Friday, 13 November 2015

Blu-Ray Review: WWE The Monday Night War Vol. 2 - Know Your Role


WWE's The Monday Night War - Vol. 2 Know Your Role is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray from www.wwedvd.co.uk and all other good home video outlets. The set takes the form of the ten remaining episodes of the Monday Night War series originally aired on the WWE Network between 7th July 2014 and 13th January 2015. There's a little bit of bonus footage from the series original run with former WCW President Eric Bischoff returning to WWE to present interconnecting commentary and there's just under an hour of Blu-Ray exclusive content (including ONE wrestling match)....but is it any good?


So, for the last Volume of the Monday Night Wars set, I did an episode by episode review, which in hindsight I think was a little bit too much and became a little bit repititive at times, with certain points. Therefore, for the 2nd volume of the series, I thought I'd streamline things just a little. This review will take much more of an overview of the entire THREE-DISC Blu-Ray edition of the release.



Let's start with some of the positives, shall we? There's a great deal of variety, in terms of subject matter in here. If you've never purchased a WWE documentary set before, then I'd recommend this one to you for sure. Although obviously there's a lot of coverage of a similar time period, the set includes ten documentaries, all just under an hour in length. The topics covered in this set are Chris Jericho (Monday Night Jericho, aired October 28th 2014), ECW (The War Goes Extreme, aired September 23rd 2014), The Rock (The War Gets Electrified, aired 4th November 2014), Divas (Divas Gone Wild, aired 18th November 2014), Celebrities (The War Goes Mainstream, aired 25th November 2014) WWF and WCW's mid-carders (Assembling an Army, aired 9th December 2014), The Kliq (The Kliq, aired 16th December 2014), Infamous Mistakes (Mistakes on the Battlefield, aired 23rd December 2014), the dying days of WCW (The Fall of WCW, aired 6th January 2015) and the aftermath of the Monday Night War (Life After Wartime, 13th January 2015). Whilst some of these subjects have DVD sets already out, that are perhaps a little more focused, but if you're after a wide spectrum of subjects to kick off your collection you couldn't go much wrong. Think of it as picking up a variety pack of cereals, as opposed to a big box, less commitment and you can chop and change as you go. 


Whilst some of the more left-field earlier episodes (The War Goes Mainstream, Building an Army) are offer something different, I was especially pleased with the final three episodes of the set. They were exactly what I wanted from the Monday Night Wars when the series were first announced. The three episodes more or less follow on from one another, telling a good chronological story of the later part of the Monday Night War. Whilst having the first part of the episode recap things we've already seen allows each episode to stand alone, it does make it a little annoying when you're binge watching, as the story takes at least fifteen minutes before hitting something new. These episodes could easily have been merged into one longer episode to form a more satisfying story, or perhaps more interview content or archive footage added to give more depth. 


On the last Volume we had Renee Young acting as mediator between Sting and Triple H, but this time around we get Eric Bischoff going solo in his first WWE project in a long time. In a way I was a little disappointed with these segments, as the earlier ones are notably shorter than the one on the other volume, simply down to having just one voice, as opposed to three. However, what I did like is that Bischoff has clearly watched each episode, which couldn't have been said for Triple H or Sting, and he presents his thoughts on what he's just seen. Sometimes that's a clash of opinions with one of the interviewees and in a later episodes there's a great moment when Bischoff agrees with part of an Arn Anderson interviewee about some of the mistakes that Bischoff made while in charge of WCW. There's good stories in there as well, and certainly there's something bought to the show that the original was missing, in terms of the voice of one of the integral parts of the Monday Night War.


Unfortunately for the main feature, that is probably about all I have to say positive about it. Of course, there's individual gems in the various interviews and a handful of stories that I hadn't heard before, but these episodes are so repetitive. Not just sharing content with the first volume, but sharing content with the individual episode within this volume! The choice to focus on separate wrestlers or longer running topics, rather than tell a chronological story means that the same couple of, admittedly, pivotal moments. If these documentaries were on their own different releases there wouldn't be a problem, but as part of the same series we shouldn't be being told that Eric Bischoff wanted to remove the Southern feel from WCW, how Kevin Nash and Scott Hall jumped to WCW, about the formation of the nWo, how WWF's edgier direction during the Attitude Era helped to turn the tide over and over and over and over and over again. It's insulting to my intelligence and completely misses the trend of binge watching. People are going to want to watch two, three, four or maybe the entire ten episodes in one go, with a big bag of popcorn or whatever their snacks of choice are and this just isn't possible with this set. 


Alongside the repeated content, there's also a lot of content that comes from outside of the time period off the wars. Whilst I don't mind a little of this for the purposes of context, certain episodes really take the piss. The Mistakes on the Battlefield episode, discusses Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair not facing each other a WrestleMania VIII, three years before the debut of Nitro, Eric Bischoff's WWF job interview and various other things, taking TWENTY MINUTES before even beginning to talk about Nitro. Indeed the highlight of this section for me was Tony Schiavone's marvellous fleece. This isn't the only case of this either, and whilst certain episodes like Life After Wartime deserve to be included, it would've been nice to have seen the flab cut from earlier episodes and shorter more focus product created.


Of course, with any WWE product focusing on WCW and especially the tense subject of the Monday Night War (despite what Vince McMahon says here he's clearly still got a lot of pent up emotions over this period of his life) this is a very revisionist history of the period. WCW is only ever credited so far, and when it comes to current WWE superstars that are used to give fans opinion of the time, there is very little positive said about the company and any from WCW that has something positive to say about the company is presented as either as overly nostalgic or a bit mental. There's many a blanket term used and those blank terms are repeated times and time again, with little time to reflect the intricate details of the time period. Basically WCW was rubbish, especially when Vince Russo had anything to do with it (everyone burying Russo is actually an amazing thing to see) unless it was the nWo or the Cruiserweights, but even those got shit after a while and WWF was great as soon as the Attitude Era started and everyone on the card was amazing from top to bottom. 


Blu-Ray Exclusives



Hulk Hogan's Contract Signing Parade - A fun little piece of history, but a bit tedious to watch in full.

Post-WrestleMania 14 Press Conference - Mike Tyson involvement is a great addition, and he comes across very well with his "No one is bigger than the sport" mantra. Vince McMahon being asked if he's turning into a bad guy is a cute moment, with McMahon's answer being very guarded.


Hulk Hogan & Dennis Rodman vs. DDP & Karl Malone Contract Signing - A good sister piece of the WWF press conference, showing the difference between the two companies. Hulk Hogan leads the thing and seems more focused on getting a few laugh than making people want to see the upcoming tag bout.


Scott Steiner says WCW sucks - Scott Steiner on microphone for an extended period of time, you should know how this goes.

Finally...


I'm gonna be completely honest here and say that this addition to the WWE Blu-Ray offering was not for me. It's repititive watching and a lot of it, covering a lot of the ground that's been covered elsewhere. I can however reccomend it to anyone who has never purchased a WWE Documentary before (and doesn't have the WWE Network). Get this set and the 1st Volume and you'll get plenty of extra knowledge of one of the most succesful periods of wrestling history. 


If you have got the WWE Network, then the extra content probably shouldn't be enough to convince you to buy. Eric Bischoff's piece are quaint and there are some cool moments, but they aren't long enough to justify the price if you already have access to the episodes. The Blu-Ray exclusives all have their merit also, especially the WrestleMania 14 Press Conference. 


For me, this experiment of releasing WWE Network series on Home Video has not  work out in terms of producing an enjoyable watch from start to finish. Here's hoping that WWE sticks to bringing out new documentaries with added matches, as that format is a much more rewarding one. 

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