WWE – Shawn Michaels: The Showstopper Unreleased (Cert 15)
3 Discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 510 minutes approx.
If anyone in the WWE has a body of work that warrants multiple visits to the archives then Shawn Michaels would be a name at the top of that list. With a career spanning over 30 years – 21 as an active wrestler – and more classic matches to his name than most, it is no surprise WWE Home Video has decided to reopen the vault marked “HBK”.
You’ll notice that they have played safe this time and not used the word “unseen” in the title as it contains many TV matches never released on home video. But fear not as there are still many gems that never made it to TV or video that are getting an airing for the first time via this collection, although I am sure the older material from Mid-South Wrestling and AWA will be unseen for many fans.
With the focus being on the matches, there are few moments to hear from HBK himself, none of which are subtitled for us HOH folk so be warned, his gravelly voice isn’t easy on the ear. In this newly recorded interview, Shawn briefly reflects on his career, speaking with careful candour (referring to his patchy first run as WWF Champion as him being “too immature to make it work”) and self-deprecating humour.
There is a distinct hagiographic feel to this presentation via interviews with the NXT stars with whom HBK now works at the WWE Performance Centre as a mentor and producer. Adam Cole, Roderick Strong, Tomasso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano, Drew McIntyre and Velveteen Dream all praise him like he was the second coming, and while I am sure their sentiments are sincere it just feels a bit cheesy. Same for showing Jeff Jarrett’s gushing tribute to HBK in his HOF speech.
Another example is in a backstage scene from the NXT TakeOver event in January; Triple H talks about the Ciampa vs. Gargano match but instead praises Michaels for his ability to tell an emotional story, which implies his influence made the match and not the actual participants. Unless it was edited just to single out that part of Triple H’s speech, it comes across as the typical WWE mentality of old guard > new guard.
Okay enough of the gripes, let’s get down to business, and discuss the matches that are on offer in this set. It begins pretty much at the beginning with two matches from Mid-South Wrestling. The first is a tag match from 1985 which sees 19 year-old Shawn team with Tim Horner, who was actual the bigger name at the time as a journeyman across various NWA territories. Their opponents are Hector and Chavo Guerrero sporting rather ill advised stereotype Mexican bandit outfits.
Match number two also from ‘85 pits Shawn against Jake Roberts, a match that would have been a main event in the WWF a few years later had it happened. Incidentally, the ring announcer for these bouts is none other than Jim Ross! We jump from Mid-South to the AWA for the next three matches were Shawn is now one half of the Midnight Rockers tag team with Marty Jannetty.
The first two bouts are from their never ending feud against Doug Somers and Buddy Rose, who ironically are managed by Sensational Sherri Martel who would return later in the collection as Shawn’s manager post heel turn. Match number three from the AWA years is against a young (and awful) pre-Nasty Boys Brian Knobbs and Dennis Stamp, whose main claim to fame for modern fans is being the whinging friend of Terry Funk in the Beyond The Mat documentary film.
Finally we get to the WWF and the team is now renamed Rockers. Pretty much everything here is top notch classic tag team wrestling against the Rougeau Brothers, Demolition, The Brain Busters, Orient Express and a stonking bout against the Hart Foundation which is worth the price of admission alone. Closing this first disc are the two matches that began the split of the Rockers against the Natural Disasters and Legion of Doom.
Disc 2 starts off with heel Shawn Michaels in a terminally dull bout against Jimmy Snuka, complete with the pre-Sexy Boy entrance music, a plain choral affair that didn’t suit the Heartbreak Kid character. There’s a weird Piper’s Pit segment where Shawn and Sherri don’t use mics to address the crowd, then a dark match against Mr. Perfect for Shawn’s IC title which is different from the one on the Unreleased 86-95 set (taped 24 hours later) yet the match layout is the same, complete with the faux title change.
After a tag match with Diesel against the Headshrinkers from 1994 we jump to Shawn’s 1995 babyface turn featuring TV bouts and rare singles and tag dark matches where he teams with Bret Hart, Diesel, and Undertaker. Matches representing the aforementioned 1996 run as WWF champ are a mixed bag, from a tedious match against Yokozuna from Kuwait, to a 3-minute squash match against Vader – in which Shawn is the one doing the squashing!
Finally disc 3 covers the period from Shawn’s 2002 in-ring comeback to 2009. Mostly comprised of TV matches from RAW, HBK is pitted against Ric Flair, Rob Van Dam, Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle, and a multi team bout with Triple H as the reformed DX. The dark matches include two tag matches – with Batista against Triple H and Edge in a wasteful comedy match and with John Cena in a short match against Randy Orton and Edge – and a triple threat against Batista and Jericho.
This is arguably the weakest of the three discs but I’m a fan of old school wrestling, so you may disagree. As I said at the start of this review, HBK has amassed an incredible legacy of great matches and this collection shares some of the lesser known ones with us, which I know fans of Michaels will lap up with fervours and deservedly so.
German Language Subtitles
Rating – ****
Man In Black