WWE – WWE24 – Best Of 2018 (Cert 15)
2 Discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 219 minutes approx.
The WWE Network may have around 2 million subscribers worldwide (and trust me it is worth every penny of its £10 a month) but it seems that they still want to cater for the home video collectors from the continued monthly PPV releases on DVD. Now they are extending this to some of the exclusive programming the network has to offer.
WWE24 is a series of one hour behind the curtain exposés into the lives of the wrestlers, a specific moment, or event or any other facet of the WWE considered being of interest to the fans. This 2-disc DVD set compiles four of the episodes that aired on the network in 2018 to illustrate the variety of topics covered.
First up is The Hardys: Woken. There are retrospectives available detailing the career of Matt and Jeff Hardy, the most recent being Twist Of Fate but this one differs as it focuses predominantly on the brothers’ problems with drugs and alcohol abuse. Not just the darkest entry in this collection but also the hardest to watch for its candour and content and unquestionably the reason for the 15 rating from the BBFC.
After a brief recap of the Hardys’ career to set the scene, we jump to 2009 when a beaten up Jeff left WWE to rest up. During this time, he was arrested for drugs busts and DUIs, started by his reliance on painkillers. Remarkably, TNA hired Jeff in early 2010 but his addiction just got worse, culminating in the infamous PPV match against Sting that was cut short at the last minute due to Jeff’s intoxication.
The big interest here will be the footage from TNA/Impact wrestling and interviews with TNA stars now in WWE like Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Eric Bischoff, and Sting. Meanwhile Matt also fell victim to painkillers and booze and was released from WWE in 2011. Startling home video footage of the brothers out of their heads and boozing is included as are Matt’s cryptic suicide note videos posted on YouTube before he finally entered rehab.
It ends happily enough with the Boys returning to WWE and getting their lives back on track yet it is hard not to be appalled at how they – and others – let themselves get to that state, but their honesty and openness is to be admired.
Wrestlemania Orlando is self-explanatory, offering a backstage look at the 2017 iteration of the Biggest Show of the Year. Beginning with the Hall Of Fame ceremony, we get to the event itself and follow some of the wrestlers around preparing for their matches and sharing their thoughts on performing on such a large stage.
Miz, Maryse, Alexa Bliss, John Cena, Nikki Bella, and Naomi are the main names featured but most fascinating is the reclusive Undertaker, known for being fiercely protective of his character and kayfabe. It’s ironic that he says “I have to show these young ones I’ve still got it” then is shown hobbling about and looking slow in his match against Roman Reigns but his final scene is quite poignant.
The third feature is Empowered, dedicated to the so-called Women’s Revolution in WWE and centred on the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble match from January this year. As ever the narrative is Big Steph invented women’s wrestling and all the women on the current roster and those brought back from the past should be thankful to the McFamily for their existence.
Cynicism aside, the camera follows them and the rest of the participants of the Rumble match at the get together and rehearsal 24 hours before the PPV, giving us backstage glimpse at the camaraderie between them, young and old. It’s nice to see the current roster so humbled and awestruck at working with their predecessors. The cutest moment is Kairi Sane getting all tearful just at being able to compete at the Rumble. Awww.
Even though the women have had a rocky ride over the years to reach the status they enjoy today, archive footage details the growth of the division, taking to time honour the pioneers like Sherri Martel, Chyna, Alundra Blayze etc. as well as a look at other milestones for the women’s division like the breakthrough in NXT, the Mae Young Classic and the first MITB and Hell In A Cell match.
Finally RAW 25 takes us behind the scenes of the 25th Anniversary show of Monday Night RAW which emanated live from two separate locations in New York. Still peddling the “longest running episodic TV show in history” falsehood the self-aggrandising is offset by the fascinating happenings in putting the show together.
Candid footage of the wrestlers past and present and the TV crew discussing the show and their role in the broadcast is mixed with memories of the show’s evolution over the past two decades. Once again seeing the Undertaker getting nostalgic as he arrives at the Manhattan Centre is just odd, but nowhere near as off putting as Sean “X-Pac” Waltman still wearing a bandana despite being nearly 50 and losing his hair.
The actual show on the night may have been a complete bomb quality wise – not that you would know it from this feature – but this programme does a better job in making it feel like the special event they wanted it to be, by being the opposite of what they wanted to be.
Aside from my regular gripe about the lack of HOH subtitles (definitely needed due to poor acoustics, ambient backstage noises and mumbling interviewees), this release offers a revealing view of the WWE and the wrestlers seldom seen. WWE documentaries have gone behind the curtain before but never at this level, showing rehearsals of matches or the shocking home videos of the Hardys’ drug fuelled madness.
Even if this is a bit of stealth promotion to hook more subscribers to the WWE Network, this is still a worthy DVD purchase for any fan.
Wrestlemania 33 April 2nd 2017 – WWE RAW Tag Title Ladder Match – The Bar (c) vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson vs. The Hardy Boyz
Monday Night RAW March 19th 2018 – Ultimate Deletion Match – Matt Hardy vs. Bray Wyatt
Wrestlemania 33 April 2nd 2017 – WWE SD Women’s Title Six Pack Challenge Match – Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Mickie James vs. Becky Lynch vs. Naomi vs. Carmella vs. Natalya
First Episode of Monday Night RAW January 11th 1993 – Yokozuna vs. Koko B. Ware
RAW 25 – January 22nd 2018 – The McMahons Give Thanks
Fastlane March 11th 2018 – WWE RAW Women’s Title Match – Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Ruby Riott
Wrestlemania 34 April 8th 2018 – WWE RAW Women’s Title Match – Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Asuka
Rating – ****
Man In Black