Saturday, 5 September 2015

Blu-Ray Review: WWE The Kliq Rules

WWE's The Kliq Rules is out on Monday in the UK on DVD and Blu-Ray from www.wwedvd.co.uk and all other good home video stores. The main feature is an over 1 hour documentary looking at the infamous backstage group known as The Kliq and their history in both WWE and WCW. The documentary is supplemented with 23 full matches (4 of which are Blu-Ray exclusive) featuring all five members of The Kliq, as well as Chris Jericho, The Rock, Owen Hart, Sting, Davey Boy Smith and more.


Disc One



Documentary




     At just over an hour, the main feature feels especially brief when looking at a group who's influence spread over a number of decades and two separate companies. Whilst all the major points (the groups formation, Curtain Call, etc.) are covered, often times it feels like the documentary is only scratching the surface of the groups influence behind the scenes, that an extra half hour or even an hour, would have allowed for. 


Whilst the documentary fell short of my expectations, it's safe to say that it is a very easy watch, with a number of interesting interviewees giving a good insight into the Kliq's backstage power (with Shane Douglas, Rick Steiner and a new Eric Bischoff interview amongst the usual suspects). The documentary also covers ground that you may not expect it to go into, such as the BSK (another backstage group at the time, that included The Undertaker and Yokozuna) and interviews with the two guys who filmed the Curtain Call, which is where the most interesting moments come from. The frank talk of Scott Hall's problems with alcohol and drugs produce some poignant moments, and it's interesting to see how each of his friends reacted to his struggles during this period. Outside of the main story there's some laugh out loud moments throughout, perhaps unintentional, like Jim Ross explaining what a marionette is, whilst doing his own little impression.




The feature acts as a good in for anyone less familiar with the group, and it's good to see a number of things legitimised by appearing in a WWE release, however a lot of the stories have been covered in a number of releases by independent companies, as well as a number of autobiographies by this point.


Matches




After the famous moment of The Kid defeating Razor Ramon on Monday Night RAW, the rematch (Monday Night RAW, June 1993) is enjoyable for the most part, but features a weird finish that left me scratching my head as to who I was supposed to be supporting. There's no such problems as Ramon continues to be the focus in a match with Diesel (Monday Night RAW, November 1993) with the contest having a simplistic but strong face vs. heel format, although it's hurt by another TV finish. Shawn Michaels makes his first appearance, opposite 1-2-3 Kid (Monday Night RAW, December 1993), in a sound TV bout that offers a different style to what had gone before it, although once again falls foul of a disappointing finish. 


Kid and Ramon team up to take on The Quebecers for the WWF Tag Team Championships (Monday Night RAW, February 1994) goes a little too long for me, but does have a number of notable moments, including Quebecers manager Johnny Polo taking a Razor's Edge on the outside. It's interesting to note here how strong Kid and Ramon are put over the then Tag Team Champions, with Jacques and Pierre made to look like complete chumps for lengthy sections of the match. The Ladder match over the Intercontinental Championship between Michaels (with Diesel) and Ramon (WrestleMania X, March 1994) should need no description, it's truly one of the all-time classic WrestleMania bouts that you should be going out of your way to watch if you've still to see it. Whilst it's appeared on a handful of other sets over the years (and of course it's on the WWE Network) it's inclusion again here is warranted thanks to it allowing for a satisfying conclusion to the Ramon-Michaels feud that the early part of this set follows. 




An Intercontinental Championship bout between Ramon and Diesel (with Michaels) (WWF Superstars, April 1994) is a pretty dull bout that bucks the trend by being saved by an exciting finish. The inclusion of a tag team match pitting Michaels & Diesel against Ramon and Kid (WWF Action Zone, October 1994) provides one of the best matches on the entire set, in what may be considered an uncovered gem. With Action Zone currently not available on the WWE Network, this bout which is full of drama and great sequences is perhaps one of the best reasons to get your hands on this set. 


A Survivor Series match that see's The Bad Guys (Ramon, Kid, The British Bulldog & The Headshrinkers) takes on The Teamsters (Michaels, Ramon, Owen Hart, Jim Neidhart & Jeff Jarrett) (WWF Survivor Series, November 1994) is a welcome addition for the mere fact that it allows for a few other faces to appear on the set, therefore freshening things up. The match itself isn't one of the greatest Survivor Series bout that you'll ever see, but it's pretty watchable throughout until the finish and features a significant moment in the career of Big Daddy Cool. Hunter Hearst Helmsley's first match on the set is opposite Ramon (WWF Monday Night Raw, January 1996) isn't much of a match, with the focus on Ramon's feud with Kid, but it is the only televised match between the two Kliq members and therefore deserves to be included here. Ramon and Kid's feud continues in a Crybaby Match (WWF In Your House: Rage In A Cage, February 1996) and whilst the gimmick lame, the pair do put together a decent encounter that features a hot crowd. 



Disc Two



Matches




A No Holds Barred bout over the WWF World Heavyweight Championship with Shawn Michaels (WWF In Your House 7: Good Friends, Better Enemies, April 1996) is perhaps the best match of Diesel's career. A truly physical epic encounter, this is unlike anything before it on the set, bringing a brutality that would see WWF eventually take a new direction over the coming years. Michaels continues to prove why he's considered on of the best in the history of the industry with a smashing TV bout with Hunter Hearst Helmsley (WWF Monday Night RAW, May 1996) and whilst the bout is shaky at points in it's presentation of Helmsley, there is a number of special sequences between the two. A foreshadowing of things to come between the two, not long before the formation of D-Generation X, this is a welcome addition to the set. 


Having the full fan recording of the Curtain Call incident is a very nice touch, with the reaction of the crowd throughout being particularly interesting. Moving to WCW and the first matches entrance made me absolute hate Michael Buffer, what ever he was being paid was too much. The bout see's Scott Hall (fka Razor Ramon) and Kevin Nash (fka Diesel) (accompanied by Hulk Hogan) taking on The Steiner Brothers (WCW Monday NITRO, January 1998) in a awful tag team match, with plenty of interference and perhaps ONE good move all match. Things get worse as Nash and Hall face off (WCW Halloween Havoc, October 1998) as the match focuses on Hall's alcohol problem, seriously. 




Praise the sweet lord we're back in the WWF, but oh dear...it's an X-Pac (fka 1-2-3 Kid) match. The bout with Triple H (WWF Backlash, April 1999) actually has some promising moments with some pleasing storytelling, but goes way, way too long and has a pretty wank finish. Skipping a few years, we have a bout full of star power, Hall, Nash and X-Pac team to take on Hulk Hogan, The Rock and Kane (WWE Smackdown!, March 2003) in a match that happened on that day. If anyone needed convincing of the Kliq's influence in WWE then Kevin Nash's 2003 main event run with Triple H is that evidence, their Judgment Day bout is included here, and is played out in front of a crowd that certainly couldn't give a fuck about Kevin Nash. 


The set finishes up with a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match as D-Generation X (Triple H & Michaels) have one last hurrah, opposite Jeri-Show, with a very appreciative crowd on hand. Whilst the match doesn't reach the heights of TLC bout before it, it's still a pleasant watch with a handful of decent spots, although it is hurt by the botchy conclusion.

Blu-Ray Exclusives




Scott Hall teams with Syxx (Kid or X-Pac) to take on Harlem Heat (WCW Monday NITRO, July 1997), and describing the match as not terrible is perhaps the best thing I can say about it. Kevin Nash takes on The Rock (WWF Smackdown!, March 2002) in another not terrible match, but there's nothing particular special about this encounter either, other than it's clear that The Rock is considered a bigger star by both the fans and the company. Nash is back in a Sledgehammer Ladder match with Triple H (WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs, December 2011) in a clash that is better than it had any right to be. There's some quality storytelling here and a handful of brutal spots, that go further than their terrible 2011 feud deserved.


The exclusive finish up with Triple H taking on Sting (WWE WrestleMania 31, March 2015) as all of The Kliq (alongside the New Age Outlaws and Hulk Hogan) are on hand for a true celebration of a long gone era. This isn't a good match, but what it is is a true spectacle and thoroughly entertaining from start to finish.  


Finally...




Obviously, a set like this live and dies on the strength of it's documentary features and whilst I feel that a new fan will find plenty of interesting information here, it's brevity may mean that someone who has followed the behind-the-scenes of the business since the time of The Kliq will perhaps find it lacking slightly, especially with the wealth of information that can be found elsewhere (Shoot interviews, autobiographies etc.). 

The presentation of the matches is done very well over the first disc here, allowing for a story to unfold between Ramon, Diesel, Michaels and Kid across the number of years that it played out, with highlights including Michaels and Ramon's Ladder match and the terrific tag bout from Action Zone. Onto the second disc and as soon the four start working together less frequently things aren't as enjoyable to binge watch, with the set jumping a few years a number of times. Whilst anything from WCW should be avoided like the plague, Michaels and Diesel's No Holds Barred match and Michaels and Helmsley's bout from Monday Night RAW are both quality viewing. 




There is plenty to enjoy here, from underrated gems of matches to some interesting stories during the documentary, I'd recommend this set to anyone looking to discover more about the backstage workings of WWE, especially between 1993 and 1997, as well as anyone looking to fill up their library with matches from that period. Of course, any big fan of Shawn Michaels ring work will love this also.

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