Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Blu-Ray Review: WWE Sting: Into the Light

WWE's Sting: Into the Light is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray from www.wwedvd.co.uk and all other good home video outlets. The set includes a brand new documentary on the 2 time NWA World Heavyweight Champion's career, including footage surround his WWE debut at Survivor Series 2014. There's sixteen complete matches on the DVD spanning the Stingers career in MSW, UWF, NWA, NJPW, WCW and WWE, with an extra four bouts included on the Blu-Ray...but is it any good?




The Documentary



The documentary kicks of the set, in a pretty familiar style for these types of releases. There's a look at Sting's career as a whole (although don't get your hopes up for too much TNA coverage), mixed in with specially filmed footage looking at the build towards The Icon's signing with WWE. The true highlight for me was Sting sitting down to watch some of his most famous matches (with Luger vs. The Steiner, vs. Hogan at Starrcade 97 and more), allowing for a real insight into how those bouts were put together. There's also a strange pleasure to be found in watching the Vigilante enjoying his own contests. 


I found that certain elements were pushed a little too hard to fit the narrative that had been chosen, like how much kids loved Sting (there's a lot of interviews about this) to build towards his Crow transformation. Whilst Sting comes across as a humble ("what an honour to have a match with Triple H"), at times his faith is pushed a little bit too much for my taste. I understand the idea of giving an insight into someone's private life, but these were the only sections that turned me off this set, coming across as a little too preachy.


The documentary as a whole is an easy watch and fires along at real pace, with plenty of treats for all the little Stingers out there along the way. 







The Matches





The first bout to really get your teeth into see's The Blade Runners (Blade Runner Sting & Blade Runner Rock) battling Tracy Smothers & Ricky Gibson (MSW, 2/3/1986) in a basic tag match, with a lively crowd. A UWF Tag Title encounter with The Stinger teaming up with Rick Steiner against Tim Horner & Brad Armstrong has it's moments, but is a mostly slopping affair, that more than outstays it's welcome. The booking is weird and whilst there's clearly potential in the the future Icon he's clearly still too green to carry a bout of this calibre. 


The first great match here (and almost certainly the best on the entire set) is a classic encounter with Ric Flair over the NWA World Heavyweight Championship (NWA Clash of the Champions #1, 27/03/1988). Whilst Sting has clearly improved ten-fold by this time, it's the Nature Boy's brilliance that shines through here, as his selling allows The Stinger to look every inch of the star he needed to be. The back and forth technical wrestling builds and builds to a thrilling climax, with excellent use of the old-school time-limit concept, that has a fully invested live-crowd begging for more. It's a lengthy epic that some fans may find hard to adjust to, in comparison to today's WWE product, but if you stick with the action you'll be rewarded.


Whilst all the trademarks are present when The Franchise of WCW's bout with Great Muta (NJPW Starrcade 1991- 21/03/1991) doesn't quite hit the spot as a standalone contest. However, the tag bout that follows is another terrific effort out of Sting, as he tags with Lex Luger against The Steiner Brothers (WCW Superbrawl - 19/05/1991) in a pacy, back and forth face vs. face encounter over the WCW World Tag Team Championships. A Submit or Surrender contest with Cactus Jack (WCW Power Hour - 11/1991) isn't the greatest example of the style, but is a welcome change of pace. There's no commentary for a bout with Rick Rude (WCW Clash of the Champions #21 - 18/11/1992), due to Jesse Ventura being part of the announce team, but this actually ends up working in the matches favour. A masterclass in why being over is so important, as the crowd eats up every minutes of what is a fairly basic encounter, loudly cheering on Sting and getting on Rude's back throughout. 


A clash with Vader over the WCW International Heavyweight Championship (WCW Slamboree 1994 - 22/05/1994) has another hot crowd, with the two character slotting together nicely, even if it struggles to reach the heights of their Strap match from SuperBrawl III the year before. An obligatory match with "Stunning" Steve Austin (WCW Saturday Night - 08/04/1995) is a disappointing confrontation, in which the duo take some tame to connect, after a pretty sloppy opening. A pre-nWo, tweener version of Hulk Hogan (with Randy Savage) provides an intriguing contest (WCW Monday NITRO #21 - 20/11/1995), that includes some surprisingly good technical wrestling and is only let down by it's TV finish. A massive jump forward to a clash with The Giant over who got to hold the WCW World Tag Championships (WCW/nWo The Great American Bash 1998 - 14.06.1998) is our first look at "Crow" Sting, in what is a short, but enjoyable, story-driven contest.





There's a big match feel as The Vigilante and Goldberg make their way into the arena for a WCW World Heavyweight Championship contest (WCW Monday NITRO #157 - 26.04.1998), with a lively South Carolina crowd helping to make the build up feel extra special. It's a shame then, that the match is mainly used to build Goldberg as the World Champion, but this does mean we get an awesome example of Sting's selflessness as he bumps around for Big Bill. A title match that doesn't disappoint however, see's Sting tackle Diamond Dallas Page (WCW Monday NITRO #189 - 26.04.1999) in one of the best bouts to be broadcast on NITRO. Arguably Sting's last truly great bout, there's a cracking mix of technical wrestling, brawling, dramatic near falls and a lively crowd, whose pop for the finish is incredible. 


It's a shame that the DDP bout wasn't the last WCW contest on the set, as whilst another WCW World Heavyweight Championship bout, this time opposite Bret Hart (WCW Monday NITRO #213 - 18.10.1999), isn't bad, it never threatens to break out into anything of interest. The set jumps to Sting's WWE debut then, joining the Team Cena (Dolph Ziggler, Erick Rowan, John Cena, Ryback & The Big Show) vs. Team Authority (Kane, Luke Harper, Mark Henry, Rusev & Seth Rollins), Traditional Survivor Series Elimination tag match in progress (WWE Survivor Series 2014 - 23.11.2014) with only Dolph Ziggler and Seth Rollins left, and whilst the booking for the guys involved in the match is questionable, the reaction for the Icon is marvellous and he plays his part perfectly.


The ridiculousness of the entrances for a match with Triple H (WWE WrestleMania 31 - 29.03.2015) are presented in their full glory here and if for some reason you missed them earlier in the year, you're in for a treat here. In his first WWE bout, the Stinger does himself proud opposite the Game, in a silly run-in filled No Disqualification clash, looking like a star on the biggest stage available. Whilst some of the excitement of the bout is removed on a second viewing, it's still an entertaining bout that carries the time it was given well.



Blu-Ray Exclusives


Teaming up with Dusty Rhodes, opposite Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard with the NWA World Tag Team Championships on the line (NWA Clash of the Champions #2 - 08.06.1988) gives us the best of the Blu-Ray exclusives, with plenty of old-school heel tactics and a build to a fantastic hot-tag, only being let down by a TV finish. Sting's next opponent is Flyin' Brian (WCW Saturday Night - 07.11.1992) features some decent action, but could have been a whole lot better considering the talent in the ring. A decent TV clash with Scott Steiner (WCW Monday NITRO #37 - 27.05.1996) features some big moves from both men, as part of the build to their SuperBrawl tag match. A nothing clash with Booker T (WCW Spring Stampede 2000 - 16.04.2000) only stands to highlight just how much WCW was fucking up during this time period.


A "face-to-face" confrontation with Triple H (WWE Fastlane 2015 - 22.02.2015) is a curious addition, and whilst it goes a little too long, features plenty of interesting visuals as the pair built towards their WrestleMania 31 collision. A back and forth with Stephanie McMahon (WWE Monday Night RAW #1139 - 23/03/2015) is a much better example of the genre with Stephanie putting in a stellar performance with a terrific script, and a lively Los Angeles crowd. 


Finally...




This is another stellar addition to the WWE Home Video catalogue, with the documentary providing an enjoyable look at Sting's WCW career and his signing with WWE and a varied selection of matches. Three truly great matches (vs. Flair on Clash of the Champions #1, with Luger vs. The Steiners at SuperBrawl and vs. DDP on Monday NITRO #189) are included and with pretty much every other bout having something to enjoy (vs. Vader at Slamboree '94 and with Dusty Rhodes vs. Anderson and Blanchard at Clash of the Champions #2 standing out as the best of the rest of the set), making this a very easy watch from start to finish.


Whilst there were elements that could have been improved upon for my personal tastes, like the heavy focus on Sting finding God, I'd recommend any fan of Sting or WCW picks this up on either Blu-Ray or DVD, it also works as a terrific introduction for younger fans, in way that the previous WWE release "The Best of Sting" match compilation didn't quite manage. 


A big thanks to WWE Home Video and Fetch FM for our copy of this release. 



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