Tuesday, 9 August 2016

DVD Review: WWE The Attitude Era Vol. 3 "Unreleased" - Match Compilation

WWE's latest home video release is the third installment in The Attitude Era series, available as either a 3 disc DVD or 2 disc Blu-Ray set. With never before seen matches from house shows, after TV and PPV tapings and unique settings like Kuwait City and Wall Street, featuring the likes of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker would the release be a festival of buried treasure or would it have been better off left in the vaults? Let's take a look. 

Disc One - Steve Austin v Shawn Michaels 

Corey Graves is an interesting choice to host, but if instantly starts to make sense as he brings an enthusiastic and energetic approach to his parts of the set, adding context to each and every match. There's also some GTV style skits, with Graves talking to various backstage hands, about either the upcoming or previous match, which whilst not always being a home run, does bring some variety to proceedings. 

The headline bout from Disc One is a superb World Heavyweight title match between "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels (Kuwait Cup 1996 - Day 5), that is only harmed by the lights cutting out for a minute or so. The action is spotless throughout, with the crowd ridiculously hot for Michaels, helped along by some brilliant heel work from Austin. From the same show, The British Bulldog teaming with Owen Hart against The Undertaker and Bret "Hitman" Hart in a true spectacle, because if the crowd were hot for Austin v Michaels, they are nuclear for this. There's a serious amount of stalling here, but because the crowd are so into even the smallest moment it's fascinating viewing, with the competitors building the bout to a satisfying conclusion. 

Bret Hart and Austin put together an excellent house show contest in Germany, playing to each others strengths and taking the crowd on a nice journey. It's a shame that the only footage available is single ringside camera, as it's near impossible to do the action justice this way and like many matches on this set the viewing experience is heavily effected. Another Austin contest sees him in action against Undertaker in a good match from Madison Square Garden, with the pair taking on similar roles to the previous Austin bouts mentioned. The finish is a bit of disappointment however as Mankind, Shawn Michaels and Goldust all make run in appearances.

In a first-time meeting between the two, there's an instant spark in Undertaker's dark main event against Mankind from In Your House 7: Good Friends, Better Enemies. The audience is all about Undertaker, but the new-comer does more than enough to impress taking some bruising bumps on outside in the bouts final straight. Goldust challenging for Shawn Michael's World Heavyweight title is a bizarre bout, full of odd sexual stuff from both men, seen in the cold light of 2016 it's easy to question both the performance and crowd allegiance throughout (In Your House 11: Buried Alive Dark match). Owen Hart v The Ultimate Warrior, taken from the same MSG show as the infamous Curtain Call, is a frustrating watch as Hart bumps around for Warrior, whilst Warrior no-sells pretty much all of Hart's offence. Shawn Michaels and Mankind round of the disc, with a short dark main event from In Your House 12: It's Time, that has some clever moments but doesn't get the chance to reach top gear.

Disc Two - Hunter Hearst Helmsley v Steve Austin

After seeing Austin work heel on Disc 1, it's brilliant to see him flip the coin in a superb match with "Triple H" Hunter Hearst Helmsley in MSG, just a week before capturing the World Heavyweight title at WrestleMania. The crowd plays a major part once again, reacting to every little movement from Austin, Helmsley and Chyna, as Helmsley does his best Ric Flair impression en route to an electric finish. A triple threat dark main event from Monday Night RAW, with Shawn Michaels defending the World Heavyweight title against Sycho Sid and Bret Hart is much more of a curiosity than a classic encounter. There's some decent action, but HBK just seems to be dicking around and Sid was never the slickest of wrestlers, interference from Austin and Canadian professional boxer George Chuvalo add to the trippy feel of the fight. 

A decent Intercontinental Championship clash between The Rock and Ken Shamrock from a California house show, starts of strong and steadily heads towards being an utter mess by the time the finish comes. The two have enough chemistry in the ring to slowly build the crowds interest and the Arrowhead Pond goes nuts for Shamrock taking out Rock's fellow Nation of Domination members, but when the ending is head scratching once it's eventually explained by the announcer. The Nation are featured in an Eight Man Tag dark main event from RAW is WAR, Rock, Faarooq, Kama Mustafa and D'Lo Brown face Austin, Cactus Jack, Chainsaw Charlie and The Undertaker in a match that is everything you'd want it to be and concludes with a marvelous hot tag. 

Back at MSG, Triple H takes a limited Big Show to a surprisingly solid bout, that could've done without Show no-selling being pushed into the ring post! On that same note, a Falls Count Anywhere contest between Cactus Jack and "Bad Ass" Billy Gunn is wall to wall entertainment with an appreciative MSG crowd boosting the hardcore antics. Rounding off the second disc and the main feature is a standard tag match between The Dudley Boyz and T&A, that's boosted by taking place in the middle of Wall Street. 

Disc Three - Legion of Doom v D-Generation X

Legion of Doom v D-Generation X's Triple H & Shawn Michaels is a legitimate dream match, that only a handful of people got to see, however a Nassau Colliseum house show clash between the two teams is on Disc 3 and for the most part it's as glorious as you'd want it to be. The action is surprisingly slick for the time, with a red hot crowd helping to push Animal towards the eventual hot tag, after plenty of dastardly tricks from Michaels, Triple H and Chyna, it's a shame that this is a house show bout as the match falls apart in the closing stages thanks to some slapdash booking. A Sky Dome house World Heavyweight title clash between "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Undertaker doesn't match the quality of the Disc 1 contest, with a crowd that seems to be neither here or there on either guy, probably not helped by Taker's odd relationship with manager Paul Bearer. There's some funny heckling from the crowd whilst Austin's got a headlocked cinched in and a slick finish, but most of the clash is disappointingly average.

There's shenanigans a plenty in an "Unsanctioned" six man tag match with World Tag Team Champions The New Age Outlaws & Intercontinental Champion The Rock going up against Cactus Jack, Chainsaw Charlie & Steve Austin from a house show at the Continental Airlines Arena. Lots of fun weapon spots and brawling and plenty of Stunners are unfortunately let down by the only footage coming from a dodgy ringside camera that spends far too much time being pointed at the ring apron. Another Triple H v Austin contest is included and it's easy to tell that the match is from the same run of house shows as the previous encounter, it's almost move for move identical. It's cool to see how the Arrowhead Arena pops differently to MSG, but some more weak ringside footage make for frustrating viewing at times.  

A Falls Count Anywhere tag bout pitting The Rock & D'Lo Brown against The Undertaker & Steve Austin at MSG is a solid main event style brawl, with plenty of antics, many weapon shots, as well as Faarooq, Kama Mustafa and Goldust all getting involved in the bouts conclusion. Again the ringside camera let's the action down, missing some important spots in the contest, including the finish itself! A third Austin v Undertaker clash over the World Heavyweight title at MSG has it's moments, including a superb false finish, but feels more than a little short, alongside poor footage that has big chunks missing. A lethargic match between Austin and Goldust from In Your House 12: It's Time is neither man's shining achievement, with a flat crowd barely lifted by Hunter Hearst Helmsley's involvement.

A short scrappy dark match from a Syracuse RAW is WAR with The Nation of Domination's Faarooq, Savio Vega and Crush against Goldust, The Undertaker and Ahmed Johnson is notable mainly for PG-13's awful pre-match rap. Yokozuna's last ever singles match is a cool inclusion and the only match to include commentary across the entire three discs, although the match with The Sultan in Sun City, South Africa is far from a classic. The set concludes with another tag bout from Wall Street with The Hardy Boyz having a solid encounter with the short-lived Lo Down pairing of D'Lo Brown and Chaz.


ATPW Scale DVD Rating - 5.99/10 

Attitude Era Vol. 3 is a good home video release, with a number of fun and exciting matches, aided by the fact the bouts have previously only been seen by a relatively small audience. The first disc is the strongest of the three, housing Austin v Michaels, Bulldog & Hart v Undertaker & Hart,, Hart v Austin and Undertaker v Mankind, all of which are top drawer contests. There's gems to be found on the last two disc also like the two Austin v Helmsley matches and Legion of Doom v DX, but the good to great matches definitely become few and far between as the set draws on. The beauty of the set though is that even the average bouts have a novelty factor about them that draws you in. 

If you're expecting TV quality footage, then for the most part you're going to be disappointing, as while the dark matches tend to be produced well, the vast majority of the house show bouts (especially on the final disc) are filmed by a single ringside camera that seems to be operated by a gibbon. Other elements like no commentary may be an issue for some people. I'm surprised that no commentary was filmed especially for the set to help bring extra context to some of the encounters, beyond Corey Graves' introductions. 

In the days of the WWE Network, it's difficult for WWE Home Video to offer value for money in it's release, because a large portion of WWE's tape library is already available on demand. This is a neat way of getting around that, by offering a wealth of footage that will be completely new to most of the audience, about one of the most popular periods in the companies history, the fact that there is some great matches included across the set is a big bonus! Well worth part with your cash if you get the opportunity. 

This release is available from WWEDVD, Amazon, Base, Blackwell's and ebay.  

All content - James Marston 
Special Thanks - WWE Home Video UK and Fetch Publicity. 

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