WWE – Unreleased: 1986-1995 (Cert 15)
3 Discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 501 minutes approx.
After numerous occasions bragging about presenting “never before seen” matches, the WWE finally delivers on that promise with this collection of unseen bouts sourced deep from the bowels of the WWE archives.
Hosted by Charley Caruso and Sean Mooney, Unreleased 1986-1995 is a glorious nostalgic trip for those of us of a certain vintage, back to a time when wrestling was fun and before the internet shattered our illusions with backstage insider gossip about spoilers about future shows.
This release spans the peak period of the Hulkamania years to the drop off in business during the “New Generation” era when our childhood favourites either retired or went to WCW. Thanks to this DVD compilation, we get to reacquaint ourselves with those legendary – and infamous – names from the point in WWF’s history when face paint and goofy costumes were the order of the day.
In this set, you will witness unearthed gems featuring such luminaries as Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage Ultimate Warrior, Andre The Giant, Demolition, Ted Dibiase, Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Dusty Rhodes, Powers Of Pain, Jake Roberts, Mr. Perfect, The Undertaker, Bret Hart, Diesel, Yokozuna, Razor Ramon and more.
So, how have these matches never seen the light of day before? Looking at how many of them are fully edited with multi-camera angles and a couple with on screen graphics, they may have been considered for TV broadcast or release on the old Coliseum Video collections but didn’t make the grade for some reason, hence no commentary. Elsewhere some are hard camera single shot only, complete with the video time code at the bottom.
A little background to their origins – most of these would have been dark matches after TV tapings, similar to what they do today, but these would often end up on Coliseum Video releases. Because TV during this period was different, where the “superstar” wrestlers would face enhancement talent (or jobbers) and in ring promos and angles were scarce, it was easier to tape four weeks of TV matches in one sitting.
Then to reward the crowd the “Superstars” would face each other in exclusive match-ups or ones relative to their current feuds. The first match is an example of the latter – the Heenan Family was feuding with the Machines, a masked tag team from Japan(!), consisting of Super Machine (Bill “Demolition Ax” Eadie) and Big Machine (Bob “Blackjack Mulligan” Wyndham). They would often have a third partner, Giant Machine (Andre of course), Piper Machine (yup) and in this instance Hulk Machine (complete with “Real American” entrance music, Hulkamania T-shirt and the whole routine)!
Much like today’s dark matches, many of these were brief and anti-climatic often ending by DQ or count-out. The heels rarely won but if they did, the faces got their revenge straight away to send everyone home happy. But bear in mind a lot of the wrestlers had already worked earlier in the evening – evident by how sweaty they already are – so keeping it short was as much a benefit to them as it was for tired fans wanting to go home.
This explains how this three-disc set can boast 45 matches but for nostalgic purposes, it is difficult to complain about being shortchanged here and there. One disappointment for this writer was a Demolition vs. Powers Of Pain match from 1988, shortly after the POP debuted and the Demos were heel tag champs. It started off as a decent big hoss brawl but then after two minutes, the Demos walked off and that was it. Boo indeed!
Randy Savage is the most featured wrestler with seven matches (one is under his Mr. Madness guise where he didn’t even bother to wear a mask or change his music) followed by Ultimate Warrior with six, including the first casket match against a heel Undertaker from 1991. There are a total of 17 deceased wrestlers (and two valets) featured here, with one tag match (Rude & Perfect vs. Warrior and Kerry Von Erich) where the oldest person (Bobby Heenan) is the only one still alive!
As the biggest name of the era, the rarest Hogan matches would be him and Piper teaming up in 1986 (after feuding for 18 months) against Harley Race and Paul Orndorff and a Mega Powers Handicap match against the Hart Foundation and Honky Tonk Man (with Sherri Martel as Peggy Sue). This match comes complete with the video tape crease lines across the top of the picture, which will bring back further memories of yesteryear for us oldies!
Picture quality varies given the age of the material, with some clips looking like they’ve been sourced from YouTube as MP4 files whilst other are pristine. The most fascinating matches are arguably the tryouts for new additions to the WWF roster, beginning with the Dingo Warrior from 1987 (for some reason with the entrance music he didn’t get until early 1988) before he became “Ultimate”.
There is John Tenta as Earthquake Evans managed by Slick, two months before his official TV debut in the “fan from the crowd” angle, the tryout from the War Eagle aka Tatanka, the Smoking Gunns (as Kip Winchester and Brett Colt), Brian “Crush” Adams and Owen Hart. Most shocking of all is The Tazmaniac (yes THAT Tazmaniac) from 1993 facing Skippy “Scotty Too Hotty” Taylor and the Toxic Turtles (Duane “Gillberg” Gill and Barry Hardy).
You will also see Jeff Jarrett defending his IC title in TWO ladder matches against British Bulldog and Razor Ramon, a steel cage match pitting Diesel against Yokozuna, a first run of the Jake Roberts vs. Rick Martel WM 7 Blindfold match and a prelude of the Summerslam 92 classic between Bret Hart vs. The Bulldog in arguably the best match in this set.
If you are an old codger like me, Unreleased 1986-1995 is a wonderful trip down memory lane whilst younger fans may wonder what the fuss is about. No five star matches just five star memories!
Rating – *****
Man In Black