John Cena - Greatest Rivalries features a rather different format to what many will be used to from previous WWE set. Rather than following a chronological order, the set presents two matches for each of the chosen rivalries, with an excerpt of a new interview with Cena placed in between each match. This is a refereshing change of pace for WWE releases, getting to focus on the individual rivalries one at a time. Another plus point to the presentation of the set, is the Street Fighter-esque buffer screens used to present each match up, complete with 8-bit version of Cena's theme song.
The interview reveals some nice tid-bits about what Cena learnt from facing each of his opponents, with Cena being his usual humble and complimentary self, putting over his opponent abilities. I would have like to have Cena focus more on the rivalries themselves, rather than his rivals, as well as talk about the match that is about to be shown to give the matches a little more context.
The set kicks off with a look at Cena's rivalry with Eddie Guerrero, beginning with a Quarter Final Match in a WWE Championship Number One Contender's tournament from an April 2003 edition of Smackdown. It's a fun little match, that is way, way too short. It's also not a great showcase of the rivalry, as there's no real intensity between the two. Luckily, the following bout has intensity in spades, as Cena and Guerrero battle in a Parking Lot Brawl. There's silly spots a plenty, with both men taking some ridiculous bumps. It's a well put together hardcore brawl, certainly not the best showcase of Guerrero's technical talents, but still an entertaining watch.
Cena's feud with Batista is up next, beginning with a look at the pair wrestling in Ohio Valley Wrestling as The Prototype and Leviathan. Both are clearly very green at the time, with some awkward bumps and cringeworthy Hulk-up by Leviathan. There is an attempt at some psychology but the selling is no existent. Throw in an over-booked finish, Leviathan no-selling a briefcase shot and an irritating Jim Cornette on commentary and you've got a pretty horrible match. However, it works nicely as a contrast for the next match as the pair battle in a Last Man Standing match at Extreme Rules 2010. Despite the infamous stupid finish, the bulk of this bout is well worked, with some cool spots, being exactly what you'd expect from a WWE Last Man Standing bout.
Shawn Michaels is the next rival under the spotlight. The pair's epic near 60 minute bout from April 2007 on Raw is included, and is an absolute pleasure to watch. Some fantastic sequences, sound psychology and selling, false finishes and Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler nailing it on commentary come together to make one of the best matches WWE has put on in the UK. A follow up match from March 2008 on Raw fails to recapture any of the magic of the original, including a DQ finish. The match is more of a part of Cena's rivalry with Randy Orton than it is Cena's rivalry with Michaels.
Cena's encounters with John "Bradshaw" Layfield follow up, with their WrestleMania 21 WWE Championship match coming up first. It's a star making match for Cena, but it's certainly not a great match, if that makes sense. Cena looks incredible throughout and get's put over strongly on the big stage, but that doesn't stop it from being a rather dull brawl. The second match losses that big stage, but doesn't gain any entertainment factor as the two have a basic match on Raw in June 2008.
Chris Jericho closes off Disc Two, starting with a "You're Fired" match for the WWE Championship from in August 2005. Another good television bout, with a strong "against the odds" type story, with then Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff in Jericho's corner. It's steeped in drama and has a satisfying finish. A Survivor Series 2008 bout over the World Heavyweight Championship match isn't quite as good as it's predessor, but still has plenty to enjoy, with a strong and enjoyable story.
Perhaps Cena's most fondly remembered feud kicks of Disc Three as Cena battled Edge in a Steel Cage match. It's a belting television main event, with (those words again) dramatic storytelling and a great use of the steel cage gimmick. It's ever so slightly let down by an over booked finish and a ridiculous unprotected chair shot that makes for uncomfortable viewing. The duos Backlash 2009 Last Man Standing is much the same, using the gimmick of the match well, with some terrific spots, but let down by an interference finish.
Triple H is the next opponent for Cena, with their WrestleMania 22 main event over the WWE Championship. The Chicago crowd plays a big part in this one, showing off how "smart" they are, by cheering for the heel Triple H throughout the bout. This one takes a while to get going, as the two play around with the heel/face dynamic, but the closing stages are electric with the crowd losing their shit for each false finish. In my opinion, an October 2009 bout from Raw is slightly better than their Mania clash. It has the feel of an exhibition bout with both men going back and forth in a tense theatrical match.
The final rival showcased is The Rock, and instead of showing both of the pairs WrestleMania bouts, only the second one is present here. Instead, the Hall of Famer's Q&A from a March 2013 episode of Raw is presented. Mick Foley, Dusty Rhodes, Booker T and Bret Hart ask the questions that allow both Cena and Rock to deliver passionate duelling promos, whilst adding an extra spin to their WrestleMania 29 rematch. That match is still in my opinion underrated by many, as whilst it does have it's flaws (going way too long, little variation in moves and Cena chatting his head off so much a new camera angle had to be added) it's still a ridiculously, melodramatic contest that has the crowd popping for every false finish.
If you're one of those wrestling fans that blindly hates John Cena, for whatever reason, this set will do nothing to change your mind. But that says more about the feeling towards Cena, than it does about the set itself or John Cena as a performer.
This is a well put together set, that flows nicely from match to match, with the interview segments work as a nice buffer between each one. The match quality is perhaps the strongest from start to finish of any three disc DVD WWE has produced in 2014, with bouts with Batista, Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, Edge, Triple H and The Rock all being well worth a watch.
I would have liked to have seen Cena's rivalry with CM Punk make it onto the actual feature, rather than as a Blu-Ray exclusive, and replace the JBL matches on this set with the two matches with Punk present on the Blu Ray and it would be very hard to argue against this being the strongest set (match quality wise, anyway) of 2014. I'd also have liked to have seen some focus put on Cena's rivalry with Kurt Angle, which is the only rivalry I think has been missed entirely from this set.
The biggest compliment I can give this set is that I watched it in one sitting, which is almost impossible with most of these DVD sets.