WWE's The Road is Jericho: Epic Stories and Rare Matches is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray, available from www.wwedvd.co.uk. The three disc set features compiles includes twenty complete Chris Jericho matches from WWE, WCW and ECW, alongside a new interview with Jericho that is placed before each match begins. The set includes Jericho taking on the likes of Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Edge, CM Punk and more.
The sit-down interview that is included was recorded in the back of a limousine as Jericho rides from one Fozzy gig to another. The concept is a little gimmicky and doesn't really add much to the interview, but at the same time it doesn't take anything away, whilst making a change from your regular talking head segments. It was good to see Jericho appear before each match on the set, as opposed to only a handful as has been on the case on previous WWE releases, as he gives a good insight and context into the upcoming match. There's a lot of information in the interview that I wasn't aware of and Jericho's stories are always told with such a passion that it's difficult not to enjoy just listening to him. There's a number of matches that I enjoyed a lot more than usual because of having the knowledge that the interview gave away.
The set kicks off with Jericho facing Pitbull #2 for the ECW World Television Championship at Hardcore Heaven in June 1996, in what is a rather sloppy opener. Whilst there's a few ECW style bells and whistle's added, there's no covering that Pitbull #2 just isn't very good. Things begin to pick up with a pacy, WCW World Cruiserweight Championship match with Ultimo Dragon from Bash at the Beach 1997. Even with a disinterested crowd the pair put together a number of cool sequences, with the finish of the match especially standing out. Another Cruiserweight title bout, this time with Dean Malenko from Uncensored 1998 is a lot more technical, with a series of crisp near falls and a crowd that seems to be invested in the action. It's also notable for Gene Okerlund's promo on Malenko after the match!
That's it for Jericho's pre-WWE career as a Steel Cage match with X-Pac from No Mercy 2000 is up next. A hidden-gem of a bout, there is a number of big spots and the cage is used well throughout, both men work hard and take big bumps to create an enjoyable encounter. A Last Man Standing match with Kane from Armageddon 2000 is less exciting, with not a whole lot of action before an awful finish. Jericho's claim that Kane is an underrated performer is not backed up by this match in any shape or form. A World Heavyweight title match with Steve Austin from RAW is WAR in June 2001, struggles due to Austin being unable to get over as a heel, and the crowd not being interested in cheering Jericho over there anti-hero. Mick Foley as Special Guest Enforcer offers an interesting dynamic, in what is still a decent television match. Booker T is the final opponent on the set, as Jericho goes after the WCW World Heavyweight Championship on a July 2001 episode of RAW is WAR with the Invasion angle in full swing. It's another solid television bout, with a scintilating finish, that is spectacularly overbooked.
The first disc features a good mixture of bouts, against a number of opponents, covering a handful of different styles. Matches against Ultimo Dragon, Dean Malenko and X-Pac all stand out, whilst only the matches with Pitbull #2 and Kane made me question their inclusion on the set, everything else was at least watchable, with a two solid TV matches rounding of the disc.
The Invasion angle is featured again as Jericho get's another shot at the WCW World Heavyweight Championship at Rebellion 2001, in what is a satisfying encounter. Very smooth and containing some really good chain wrestling, this is what you'd expect from these two, and whilst the jet lag explained by Jericho on the interview, may mean this match isn't quite as good as it would have been for a US PPV, a lively Manchester crowd more than make up for it. An Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship defense against The Rock at Royal Rumble 2002 is a step up in quality, being a great example of the big drama, main event style that WWE is known for. Jericho couldn't have been more of a heel here if he tried.
A run of four TV matches concludes the disc, beginning with a bout with Triple H from Smackdown in April 2002. A solid TV main event, this bout is more focused on setting up matches for the upcoming PPV than the action in the ring, but there's still enough good work to enjoy. A February 2003 tussle with Jeff Hardy on RAW is more fine action, although the bout doesn't really get the time it needs to fully develop into anything special. Their PPV bout two weeks later might have been a better showcase for the two. The last match from Jericho's initial run in WWE is March 2005 RAW bout with Edge, which features some sound psychology and good selling on the part of Edge. A sound match, as Edge began to gain traction in WWE, but not quite as good as it could have been.
The best of the television bouts is a Last Man Standing match with Shawn Michaels from Monday Night Raw in November 2008, with the match actually making use of WWE's regular English set. Both men bring a lot to match, and this feels like a fitting end to their stellar 2008 feud, allowing both men to move into other areas.
A very strong disc, the bout with Angle, Rock and Michaels particularly stand out from the pack. I'd have liked to have seen the four TV bouts broken up with another PPV contest, such as the aforementioned bout with Hardy, as four TV matches in a row did get a bit repetitive.
A unique start to disc three see's Jericho square off with John Cena for the World Heavyweight Championship in a Street Fight, which is actually a dark match from a Monday Night Raw taping in December 2008. Not a particularly notable match, but it does include some interesting work with John Cena Snr., and you won't find it anywhere else! Perhaps the best match on the set is a Mask vs. Intercontinental Championship bout with Rey Mysterio from The Bash in what is a truly special match. Great sequences and reversals and top notch selling from Mysterio, both men put a shift in to make on of the best Intercontinental Championship matches of the last ten years. A November 2009 Monday Night Raw bout see's Jericho team with Big Show against D-Generation X and the odd-couple of John Cena and The Undertaker, in a match that is studded with star but not particularly special. After being included in a number of different sets, it's disappointing to see it again here.
A street fight with CM Punk from Extreme Rules 2012 is an entertaining bout with both men playing their roles perfectly, making it feel like there is genuine animosity between the two. A loud Chicago crowd lifts the quality of the match, and both men wearing jeans is a nice touch that pleases this reviewer no end. A July 2013 Monday Night Raw bout with Rob Van Dam is not the smoothest bout you'll see, with a number of slips and trips, but contains a number of a nice ideas. For me this bout is a little long for what it is, but with Jericho's explanation that the match had time added just before the pair went to the ring, I'm perhaps a little more lenient than I was when this match first aired. A Steel Cage match from Monday Night Raw last September is used to showcase Jericho's feud with Bray Wyatt, and it's a passable TV match. There's a big spectacular big spot, but beyond that this bout isn't quite as special as Jericho's interview suggests.
The final match on the set is an underrated clash with Randy Orton from last year's Night of Champions, in which both men work hard to make the best out of their rushed together match. The wrestling is smooth throughout and more than up for Jericho's laclustre feud with Wyatt.
This may be my favourite disc of the entire set, with the Mysterio, Punk and Orton matches all being top notch contests and even the Van Dam match offering some entertaining action. Alongside the never-before-seen dark match with Cena and a decent cage match with Wyatt, it's a shame that the three way tag team match wasn't replace with something a little more exciting.
A really strong set as WWE Home Video continues to go from strength to strength attempting to find original ideas and produce the best content for the fans. The interview is entertaining throughout and compliments the matches adding more entertainment value to most of the matches, even those criticised above. The match quality is incredibly strong also, with matches Ultimo Dragon, The Rock, Rey Mysterio, CM Punk and Randy Orton all standing out as must-see matches, whilst still managing to offer something different from each other. For those only familiar with Jericho's later run in WWE this a great starting place to find out more about Y2J as well as those looking to relive some great matches.
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