WWE – Best Of RAW & Smackdown Live 2017 (Cert 15)
3 Discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 525 minutes approx.
2017 may be in the books for most of us but for WWE there is still some reflecting to do on the year gone by, with this annual retrospective from WWE Home Video that takes a look back at the highlights (and lowlights) of the two flagship TV shows, Monday Night RAW and Smackdown LIVE.
Financially, the company is doing well, with revenue actually increasing from 2016 – largely due to house show ticket prices being hiked while attendance is down, but merchandise is always healthy. Yet for most fans, the state of the actual TV/PPV product is the main concern due to the stagnant creative end.
However, that hasn’t stopped a few diamonds in the rough breaking out to add a little fresh sparkle to things – namely the incredible rise by Braun Strowman, a monster heel turned babyface through beating up the company’s top babyface, and the progression of the women’s revolution that has seen more firsts for the ladies occur in 2017.
But this release is about what went down on RAW and SD last year and regardless of how out of touch the booking may be, the in-ring product is the saving grace both on TV and PPV. Hosted by Charley Caruso (who is subject to that annoying gimmick of being shot from the side whilst talking directly into the camera) we have three discs and almost 7 hours of memories to sit through.
The set opens in January (duh!) with just one of the 5,000 matches between Dean Ambrose and The Miz for the IC title in 2017, this one coming from SD before moving over to RAW. The Miz features frequently across the three discs, including the wickedly funny skits spoofing John Cena and Nikki Bella, and closing this collection with his IC title feud against Roman Reigns.
Speaking of Reigns, the babyface fans love to hate is the most featured name with five matches and segments covering his aforementioned feud with Strowman and rivalries with Cena, Samoa Joe and the doomed reunion of The Shield, which was cut short when Ambrose was injured. Seth Rollins only gets two matches (one against Reigns) but is featured in a few segment recaps.
One thing that stands out about this presentation is the choices made regarding which angle to show in full and which one to show in highlight form. For example, JeriKO’s Festival of Friendship is in redacted form whilst we get the whole segment from RAW where Goldberg had knocked himself silly with his pre-match ritual of headbutting the locker door and kept botching his promo.
The women are well represented here, reflecting on the continual growth as a valuable commodity to be taken seriously, beginning with the second ever Women’s steel cage match between Becky Lynch and Alexa Bliss and the excellent title match between Charlotte Flair vs. Bayley. The MITB match from SD re-run is included – the PPV match ended with James Ellsworth retrieving the case for Carmella; a cute finish but the wrong one for the first ever women’s MITB match – whilst over on RAW the six-women gauntlet match is their big showcase.
Perhaps the most fascinating thing about looking back on the past year in wrestling is not just so much how quickly the year has gone but how quickly things move in wrestling. Because of how fast things develop, so much of what occurred in 2017 which is recapped here feels more like two or three years ago. Remember American Alpha as SD tag champs? Or the saga of Enzo and Cass splitting up? Or when The Revival debuted as a big deal?
Elsewhere the cursed cruiserweight division gets just one match in this release, albeit a stonking title match between Neville vs. Rich Swann from March. Perhaps this is for the best given how things have turned out for the stars of 205 Live. Neville quit after dropping the title to Enzo Amore then Rich Swann was suspended and later released after a spousal abuse allegation. Finally, Enzo was fired in January of this year following a sexual abuse claim against him was made and he failed to tell WWE he was under federal investigation.
On a happier note, 2017 saw some new faces join the main roster from NXT to add some fresh blood to both shows. While The Revival made an immediate impact on RAW before being derailed by injuries, over on SD, they not only got the Glorious Bobby Roode but also the King of Strong Style Shinsuke Nakamura, represented by his match with John Cena – the one where Nak dropped Cena on his head and Vince McSenile nearly lost it thinking he might lose his (part-time) top star to injury.
Rather tellingly, the rise to the top of two names is giving vastly different treatment in this almanac, those being Braun Strowman and Jinder Mahal (at least they are featured – no mention of Asuka anywhere). Strowman is all over this collection yet Jinder – who actually became WWE Champion – gets just one match, where he drops the title to AJ Styles in the UK, the first time the WWE title has changed hands outside of North America.
Fans of Rusev Day get to reminisce on the moment when it all started – and who would have thought that would have got over as it has – but anyone wanting to erase the memories of RAW Under Siege, sadly that is recapped here too. At least we are spared the embarrassment of the Jason Jordan is Kurt Angle’s son fiasco, a ludicrous storyline that not only ruined a great tag team but was pretty much DOA in the eyes of everyone except the brain farts who conceived it.
As always with these release the term “Best” will be subjective but taken as whole this is a great collection matches that highlight just how good the WWE can be when it focuses on the wrestling.
P.S – And watch out for a post credits surprise at the end of disc 3….
Rating – ****
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