Note from admin: Joe Israel joins WWEDVDNews.com as our new reviewer. We agreed a fitting introductory post would be Joe’s take on a ‘Top 10’ list of WWE DVD features.
Welcome to my inaugural post for WWEDVDNews! I’ve been an avid collector of WWE DVD’s since early 2002, and am looking forward to sharing my reviews of new DVD releases with all of you. Since we are in a bit of a lull of WWE DVD releases until the Edge DVD gets released in April, I decided it would be fun to post a countdown of my 10 personal favorite WWE DVD compilations.
A few notes before getting to the countdown, though. First, I decided not to include any Pay-Per-View event DVD’s. Second, although I have seen it, I do not yet own and therefore have not seen The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection in quite a while. Thus, it does not appear on my list even though it was a very groundbreaking DVD for the WWE.
Finally, this is a list of my personal favorite DVD’s. I would certainly love to hear all of your agreements and disagreements with the list though. I hope this article gives you a sense of what I look for in WWE DVD’s as I start reviewing new sets in the coming months!
Now, onto the list…
Since I started watching wrestling in early 2002, I missed out on the Monday Night Wars era of wrestling and thus WCW Monday Nitro altogether. I’ve always been fascinated with the way WCW was run, though, and I think this DVD personifies everything good and bad about WCW. In my opinion, the creation and early days of the nWo remains one of the greatest (if not the greatest) wrestling angles of all time, and seeing so many of those moments in one place is great to see. Sure, the matches featuring a lot of the older talent weren’t great, but as this DVD shows, those matches were usually kept fairly short, and the storylines are always focused on to try to hide the in-ring action. Balancing this out is the great in-ring action of the cruiserweights. Although I don’t think you get any truly classic cruiserweight matches on this DVD, the DVD still paints a good picture of the balance of action you were getting during the heyday of Nitro.
For me, the two standout matches on this DVD are both World Heavyweight Championship matches: Goldberg Vs. Hulk Hogan and DDP Vs. Sting. The Goldberg/Hogan match has been seen before, but it’s been seen a lot for good reason. When a crowd gets this heavily into a match, it’s contagious. Even if the match isn’t the most technically proficient, it’s still is a lot of fun to watch, and for me represents a peak moment for WCW. On the other hand, the DDP/Sting match is great because of the in-ring action. I’m thrilled that the WWE brought this match onto this DVD, because I didn’t even know it existed, and it may be the greatest match in the history of Nitro. The biggest criticism against this DVD is, fairly, the material on the 3rd disc from the final year of WCW. Now, I’m certainly not going to try to argue that the material is good, but I would put it in the “so bad it’s good” category. I think this is personified in the triple cage match on the DVD. From an in-ring standpoint and a booking standpoint, the match is fairly disastrous. But you certainly can’t argue that it ever got boring. Overall, I got through the 3 discs of this DVD very quickly because the materials is never boring, and some of the material surprised me in how strong the material was.
This DVD will always hold a special place in the annals of WWE DVD history because I think it’s the first DVD where the WWE realized what their true potential was for great compilation sets. Before this set, most of the documentaries featured on the WWE DVD’s were not very comprehensive, and focused heavily on whatever was going on in WWE at the time as a way to try to promote a particular angle or superstar. With this set, though, WWE basically completely broke “kayfabe” to tell a comprehensive history of the Monday Night War. At the time this DVD was released, Bischoff was working as the on-screen Raw General Manager, which allowed the two biggest players in the Monday Night War (Bischoff & McMahon) to both be interviewed for the DVD. Although the DVD does look back on the era in hindsight knowing that WWE ultimately won the war, I still think it gave WCW a fair amount of respect for it’s role in the industry. Plus, it never gets old to hear Gerald Brisco talk about how he wanted to “knock the crap out of” all the WCW employees.
Because this was an early WWE DVD release, there aren’t many bonus features, but you do get some memorable Attitude Era matches from the WWE, and from WCW you get the aforementioned Goldberg/Hogan match and a pretty solid match between Booker T and Chris Benoit. My two favorite extras, though, are two lesser known moments that don’t get talked about nearly enough. One is a clip from the night Jim Cornette basically gave a shoot promo on Raw talking about Nitro, which was unheard of at the time. The other is a brief discussion of the night Rick Rude appeared on both Raw and Nitro on the same night (due to Raw being taped and Nitro being lived). I think this is a fascinating moment in wrestling history that isn’t really remembered, so it’s nice to see it getting a spotlight.
Although this DVD is titled History of the WWE Championship, it really might as well be called History of the WWE. I think this is the ultimate DVD to give to a new wrestling fan to allow them to get a brief overview of the company. Each era of the WWE, from the territory era to the “superstar era” of the 80’s to the New Generation to the Attitude Era to the dawn of the PG era, are represented fairly and evenly. A good deal of the major moments in WWE history have revolved around the WWE Championship, and they all are here, from Hogan and Andre at Wrestlemania III to Rock and Austin at Wrestlemania X-Seven. If you want one DVD that truly represents the history of the company, this DVD is the one.
In terms of actual match quality, you get a ton of great matches. I’m not going to run through each one, but any DVD that can give you so many classic matches is clearly worth the price of admission. In terms of the 80’s era, I was really happy to see Hogan Vs. Savage from Wrestlemania V included. I think that was one of the top feuds of this era. Also, the Bret Vs. Owen cage match from Summerslam 1994 is one of my personal favorites. And from the modern era, I was glad to see Benoit Vs. Angle included amongst all the more famous matches from this time period, because it deserves it’s spot alongside Rock/Austin, HHH/Cactus Jack, and Rock/Brock, to name a few. This DVD also includes one of my favorite bonus features ever included on a WWE DVD: the quick run-down of every WWE title change ever. It’s fun to watch the final seconds of each of these matches all in one place in the span of about 20 minutes. It serves as a great “slideshow” of sorts for WWE history. I only wish that somehow WWE could update this slide show so that we can get the already-classic CM Punk title win from Money in the Bank 2011 in there among all these other classic moments.
I’ve always found the backstory behind this DVD to be an interesting story. I still remember when this DVD was first rumored, and it was going to be titled Screwed and have a very similar tone to the Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior set. Fortunately, Bret Hart got on board with the WWE, and instead we got a fascinating look into one of the more controversial members ever in the wrestling community. And documentary lived up to the hype. Bret was very open about his time in the WWE, and it was nice to see him be able to look back on his career in the WWE without the bitterness we may have seen in the Wrestling With Shadows documentary he had released a few years earlier. Many of the other superstars in the WWE also contributed to the WWE, allowing for the quintessential look at the career of the Hitman.
As far as the bonus matches go, it was no surprise that we got so many quality matches in one place. I feel like the WWE and Bret made the right choices on which matches to include. Some of these matches we expected, such as the classics between Bret and Mr. Perfect, British Bulldog, Owen Hart, and Steve Austin at Summerslam 1991, Summerslam 1992, Wrestlemania X, and Wrestlemania 13, respectively. I also feel like it was the right choice to only include 1 WCW match: his match against Chris Benoit as a tribute to Owen Hart. Bret stated in the documentary that this really was the only thing he was proud of from his WCW tenure, so it was right for it to be the only thing included. The biggest surprise to me on this DVD, though, was seeing some of the earlier matches from Bret’s career. I wasn’t too familiar with his work as a member of the Hart Foundation before watching this DVD, but Bret & Jim Neidhart put on some classic matches as a tag team against the likes of the British Bulldogs and the Rockers. And seeing a rare early match between Hart and Steamboat is a joy as well. Overall, this DVD is perfectly balanced, and is a perfect package on one of the greatest superstars of his generation.
To say that this DVD was highly anticipated when it was announced would be an understatement. Jericho has always been one my favorite performers, so I was thrilled to hear that a DVD set based on his career was going to be released. Fortunately, the DVD did not disappoint. Jericho was very candid when speaking about a career that, for the most part, has been without controversy. Watching the main feature of this DVD and seeing just how many great moments Jericho was a part of, it’s hard not to become a fan, if you weren’t already one. The parts of the documentary focusing on his music career I could have done without, but overall it still paints a great picture of what his career has been both in and out of the ring. Unfortunately, this is one the DVD’s that does suffer from a lack of Benoit material, but I will always think WWE has made the right choice by trying not to include him in their DVD releases if possible.
It was great to see matches from so early in Jericho’s career on this DVD, including one match from Japan with new alternate commentary featuring Jericho. Upon first glance, I was hoping for a bit more of a look at his early career in ECW and Japan, but it’s not like I wanted any of the other matches on the set to be cut. This DVD could have easily been one or two discs longer and STILL be filled with a ton of classic Chris Jericho matches. We also get to see a bunch of his greatest promos, including the great Man of 1,004 Holds bit from Nitro and his debut on Raw. Hopefully this isn’t the final DVD set we see on the career of Chris Jericho; I know the DVD has been quite popular amongst the big WWE DVD fans, so hopefully WWE will take notice and give us even more classic Jericho matches all on one set.
There’s not really too much to say about this set other than the fact that it is hugely entertaining. Countless classic matches can be found across these three discs. Upon first hearing the news about a Ladder Match DVD back in 2007, I remember I was definitely excited for the set, but I was somewhat skeptical that it may get repetitive to watch the same time of match over and over again, when a lot of ladder matches can have the same types of spots. When they released the match listing for this set, my fears were somewhat alleviated. In addition to straight ladder matches, the set also features TLC matches and the first Money in the Bank Ladder Match. When I saw that the set was even going to include the infamous “Forgotten TLC” from Smackdown in May of 2001 alongside the other classic matches on this set, I was pretty much totally sold. And the set lived up to the expectations.
Even if it may not be the most technically spectacular match, I was glad to see the Jake Roberts Vs. Big Daddy Ritter match start off the DVD to show the evolution of the ladder match. Looking at the overall match listing, you really can see this evolution. It may seem that there are two many matches featuring Edge & Christian, the Hardys, and the Dudleys, but by looking at all of their matches together, you can really see how the ladder match evolved to what it would become starting around 2001, when I feel the gimmick match truly reached it’s highest potential with the Jericho/Benoit classic at Royal Rumble 2001. For combining a great history of the ladder match with some great in-ring action, I knew this classic set had to be included on the list. (Not to mention that it still remains one of WWE’s most successful sets ever, and paved the way for the various other gimmick match sets that have reached various degrees of success.)
Honestly, a large reason I wanted to write this column was to give me an excuse to talk about this set. Without a doubt, I think this set is the most underrated DVD in WWE history. It has always been overshadowed by the other two Ric Flair releases, but I honestly feel that this is better than either of those. It also has gotten overshadowed by other releases about WCW’s history at the time, such as Rise & Fall of WCW, but this set gives you just as good of a look if not a better look into the history of WCW through the lens of this particular faction. If you haven’t seen this DVD yet, please do yourself a favor and pick it up as soon as possible. Although it only comes in at #4 on the list, there isn’t really much that separates it from my Top 3 choices, which are all bona fide classics.
With the exception of my #1 choice, the documentary on this set is the best the WWE has ever produced, and it is easily the most controversial. By looking at the history of the Four Horsemen, you really are able to get a sense of how the wrestling landscape changed from the mid-1980’s up to the late 90’s. Add in the fact that you are dealing with some very outspoken performers and some fascinating moments, and the documentary makes for a fascinating watch. Ric Flair really holds nothing back on this documentary; he is shockingly honest when talking about how he and the Horsemen were treated in the NWA and eventually WCW. It’s great to see all of the classic footage during the heyday of the Horsemen, with the two classic incarnations being the Ric Flair/Arn Anderson/Ole Anderson/Tully Blanchard combination and the Ric Flair/Arn Anderson/Tully Blanchard/ Barry Windham combination. It’s not hard to tell why they were so popular, and you will clearly see why they are about to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. After this, as things start to fall apart, the tone of the DVD changes as well. I was surprised with how much Ric, Arn, & Tully felt comfortable saying about how poorly they were treated in WCW, and how diluted the Four Horsemen name became. Bischoff also gets a fair shot at telling his side of the conflict he had with Flair toward the end of the Horsemen run, which allows for the audience to really get the complete picture. And I don’t want to spoil it for those who have not yet seen this DVD, but for those who have, you will know what I mean when I say that very short-time Four Horsemen member Paul Roma’s statements need to be heard to be believed.
The bonus matches and promos on the 2nd disc really are just icing on the cake after such a fantastic documentary. Since you are dealing with workers like Flair, Anderson, and Blanchard, you’re going to get some quality matches. My personal favorite inclusion on this disc is a War Games match featuring the Horsemen, which has always been a fun gimmick. The promos are basically a masterclass in wrestling promos; you can’t go wrong with these guys. If it hasn’t become clear yet, I highly recommend everyone who skipped over this DVD go check it out. I honestly could have put this set at #1; it was that close between these Top 4 sets.
I don’t think it was a surprise to anyone that a 4-disc retrospective on the career of the Rattlesnake ended up being great. The documentary on the first disc was the definitive look at his career. It spent a good deal of time looking at his career before the WWE, and allows you to see the flashes of greatness that he would soon become. I’m sure everyone reading this is aware of all of the classic moments and matches throughout Stone Cold’s career that get commented on throughout this set, and we get to hear from all of the main players during the Attitude Era throughout the documentary. Of course, the controversial decision to leave the WWE in 2002 is touched upon, and although this story is pretty well known at this point, I still got something new out of it. Even at a runtime of over 2 and a half hours, I watched this entire documentary in one sitting, and it honestly flew by.
Although a lot of the matches found on the 2nd and 3rd discs of the set can be found on a pretty good number of other compilations, they are all classics, and it was right to include them on this set. One thing that elevates them, though, is the bonus commentary from Steve & JR on three of his classic Wrestlemania matches. It wasn’t a surprise that Steve & JR have great chemistry, and they offer really great insider insight into the matches.
The 4th disc is just a blast to watch. Austin has been a part of so many great promos and segments, and having all of the classics on one disc is perfect. As is addressed in the documentary, the ECW promos Steve gave are nothing short of brilliant. Of course, the classic Austin/McMahon segments are great, but I had the most fun revisiting the Austin/McMahon heel promos from 2001. Even if Steve acknowledges that this is not the greatest part of his career, a lot of the segments are legitimately funny, so I’m glad to see them living alongside the classic segments from the Attitude Era.
It’s incredible to look back on just how many great moments have occurred on RAW from 1993 to 2008. There is absolutely no filler over the 9 hours of this DVD, which is really impressive, and makes the DVD a ton of fun. Although I won’t lie and say I did, this is probably the only three disc set that WWE has released that I could watch in one (very long) sitting. As I mentioned in my discussion of the WWE Championship DVD, this set can also serve as a WWE history lesson, and it’s surprising just how many of the WWE’s most infamous moments occurred on RAW, especially during the Attitude Era.
As you would expect, the 2nd disc of this DVD, which covers 1998-2002, is the star of this set. That’s not to say there isn’t some great stuff on the first disc, and we do see the birth of the Attitude Era there, but the 2nd disc really features the standout moments. If you aren’t familiar with the content of this DVD, I’m not going to run through it all here because there really is to much to name, but all the great moments from Austin, The Rock, Foley and the rest are here. If you think of your favorite moment from the Attitude Era, chances are it occurred on RAW and is on this set. And although the Attitude Era was dying down by 2002, this was when I started watching the WWE, so moments like HHH’s return, the Rock/Hogan showdown, and Bischoff’s return will always be favorites to me. The third disc of this set is where we get some really great in ring action, particularly due to three matches: Shelton Benjamin Vs. Shawn Michaels, Kurt Angle Vs. Shawn Michaels in a 30 minute Ironman match, and Edge Vs. John Cena Vs. RVD. Each of these matches are PPV-quality matches from RAW, and help push this set over the edge for me. I wish there was a way to add a fourth DVD to this set next year covering the last five years of RAW. I’m guessing WWE will release another Best of RAW set, but all we really need a nice supplement to this already perfect look at RAW’s first fifteen years.
Were you expecting anything else? First, let me get out of the way a few biases I have. I did grow up in the Philadelphia area, and although I didn’t get into wrestling until after ECW closed it’s doors, I have seen a good number of wrestling shows at the “bingo hall”. Among those was the Hardcore Homecoming event from 2005, which is the best live experience I’ve ever had at a wrestling show. So, naturally, I’m going to be a bit biased towards an ECW set, but if it hadn’t lived up to expectations, I would have been even more harsh on it than any other set. Well, it does live up to every expectation that has been put on it, and even though it came out nearly 8 years ago, it still remains the best set the WWE has ever put out.
It’s hard to say anything new that hasn’t already been said about this set, so I’m going to keep this explanation fairly short. The documentary is nothing short of superb; fortunately, the WWE let Paul Heyman speak his mind and be honest about his time in ECW. If by some chance you haven’t checked out this documentary yet, please do so as soon as you can. Because the documentary is so great, I think a lot of people lose sight of how perfect the bonus matches are set up as well. The 2nd disc only features 7 matches, but I think in those 7 matches pretty much encapsulate everything great about ECW. You get a technical contest with Scorpio and Sabu, a high flying luchador match with Mysterio and Psychosis, and one of the classic encounters between RVD and Jerry Lynn. And of course, you can’t have an ECW set without some extreme action, and you get a few of these matches, including the conclusion of one of ECW’s greatest feuds ever, Raven Vs. Dreamer. The only thing I wish I could change about this set was that the other legends of ECW were included in the documentary, but fortunately we have the excellent Forever Hardcore documentary out there that serves a nice supplement to the set. I know this was the predictable choice for #1, but when I really thought about it, it had to be the pick.
I hope you enjoyed this little walk down memory lane of some classic WWE DVD’s. Of course, there were a ton of others I wish I could have found room for on the list, and from the looks of, this year’s slate of WWE DVD’s has some potential contenders to slide onto it. I look forward to bringing you more DVD reviews as we find out whether or not they live up to these impressive predecessors.
Let me know in the comments which choices you agree or disagree with, and which DVD’s you think I should have included.