In recent years, WWE has found success in releasing compilation sets spotlighting different match types, such as the ladder match, cage match, or even Hell-in-a-Cell. This time, the wild brawls get their time in the limelight, be it Falls Count Anywhere, Street Fight, or even an old Alley Fight. At first glance, this seems like a fairly random set to release. In today’s wrestling world, the Falls Count Anywhere match doesn’t mean as much as matches like a ladder match or a TLC match. It has had a very storied history though, and allowed for a huge variety of matches to be seen on the set. As I will get to throughout this review, that ends up being a double-edged sword. While this set is filled with a lot of variety, it also lacks a strong direction.
This match type has also been hit-or-miss for me in general in terms of being a wrestling fan. When planned well, it can be used to put together a great story. Take, for example, the street fight between Cactus Jack and Triple H from Royal Rumble 2000 (which is sadly absent from this set). It also can simply end up being a group of weapons moves and highspots used to little effect. Ultimately, we get a mixed bag here, and unfortunately I felt more of the matches were the latter rather than the former. Discs 1 and 2 run about 2 hours, 10 minutes, and Disc 3 runs about 2 hours, 45 minutes. The set is rated TV-14, and we have the usual edits in Ventura commentary and the scratch logo (I didn’t notice any music changes right away, but I may have missed them).
As I’ve pointed out in our last two DVD releases, this set follows the usual format of most WWE match compilations. Mick Foley serves as our host, and overall he was a good choice. You get exactly what you think you are going to get with Foley. He tells some pretty bad jokes that I think he knows are bad, and they can get annoying, but it never really made me want to skip his segments. He’s at his best when talking about his own career. At those moments, you feel him shifting from the Mick Foley persona to Mick Foley, the person. The biggest problem with the hosting has nothing to do with Foley himself, though. Because this set lacks cohesion, Foley never really gets an overarching story to tell throughout his different vignettes. On the recent Clash of the Champions and ECW sets, Dusty Rhodes & Joey Styles introduced matches while still telling the stories of the Clash and ECW, respectively. On this set, though, all Foley really is able to do is introduce certain matches. At this point, it really would have made more sense to have him introduce every match, or none at all. They did end up giving him the right matches to introduce individually (for the most part), but it all feels really disjointed.
Even if this set is disjointed, I still did feel like WWE did a decent job breaking down the discs. If the Austin Vs. Hart match at the end of Disc 1 moved to Disc 2, it would be very easy to break the discs down as Pre-Attitude Era, Attitude Era, and Post-Attitude Era. That ended up working out pretty well, but to be quite honest the match hasn’t really had a very clear evolution. Street Fight and Falls Count Anywhere matches haven’t really changed all that drastically in the way brawling around the ring and weapons are used. The Sting Vs. Cactus Jack street fight from 1992, for example, feels like it could fit in today’s market, and doesn’t feel out of place for 1992 either. This ends up being the biggest shortcoming of the DVD set. There is no real narrative to drive the set. This, again, is why the Foley segments suffer as well. This may sound overly harsh, but the DVD set ends up serving little purpose outside of being a fun collection of matches (and the fun isn’t even always there, but more on that in a bit).
Alley Fight: Pat Patterson Vs. Sgt. Slaughter (5/4/81) – ** 1/2
A legendary brawl that is a lot of fun to watch. Every move in the match means something, which is refreshing to see in today’s world of constant high spots. Slaughter bleeds buckets during this match, which makes the ultimate finish of the match work perfectly.
Atlanta Street Fight: Jimmy Valiant & Ms. Atlanta Lively Vs. The Midnight Express (Starrcade, 11/28/85) – ** 1/4
Another fun brawl. Valiant was really over with the crowd, and although I wasn’t very familiar with him before watching this match, I now can see why. He reminds me a lot of the best traits of the Necro Butcher. Ms. Atlanta Lively (Ronnie Garvin in drag) would sound like something dumb, but actually ends up being fun. The match is kept short, which prevents it from being anything too memorable, but also helps to keep it exciting.
NWA Tag Team Championship Street Fight: Doom Vs. Barry Windham & Arn Anderson (Starrcade, 12/26/90) – ** 1/4
A decent match, but ultimately meaningless. The finish seems like a good twist at first, but then never really goes anywhere, and you are left with basically no ending. You do feel the fact that these two teams hate each other, which is good, but the story of the match never flows too well.
Falls Count Anywhere Match: Sting Vs. Cactus Jack (Beach Blast, 6/20/92) – *** 3/4
This match is probably Foley’s best match from his brief tenure in WCW. Sting and Foley end up working together really well. This is a great example of how you can tell a good story while still using a good number of high spots and brawls around the ring.
Falls Count Anywhere Match: Randy Savage Vs. Crush (Wrestlemania X, 3/20/94) – *
The added twist of this Falls Count Anywhere match is that after the fall, the person pinned has 60 seconds to return to the ring. At first it sounds like a clever idea, but in the end, we spend too much of this match watching one of the competitors try to crawl to the ring for a minute. The match never really has a flow because of this, and it didn’t help that Crush was never a great in ring worker.
Chicago Street Fight: The Road Warriors Vs. Booker T & Sting (Uncensored, 3/20/94) – *
This is probably the “worst match that should have been good” I’ve ever seen. It goes nearly 30 minutes, and in the end, none of it means anything. This match has absolutely no flow or rhythm to it. It becomes simply a collection of wrestling maneuvers that have nothing to do with each other. This could have been OK if the match were at least a bit shorter, but it feels ENDLESS because of its length. I would recommend skipping over this and saving the half hour if you watch this DVD; even if there were worse matches on the set, at least they were all really short.
Chicago Street Fight: Ahmed Johnson & The Legion of Doom Vs. The Nation of Domination (Wrestlemania 13, 3/23/97) – **
Its hard to even call this a match; it ends up just being a fight. That being said, this is probably the best way to do a fun brawl. The action is kept high, and the match doesn’t overstay its welcome, even if there is very little storytelling going on. Keep your eyes peeled for a young Colt Cabana sitting in the front row and trying to get in on the action himself.
Street Fight: Stone Cold Steve Austin Vs. Bret Hart (Raw, 4/21/97) – ** 1/2
This is a very short brawl that helps to continue the Austin Vs. Hart feud. Don’t expect much in-ring, but you do get some great character development from Austin and the Hart Foundation. I wasn’t familiar with this segment before watching this DVD, and it was really cool to see some early work from Austin as he was perfecting the “Stone Cold” character. In my opinion, the best “hidden gem” found on this set.
Falls Count Anywhere Match: Cactus Jack Vs. Triple H (Raw, 9/22/97) – ***
This is a very famous match and I think helped make both men’s careers in the WWE. It is another great example of elevating the different weapons spots. It is clearly inspired by the types of weapons matches that were going on in ECW at the time, but they make the match work for the nationally televised WWE audience.
ECW Death Match: Taz Vs. Bam Bam Bigelow (Heatwave, 8/2/98) – ***
At first, it feels cheap to me for there to be one random ECW match on the set simply so that it can be advertised that ECW is represented on the set. This match does at least have the added Falls Count Anywhere gimmick (which makes it an “ECW Death Match”), and does actually feel like it fits well with the other matches on the set. A relatively short match here that is mostly remembered for one particular spot. Nothing bad, but there were a lot of better matches on the recent ECW Unreleased Vol.1 set.
Hardcore Championship Match: Al Snow Vs. Hardcore Holly (St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, 8/22/99) – * 1/2
Even though this match isn’t great, I think it is a good representation of the “garbage” matches that were being done for the Hardcore title at the time. The match is all about topping the previous weapon with an even more outlandish weapon. This match ends up on the Mississippi River bank, and even though it is by no stretch of the imagination “good wrestling”, it is fun to watch.
Fully Loaded Strap Match: The Rock Vs. Triple H (Fully Loaded, 7/25/99) – ** 1/2
This is a match we’ve seen on a few DVD releases now, and it really is only there because there are two big names involved. When I first saw the match, I was pretty disappointed. Triple H is great in hardcore matches, and The Rock is a great entertainer as well. This match stays stalled in second gear pretty much the entire time. It drags along, and although the spots all make sense, its not particularly exciting.
“Love Her or Leave Her” Greenwich Street Fight: Test Vs. Shane McMahon (Summerslam, 8/22/99) – * 3/4
Yet another typical hardcore match of the Attitude Era here. You get the typical “big spot” from Shane McMahon, and a lot of involvement from the Mean Street Posse. This match’s biggest problem is just that it ends up going on for a bit too long, and the spots become more meaningless as a result.
WWE Championship Match: The Big Show Vs. Kane (Raw, 12/20/99) – 3/4 *
A boring, short match that is more about the start of the McMahon-Helmsley era on Raw (which is somewhat cool to see) than what is actually going on between the two men. Kane & Big Show aren’t really given an opportunity to show anything here, so it ends up being a really strange choice for this particular set.
Hardcore Championship “Match”: Crash Holly Vs. The Headbangers (Smackdown, 3/16/00) – N/A
A fun example of the 24/7 Hardcore Rules era in the WWE. Not really a match, and really short, so it’s a fun little divergence on the set.
Street Fight: Mr. McMahon Vs. Shane McMahon (Raw, 10/29/01) – **
Its funny that you could call a match between Vince & Shane McMahon a disappointment, but in this case, it is. This match is nowhere near the level of their classic from Wrestlemania X-Seven. The match goes through very similar spots, but lacks the gravitas of Wrestlemania. This is a good example of the crazy booking that was going on at the end of the Invasion angle, a polarizing phase of WWE history.
Street Fight: Mr. McMahon Vs. Ric Flair (Royal Rumble, 1/20/02) – *** 1/4
A great story is told throughout this match. Naturally, Flair bleeds buckets, and having his family at ringside helps add to the drama. Vince always knew how to work with his limitations in the ring and still create a great story, and this is another example.
Unsanctioned Street Fight: Shawn Michaels Vs. Triple H (Summerslam, 8/25/02) – **** 1/2
This match still remains one of my personal favorites. The match is booked perfectly, and even the post-match angle is well done. If you don’t already own this match on another DVD, this is a must have, and easily “Match of the DVD”.
World Heavyweight Championship Street Fight: Triple H (w/ Ric Flair) Vs. Kevin Nash (w/ Shawn Michaels) (Insurrextion, 6/7/03) – ***
This was probably the most pleasant surprise on the set. I was expecting a really terrible match, and what I got was actually pretty fun. Flair and Michaels do add some fun to the match, and Triple H works well with Nash to show his strengths and hide his in-ring weaknesses. If you go in with high expectations you may not love it, but it ends up being fun and, surprisingly, one of the better matches on the set.
Women’s Championship Falls Count Anywhere Match: Melina Vs. Mickie James (Raw, 3/5/07) – *
I can appreciate including a women’s match on this set, but unfortunately Melina and Mickie don’t really get a chance to show their skills in the ring. This match devolves into a “backstage brawl”, which is mildly entertaining, but disappointing. These two are great in-ring talents, and you don’t get to see that at all. Plus, guest ring announcer Ashley Massarro may be the worst ring announcer ever.
Street Fight: Triple H Vs. Umaga (Cyber Sunday, 10/29/07) – ** 3/4
A very generic match. It runs about 18 minutes, which in my opinion was a little too long. You get the typical spots from Triple H, though, and Umaga was an underrated talent. Isn’t unique enough to be elevated to a great match, but not bad either.
Street Fight: John Cena Vs. Umaga (Raw, 6/16/08) – * 3/4
Another generic match here, this one a typical TV match. Also does help that it can be compared to the surprisingly great match Cena and Umaga had at the 2007 Royal Rumble.
Submissions Count Anywhere Match: D-Generation X Vs. Legacy (Breaking Point, 9/13/09) – ** 1/2
A decent match that is best when the two teams are in the ring, but gets boring when they start brawling at different points around the arena. I’ve never been a fan of the “brawl through the arena” match where in the end, the superstars really just do nothing but punch and kick each other for like 5 minutes with the occasional weapons shot tossed in. These four show their talents when they are in the ring, but the rest of the match brings it down.
Street Fight: Rey Mysterio Vs. Batista (Smackdown, 12/11/09) – *** 1/4
Mysterio and Batista had excellent chemistry, and this match helps shows that pretty clearly. Not too long, but I think the right amount of time to tell the story they were trying to tell. All the hardcore spots are used nicely as well. A really good match that makes me want to revisit this feud.
Street Fight: Randy Orton Vs. Cody Rhodes (Smackdown, 11/4/11) – ***
A pretty good match that, for a Smackdown match, is given a lot of time to tell a nice story. Rhodes shows why he is a future big name in the WWE, and Orton works very well with him. A fun match.
So far, we’ve had a really great year for WWE DVD’s, with the worst DVD still being pretty damn good, but this looks like our first clunker of the year. The gimmick match compilation sets released in the past have been, as far as I know, pretty big sellers. I wasn’t surprised when this set was released, but my biggest fear ended up coming true. As I mentioned earlier in the review, the matches are too disjointed and there’s no narrative to guide us through the matches. They did do a good job showing the large variety we can see in this match type, which could have been a nice aspect to focus on, but they never really do. And the 2nd disc in particular becomes really repetitive in the types of matches shown. The only thing that could have possibly helped the set overcome the lack of purpose was being a set of really great matches, but it doesn’t deliver in that aspect either.
Honestly, the matches on the set ended up being much less repetitive than I was anticipating. I really hate the “brawl through the crowd” matches. They are great when you are there live, but on TV, it really just ends up being a bunch of punches and kicks and the occasional weapons shot. You can’t really build a story in that way. Fortunately, we didn’t get too much of that on this set. There is a pretty nice variety of matches, but there aren’t that many gems. The Triple H Vs. Shawn Michaels match is the only match that is really worth going out of your way to see, but I know this has been released on other compilations in the past. Outside of that, we get some other good matches, but nothing spectacular. Fortunately, most of the bad matches are pretty short and, at times, entertaining in their silliness, with the Snow/Holly match being the best example of that. I may get a lot of heat for this (and I admit I didn’t watch the stuff live), but this set does remind me that during the Attitude Era, the in-ring match quality outside of the main events wasn’t all that great. Sure, you had some amazing main events, and the undercard matches picked up a lot in 2000 when Angle, Jericho, etc. joined the company. But particularly in 1998 and 1999, I’ve found that a large majority of undercard matches were pretty mediocre. This set epitomizes that, and what I would call the “Attitude Era Disc” (Disc 2), is probably the weakest disc (although that Road Warriors Vs. Sting & Booker T match on Disc 1 is easily the most painful thing on the set because it’s so long).
The use of matches from outside of the WWE was, for the most part, pretty good. The set does a good job recognizing that this type of match was much more prevalent in the NWA and WCW before it became popular in the WWE. The matches themselves weren’t too spectacular, but they still were happening there more than in the WWE. The ECW match feels random, but they do a decent job justifying its presence in that it has the added Falls Count Anywhere gimmick that wasn’t too commonplace in ECW.
There were some other positives to come out of this set as well. You do get a very good variety of match types and wrestlers. No wrestlers are featured on here too frequently, and the only wrestler who makes a lot of appearances is Triple H. I didn’t have a problem with this. One of Triple H’s best skills in the ring is in hardcore matches. He’s really good at making all the weapons spots mean something. He has been in a ton of classic gimmick matches, so his presence throughout this DVD makes a lot of sense. There are definitely some guys who I wish would have been on the set, and the most glaring omission for me is probably The Undertaker. Still, I thought the match variety worked out pretty well. Even if the set isn’t all that great, it wasn’t too painful to sit through. We also get a lot of matches that haven’t been released on DVD, and I think that early Austin segment is a real gem to have on DVD. As many people have already commented on, the box art is also fantastic. I do have a bit of a problem with Austin being featured so prominently when he is barely even on the set, but I certainly understand why he is there.
Overall, this set isn’t a total disaster, but it’s nothing worth going out of your way to pick up either. “Garbage wrestling” has a negative connotation to it, and this set both helps get rid of that connotation and prove it to be true. There are some matches that are elevated above this moniker, but too many of the matches just end up being hardcore for the sake of being hardcore. Also, most of these really great matches have already been released on previous compilations. You get the feeling that this DVD was put through production fairly quickly when watching it. Its a nice piece to add to your collection because of some rare footage, but that footage isn’t necessarily amazing. If you are a DVD completist, I’m sure you will be buying it anyway, but if not, I’d recommend any of the other compilation sets that have come out in 2012 before you pick this one up.
What did everyone else think? Did you pick up on more of a structure to the set than I did? Let us know in the comments below.