WWE – The Attitude Era Vol 3: Unreleased (Cert 15)
2 Disc Blu-ray / 3 Discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 265 minutes approx.
For their latest retrospective release the WWE have once again compiled a series of matches taken from one the company’s hottest and most profitable periods the Attitude Era. But unlike previous releases, this collection is made up of matches which have never been broadcast or released in any fashion.
This may be the sort of boast we are asked to take with a pinch of salt from WWE and other promotional taglines but on this occasion, for once, the claim is 100% genuine. Hosted by recently graduated RAW announcer Corey Graves, this compilation sees the WWE video team delve deep into the archives of their TV and PPV dark matches along with bouts sourced from house shows.
It is the latter which are shot by just one camera, interestingly often interspersed with fan-cam footage to offer an alternate angle – while others are given the full multi-camera treatment, presumably with the intention of having commentary added to them retrospectively for a home video release which obviously never occurred.
With the legitimacy of “unreleased” vindicated, it is the definition of what constitutes the Attitude Era we now query. For this writer the trademark elements by which the content of this period was defined – blood, violence, bad language, sexual imagery, etc. – didn’t begin in earnest until mid-to-late in 1997. Therefore, by my own criteria, a huge chunk of the matches selected here aren’t really within this remit although many of the era’s most recognisable faces are featured.
For instance, the opening match is Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin from Germany in April 1996, during a period where Bret was off TV having lost the WWF Title to Shawn Michaels at WM 12. Austin was still under Ted DiBiase’s tutelage (although he was not present) barely removed from his Ringmaster moniker. This is followed by the earliest ever recorded match between Undertaker and Mankind, a dark match from the IYH 7 PPV in April 1996.
Taker, HBK, Foley and Austin are the most featured performers in this set which offers us an interesting chart of their growth from the pre-Attitude Era to the apex of this period and beyond. Austin goes from non-descript undercard heel to paradigm changing box office gold, Taker goes from zombie to cult leader and all three of Foley’s aliases are featured.
As for Michaels his development from clean cut babyface to cocky degenerate is the most fascinating, especially during a tag match with HHH against the Road Warriors where Shawn appears to legit antagonise Hawk and pays for it big time. If we’ve learned anything from wrestling history the LOD are the last guys you want to upset.
Elsewhere a prevalent cavil with this release is the repetition factor. Unless you were watching at the time, this collection suggests only Austin, Taker, Rock, HHH, HBK, Mick Foley and Nation of Domination were the only wrestlers of the era. Similarly, a number of these matches are hardly exclusive either – we’ve seen Austin vs. Rock, Taker vs. Austin, HHH vs. Austin, etc. numerous times over the years and you see them again here and in duplicate too.
In fact only a few matches stand out as unique pairings and they feature in the extras – Dude Love vs. British Bulldog comes to mind. The first however is Yokozuna (in one of his last WWF matches) against The Sultan from South Africa. The only match to have commentary (I believe it was part of a dual telecast between the US and SA), Owen Hart can’t seem to decide on Yoko’s weight, changing it three times!
The older matches are pure old school fare, some reminiscent of the old Coliseum Video releases which follow a set formula of simplicity. In tags matches featuring Taker for example, his partner(s) do all the work then he tags in, hits two moves and gets the pin. Be on the lookout for the old Dusty Finish where a title is on the line or the occasional odd couple tag match.
Other bouts reveal the leeway wrestlers have at house shows where the cameras and TV format are not needed – such as a match from Kuwait between Owen and Bulldog vs. Bret and Taker in which the first ten minutes are spent with Davey Boy riling the crowd while Bret plays for their cheers.
As Corey Graves – who is subject to the GTV treatment (remember that? The CCTV camera footage which was supposed to be a gimmick for Goldust but Dustin Rhodes quit the company before the reveal) – mentions at the start the visual quality of these matches isn’t the greatest, so be prepared for juddering camerawork shot on SD tape, often from obtuse and difficult angles.
This also applies to the sound, in this case the music and the audiences since there is no commentary, which varies depending on the acoustics of the venue and how the crowds are mic’d up. Standing out in particular is an Austin vs. Taker bout from Canada in which they battle to total silence – unless they didn’t mic the crowd but it is an eerie spectacle to behold for two of the biggest stars of the era.
Putting the semantics of how to define the Attitude Era aside, there is a pervasive sense of nostalgia to be felt by anyone who was a fan of the WWF during this period, and while people like Ken Shamrock, The Sultan or forever evolving groups like the Nation of Domination may not be as fondly remembered as Austin or DX, this gives us a friendly reminder of their contributions.
Enjoyment of The Attitude Era Volume 3 will be based purely on how long one can stand the underwhelming presentation, the recurring line-up of wrestlers and the commentary free experience. An interesting and bold concept for a DVD release but only an essential one for the real hardcore wrestling fans who enjoy such exclusive oddities.
English HOH Subtitles
Blu-ray Disc 2 /DVD Disc 3:
Sun City, South Africa – 14th September 1996 – Yokozuna vs. The Sultan
Dark Match – In Your House: It’s Time – 15th December 1996 – Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Goldust
Dark Match – RAW – 17th March 1997 – The Undertaker, Goldust & Ahmed Johnson vs. The Nation Of Domination
Toronto, ON, Canada – 14th June 1997 – WWF Title Match – The Undertaker (c) vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin
Uniondale, NY – 24th October 1997 – WWF Tag Title Match – The Legion of Doom (c) vs. Shawn Michaels & Triple H vs.
MSG – 10th January 1998 – Stone Cold Steve Austin & Cactus Jack vs. The Rock & D’Lo Brown
Meadowlands, NJ – 22nd February 1998 – Stone Cold Steve Austin, Cactus Jack & Chainsaw Charlie vs. The Rock & The New Age Outlaws
Anaheim, CA – 13th March 1998 – Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Triple H
MSG June 26, 1999 – WWF Title Match – Stone Cold Steve Austin (c) vs. The Undertaker
Wall St, New York City, NY – 25th October 2000 – Hardy Boyz vs. Lo Down
MSG – 25th January 1997 – WWF Title Match – Shawn Michaels (c) vs. Mankind
Anaheim, CA – 28th June 1997 – WWF Title Triple Threat Match – Undertaker (c) vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart vs. Stone cold Steve Austin
Uniondale, NY – 24th October 1997 – Long Island Street Fight – Dude Love vs. British Bulldog
Meadow Lands, NJ – 22nd February 1998 – Ken Shamrock & Owen Hart vs. Faarooq & D’Lo Brown
Meadow Lands, NJ – 31st July 1999 – Dog Collar Match – Road Dogg vs. Mr. Ass Billy Gunn
Rating – ***
Man In Black