Tuesday, 18 August 2015

DVD Review: WWE Monday Night War Vol. 1 - Shots Fired

WWE's Monday Night War Vol. 1 - Shots Fired is out now on four-disc DVD and three-disc Blu-Ray, available from www.wwedvd.co.uk and all other good home video stores. The main features ten episodes from the Monday Night War series that aired on the WWE Network between July 2014 and January 2015. Filling in between the episodes is a brand new interview conducted by Renee Young with Triple H and Sting. There is, however, no full matches included.




Disc One



Episode 1 - The War Begins







Aired - 7th July 2014


The series get's off to a strong start with a look at how the Monday Night War between WCW and WWF began. The episode features a sprawling story, beginning with the early days of cable TV and includes a nice glimpse into the relationship between head honchos Vince McMahon and Ted Turner. Hulk Hogan and Lex Luger both feature heavily, with both men's moves to WCW given a fair amount of coverage and making for a satisfying narrative. There's some nice inclusion of stuff that perhaps wouldn't have merited their own installment, such as the dirty tactics that both sides employed throughout the war. Vince McMahon and Lex Luger are the star interviews here for me, with McMahon's opinion on Nitro going head to head with Raw, as well as Luger's insight into his jump to WCW prior to the first episode. I'd have liked to have seen the documentary be a little more fluid in it's description of events between the two promotion, as things seem to cover WCW and then WWE, without comparing the two companies all that much. Still a good start for the series.

The interview with Triple H and Sting provides a good insight into both lockeroom's at the time of the first episode of Monday Nitro, whilst Triple H also discusses into areas that the documentary doesn't go, such as the infamous Curtain Call incident.


Episode 2 - The Rise of the nWo






Aired - 26th August 2014



The main problem with this episode is that it's been less than three years since WWE released the nWo - The Revolution three disc, which included a full length documentary, however if you haven't seen that documentary it won't be a problem. The feature, as the title would suggest, mainly focuses on the glory days of the nWo, which is a rather interesting choice. Hulk Hogan offers the best interview on this one, with the Hulkster noting his initial reluctance to join the group, presenting some sound reasoning. The inclusion of WWF's decision to use Fake Razor and Fake Diesel is one of the rare times throughout this series where WWE admit some kind of mistake on their part. Chris Jericho provides a glance at what it was like to be on the outside of the group and it's a shame not to have a few more outside voice chiming in on this. The episode works fine in it's position, following nicely on from the initial episode.

Sting completely no-selling Renee Young's question about potentially being the 3rd man in the nWo continues a frustrating theme with the Stinger, who seems reluctant to give away much about his time in the promotion.



Disc Two



Episode 3 - Embracing Attitude





Aired - 27th August 2014



Similar to the previous episode, if you've already seen The Attitude Era DVD set (released 2012) then there is nothing important here that you won't have already heard before. The biggest criticism here is that the timeline the episode follows is seemingly completely random, jumping at one point from the Hardcore division to the birth of the Mr. McMahon character. The Attitude Era is put over something fierce, as one would imagine, with the main points being that things were sexy and awesome during those days. The coverage of WWF's Hardcore division, as opposed to WCW's, is horrendously biased, with no real reason's given for why one was better than the other. My absolute highlight of the entire show is Daniel Bryan's impression of Sunny, which had me in bits for a minute or so. If this episode had been shuffled around to take a more linear review at the Attitude Era (and therefore it's effects on the ratings) it would have been all the better for it.


Episode 4 - A New D-Generation







Aired - 2nd September 2014


WWE's previous documentary releases on D-Generation X have, at least, The New and Improved DX and DX: One Last Stand have, at least, looked at the faction in years following the Monday Night Wars, although numerous releases on Triple H and Shawn Michaels have covered that time period. Shawn Michaels stands out of the talking heads on this, providing a frank description at his turbulent personal life during the time, although the documentary shies away from going into too much details. There's also some well thought out comparisons of the D-Generation X and WCW's nWo, with Michaels again standing out with some strong reasoning to back up his opinion. There's more of a focus on specific moments in the history of the faction, such as Rick Rude's defection to WCW and the infamous DX address, and therefore it's a shame that the ratings for these specific shows aren't brought up at the same time. Rude and Chyna are the only faces missing from the talking heads, and whilst Rude is sadly no longer with us, Chyna could have offered a different perespective into the time she spent with the group. This episode is where the cross over with previous episodes really begins, and it becomes a frustrating motif for the series from here on in. 



Disc Three


Episode 5 - Have A Nice Day






Aired - 9th September 2014



Another name with a number of previous DVD releases, including Mick Foley: Greatest Hits and Misses, Mick Foley - Hard Knocks and Cheap Pops and most recently, For All Mankind - The Life and Career of Mick Foley, a lot of the ground covered here will be familiar to most. For me, the documentary looks at a lot of content that it doesn't need to, spending a good deal of time peeking at Foley's career prior to the Monday Night War, and whilst certain elements like his time in WCW are relevant, I'd have preferred to see this focused on Foley's career during that period. Foley's ability to change throughout his career means that there's a good deal of different footage available and keep this episode feeling fresh. Jim Ross and Jerry "The King" Lawler provide fascinating insight at what it was like to be at ringside for Foley's infamous Hell in a Cell match at King of the Ring 1997. There's also a fantastic look at Foley's WWF tenure from the other side of the trenches, as Diamond Dallas Page, Kevin Sullivan and Larry Zbyszko all give sound interviews on the subject. Once again the episode is hurt by covering previous ground, with the nWo again featuring heavily on an episode where they wouldn't have been missed had the not appeared.

The interview with Sting and Triple H quickly shifts off Foley onto something else entirely, however not before Sting imparts his most interesting story of the DVD.


Episode 6 - The Hart of War





Aired - 16th September 2014


Bret Hart is another wrestler who WWE have given a number of DVD releases over the years, Bret Hitman Hart: The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be, Hart & Soul: The Hart Family Anthology, Greatest Rivalries - Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart and Bret Hitman Hart: The Dungeon Collection have all graced video stores shelves. From the very opening of this episode, it's made clear that this is all about the Montreal Screwjob, with no real effort made to look at any other element of Hart's career during the Monday Night War. There's more content on the nWo, as well as the Attitude Era, which whilst both seem relevant, feature reused interviews from their own episodes, which is pretty lazy on the production teams part. There is a decent look at Hart and Shawn Michaels backstage problems, with Jerry "The King" Lawler and Pat Patterson telling an interesting story between the two of them. Where this episode really shines for me is in it's use of footage from the film Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows (if you haven't seen it...go now), which provides some real life footage that grounds a number of the comments made. The juxtaposing opinions of Hart and Eric Bischoff on his WCW run also makes for good viewing.

Whilst Sting doesn't really have much to say about Hart, other than that the two have the same finishing hold, Triple H does offer an extra dimension to the episodes coverage of the Montreal Screwjob.


Episode 7 - Foundations of War


Aired - 2nd December 2014


The set jumps two months, in terms of when the episodes aired on WWE Network, for reasons. A slightly different approach to this episodes, see's The Undertaker and Sting become the focus of the piece, which is a breath of fresh air from previous episodes, and allows things to jump from one promotion to the other quite easily. From my knowledge, this was WWE's first documentary look at the career of Sting, and whilst The Undertaker has had multiple DVD sets, the gimmick means that The Deadman is never focused on for too long. Again, I'd have liked to have seen more focus on the pairs journeys during the Monday Night War, rather than their times in either promotion prior. The documentary lacking both The Undertaker and Sting as interviewees means that we never get a true idea of their mindsets for staying loyal for both companies, which is odd because Undertaker does turn up elsewhere on the set. One of the stronger episodes present here, because of the dual focus.

Sting is again slightly reluctant to reveal anything during the post-episode interview, which is a real shame, as with him not being present on the main feature, it would have been well received to hear him reply to some of the points made in the episode.


Disc Four



Episode 8 - The Austin Era has Begun





Aired - 29th September 2014



With six WWE DVD sets to his name, there isn't really much that isn't known about Steve Austin's career, is there? Throw in the fact that numerous episodes throughout the series so far, especially Embracing Attitude, have covered a good depth of Austin's relevance to the Monday Night War and by the time you've got to this episode it's already become a little bit of an overkill. With a strange amount of references to Hulk Hogan throughout, there is at least, some good comments from those in the industry at the time, as well as current WWE wrestlers. The moment Austin breaks his neck at SummerSlam 1997 is repeated at least three times here, which is lovely (seriously though, once was enough). There is some rare footage that I hadn't seen before included, like Austin's WrestleMania 14 press conference after winning the World Heavyweight Championship. Whilst the story is as fascinating as ever, it's nothing most won't have heard before.


Triple H and Sting have a great chat about wrestling being built on characters, rather than moves, with The Game in particular giving great observation.



Episode 9 - Who's Next?



Aired - 21st October 2014

Goldberg is someone who WWE have surprisingly yet to release a documentary on (although they did release a match compilation a few years ago), which means that this episode is one of the most interesting of the ten released here. Someone who's career pretty much all took place during the Monday Night Wars, Goldberg's story is covered in full and allowed to focus entirely on the Monday Night Wars themselves. William Regal offers a superb understanding into his infamous encounter with Goldberg from 1998, although it is a shame that we don't get to hear Goldberg's side of what went down. The comparison of Goldberg and Steve Austin, that is glanced at in the previous episode, offers some differing views and works well as the talking heads exchange opinions. CM Punk may quite possibly steal the show however, with a hilarious description of how Goldberg's streak came to end.

It's clear that WWE's opinion of Goldberg isn't particularly high, with "Two Moves, One Name" being used during the opening of his episode and therefore when the Sting and Triple H interview descends into talk of limited workers, it's not all that surprising.y 



Episode 10 - Flight of the Cruiserweights



Aired - 14th October 2014


The final episode on this Volume is, in fact, the shortest, which seems fitting considering we're talking about Cruiserweights (HA!). This episodes is one of the times when WWE admits that WCW did something quite good, with plenty of praise for the Cruiserweight division and the vision of Eric Bischoff for setting it up. There's a strong focus on individual matches again, as looks at Brian Pillman vs. Jushin Thunder Liger from the 1st episode of Nitro and Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero from Halloween Havoc, both getting plenty of praise. It's a shame that no data is provided for the kind of ratings that the Cruiserweight's got during episodes of Nitro as that would really have given some of the opinions given that extra bit of weight. Of course, WCW get's the blame for the downfall of their own division, whilst WWF comes out squeaky clean when they manage to make stars out of the likes of Chris Jericho and Eddie Guerrero and the status quo returns.



Finally...





A lot of what is covered here, is covered elsewhere and in more depth. There's not a whole lot of fresh stories, outside of, perhaps, the Undertaker/Sting, Goldberg and Cruiserweight episodes. Dust off your old DVD's on either Austin, Foley or the nWo and I'm sure you'll have a much better time.

If you don't own a single documentary from this period, then this is the set for you. You'll get coverage of some of the biggest names in the industry in one set and everything will be fine. However, I'd suggest you don't watch more than one episode in a fortnight (I watched this entire thing in just over a day) because there is surely only so many times you can hear about Razor Ramon and Diesel jumping to WCW before you go completely insane.

I can't help but feel that this whole series was a missed opportunity, as a linear look at the War, perhaps covering a few months at a time, could have been a much better way to chronicle one of the most popular periods in wrestling history.

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