It would be rude to start this review, without talking about United We Slam's presenter, if you wheel, "The American Dream" himself, Dusty Rhodes. Dusty pops up every now again, much more regularly than we have seen on previous releases, to give the viewer some background information on some of the feuds and matches, as well as any changes in WCW that ocurred in between. What Dusty lacks in coherence, he more than makes up for in sheer hilariousness (That's a word now). Every single scene he's part of had me in absolute stiches. His introduction to Mike Awesome and "Diamond" Dallas Page's Ambulance Match is perhaps the best thing I've ever witnessed on a wrestling DVD.
The setting of the NXT Arena at Full Sail University works much better than what we saw when Booker T presented WCW's Greatest PPV Matches from the cheap seats before a Raw taping, as the special set they've created gives the segments a unique feel. We're also treated to Dusty putting down some commentary (alongside Larry Zybyszko and others) on some of the earlier matches on the set, which once again is unintentionally hilarious and extremely entertaining. My only complaint here would be, that I wish these commentary tracks had been optional, as it would have been nice to view these matches as they had originally aired.
A tag team encounter between Rock N' Roll Express and The Minnesota Wrecking Crew from the 12th night of the 1986 tour, similarly to the previous match is very of it's time. The finish is very done, with lots of exciting near falls, but your reaction will depend on your opinion on the use of time limits.
From the same show, Dusty Rhodes and Ric Flair put on a classic NWA World Heavyweight title bout. The storytelling is sublime, with Flair working Rhodes' leg and Rhodes' selling it for all it's worth. The crowd is completely into everything each man does, and by the time Rhodes launches into his comeback sequence, the crowd is red hot. A match that should be studied by any wrestler who wants to get a crowd invested in their matches.
Flair and Rhodes face off again next, this time as part of a War Games Match from 1987, with Rhodes joined by The Road Warriors and Nikita Koloff, whilst Flair teams with Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Lex Luger & J.J. Dillon. A truly brutal encounter, that is put together superbly, the hatred between the men in the ring, emanates through the screen. It is a shame however that the footage is fairly poor, with a nasty buzz running throughout the footage.
Sting and Lex Luger team up to take on The Road Warriors in 1988 (strangely not at The Great American Bash), in a match that really wasn't for me. As soon as Hawk no-sold at piledriver from Sting, who promptly no sold as suplex himself, I was instantly switched off. No selling can work extremely well, however I think that no selling a Piledriver is just plain stupid, pretty much ruining the move for anyone else who planned to use it later on in the show.
Starting Disc 2, Sting puts in a much better performance against The Great Muta from 1989 "Glory Days". The two men put on a much flashier match than previously seen on the set, which is refreshing after a number of old-school style belt. But it quite simply isn't long enough for the men to tell the story they are attempting to tell, it could easily have gone another five or ten minutes, which would have made the finish make a lot more sense.
However, all those problems seem to fade away fairly quickly during the next match. Of course, it's Terry Funk vs Ric Flair from the same show. It's everything you'd expect it to be and more, telling a great story in the ring, whilst being marvelously brutal at the same time. The crowd is red, red hot, building towards an electric finish. One of those matches that every wrestling fan should watch at least once.
In the only repeat from WWE's WCW's Greatest PPV Matches DVD release from earlier in the year, Ric Flair is back again, this time against Sting from 1990 "New Revolution". I really wanted to like this match, but I didn't. It's not particularly a bad match, it's just not very good. The psychology of Flair working Sting's leg to build for the Figure Four Leg Lock is completely void as Sting barely sells the leg, in fact Sting barely sells anything. I counted about five no-sells from Sting in this match, including one when Flair irish whips him into the barricade, and after the second they became completely meaningless as the crowd stopped popping for them. The finish is the highlight of the bout, but again is undercut by Sting refusing to sell his injured knee. Perhaps this bout is harmed by coming straight after Flair v Funk.
That makes it even more confusing that WWE decided to put the Fabulous Freebirds vs The Steiner Brothers from earlier in the 1990 show, after that shows main event. It's a decent slice of tag team action, showcasing The Steiner Brothers superbly, as they pull of a number of good looking moves, including a Tiger Bomb and a Frakensteiner from Scott. The Freebird also have sparkly trousers on, everyone loves Sparkly trousers, right?
There's more tag team wrestling up next, from 1992 as Barry Windham and Dustin Rhodes take on Steve Austin & Rick Rude. It's another old school tag team bout, with the crowd completely invested in the four guys in the ring. There's nothing particularly flashy, but the story told in the ring is a good one and by the time the hot tag hits I was on the edge of my seat.
From the same show, Vader and Sting go to war in a belter of a bout over the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. These two character fit perfectly together, both working their specific role fantastically, creating a dramatic and entertaining bout. Sting has improved so much since his previous bout with Flair and looks every inch the star that WCW wanted him to be and despite some questionable headgear on his walk to the ring, Vader is right up there with him. The finish is clever and feels fresh and the crowd buys into every second of it. I'll definitely hunt out some more of their matches after this one.
We head into the third disc, as The Great American Bash emerges from a three year absense with Ric Flair taking on "Macho Man" Randy Savage in 1995. It's a bout that brings a lot more of a "sports-entertainment" style than the previous matches, but still delivers, in buckets. The story telling is what you'd expect from these two, with Flair's offence looking even better because Savage bothers to sell it! I was completely drawn into the drama, involving Savage's Dad, Lanny Poffo, and Flair's dastardly actions made it easier to cheer on Savage, even from behind a TV Screen and nine years.
The only promo segment on the set is, the historically significant appearance of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash from the 1996. Just one month before the formation of the nWo, the pair talk about the upcoming bout at Bash at the Beach, with Hall in particular cutting a belter of a promo. It's always fun to see Eric Bischoff take a nasty bump through a table as well. A worthy inclusion.
1998's Falls Count Anywhere Main Event between Randy Savage and Diamond Dallas Page follows on, I was so so disapointed with this match, as it start really nice with Savage working over DDP's taped ribs, which DDP sells really nicely, however all of a sudden it just goes completely nuts. It's clear that ECW was begining to have an influence on WCW's style, as we get a brawl around the arena, a piledriver to the referee and then a brawl through a picnic based set. Yes, a picnic area that just happened to be at the top of the stage. It was actually a pretty good match, until one of the booking team lost their mind.
It's then onto a trifeca of Cruiserweight matches, kicking off with 1998's opening match pitting Psiscosis against "Ultimate" Dragon (Obviously Ultimo Dragon would have been too mental a name for WCW's fanbase to handle) This wasn't exactly what I had been expecting from two lucha based wrestlers, as it's slow and really quite dull for the first ten minutes. It does pick up towards the end, as we get the customary lucha flips and such, but it doesn't make up for those first ten minutes.
The compulsory Eddie Guerrero match on WCW set see's the WWE Hall of Famer take on Chavo Guerrero, Jr, from 1998, in a match that is, to be brutally honest, a bit shit. Without any explanation of their feud, it is really difficult to work out who is the heel, as they both use under handed means throughout the match. The crowd couldn't give a rats arse either, as they alternatively chant "Boring" and "We Want Flair". It's neither mans best match, that's for sure.
A similarly compulsory Chris Jericho match features Jericho taking on Dean Malenko for the vacant Crusierweight Championship, also from 1998. This was probably my favourite out of three cruiserweight bouts, until the finish that is. The action is crisp and technical as you would expect, with a number of very nice reversals done at a decent pace. The match is let down by very little crowd reaction, apart from a tremendous roar for Malenko's Texas Cloverleaf and a dodgy finish, that really had no place on one of WCW's biggest PPVs.
Another match from 1998, see's Two All-Star team square up in a truly terrible match. Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart taking on Randy Savage and Roddy Piper, on paper, at least, is a dream match. Then you remember this was WCW in 1998. Both teams work as heels, the action is sloppy and I was bored after about three minutes.
It doesn't get much better as we jump to an Ambulance Match from 2000 as Diamond Dallas Page battles Mike Awesome. The crowd are so so dead, with run ins from Miss Hancock and Kimberly getting the biggest reaction of the night, because legs and tits. The finish is a completely pointless swerve, that makes absoutuely no sense at all. Just awful.
The final match on the set is the Main Event from 2000, as Kevin Nash challenges Jeff Jarrett for the WCW World Heavyweight title. The match is over booked to shite, with all of The Filthy Animals knocking around ringside for some reason or another. Jarrett spends the entire match working the leg, even having Nash in the Figure Four Leg Lock for what felt like an age, due to Nash's piss poor selling, only for Nash to jump up a few minutes later and decide he didn't need to sell the leg at all. The finish is another over-booked, swervy mess.
If this set had only been the first two discs, it would have been infinitely improved. With the exception of Savage vs Flair, the rest of the third disc either doesn't match expectations or is complete bilge. I certainly struggled to watch the rest of the set.
First two discs are the complete opposite, presenting a series of classic and enjoyable matches, most notably Dusty Rhodes vs Ric Flair, Flair vs Terry Funk and Sting vs Vader. Which were really a pleasure to sit through, with the added bonus of Dusty Rhodes' hilarious introductions and commentary.
Perhaps, the best selling point for this DVD is that there isn't a single Lex Luger match in sight. If you like WCW, but hate Lex Luger, this could be the set for you.