Here's the last of our WWE Home Video catch-up!
WWE's Best of 2000s hit shelves in late April and features Mick Foley and guests introducing some of the best matches of the previous decade. Almost all of the noughties big bouts are here, including Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle's 60 Minute Iron Man Match, Triple H v "Stone Cold" Steve Austin in a Three Stages of Hell Match, Shawn Michaels and John Cena going almost an hour in London, The Undertaker taking on Michaels in the first of their classic WrestleMania matches, 'Taker v Kurt Angle, Steve Austin and The Rock's No DQ match from WrestleMania X-7, Triple H and Batista inside Hell in a Cell, a Street Fight between Cactus Jack and Triple H, Tables, Ladders and Chairs with Edge and John Cena, Shawn Michaels v Kurt Angle, the dream match between Hollywood Hulk Hogan and The Rock, as well as matches featuring Chris Jericho, Randy Orton, Jeff Hardy, Rey Mysterio and Booker T.
That's a hell of a line, but does Best of 2000s make the most of it? Let's take a look.
Mick Foley acts as the host, being joined by Enzo & Cass, Charlotte Flair and Bayley along the way for a series of entertaining skits and interviews that add up to just over 20 minutes. The comedy is hit and miss, but there's also a couple of old references that some will get a kick out off, whilst the interaction between Flair and Foley probably provides the best content.
We begin with Cactus Jack v Triple H in a Street Fight over the WWF Championship (Royal Rumble - Jan '00) in a bloody war (there's a lot of blood on the first couple of discs). The two are near perfect in their roles as Jack takes Triple H on a Hardcore thrill-ride through barbed wire, thumb tacks and steel chairs. The legendary original TLC match is next as Edge & Christian, The Dudley Boyz and The Hardy Boyz (SummerSlam, Aug '00) put on the stunt shows to end all stunt shows (or should that be begin all stunt shows). There's some super silly highspots as all six blokes (and Lita) go all out and send North Carolina crazy.
The original Three Stages of Hell match between Triple H and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (No Way Out, Feb '01) is well-booked and manages to carry it's lengthy 45 minute running time effectively. The regular singles match is physical, but the Street Fight portion takes things up a notch as Trips and Austin bring the toys and beat the shit out of each other. The final inside a Steel Cage manages to build upon the previous two bouts, pulling story threads through and features some wonderful near falls. Throughout the three matches there's a real feeling that these two lads hate each others guts (let's forget they became a team two months later), as they bring the fight and sell the fight, with the post-match selling in particular standing out.
More blood is next as Austin and The Rock (WrestleMania X-7, Apr '01) put on high-drama in a No Disqualification bout over the WWF title. There's near falls a plenty and a crowd that is completely invested in almost everything the two do, with the first twenty minutes being especially gripping. The appearance of Mr. McMahon is perhaps the only thing that holds this back from being a perfect bout as the heel turn for Steve Austin just wasn't what the audience wanted to see, noticeable by the fact that the audience still goes nuts for Stone Cold taking the title. The Rock v Booker T over the WCW title (SummerSlam, Aug '01) is the only match on the disc that probably doesn't deserve it's slot, as whilst it's not a bad match, I'm sure it didn't even make any Match of the Year lists for 2001. The match is pretty much all shenanigans from the start, with Shane McMahon at ringside causing problems and comes at a time when the crowd was still hot for the Invasion angle.
The quintessential dream match between The Rock and Hollywood Hulk Hogan (WrestleMania X-8, Mar '02) would become the template for many similar matches in future times. It's big moves, big moments and big drama in front of a crowd that refused to boo Hogan. It's not the best technical match on the set, but it is still completely fascinating. The next year (WrestleMania XIX - Mar '03) Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels takes elements of sports entertainment and elements of traditional pro wrestling and manages to mesh the two into one glorious package. The story of Jericho wanting to break out of being "the next Shawn Michaels" produces some very cool action, with some brilliant mirroring on a couple of near falls. It's crisp, physical and flows towards it's finish almost seamlessly.
The longest match (and the first TV bout) on the set is Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle's 60 Minute Iron Man Match over the WWE title (SmackDown - Sep '03) and if you could find two better performers to put on this kind of match then you're a better man than me. The story-telling and psychology from the get go is superb, with the two throwing out little nuggets of narrative and then pulling them through. Those little touches are mixed with big moves, like German suplexes and highspots (like the Angle Slam into the post) as the two take advantage of the vast canvas that they have to paint their picture on. The performances of both men, as Lesnar sells his left knee and ankle wonderfully and Angle does a brilliant out on his feet, man possessed turn that at times drives the contest. The closing five minutes are gripping with the scoring system being used better than ever before or since and both men telling the story all over their bodies and facial expressions. The bout is helped by the strength of the commentary from Michael Cole and Taz, who make sure the viewers notice ever little detail that Lesnar and Angle include, whilst heightening the drama further.
Randy Orton's career maker opposite Cactus Jack (Backlash - Apr '04) is one of the most brutal matches WWE has ever put on, with all sorts of hardcore weaponary used creatively by the pair. The story of the young rookie wrestler attempting to tangle with the rough and tumble former death match fighter takes on a life of it's own from a couple of minutes in and develops into something quite special by the finish. The spots with Eric Bischoff appearing and leading into the fight on the entrance ramp give extra depth to a match that Orton has still to top in his WWE tenure. Lita and Trish Stratus main eventing RAW (Dec '04) is the only Women's match present and whilst it's not up to the level of most of the set, it's worth considering that it very well could have been, had Lita not straight-up murdered herself on that infamous suicide dive.
Shawn Michaels against Kurt Angle (WrestleMania 21 - Apr '05) is perhaps two of the best wrestler's the world has ever seen going at it for almost half an hour and it's wonderful. Just the stuff with Sweet Chin Music and the Ankle Lock is incredible, but there's so much more than just finishers going on here. This bout is a great example of Michaels' selling ability, as he grabs the entire Staples Center and has them reacting every small action and reaction. Hell in a Cell houses Batista and Triple H (Vengeance - Jun' 05) for a battle that builds and builds. The pair use the structure and a variety of weapons, with the work with the barbed wire wrapped steel chair standing out, with the contest having a tangible feeling of animosity and bile. Whilst the two piss buckets of blood, there's still enough clever flourishes, like the finish, that make this stand out beyond the violence level.
Kurt Angle and The Undertaker (No Way Out - Feb '06) put on a superb mix of wild brawl and back and forth reversals. Taker's favouring his ankle throughout puts Angle over as a threat effectively and means anytime The Olympic Gold Medallist goes for his signature hold the bout turns on it's head. The final five minutes are pretty much perfect as the two blend their big moves and submissions, keeping the viewer glued to the screen and on the edge of their seat. This bout really deserved to be on that year's WrestleMania
The peak of the Edge v John Cena feud came with their Tables, Ladders and Chairs match (Unforgiven - Sep '06) and it's here in all it's Canadian patriotic glory. Both men take massive bumps, with the iconic FU off the ladder through two tables being the most memorable. The hot crowd create a unique home town atmosphere and whilst some of the spots don't come together as well as they could've, both cover for it well. Cena shows he can really mix it up opposite Shawn Michaels (RAW - Apr '07) as they go almost an hour in one of the best matches WWE has ever aired. The match twists and turns as both focus in on body parts and sell them like their lives depended on it. Whilst Cena's technical wrestling ability gets a spotlight, it's his body language that steals the show as he plays up his frustration at being unable to put HBK away, first turning it on Michaels and then the referee and even his own arm at one point. The call-backs to WrestleMania 23, with Cena constantly going for the STFU and the slick finish round off the lengthy, but fully engrossing battle.
The implosion of Rated RKO provides us with a neat heel v heel bout between Randy Orton and Edge (RAW - Apr '07) which often gets overlooked because it came just a week after Cena v Michaels. The pair trying to out each cheat each other gives the bout a different narrative and some cool mirror spots, before Orton puts over Edge massively with a face full of crimson. Jeff Hardy gets his showcase against Triple H (No Mercy - Oct '08) as The Game becomes the default heel, jumping Hardy from behind and driving the bout. Hardy's underdog babyface act shines against the established main eventer and provides from some strong near falls that the Portland crowd buys into. It's arguable that the Shawn Michaels v Chris Jericho Ladder match that directly followed it on the PPV was a stronger contest, but with one HBK v Y2J bout already on the set, this bout is still worthy of it's inclusion.
Too many The Undertaker v Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania 25 - Apr '09) isn't just the best match of the decade, but the greatest bout that WWE ever produced. Whatever bout you feel deserves that accolade, it's inarguable that Mr. WrestleMania challenging for the Undertaker's WrestleMania streak is a true masterpiece, a work of art. JR closes by saying "I feel like we've just seen heaven" and I think he may be right as the two legends go for almost half an hour of physical action and barely put a foot wrong. There's a plethora of convincing false finishes as the crowd grow into the match and end up going batshit crazy by the conclusion of the war. The set rounds off with Rey Mysterio putting his mask up against Chris Jericho's Intercontinental title in pacy outing, that uses it's gimmick to create real drama. The last stretch is really edge of your seat stuff, with a series of reversals and near falls, before heading towards it's rather clever conclusion.
ATPW Scale Rating - 9.02/10
Best of 2000s is brilliant collection of matches, that offers 4 discs of (more or less) the best WWE had to offer throughout the decade. The selection is pretty much spot on, with each match (with perhaps the exception of The Rock v Booker T) being worth it's place on the discs. I would've liked to have seen an Eddie Guerrero bout (vs. Brock Lesnar from No Way Out 2004 stands out) but all the other big name wrestlers of the decade are present (with the obvious exception). If you're a new fan and want to jump into some of wrestling's more recent history then this is a fantastic place to start.