WWE Top 25 Rivalries In Wrestling History (Cert 15)
3 Discs DVD/ 2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: Freemantle Media) Running Time: 341 minutes approx.
And here we have the latest ”Pinch of salt” release from the WWE as they compile a list of some of the best and most notable feuds and conflicts in modern wrestling. Before you more “learned” fans begin with the scorn, yes this the WWE’s version of “wrestling history” – in other words whatever they have the footage for in their extensive video library. It’s easy to be cynical about this and moan about some of the great feuds outside of the WWE that are absent – Lawler vs Kaufman, Misawa vs Kawada, Punk vs Joe, Dynamite Kid vs Tiger Mask, etc – and indeed there are many great rivalries that could have been represented here that aren’t – Sting vs Flair, Sting vs Vader, Rock’n’Roll Express vs Midnight Express, Roberts vs Rude, Flair vs Race, Bulldogs vs Hart Foundation, Lynn vs RVD, Trish vs Lita, etc.
However what we do get is quite a varied selection and yes they do occasionally venture outside the WWE safety net to recognise some classic feuds from other promotions to make for a fairly rounded and satisfying release, and as we have come to expect from WWE home video releases, the actual presentation itself is top notch, chock full of classic footage and interesting stories, all in sparkling HD for Blu-ray fans.
This title is presented by a perky blonde lass named Renee Young, who is easier on the eye than the likes of Matt Striker but has a very annoying voice. The theme of this presentation is “chemistry” hence Young’s wearing of a lab coat, the scientific jargon of her verbiage and the backdrop graphics featuring chemical equations and formulae. Thankfully her segments can be easily skipped. To complete the chemistry theme each wrestler’s name has a key letter or letters highlighted to correspond with the numbers of the Periodic Table, just in case you hadn’t already been bludgeoned into submission by this concept.
Each entry has its own commentator, many of the choices of which will no doubt provide much amusement. Who would have expected to see Ted DiBiase Jr to discuss Hogan vs Piper or The Miz to opine on Rock vs Austin? Elsewhere Bret Hart weighs in on Angle vs Lesnar while Dolph Ziggler guides us through the history of Hart vs Michaels. However it is the more congruent names that provide the greatest insight for discerning fans. Legendary NWA referee Tommy Young remembers Flair vs Steamboat, Shane Douglas talks Taz vs Sabu, Vickie Guerrero steps out of character to reminisce about Rey vs Eddie and – hold on to your seats – Vince Russo discusses Austin vs McMahon!
The twenty five entries each get significant air time, thankfully lifting this above the usual fluff pieces we have often been presented with, while comments range from the usual corny bluster to the fascinating, with many instances of kayfabe being broken for added interest. Mean Gene Oakerland recalls the impromptu booking plan of Verne Gagne against Nick Bockwinkle in an important AWA title match, Joey Styles reveals how Tommy Dreamer was effectively forced into wining his final match against Raven and Michael Hayes offer some unique backstage insight into the HBK vs Undertaker series.
So, what do we get in this countdown that will no doubt have everyone either nodding in agreement or shouting out of incredulity at the TV screen? All of the usual suspects are present and correct: Hogan vs Andre, Flair vs Dusty, Hogan vs Savage, Von Erichs vs Freebirds, Triple H vs The Rock, Mankind vs Undertaker, Kane vs Undertaker, Magnum TA vs Tully Blanchard, alongside some newer and possibly more contentious entrants such as Cena vs Edge, Orton vs Triple H and CM Punk vs Cena. They may have their merits and will appeal to current fans but do they really rank alongside the all-time greats like Flair vs Steamboat or deserve inclusion over say Razor Ramon vs HBK or Sting vs Flair?
Among the non WWE entries that will likely satiate purists and pedants (like me) we have entries from ECW, AWA, WCCW and of course the NWA/WCW. Arguably the biggest surprise, considering the current PG direction the WWE is championing, is the legendary blood soaked war between Abdullah the Butcher vs Bruiser Brody! Advocated by Mick Foley (himself shown in all his crimson masked glory against both Triple H and Undertaker) new fans get an unfettered taste of the chaos these two unhinged behemoths brought to every territory they appeared in, represented in this set by a match from the World Class Championship Wrestling archives.
On the match front we have a healthy array of bouts to illustrate the listed feuds, but with so many already featured on numerous other releases, the onus is largely on lesser known clashes, the sole bona fide classic being the legendary Tully Blanchard vs Magnum TA I Quit cage match from Starrcade 85. Austin vs The Rock is represented by a match from the UK only Rebellion PPV from November 2001 while a sample of the Freebirds vs Von Erichs feud comes from a TV tag match from 1988 in the final days of the rivalry, when Michael Hayes had left to join the NWA and replaced by Iceman King Parsons and the Angel Of Death. Still, at least serious collectors get to add some underrated gems to their HD upgrades via this release – including Lesnar vs Angle from Summerslam 2003 or Rock vs Triple H from Backlash 2000.
Clearly designed to force discussion with another contentious list release from the WWE that takes the usual myopic McMahon liberties with the term “wrestling history”, this remains as good a look into the archives as we can expect under the limitations it operates under. With a near three hour main feature that is comprehensive and well presented and a solid batch of matches as support, there is no reason even the most cynical wrestling fan can’t fail to be entertained by this wonderfully nostalgic release.
English subtitles for the hard of hearing
Shawn Michaels Tribute To The Undertaker – Smackdown 27th March 2009
WWE Title 6 Man Tag Match – Triple H (c), Batista & Shane McMahon vs Randy Orton & Legacy – Backlash 26th April 2009
WWE Tilte Match – CM Punk (c) vs John Cena – Night Of Champions 16th September 2012
Rating – ****
Man In Black
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