WWE’s DVDs are a gift and a curse. On the one hand, the nostalgia factor of reliving great wrestling moments and matches is a blessing for fans who cherish having an entire archive of history right on their bookshelves. Conversely, WWE, especially when the company is in a rough slump creatively, shoots themselves in the foot by releasing these collections. Fans will inevitably compare the past (at least, all the good parts that have been cut from the bone and separated from the inedible, surrounding fat) to the stagnant present, and WWE still intromits vintage wonders into Best Buy, K-Mart, and FYE for fans to scarf up.
However, with this set, WWE Greatest Stars of the New Millenium, a balance may be reached. Much like Saturday Night Live reruns on VH1 that show nothing from before 2006 (meaning no Belushi, Murphy, Carvey, or Ferrell), you can train the audience to accept the present through ritual accentuation. The oldest match on this DVD is from 2001, a stone’s throw compared to the vast expanse of 1980’s WWF Madison Square Garden rarities. If you want fans to accept the modern WWE, why not force feed them heaping spoonfuls of the modern WWE?
I tell you, this might be one of the more eclectic groups of matches I’ve yet seen on a WWE DVD release. There are twelve matches on here, and if one of them wasn’t an hour long, the set would be reminiscent of those early-mid 1990’s Coliseum Video releases with names like “Smack Em, Whack Em”, “Bashed in the USA”, and other releases with cartoony names that merely featured randomly thrown together matches.
That one hour match, for those curious, is the sixty minute Iron Man match between Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar from September 2003, for the WWE Championship on Smackdown. If you love great wrestling, subtle psychology, and great wrestling again, then this match alone might justify the cost of your purchase. It’s Angle and Lesnar from when the two men were virtually carrying WWE in 2003, alongside Eddie Guerrero, Matt Hardy V1, and heel Rock. It was a true match of the year candidate in an otherwise mostly dismal 2003, and it’s good to see the match finally get its due.
From there, among the other eleven offerings, there are certainly some random selections. Only one other match has a true epic feel to it, and that was Undertaker and Batista’s World Heavyweight Title match from WrestleMania 23. Watching two “hosses” enervate each other in a powerful pier-six brawl, with a championship and a streak hanging in the balance helped WrestleMania 23 achieve top status, in the eyes of many, including myself.
Perhaps The Rock and Booker T’s WCW Title match from Summerslam 2001 classifies as “epic”, given the historical implications of the match. Then again, I think the match is tainted by the incompetently-stifling Invasion story, as well as the treatment of Booker as a complete moron leading up to the match. It’s nice if you wish to see Shane McMahon get mauled by Bradshaw, though.
Speaking of “Bradshaw”, there are only three other PPV matches in the set, and two of them involve JBL overcoming long odds in ungainly fashion to retain the WWE Championship. They are his matches at Armageddon 2004 (a fatal four way with Undertaker, Eddie Guerrero, and Booker T) and the 2005 Royal Rumble (triple threat with Big Show and Kurt Angle), which are both “decent”, but in a collection that essentially promises the best of this decade, they seem a little out of place.
I’ll concede that the other PPV match, Trish Stratus and Lita for the WWE Women’s Title from Unforgiven 2006, belongs due to the relevance of Trish retiring in her hometown following the match. And hey, for a Women’s match, it was pretty damn good.
The remaining six matches are all from television, and the best of them is Eddie Guerrero’s WWE Title defense against Rey Mysterio from Smackdown in March 2004; a slower but just-as-dramatic throwback to their battles in WCW. A little earlier than those matches were a pair from Raw’s agonizing time frame, with Rob Van Dam and Chris Jericho’s Intercontinental Title match from September 2002, and Triple H and Kane’s “title vs. mask” match from June 2003, which has significance at least.
Raw rounds out the set with some February rarities: a 2005 match from Japan where Triple H defends the World Heavyweight Title against Edge, and two from 2007: the Shawn Michaels-Edge-Randy Orton match for #1 contendership at WrestleMania, and an eight man tag from a Thursday Raw before WrestleMania 23: Shawn Michaels, John Cena, Undertaker, and Batista taking on Randy Orton, Edge, Mr. Kennedy, and MVP, from the first ever “Raw vs. Impact” head to head, if you can believe it.
And now the wheels come off of the DVD, so to speak.
The documentary isn’t so much a documentary, as it is a good promotional tool for people who aren’t fans in order to get a taste of what WWE, in recent years, has been about. From that view, the documentary, as it were, does its job of covering a number of bases.
On the other hand, more than likely, those who make DVD purchases are already wrestling fans, and they don’t need to be subjected to testimonial “handies” from WWE midcarders braying about how great The Rock or Shawn Michaels are.
19 Superstars of the past and present get immortalized with generic, repetitive video packages that summarize their value to WWE’s legacy. Among the luminaries are Hall of Famers (Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, Eddie Guerrero), Attitude icons (The Rock, Triple H, Undertaker), current headliners (John Cena, Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio), and people I’m surprised to find on a WWE DVD cover in 2011 (Kurt Angle, Jeff Hardy, Brock Lesnar). Among the rest of the herd are Edge, Big Show, Kane, Booker T, Batista, Chris Jericho, and JBL, as well as a section on the popular Divas of the era, headed up by Trish Stratus.
There aren’t many glaring omissions, save for the man that no longer exists, but cases could be made for Christian, Matt Hardy, Rob Van Dam, and, certainly, Mick Foley. I think even Vince McMahon should be heaped in amongst this group, but let’s not nitpick.
There are really only three reasons to buy this set. One is if you don’t already have the Kurt Angle-Brock Lesnar Iron Man match in your collection (I proudly have it on a blank tape, finished recording it 40 minutes before Hurricane Isabel knocked my power out). The other reasons are that you’re a collector of rare matches, and having a handful of Raw and Smackdown matches from the mid-2000’s is to your interest. Finally, it makes a good gift for a novice fan that’s looking to learn more about WWE’s top stars of recent years. In that case, the repetitious video packages will actually serve their purpose.
[adinserter block=”1″]However, unlike anthology sets devoted to specific wrestlers or promotions, there’s really no reason to go out of your way to purchase this. I can’t say it’s a BAD DVD set, but it’s just for a different portion of the audience. As a fan of 22+ years, one that’s intrigued by the inner workings of the sport, this isn’t really marketed to me. But for others that are less discriminating, and just would like to see Rock or Cena or HHH, regardless of who their opponent is, I suppose you could do worse than pick this up.
So we’ll go middle ground. It’s good for what it is, but if you’re a more devoted fan that doesn’t need refresher courses on WWE’s biggest stars, feel free to take a pass on this one.
Unless you need that Angle-Lesnar Iron Man match, obviously.
Ground Breaking Superstars
Decade of the Divas
Stone Cold Steve Austin
WCW Championship Match
Booker T vs. The Rock
SummerSlam 19th August, 2001
Intercontinental Championship Match
Chris Jericho vs. Rob Van Dam
Raw 16th September, 2002
World Heavyweight Championship Match
Triple H vs. Kane
Raw 23rd June, 2003
60 Minute Iron Man Match for the WWE Championship
Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar
SmackDown! 18th September, 2003
WWE Championship Match
Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio
SmackDown! 18th March, 2004
Fatal 4-Way Match for the WWE Championship
JBL vs. The Undertaker vs. Eddie Guerrero vs. Booker T
Armageddon 12th December, 2004
Triple Threat Match for the WWE Championship
JBL vs. Big Show vs. Kurt Angle
Royal Rumble 30th January, 2005
World Heavyweight Championship Match
Triple H vs. Edge
Raw 7th February, 2005
Women’s Championship Match
Lita vs. Trish Stratus
Unforgiven 17th September, 2006
Triple Threat Match – Winner Faces John Cena For The WWE Championship At WrestleMania 23
Shawn Michaels vs. Randy Orton vs. Edge
Raw 5th February, 2007
8 -Man Tag Team Match
John Cena & Batista & Shawn Michaels & The Undertaker vs. Randy Orton & Edge & Mr. Kennedy & MVP
Raw 15th February, 2007
World Heavyweight Championship Match
Batista vs. The Undertaker
WrestleMania 23 1st April, 2007
Justin Henry is a freelance writer whose work appears on many websites. He provides wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture columns for CamelClutchBlog.com, as well as several wrestling columns a week for WrestlingNewsSource.com and WrestleCrap.com. Justin can be found here on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/notoriousjrh and Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/cynicjrh.
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