WWE – US Championship: A Legacy Of Greatness (Cert 15)
2 Disc Blu-ray / 3 Disc DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 450 minutes approx.
For many of today’s fans of the WWE, the US title probably doesn’t seem prestigious enough to warrant a retrospective home video release due to how it’s been treated as a token jobber title over the past few years BC (Before Cena). Perhaps that is something this collection of classic (and not so classic) US title matches will change.
It is fair to warn you in advance that our host, the insufferable JBL, is in full patriotic mode as is the general tone of the script, full of the usual flag waving rhetoric of how America is the greatest country in the world, how the people are full of proud fighting spirit, blah, blah, blah, which doesn’t work so well on this side of the Atlantic.
Anyway, we begin with a quick look at the history of the title, which dates back to 1975 when it was created by Jim Crockett Jr. to be the top title for the regional Mid Atlantic Wrestling promotion, replacing the NWA Mid Atlantic Heavyweight Title, putting the holder in a prime position to challenge for the travelling NWA World champion. The first ever champ was Harley Race but there is no footage of his title run.
It’s interesting the WWE chose to follow the NWA lineage of the US title when in fact they had their own US title back when it was the WWWF. This might be because the NWA belt crossed over into the WCW era, which was the one WWE acquired when they bought WCW in 2001. FYI – created in 1963 Bobo Brazil was the inaugural WWWF US Champ and was the title holder again when it was retired in 1976.
For old school fans such as yours truly the first disc (Blu-ray) will be the real treat of this set as it focuses on the NWA/WCW years of the belt, and they dig deep into the archives and pull out some long forgotten gems. It has to be said that the quality of most of this footage is in incredible condition, suggesting either the Crocketts took amazing care of their video library or it was never used enough to get worn out!
The earliest entry in the US title’s history is piece of scratchy film from 1978 which saw Ricky Steamboat challenge Ric Flair for the Title, with Andre The Giant as special referee. The match is heavily clipped and the action slow compared to today’s matches but historically this is a real gem. There is no commentary but the crowd heat is incredible even when nothing is happening.
After a look at a young Roddy Piper facing off against a less fat Greg Valentine from 1983 (the commentary from Gary Hart is hilarious as the ref restarts the match but he insists Piper is indulging in a post match beat down), we get two Magnum TA matches – first the classic I Quit cage match from Starrcade 85 against Tully Blanchard gets another airing followed by the final of the Best Of 7 series again Nikita Koloff.
Dusty Rhodes is the next featured US champ, followed by Lex Luger, who is represented by the cage match against Dusty from Starrcade 87 (where he was booed by his hometown crowd of Chicago) and an early clash against frequent partner and opponent Sting. We then skip quickly through to the Nitro era with a batch of TV and PPV matches most of us have either forgotten or never seen before.
Disc two features the WWE era of the belt’s life, beginning with matches featuring the WCW US title during the Invasion angle. I had forgotten all about this, expecting the story to begin with the 2003 resurrection/creation of the WWE US Title which remains to this day. So, for any other amnesiacs, we see Kurt Angle defend against Undertaker from RAW and a title unification match between US Champ Edge and IC Champ Test, which saw the WCW belt go for good.
Because Eddie Guerrero defeated Chris Benoit to be the first holder of the WWE version, that match is of course skipped here, so we jump straight to John Cena winning the title from Big Show at Wrestlemania 20. This bit of nostalgia is unique as it reminds us of the days when Cena wasn’t booed out of the building! Cena’s most recent US Title run and his US Open Challenge is also represented by two matches – against Dean Ambrose and Cesaro, which is in the extras.
Speaking of Cesaro, we see a title defence of his from 2012 reign in NXT against his future tag partner Tyson Kidd. Note the ring announcer here is Summer Rae! In one of the many jarring juxtapositions, the lengthy Matt Hardy vs. MVP feud is recapped here to include their 2008 showdown, where MVP was the heel, followed by a 2010 match against Kofi Kingston where MVP as now a face!
This set closes with Alberto Del Rio defeating John Cena for the US Title at Hell In A Cell 2015, although we know that the current champ (at the time of writing) is Kalisto, who is 103+ days into his second title run, which gives you impression of how long ago this release was conceived.
As far as retrospectives go, this is another slickly produced collection – aside from the poncey gimmick of switching the camera angle to a profile shot, showing JBL talking directly into the hard camera – which offers wall to wall action and while we can quibble about match selection, it does at least offer a fairly wide look at the title’s (broken) forty year history.
If you can put up with the obsequious and patronising pro-USA jargon and bias of the presentation, modern fans should find this to be an enlightening tribute to this enduring championship, while older viewers will find the archive material to be a real treasure trove of forgotten gems.
English HOH Subtitles
NWA Main Event – April 3rd 1988 – NWA US Title Match – Dusty Rhodes (c) vs. Ivan Koloff
WCW Pro Wrestling – September 18th 1993 – WCW US Title Match – Dustin Rhodes (c) vs. Ravishing Rick Rude
WWE Smackdown – April 28th 2006 – WWE US Title Match – JBL (c) vs. William Regal
WWE RAW – March 14th 2006 – WWE US Title Match – Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Sheamus
NXT – August 7th 2013 – WWE US Title Match – Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Adrian Neville
WWE RAW – June 29th 2015 – WWE US Title Match – John Cena (c) vs. Cesaro
Rating – ****
Man In Black