Sunday, 14 May 2017

WWE 24: WrestleMania Monday Blu-Ray Review


THE GREAT HOME VIDEO CATCH-UP CONTINUES! 

WWE 24: WrestleMania Monday has been out in the UK since the start of April from all the usual outlets and has the WWE 24 episode, WrestleMania Monday as it's main feature. Having aired on the WWE Network on 27th March, this is the first time that an episode of WWE 24 (which has previously looked at behind the scene details of each WrestleMania since 30, Roman Reigns, Daniel Bryan's retirement amongst other topics) has been released, so it will be interesting to see how the set does and how this effects future releases. Alongside hour-long special, the Blu-Ray edition has twenty one matches and moments from the RAW after WrestleMania including the likes of John Cena, CM Punk, Chris Jericho, Shawn Michaels, Edge and more.

But is it any good? Let's take a look. 


24: WrestleMania Monday Documentary



If you've got the WWE Network, the chances are pretty high that you've watched a WWE 24 since the series debuted in January 2015, so you should know the formula by now, with this episode being no different. The show covers the day leading up to Monday Night RAW at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, immediately following WrestleMania 32, focusing on the journey's of Enzo & Cass, Apollo Crews, AJ Styles, Cesaro, Zack Ryder and Maryse as well covering Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows backstage contract signing. All four of the main stories offer interesting tales, each compelling and engaging on their own levels, delving into what brought those names to that point in their career and their motivations. Each story carries it's screen time well, with perhaps their even being an argument for the Cesaro and Ryder stories deserving more focus, but overall the mix of faces and narratives creates a vibrant and busy documentary. The time spent on the origin of the super hyper RAW after Mania crowds and a handful of moments ties the whole package together well, with the likes of Daniel Bryan, Fandango, Paige, Goldberg and Dolph Ziggler providing a nice insight into their memorable time's on various post-Mania RAW's. 

The hour-long episode on it's own is well worth checking out if your interested into what goes into making a show like the one at American Airlines Center.

The Matches 



We begin in 1995 with a massively physical WWF World Women's Championship match as Alundra Blayze and Bull Nakano (in her last match with WWF), throw big moves at each other, before Bertha Faye [Rhonda Singh] makes her debut. From the same episode, a segment with Sycho Sid turning on Shawn Michaels during a Vince McMahon interview is bizarrely cut off in the middle of the break, meaning that majority of the footage is then shown windowed the following week's RAW, with Diesel making the save. Mankind [Mick Foley]'s WWF debut in 1996 in quick squash with Bob Holly [Hardcore Holly] is an odd watch as the new character hadn't quite settled. Jumping to '98 and we have a red-hot "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, coming straight off taking the WWF World Heavyweight title from Shawn Michaels, interview with Vince McMahon, which inevitably ends with a Stone Cold stunner and the Syracuse crowd losing all of their shits. From the same episode is X-Pac's WWF return, as he's introduced as a new member of D-Generation X by Triple H, leading to a big ol' shoot on Eric Bischoff, Hulk Hogan and WCW. 

Into the new millennium and we have a European title bout between Chris Jericho and Eddie Guerrero, which is notable for Chyna's turning on Y2J, but isn't on the same level matches in WCW three years earlier. '02 provides a wonderful segment with Hollywood Hulk Hogan and The Rock basking in the glory of their night the match earlier, both controlling a rowdy crowd and giving them exactly what they wanted. Kevin Nash and Scott Hall's reply isn't quite as fun and Hall especially seems a little lost, but once Rocky and the Hulkster starting turning their shooters on their new rivals it's golden. Brock Lesnar's debut, alongside with Paul Heyman, interrupting a Hardcore title match between Maven and Al Snow, that had already been interrupted by Spike Dudley, is a cool moment that makes Brock look like a beast straight off the bat. From the next year we have Steve Austin getting fired by Eric Bischoff, to storyline signal Austin's in-ring retirement, which in comparison to later retirements of Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels is, at best, uncomfortable to watch. Kane and Rob Van Dam winning the WWE World Tag Team titles from Lance Storm & Chief Morley [Val Venis] in a Three Way Elimination match with The Dudley Boyz is a decent jaunt, with a cool story and the Seattle crowd being super into Kane & RVD as a team. Completing a trifeca of '03 efforts, Goldberg debuts by spearing the shit out The Rock, as both men are booked perfectly and excel in their roles. 

There's no space for the brilliant 2004 segment with Christian and Trish Stratus, so we're onto '05 where we have ignore that Chris Benoit and Edge had a barn-burner and watch a solid and energetic Intercontinental Championship three-way with Shelton Benjamin defending against Chris Jericho and Christian. It's then a brilliant promo from Shawn Michaels as he interrupts John Cena in 2007, and whilst they tease a potential title rematch, Jonathan Coachman, the bastard that he is, makes them defend their WWE World Tag Team titles in a battle royal instead. Both battle royals from that show are included, with the first seeing Cena & Michaels take on Chris Masters & Kenny Dykstra, Cryme Tyme, Deuce N' Domino, The New Breed's Elijah Burke & Matt Striker, Eugene & Jim Duggan, The King's Court's King Booker & Finlay, ECW Original's Rob Van Dam & Sabu and The Highlanders in a generic brawly battle royal, with a cool finish. The second match includes Brian Kendrick & Paul London, Chavo Guerrero & Gregory Helms, Dave Taylor & William Regal, The Hardy Boyz, Johnny Nitro & The Miz, The New Breed's Kevin Thorn & Marcus Cor Von, Lance Cade & Trevor Murdoch, ECW Originals' The Sandman & Tommy Dreamer and Val Venis & Viscera for another 2007 nostalgia mid and lower card buzz, featuring confusing booking for Michaels and Cena and an awkward finish.  


Ric Flair's retirement speech from 2008 is wonderful, even with the slightly tainting factor of the fact he'd go on to face the likes of Frankie Kazarian, James Storm and Matt Morgan for TNA a few short years later. It's difficult to not be touch by how touched Flair is as Triple H brings a procession the likes of John Cena, Chris Jericho, Batista, the future Charlotte Flair and Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat out to send Ric's tear ducts into overdrive, although having past adversaries like Sting, Roddy Piper, Dusty Rhodes, Randy Savage or Hulk Hogan would've made it even better. A decent '09 Lumberjack match between Carlito & Primo and The Miz & John Morrison over the Unified WWE Tag Team Championship is probably the best bout to set on that point, although the most fun probably comes from working out who some of the Lumberjacks are. John Cena and The Rock are superb opposite each other, as they set-up their WrestleMania XXVIII bout a year early, in front of hotter than hot Atlanta crowd in '11. Whilst both kill it on the mic, throwing barbs back and forth, the conclusion with them fending off an attack from The Corre (Wade Barrett, Justin Gabriel, Heath Slater & Ezekiel Jackson) is unnecessary here. Flash forward a year and John Cena has just lost to The Rock, enter Brock Lesnar, add the feeling that RAW after Mania is becoming a "thing" and you've got a magic slice of TV. 

'13 offers us two moments, firstly Dolph Ziggler's Money in the Bank cash-in on Alberto Del Rio which has lost some of it's magic four years on, but the pop that Here to Show the World gets is still something special. Then it's onto Fandango v Kofi Kingston, which is all about the crowd kicking off the "Fandagoing" Revolution, rather than the match and Chris Jericho's assault on our hero. Ultimate Warrior's return to RAW in '14 and final public appearance provides a spine-tingling promo, less than 24 hours before Warrior passed it's almost prophetic in nature at points.  The same episode has Paige's main roster debut, as she interrupts an entertaining speech from AJ Lee, however their match isn't as strong as it should have been (with the same probably being true for Paige's entire main roster run, now I come to think of it)

Things really pick up in '15 as Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler have a cracking wrestling match, full of strikes, wrestling and near falls in what is currently Bryan's penultimate TV singles match. It battles for match of the night with a stellar United States title match as John Cena defends against Dean Ambrose at the beginning of the Open Challenge gimmick. It's much more of a WWE-style contest with big money moves and false finishes, but just as fun as the previous bout. From the event featured in the documentary, a pair of well-handled promos lead us into Zack Ryder putting his Intercontinental title up against The Miz in an extremely satisfying match. It didn't make any Match of the Year polls, but it builds well to the conclusions as Zack's Dad gets involved and Maryse returns and set the wheels in motions for the wonderful run that Miz is still on to this day. The regular content concludes with the marvellous Fatal Four-Way #1 Contender's match with "The Phenomenal" AJ Styles, Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens and Cesaro, as the four pool their talents to create some breath-taking action in the squared circle. Paced perfectly with everyone on top of their games, both in terms of character work and grappling, this is the best match across the two discs.

Blu-Ray Exclusives 



Our exclusives begin in '98 with Faarooq being removed from the Nation of Domination after The Rock walks out on a curiously booked tag match against "The World's Most Dangerous Man" Ken Shamrock and "The Lethal Weapon" Steve Blackman. The Spirit Squad (Kenny [Dykstra] & Mikey [Mondo]) challenge for The Big Show & Kane's World Tag Team titles in '06 in a short, uninteresting bout. A match billed as a "WrestleMania All-Star" match more than lives up to it's billing in '09 as John Cena, CM Punk, Jeff Hardy, Rey Mysterio & Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat tag up against Chris Jericho, Edge, Kane, The Big Show and Matt Hardy, bringing together a number of storylines from the previous evening. The obvious standout is the unbelievable performance of the 55 year old Steamboat, as he keeps pace with the likes of Jericho and Edge and gives the match a character and watch-ability that might have been lacking almost ten years on without.

Perhaps surprisingly kept as an Exclusive is Shawn Michaels '10 retirement speech, which is, at least, on par with Ric Flair's two years earlier. Kept much more personal with only an appearance from Triple H on the entrance ramp, Michaels addressing the crowd has probably retained more value than the Nature Boy's monologue and still holds the ability to have an impact as HBK puts over the audience for believing in him, even when he didn't. An Intercontinental Championship match with Wade Barrett and The Miz is really only notable for the crowd's desire to boo a than bizarrely babyface Miz, as even with the title switch it's a nothing match. Alexander Rusev's debut over Zack Ryder in '14 is followed up by Enzo & Cass debuting two years later, with Enzo Amore running throwing bombs at The Dudley Boyz on the microphone in front of a crowd that absolutely adores the act.

Finally...

ATPW Scale Rating - 6.73/10 



A strong release here, that intrigues with it's concept and then delivers by adding to the strong documentary with a good mixture of matches and moments. All the major post-WrestleMania happening are here, as well as a few that might have slipped the memory or initially went underrated in the hustle and bustle of Mania weekend. For such a limiting pool to fish from, the returns are much more hit than miss, whilst those misses mostly have some nostalgia or reason for being included. My only qualm is that I feel more could have been done to enhance the Home Video release of the documentary, with perhaps extra interviews or deleted scenes, that would have validated any potential purchase, when the doc is already on the WWE Network. The same could've been said for individual interviews or special commentary for the matches included, but WWE doesn't seem interested in adding value to their Home Video content at the moment. 

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