WWE – WWE24 – Best Of 2019 (Cert 15)
2 Discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 225 minutes approx.
Regardless of what you (and I) might think about the WWE’s current TV and PPV product there is no denying that they do a good documentary, four of which from the WWE 24 series on the WWE Network debuting in 2019 are collated for this 2-disc DVD set.
WRESTLEMANIA: NEW ORLEANS
We head back to April 2018 which saw WWE return to New Orleans for the biggest show of the year, Wrestlemania 34. In typical WWE video fashion it is a great PR job for this mega event, convincing those of us who endured all 25 hours of it that was a classic show for the ages. Of course, in truncated form anything can seem more awesome than it actually was and WWE are masters at making this illusion less deceptive than it is.
The real appeal of these documentaries is the backstage footage, in which the cameras roam where they usually aren’t allowed to and the wrestlers drop their public facades when commenting on the day either prior to or after the event. It opens with the dramatic sight of Brock Lesnar marching through the Gorilla Position after his main event victory over Roman Reigns and THROWING the Universal title belt at Vince McMahon!
Other wrestlers are shown in a different light from their in-ring personae – Nia Jax talks about her nerves ahead of her match, Daniel Bryan discusses his return to wrestling after his retirement three years earlier, Lana drops her Russian accent to gush over hubby Rusev’s new found popularity via the Rusev Day gimmick, and Ronda Rousey reflects on her wrestling debut on such a huge stage.
Nothing particularly earth shattering is revealed here but as ever the package is expertly put together to give us enough of an insight backstage at Wrestlemania as we will ever get, along with extraneous clips of WWE fan related activities in New Orleans itself across the weekend.
REVOLUTIONARY: THE YEAR OF RONDA ROUSEY
Given how much she was paid, it is no surprise WWE would try to milk the acquisition of former UFC star Ronda Rousey for all it was worth. Actually, she became quite an asset for the company, although for someone we are repeatedly told in this episode is “in it for the long run” her run ended after just over a year.
Putting this gripe aside, we get a fairly comprehensive look at Rousey’s time with WWE, after a very brief look at her backstory and run in MMA. UFC owner Dana White is one interviewee, positing Rousey as a groundbreaking star. Sharing similar insight on this and Ronda’s transition to wrestling are NXT stars/Horsewomen Shayna Baszler, Marina Shafir, and Jessamyn Duke. Also included is training footage with Brian Kendrick and Natalya ahead of Rousey’s debut at the 2018 Royal Rumble.
Ronda’s WWE story has some overlap of material with the Wrestlemania 34 episode but goes further into the rest of her run. Rousey insists she didn’t feel worthy of being the focus of the women’s division, let alone being a champion, and was shocked when they put the RAW title on her. But she gave it her all and took the role seriously and everyone felt Ronda elevated the women’s division until a certain Becky Lynch caught fire.
At times, this feels like a typically safe WWE profile piece, but Rousey herself shows little pretension about her achievements, leaving that up to others, coming across as honest, humble, and likeable. If only they projected their voices instead of that croaky, mumbling delivery Americans do, that requires subtitles even for people with good hearing.
BECKY LYNCH: THE MAN
2019 has been the year of Becky Lynch and this chapter tells that story. The present day wrap around is the day of Wrestlemania 35 where Becky, Charlotte Flair, and Ronda Rousey became the first women to headline the show. Becky is mix of nerves and excitement but still grounded about this huge achievement.
When you hear her story, it is amazing how she keeps such a level head now she is The Man. Family interviews and archive footage introduce us to Rebecca Quin, who started training aged just 15 at Fergal Devitt’s (Finn Bálor) school. She worked the European, US, Canadian and Japanese circuits as Rebecca Knox until an injury in Germany, shown here, brought that run to an abrupt end.
Seven years later the newly rechristened Becky Lynch debuted in NXT as a Riverdancing plucky Irish lass in emerald green gear which thankfully didn’t last long. High praise from Charlotte, Bayley, Natalya, and others reveal how they all felt Becky was destined to be a big star yet she was the one of the group most overlooked on the main roster. In one scene, Sasha Banks and Charlotte are presented with action figures of themselves commemorating the three-way match at Wrestlemania 33 but no Becky figure!
The tone of Becky’s own narrative is half-kayfabe, half-shoot, maybe her diplomatic way of venting candidly without ruffling feathers. Like the heel turn at Summerslam 2018 suggesting it was more Becky taking matters into her own hands rather than a tone-deaf move by management. It’s hard not to feel for a depressed and broken Becky after Nia Jax derailed her push but we all know how it turned out afterwards.
It is arguable whether this is the most emotional entry of the four but it definitely makes the viewer feel closer and invested in Becky than before, as a real person and a great wrestler.
KOFI KINGSTON: THE YEAR OF RETURN
It might not seem it because he never had a “peak” as a focal point of the company, but Kofi Kingston is one of the longest serving members of the current WWE roster with 11 years under his belt. 2019 was when, after a decade plus of treading water in the mid-card, Kofi was propelled into the main event picture for the first time.
Long before this happened, we learn about the wrestling obsessed Ghana-born lad from Boston named Kofi Nahaje Sarkodie-Mensah, and his failing to be accepted for a place in the 2002 Tough Enough show. Undeterred, he trained with Chaotic Wrestling under the named Kofi Nahaje-Kingston; footage of his debut match from 2005 airs, along with an explanation from Kofi as to why he chose to be Jamaican and not from Ghana. A year later, Kofi was scouted and signed by WWE to work at FCW.
We rush through Kofi’s debut in the rebooted ECW in 2008 and his many tag and singles title wins. Kofi and his peers talk candidly about his long journey to the top, explaining the original concept of the New Day which Vince kept changing, and the significance of Kofi as an African born wrestler to others in finally getting a world title match at this year’s Wrestlemania.
Kofi remains, humble, philosophical and grateful for his career but the most fascinating aspect is the interviews with his family, and the record of his trip back home to Ghana where he is treated as a national hero, even by the President! It certainly puts the usual pro-USA rah-rah type narrative into perspective when we see the humble beginnings Kofi came from that exist in Ghana to this day.
Aside from my regular gripe about absent HOH subtitles (definitely needed for the Becky and Ronda episodes) there is little to complain about in this collection, which gives us a chance to get to know our favourite stars a little better and experience Wrestlemania from behind the curtain.
Wrestlemania 34 – April 8th 2018 – Daniel Bryan & Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
Survivor Series 2018 – November 18th 2018 – Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair
Wrestlemania 35 – April 7th 2019 – WWE Title Match – Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Kofi Kingston
Wrestlemania 35 – April 7th 2019 – Winner Takes All – Smackdown & Raw Women’s Title Triple Threat Match – Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Becky Lynch
Rating – ****
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