that out of the way, lets get into the meat and potatoes of the DVD — the matches and promos. For this review, myself (Mark) and Daniel will be taking it in turns to look at each and every bout and segment that’s featured on the new DVD. Enjoy!
Elimination Chamber Qualifying Match: The Shield vs. John Cena, Sheamus & Daniel Bryan (RAW, 1/27/14)
We kick things off with this Elimination Chamber Qualifying Match and the Chamber match these two teams are battling it out to get into is one with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship on the line. I must say, my first thought was that it’s always nice to go back and watch a six-man tag match… if it involved The Shield. This came after the Rumble during which Sheamus had returned and Roman Reigns had eliminated his Shield brothers. It was a rather good encounter with a “Mania season” feel to it, until The Wyatt Family ultimately interrupted festivities and set up a feud with The Shield for the next pay-per-view.
Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan (RAW, 2/3/14)
Our second match up was a really long PPV quality bout between Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton. Following the Royal Rumble (and his feud with The Wyatt Family) Daniel Bryan was amidst a groundswell of support from the fans, which would be known as the “Yes Movement”. Granted, we had seen the match on several of the PPV events in the fall and winter of 2013, however this 25+ minute classic would have been fantastic PPV main event; awesome match.
Fatal Four-Way Match: Rey Mysterio vs. Jack Swagger vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Mark Henry (SmackDown, 2/14/14)
(Alternate Commentary with Zeb Colter)
This four-way was to determine a #1 contender for the Intercontinental Championsip and it was okay really, helped by keeping up a fast pace throughout and the contrasting styles of the Superstars involved, meshing pretty well together. Zeb’s alternate commentary is somewhat cool as he discusses Jack Swagger’s “strategy” going into the match – entirely in kayfabe of course. The match was a thumbs up and the added commentary probably a thumbs in the middle, but at least it’s something a little different.
John Cena vs. Cesaro (RAW, 2/17/2014)
Cesaro went into this match with John Cena a little bit lighter, having just dropped his forename. At the time Cesaro was on the rise within WWE, heading into the Elimination Chamber and here in Denver, CO he had the opportunity to steal the show with John Cena – and steal it they did. Both John Cena and Cesaro looked incredibly strong (both literally and figuratively) on the road to WrestleMania. Don’t just take my word for it, Steve Austin put over this match huge on his podcast and Twitter, in fact to sum up this match I’ll quote the Texas Rattlesnake himself: “Helluva damn match between @JohnCena and @wwecesaro. Good sh*t.” – Steve Austin (@steveaustinBSR) 02/18/14.
Brock Lesnar & The Undertaker’s WrestleMania XXX Contract Signing (RAW, 2/24/14)
This contract signing, as you may recall, was actually Brock Lesnar’s own, as he was able to choose any opponent he wanted for WrestleMania – viewed as nothing but a poor consolation prize by The Beast and Paul Heyman. Undertaker came down (I got goosebumps when the gong sounded, as per usual) and this sets up their feud. We get a nice stare-down and the simple but very cool “pen spot”, followed by a chokeslam to Brock through the table. You can’t fault it, but it’s unfortunate this is one of the only memorable moments between the two on the road to Mania. That said, I suppose anything they did do would have been forgotten anyway at that moment the Streak was broken.
Batista Bashes the WWE Universe (SmackDown, 2/28/14)
Dave Batista’s return to WWE in 2014 can’t really be considered anything but a failure. The fact it all went wrong, was simply because he wasn’t Daniel Bryan. In order to attempt to fix the babyface who was being booed out of the building, Batista need to properly turn heel, this was the promo that set up and established that heel turn. The promo also set up the next match on the DVD as well when Dolph Ziggler came out to challenge the future Guardian of the Galaxy.
Batista vs. Dolph Ziggler (SmackDown, 2/28/14)
So, the match happens later that same night as Batista is forced heel and as the commentators hype up the upcoming WrestleMania main event as The Beast vs. The Viper – Batista vs. Randy Orton (no, we won’t stand for that). Batista’s now clearly the villain as he delivers a statement to the Universe here to “deal with it”. It’s a short but half decent match actually. Ziggler’s made to look good but the Batista Bomb is inevitable.
Tag Team Championship Match: New Age Outlaws vs. The Usos (RAW, 3/3/14)
Held in front of a rather hostile and volatile Chi-Town crowd, The Usos grabbed the brass ring and ascended the ladder to tag team… bronze. The Usos always put on a high octane match to get the crowd invested and this was no exception. The Usos won over and captured the hearts of the Chicago crowd when the final three count came down, Jimmy and Jey kicked off the next chapter in the WWE careers and would go on to have so many great matches throughout the remainder of 2014.
Daniel Bryan “Occupies” RAW (RAW, 3/10/14)
To me RAW and SmackDown in 2014 can be summed up with just a handful of moments and matches, and this moment is right at the very top of that list. Occupy RAW gave us one of the most memorable moments in WWE history, not only was it a really cool, fresh and unique moment but it finally changed the face of the WrestleMania XXX card (which at the time was looking rather lackluster). Occupy RAW = Yes! Yes! Yes!
John Cena vs. Luke Harper (RAW, 3/24/14)
The Cena/Harper match, with the rest of the Wyatt Family at ringside, was quite a compelling one and while it lasted was a good back and forth contest. I was eager to see where it was heading but of course it was heading nowhere because of what was to follow. The lights would go out and the Wyatt’s would appear in the ring with Cena tangled up in the ropes, wearing a sheep mask. It was probably worth interrupting the match to get that great visual though.
Divas Championship Match: AJ Lee vs. Paige (RAW, 4/7/14)
Sadly this is the only segment on the DVD which represents the RAW after WrestleMania XXX – which is always a lively affair. After AJ retained her Divas title against all odds and her impending nuptials to Mr. 434, Miss. 295 was on top of the world when she made the challenge to the NXT rookie Paige. Unfortunately these two ladies were never given the opportunity to steal a show (which they absolutely could). However, even though the match was really nothing to write home about, it was still a cool moment; especially for Paige and NXT fans.
Handicap Match: The Shield vs. Rusev, Alberto Del Rio, Bad News Barrett, Jack Swagger, Fandango, Titus O’Neil, 3MB, and RybAxel (RAW, 4/14/14)
The Shield found themselves in a massive handicap match here during the Evolution feud. The 11 on 3 match was a thing to behold early on, seeing the mass of humanity and the challenge ahead of the hounds. Unfortunately, it quickly broke down into a brawl between all involved parties who beat down The Shield. Why? Because this was the ending segment of a RAW (but a gooden) as Evolution came out to pick up the scraps and made a statement by way of an RKO, Batista Bomb and a Pedigree.
The Wyatt Family and Children Surround the Ring (RAW, 4/28/14)
A John Cena promo on a Best of 2014 DVD… [sigh]. Thankfully this didn’t quite end up as the average John Cena promo. While the Cena vs. Wyatt feud may have done more damage to Bray Wyatt than good, the feud did however have a few cool moments, and this here was one of them. As Cena delivered his promo he was interrupted by a child singing “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands”. Well, it turned out that it wasn’t just one youngster; it was a whole choir of them as they proceeded to surround the ring in their ghoulish sheep masks. The whole ordeal had Cena shocked to his very core – but I suspect he was probably just gutted that all those kids were wearing Wyatt ‘merch’ and not neon wrist bands, baseball caps, t-shirts and dog tags.
20-Man Battle Royal for the United States Championship (RAW, 5/5/14)
The night after Extreme Rules, and still amid the Shield/Evolution rivalry, Triple H ordered a big battle royal to kick off RAW and decide the United States Champion (held then of course by Dean Ambrose). It was entertaining but standard battle royal fare until Ambrose and Sheamus began hoofing people out and ended up as the last 2 competitors. At the time (and again now) I thought that even if the Shield were babyfaces at this point they surely could give Ambrose a helping hand since he was unfairly put up against 19 opponents and since they were outside the ring just steps away! But that wasn’t to be.
John Cena & The Usos vs. The Wyatt Family (SmackDown, 5/9/14)
A tag match on SmackDown, can you believe that… playas? Since the arrival of The Shield and later with The Wyatt Family we’ve had some really awesome six-man tag team matches – real kick ass, balls to the wall six-man tag matches… six-man tag matches that have stolen and even headlined PPVs! While this particular match wasn’t quite to the standard of some of other the bouts we seen in 2014, it was still an action packed and exciting TV main event. Plus it featured a wild out of nowhere finish meaning everyone remained strong — you can’t ask for more.
Bo Dallas vs. Sin Cara (SmackDown, 5/23/14)
(Alternate Commentary with Bo Dallas)
Bo Dallas’ debut with Bo Dallas on commentary! This would be the first match of his “16 and Bo” winning streak, as we hear from Bo Dallas himself and Byron Saxton in the alternate audio exclusive to the DVD. It’s just an okay match. The commentary is just okay too but it’s unique to hear directly from the star debuting and humorous at times when Bo’s talking about his “philosophy of positivity”.
Seth Rollins Turns on The Shield (RAW, 6/2/14)
Rewind 24 hours prior and The Shield were unified, the Hounds of Justice fought the Evolution trio in another thrilling six-man tag team match at the Payback PPV. This here was originally scheduled to be a one-on-one rematch featuring Roman Reigns taking on Randy Orton, however everything went a little awry. Prior to the “match” The Shield delivered a promo discussing their bond, likening their relationship to that of brothers, and this only made Seth Rollins’ turn on his Shield brethren even more powerful.
To me, this moment would be the most shocking WWE TV moment of 2014 (of course the ending of the Streak would undoubtedly be 2014’s most shocking PPV moment). Both of these moments left the WWE Universe in stunned silence. Another cool and subtle thing about this whole incident was delivered by Triple H as he, Rollins and Orton stood above the fallen Ambrose and Reigns when he channeled the iconic meth-lord Walter White as The Game mouthed the words “I Win”.
This ends disc two with a huge cliff-hanger. Lets head over to disc three to find out “Why Seth? Why?”…
Seth Rollins Explains His Side (SmackDown, 6/6/14)
The “Why Seth? Why?” segment that followed later the same week did the job. Triple H and Seth Rollins deliver a short but meaningful promo to get over Rollins’ new alignment. In fact it’s very short and I don’t know whether or not it was cut down here for the DVD so it ended after right Rollins was done talking, but it certainly looks that way.
Gold & Stardust vs. RybAxel (RAW, 6/16/14)
(Alternate Commentary with Stardust)
Much like we had Bo Dallas’ debut match from earlier, we now have Stardust’s debut complete with alternate commentary. The match is very short and very one sided, in fact neither Goldust or Ryback are even legally involved. The alternate commentary is a little out there here (as you might expect with Stardust). Did you know that if you put the planet Saturn in a body of water it would float? No, me neither.
Mud Pool Match: Vickie Guerrero vs. Stephanie McMahon (RAW, 6/23/14)
Vickie’s suddenly a babyface (I guess) after an encounter with Stephanie McMahon earlier that night, and as she comes out for this “match” using Eddie Guerrero’s entrance theme. Everyone can see it’s looking like this is Vickie’s farewell so the fans seem to buy it. I think this moment is one we all have no trouble remembering from 2014 so for that reason it’s probably a worthy addition to the set. Steph sends out 3 Divas to do her dirty work but somehow Vickie fends all 3 of them off and gets them a little dirty in the process! Vickie ends up in the mud (and fired) but throws Steph in there too for a little revenge. Looking back, it’s a decent send off for Vickie.
Brie Bella & Stephanie McMahon’s SummerSlam Contract Signing (RAW, 8/4/14)
A WWE contract signing, of course this would be a civilized affair with Stephanie McMahon and Brie Bella formally affixing signatures to the contract for their SummerSlam contest, followed with handshakes as they part ways. Pfft, of course not! The Stephanie/Brie match might have been the best built match on the SummerSlam card with its roots dating back to the Authority vs. Daniel Bryan feud which began the previous summer. The contract signing shook out really nicely and did a great job of re-establishing Stephanie as an in-ring force as she laid out The Bella Twins.
The Authority Introduces Brock Lesnar as WWE Champion (RAW, 8/18/14)
After dominating Cena at SummerSlam the night before, Brock Lesnar is awarded the new championship (well, just the same one with a new logo added if I recall). For the benefit of those with flash photography, The Authority, Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman pose for the fans in attendance. Standard stuff here but Heyman does go on to deliver a quite frankly awesome promo – we learn the “basic Brockanomics” are to “eat, sleep, suplex, repeat”!
Falls Count Anywhere Match: Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins (RAW, 8/18/2014)
On the heels of their surprisingly awesome Lumberjack Match, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose met again the next night on RAW in a Falls Count Anywhere Match (as voted for by the WWE Universe). From the opening bell these two went all out to provide us with one of the best matches on WWE TV in 2014, really this one wouldn’t have been out of place as a PPV main event. Their hatred of each other was almost palpable and for a Falls Count Anywhere Match this had everything: high spots, wild brawling and weapons – it was the total package, it was an incredibly enjoyable match. FYI: If you’re planning a building project anytime soon, you might want to avoid the place where WWE buys their cinder blocks; they’re a little substandard.
Steel Cage Match: Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt (RAW, 9/8/14)
Best match on the DVD? Well, it’s up there. Even after viewing this one a couple of times, the Jericho/Wyatt cage match still has quite the atmosphere to it with an overall split crowd watching on. The match flows with no real slow parts to it. The dive off the cage is still a great spot and those fans really showed their appreciation for it. The dive is the beginning of the end for Y2J as he damaged his knee, which Wyatt takes advantage of afterward, ultimately crawling over Jericho at the cage door and dropping out for the win. A match that really had to be included and one I have no real qualms about being on the new Jericho DVD either.
The Rock Interrupts Rusev and Lana (RAW, 10/6/14)
When The Big Show was unable to meet Rusev’s challenge (following his suspension for the desecration of the Russian flag) it was down to the jabroni-beating, pie eating, trailblazing, eye brow raising, people’s champ…. THE ROCK! The Rock FINALLY came back to Monday Night RAW to verbally (and physically) layeth the Smacketh Down on the “Bulgarian Brute” Rusev and the “Ravishing Russian” Lana. Ultimately, this would turn out to be just a one time deal and wouldn’t lead to anything more between the two, but it was still a really cool RAW moment. Plus, it’s always nice to have an unexpected appearance by The Great One.
15-Man Tag Team Match: Team Teddy vs. Team Johnny (SmackDown, 10/10/14)
The Team Teddy vs. Team Johnny match was surprisingly a lot of fun and quite exciting throughout. I’m not sure why John Laurinaitis was in the running to be named the best GM in SmackDown history but oh well. It’s a 15-man tag match taking place on the 15th anniversary of the show and in part features a gator vs. a bull – what more can you really ask for?
Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins (RAW, 11/3/2014)
Randy Orton had really found himself in this role, at this time Orton was on the verge of being something that he hadn’t been for so long — fresh and interesting. While the match here with Seth Rollins wasn’t too spectacular it did provide a means to the end. Orton was off to film the new Condemned movie and thus need to be written out of WWE TV for a while, plus the whole angle helped re-establish Randy Orton and helped put some heat on The Authority heading into the Survivor Series.
Triple Threat Match for the Intercontinental Championship: Dolph Ziggler vs. Cesaro vs. Tyson Kidd (SmackDown, 11/14/2014)
A triple threat I’d never watched before (even if it took place approximately 10 minutes away from where I live, in the Liverpool Echo Arena) and for that reason I’d call it a bit of a “hidden gem” for me. It might be the same for you. This was an elimination style triple threat match (surely quite rare) with a great pace to it all the way and some awesome moves you’d only really get from the likes of Cesaro, Kidd and Ziggler working together. Worth a look.
John Cena, Ryback, & Dolph Ziggler vs. Seth Rollins, Kane & Luke Harper (RAW, 12/1/14)
Is this the Best of RAW & SmackDown 2014 or is it 2011? Forgive my confusion as this particular night saw the triumphant return of… [groan] The Anonymous RAW General Manager. Regretfully, I feel this match was purely a way to get some December on the DVD. The match was basically a way to set up for the big four gimmick matches at the Tables, Ladders, Chairs ….and Stairs PPV and coming off the awesome Survivor Series elimination match just days earlier, this was fundamentally a trimmed down version of that match, however it fell, way, way, way short of that match up. If you’re looking for a positive, I guess it means that the set ends with all the baby faces standing tall – thus sending us all home happy (so-to-speak).
All in all, after more than 156 hours of RAW and another 100+ hours of SmackDown in 2014, it’s all too easy to remember all the bad matches, the boring segments and the all too common malaise and repetitiveness that seems to be present in the WWE product. However, a set like this really does point out that it isn’t all that bad; actually there is some REALLY good wrestling on WWE TV. In fact you could make the argument that the current in-ring product is the very best that it has been in ages… possibly ever!
It was nice to see WWE go a little bit further than they have in the past in terms of the production on this set. The addition of the alternate commentary and the fan interview segments, while they didn’t add too much exposition, still made for nice additions to the set.
In conclusion, if you love these sets; you’re sure to like this one. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t much look forward to these releases; we think you’ll find enough cool matches and moments to make this DVD worth your time and money. The DVD does an excellent job of representing some of the very best of WWE in 2014 — actually we would have welcomed a forth disc of matches and moments on top.
Get your copy of the WWE “Best of RAW & Smackdown 2014” DVD on pre-order…