Each year, the WWE’s Top 50 countdown DVD is easily the most controversial release. Everyone loves debating lists, and these countdowns have certainly welcomed that. Of course, the Top 50 Superstars countdown was very controversial, and I think the Top 50 Moments left a bit to be desired for most fans. With Top 50 Finishing Moves, I think WWE got the countdown the most “right”. At the same time, though, this is less interesting subject matter than the previous two lists.
The countdown runs on Disc 1 on the set, and runs a little under 2 hours. Discs 2 and 3 contain bonus matches (and one bonus segment), a lot of which are new to compilation DVDs. Disc 2 runs about 2 hours, 20 minutes and Disc 3 runs about 2 hours, 50 minutes. Please note: SPOILERS for the countdown follow in the Main Feature section of the review.
“Kick! Stunner!”: The Main Feature & Format
Like previous countdown sets, the main feature runs like any of the countdown shows you may have seen on VH1 or other cable channels over the past 10 years. Each finisher is given about 2 minutes, and features archival footage mixed in with superstar interviews. Each entrant on the list is introduced with a lottery ball type graphic. Fortunately, we don’t have a jingle to give us all nightmares like the “Oh My God” song last year, but this graphic doesn’t really have much to do with finishing moves. It doesn’t take away from the countdown at all, but is an arbitrary choice.
Of course, no one is going to agree completely with the ranking of each finisher, so I don’t want to spend too much time debating it, but there are a few thoughts I quickly wanted to start with. (Again, this will be the spoiler heavy section!) Overall, I thought this was the best ranking of the 3 DVD’s so far. While you may not agree completely with the placement of each move, overall the general ranking makes a lot of sense. The WWE did a good job separating the maneuver from the superstar as well. For example, even though no one would rank Randy Orton over John Cena on a list of the greatest superstars of all time, I agree that the RKO should rank above the Attitude Adjustment on the countdown. It also was cool to see 2 Cold Scorpio/Flash Funk’s 450 Splash on the list. Fortunately, the WWE revisionist history isn’t too heavily present on this DVD. Hogan’s Leg Drop is put at a fine place on the countdown, unlike Hogan’s placement on the Top 50 Superstars DVD.
My biggest problem with the countdown was something that at first I was quite happy about. I was pleasantly surprised to see Sting’s Scorpion Death Lock on the list, but technically, it shouldn’t be on a list of the top maneuvers in WWE history since Sting never wrestled for the WWE. Usually, I don’t care about these technicalities, and ultimately I don’t really care that much about its inclusion. By including this move, though, the WWE is opening up this list to the greatest finishing moves in WRESTLING history. If that’s the case, then I don’t feel wrong for arguing that the Styles Clash, Muscle Buster, or Package Piledriver should have been included. Again, I was happy to see Sting recognized for this DVD, but they did open up the floodgates for non-WWE moves to be welcomed onto the countdown.
The number of superstars being interviewed for this DVD seemed a bit smaller than past DVDs, but I liked that we got a lot of the same superstars commenting on each maneuver. The standout was probably Jim Ross, and I’m sure he will be the standout for most fans as well. I also really enjoyed the added commentary from William Regal and Matt Striker, who is at his best when talking about wrestling history. The different superstars did a great job explaining why a finisher is successful without ever blatantly breaking kayfabe, but still speaking openly about it. I actually understand why the Mandible Claw is supposed to be painful because of this DVD. Fortunately, we don’t have Santino or any similar superstars there specifically to be comedy this time around. I was expecting this from Brodus Clay, who is used quite often, but he actually has some lucid things to say. Of course, Dusty Rhodes wasn’t exactly the most lucid in his statements, but it wouldn’t be Dusty if you totally understood what he was talking about all the time.
The actual subject matter of the DVD ends up being the biggest downside to the documentary. Since the countdown is about finishing moves, for each segment, we are simply watching a superstar perform his/her finishing move for 2 minutes. This gets really repetitive. Of course, we do have the interviews to help break this up, but I still was getting bored watching mostly finishing moves. This is particularly troubling when the superstar has a fast finishing move. Take, for example, JBL and the Clothesline from Hell. I didn’t count, but over the course of that segment, we must have seen at least 30 clotheslines. In the end, I watched this documentary in 2 sittings instead of 1, which I do think says something. I still would say its fun to watch, but can get very repetitive.
“Tuning Up the Band”: The Bonus Matches
DDT Vs. Rude Awakening Match: Jake Roberts Vs. “Ravishing” Rick Rude (10/24/88) – *** 1/4
A well-paced “old school WWF” style match. I always enjoyed the “must hit finisher to win” gimmick, which doesn’t seem to get used all that often.
Intercontinental Championship Match: Mr. Perfect Vs. Kerry Von Erich (1/13/91) – ** 3/4
A fun, yet short match. Both men look pretty good, and Mr. Perfect was pretty much at the top of his game at this point in his career.
WWE Championship Match: Bret Hart Vs. Bob Backlund (Superstars, 7/30/94) – ****
An excellent technical contest. Unlike some technical matches, this one never gets boring. Hart and Backlund are great storytellers, and each move makes sense in the overall match they are putting together.
WCW Tag Team Championship Match: Kevin Nash & Scott Hall Vs. Lex Luger & The Giant (Superbrawl VII, 2/23/97) – * 1/4
This match pretty well epitomizes the problems with WCW in the late 90’s. The in-ring action isn’t great, and the booking tries to hard to be shocking for the sake of being shocking.
Mankind Vs. Jerry “The King” Lawler (King of the Ring, 6/8/97) – ** 1/2
A fairly standard in ring match. The real standout of this match was seeing the promos from both Mankind and Lawler before the match, which were great.
Rob Van Dam Vs. 2 Cold Scorpio (Living Dangerously, 3/1/98) – *** 3/4
At the start of this match, I was really loving it. Towards the middle of the match, though, both men spend a bit too much time going for their top rope maneuvers, and it ends up hurting the flow of the match. Still very well done, but could have been a real classic if not for some strange pacing issues.
WCW Championship Match with Guest Referee Randy Savage: Ric Flair Vs. Hollywood Hogan Vs. DDP Vs. Sting (Spring Stampede, 4/11/99) – ** 1/2
Although this match is a lot of fun, it is on full speed the whole time and at times can be a mess. It slows down a bit once Hogan is taken out of the match, but still becomes a collection of signature maneuvers. Fun to watch, but in no ways an in-ring classic.
Chris Jericho & The Rock Vs. Kurt Angle & Steve Austin (Smackdown, 11/15/01) – *** 1/4
A great TV tag match featuring four of the best of the era. Not given enough time to be anything amazing, but still enjoyable. The post-match is also a lot of fun and is very fitting for this DVD set.
Rob Van Dam & Bubba Ray Dudley Vs. Brock Lesnar & Eddie Guerrero (Raw, 6/3/02) – ** 1/2
Another fun, short TV match from early in Lesnar’s WWE career.
No Disqualification Match: Shawn Michaels & Jeff Hardy Vs. Chris Jericho & Christian (Raw, 2/17/03) – ** 1/4
The No DQ gimmick actually hampered what could have been a great match; the hardcore spots didn’t work particularly well, especially the business with the handcuffs. A decent match, but ultimately a disappointment given the caliber of the four men involved.
The Rock Vs. Goldberg (Backlash, 4/27/03) – **
I think the WWE’s goal in this match was to keep it short and try to rely on crowd reactions (a la Rock/Hogan from WM X8), but it didn’t work here because you didn’t have that Wrestlemania atmosphere. A very average match.
Elimination Match: Bubba Ray, D-Von, & Spike Dudley Vs. Evolution (Ric Flair, Triple H, & Randy Orton) (Raw, 7/14/03) – ***
Another fun TV match from when Evolution was basically ruling Raw. I thought the Dudleys got a decent showing here, even if they don’t eliminate any of Evolution.
Women’s Championship: Trish Stratus Vs. Lita (Raw, 12/6/04) – ** 3/4
This match remains the only women’s match to ever main event Raw, and for a TV match, it delivered. Lita’s dive to the floor is a particularly great spot. The women give a great argument for how women’s wrestling can be great in the WWE if booked properly.
#1 Contender’s Elimination Match: Shawn Michaels Vs. Randy Orton Vs. JBL Vs. Chris Jericho (Raw, 12/29/08) – *** 1/4
Yet another fun TV match that was given a great amount of time, and shows how much fun multi-man matches can be. The storyline at the time about Michaels “working for” JBL was a bit silly, but Michaels and JBL are both great in their roles, so they make it work.
World Heavyweight Championship Fatal 4-Way Match: The Undertaker Vs. CM Punk Vs. Batista Vs. Rey Mysterio (Bragging Rights, 10/25/09) – *** 3/4
Another example of a fun multi-man match that lets each of the four participants look pretty good (CM Punk slightly lesser so). I was not a huge fan of the finish, but it didn’t detract too much from the match.
WWE Championship Six Pack Challenge Elimination Match: Sheamus Vs. John Cena Vs. Randy Orton Vs. Chris Jericho Vs. Edge Vs. Wade Barrett (Night of Champions, 9/9/10) – *** 1/2
A fun six-man match that is hindered a bit by the Nexus storyline and the fact that Orton & Cena are booked to look “better” than the other four in the match. There are some spots that are a lot of fun individually, but the match as a whole doesn’t completely gel.
You may have noticed that I used the word “fun” a lot in this review, and that was deliberate. In the end, that’s the best way to describe this DVD. I don’t think anything is going to blow you away with its awesomeness, but there is a lot of fun to be had throughout the set. As I mentioned above, I did end up watching the documentary in two sittings, but I don’t think it would have been too painful to watch all in one go. Although watching finishing moves over and over got a little old, the countdown moves pretty quickly, and you do get a lot of great insight from the superstars being interviewed. Because of the content, this documentary probably isn’t nearly as interesting as the Top 50 Superstars countdown, but it is quite close. And the ranking is probably the best ranking done yet.
The bonus matches, yet again, can best be described as “fun”. Since this DVD has such a wide open topic, my biggest hope for this set was that we would get fun matches that we haven’t seen on compilation sets before. For the most part, this was true. We got a lot of rare matches and TV matches on this set, which were cool to see. We also got a lot of multi-man matches on this set, which I thought was a great choice. Besides the fact that I love this type of match, it also fits very well on this DVD in that you often see a lot of finishing moves throughout the match. Believe it or not, after nearly every match, you will understand why it makes sense to be included on this compilation. Also, from a personally biased note, since I first started watching wrestling from late 2001, I was thrilled to see so many TV matches from late 2001 to 2004 included. That still remains my favorite era since it was when I started as a fan.
While there aren’t too many classic matches throughout Discs 2 and 3, there aren’t too many stinkers either. The WCW Tag Team Title match is not very good, and the Rock/Goldberg match is a disappointment, but other than that, most of the matches are pretty good and move along quickly. I found that a lot of the matches were around the *** range, and for mostly shorter matches, I think that’s pretty good. I thought the Hart/Backlund match was the best match on the set, but I know others will like the RVD/Scorpio match a bit more than I did. The multi-man matches at the end of Disc 3 are also all quite good.
Between a fairly entertaining documentary and some good bonus matches, I think this set makes for a pretty solid recommendation. Collectors will no doubt want this set in their collection because of all of the bonus matches that are new to compilation DVD’s (if not new to DVD altogether), and I think the documentary and the star power of the bonus matches is more than enough to bring in the casual fans. If you enjoyed the past few countdown documentaries, this one is fairly similar, so you will probably enjoy it as well. The interviews were pretty strong, and the ranking is great. Again, I used the word “fun” a lot in this review, and I think its the perfect way to describe this set.
So what do you think? Are you happy with the rankings? Do you like the line-up of bonus matches? Let us know in the comments section below.