Saturday, 13 May 2017

WWE Diamond Dallas Page: Positively Living Blu-Ray Review

I'm looking to catch-up on my WWE Home Video situation at the moment, so expect an influx of Blu-Ray and DVD reviews this week. Let's begin with Diamond Dallas Page: Positively Living, which has been available in the UK since the end of March from all the regular outlets.

The main feature is a new documentary that covers the life of Page Joseph Falkinberg and the story of his transformation into Diamond Dallas Page (legally Dallas Page since 2003), through his wrestling career in WCW and WWE and onto the spectacular rise of DDP Yoga. The Blu-Ray's 26 matches include outings with the likes of Chris Jericho, Bret "The Hitman" Hart, Ric Flair, "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan and Eddie Guerrero...but is this set worth your time and money? Let's take a look. 

Positively Living Documentary 

As you'd expect with pretty much every doc WWE produces, this is a great watch. The story involves Dallas driving around some old haunts as we follow the story of his childhood and onto his career. His journey into pro wrestling is fascinating and those that are unfamiliar with how Page got into the business will surely find the most enjoyment here. The run-time of just over an hour means that perhaps there's a lack of depth at points, but the structure and flow of the overall film tells a solid over-arching story that may have been damaged by taking further stops along the road. All those you'd expect are interviewed, including a nice surprise from Kimberly Page, with their words, and the narrative as a whole, creating a real feel-good film. The moment when Triple H calls Diamond Dallas Page to tell him he's going into the Hall of Fame is tingly stuff, with Page's reaction to the call making it special moment. 

I would have liked to have seen the documentary spend more time in places and to hear from a more varied pool of interviewees, but taken on it's own value this a great introduction for anyone interesting in delving into one of the more underrated performers in WCW history. 

The Matches

Kicking off with DDP's earliest TV match alongside The Diamond Studd [Scott Hall] against Chris Sullivan & Brian Lee (World Championship Wrestling, Dec '91), things swiftly move into a curious Lethal Lottery Tag Team match pitting Page & Mike Graham against Jushin Thunder Liger & Bill Kazmaier (Starrcade, December '91). My curiosity for this one quickly wore off and I'm still not quite sure why this relatively lengthy bout so early in DDP's career is included. There's improvements seen when tagging with Cactus Jack against Dustin Rhodes [Goldust] & Barry Windham (Saturday Night, Mar '92), but the bout is cut short just when it seems to be getting interesting. A six man tag alongside Vinnie Vegas [Kevin Nash] & Scotty Flamingo [Raven] opposite Marcus Alexander Bagwell, Brad Armstrong & Johnny B. Badd (Saturday Night, Dec '92) continues to show signs of DDP quickly developing as a wrestler, but not much else. 

The first singles bout is with Johnny B. Badd (Spring Stampede, Apr '94) and after a decent jump in time, DDP is still not particularly crisp, however the Battle of the Gimmicks is driven well by Badd and has a pleasant flurry of action to bring it to it's conclusion. The set then begins to move past Page's formative in-ring days, jumping to a United States Heavyweight Championship match with Eddie Guerrero (Starrcade, Dec '96) with the pair connecting nicely in the first truly enjoyable bout of the set. A random mid-match piledriver and a screwy nWo based finish, as well as an uninterested crowd, harm what could have been a much better outing for Guerrero and Page. At first glance a match with some guy called Mark Starr (Monday NITRO, Jan '97) isn't particularly interesting, but the post-match swerve with DDP "joining" the nWo is quintessential WCW viewing and one of the highlights of the Monday Night War. No Disqualification with Randy Savage (Spring Stampede, Apr '97) is a deck-stacker, storyline based epic of a scrap. Coming from one of DDP's most memorable feuds, it's a shame that the subsequent Great American Bash and Halloween Havoc matches aren't included as having the trilogy one after the other would've been a really cool touch. 

A World Heavyweight title bout with Hollywood Hogan (Monday NITRO, Oct' '97) showcases the kind of performer DDP developed into as he sells his arse off for Hogan and gets a DQ finish in return. The post-match angle with Sting making the save from the nWo (a rag-tag bunch including Konnan, Vincent, Curt Hennig, Scott Hall, Scott Norton & nWo Sting) doesn't make this bout anymore worth it's inclusion. Hennig is the adversary in the next bout (Starrcade, Dec '97), where DDP earns his first US Heavyweight title in a decent outing. The two mix a brawling and wrestling style well at points, with Hennig heeling it up to the max to result in a fun out of nowhere victory for DDP. A match with Chris Jericho over the same title (Monday NITRO, Jan '98) is included presumably just to put Jericho's name on the artwork. A Raven's Rules match (Spring Stampede, Apr '98) has some value in it's brawly weapons and interference based tomfoolery, but it's still not a good match. 

A tag bout with basketball chap Karl Malone against Hollywood Hogan & another basketball chap Dennis Rodman (Bash at the Beach, Jul '98) is needlessly long, but not actually that bad. DDP's ability to allow the celebs to shine and still look a million dollars was a special skill that not many have ever possessed. This match wouldn't have worked without Page in his role. A similar match with DDP teaming with comedian, non-wrestler Jay Leno against Hogan and non-comedian, non-wrestler Eric Bischoff (Road Wild, Aug' 98) is not as good, with Leno & Bischoff lacking any real athletic ability. The fact that Hogan sold an arm wrench for Leno means that pretty much everything else that goes on here is irrelevant. It could have been much much worse, but it's still shit. 

One of DDP's top three matches is here as Goldberg (Halloween Havoc, Oct '98) is our unlikely hero for a perfectly simple World Heavyweight title bout in front of a molten Las Vegas crowd. The two do exactly what they need to do to get that audience whipped into a frenzy and it makes for a satisfying watch. The next night, it's Bret Hart over the US Heavyweight title (Monday NITRO, Oct '98) and another solid match, that's well worth a look-see. There's more silly WCW nonsense in the aftermath, but when DDP and Hart get it going in the ring, it's pretty sweet. 

Dallas' first World title win is present, but it's unfortunate that it comes in the form of a shit show of a Fatal Fourway with Hollywood Hogan, Ric Flair and Sting (Spring Stampede, Apr' 99), with Randy Savage operating as guest referee. You'd think with such a fine list of talent, that these five lads would, at the very least, be able to coast to something mildly engaging, and perhaps this is, but for all the wrong reasons. The booking is shit, the wrestling is shit, the finish is shit, this match is shit, you should watch it, because I did. Luckily, the night after against just Sting (Monday NITRO, Apr' 99) is DDP's best match, despite dropping the belt. The heel work from Page is juxtaposed well with his earlier babyface matches here, with the second half of the bout being full of top drawer near falls and reversals. It all comes crumbling down later on in the same show when DDP gets the title back in another Four-Way, this time with Kevin Nash and Goldberg, which manages to undo the good work of the earlier bout, as very little happens and when it happens it happens awkwardly.  

The final WCW match is a bizarre tag match with Bam Bam Bigelow against Perry Saturn and (a mostly absent) Kanyon (Monday NITRO, May '99), that whilst containing an impressive performance from Saturn, has a bollocks finish when Kanyon finally turns up. Things close up with the only WWF match, which is a fun clash with Christian over the European Championship (WrestleMania X8, Mar '02), and whilst it doesn't set the world alight it's still an easy watch. 

Blu-Ray Exclusives 

A Television title match with The Renegade (Fall Brawl, Sep '95) is not good, not at all good. Then there's a Battle Royal for a World title shot, with a bunch of crabcakes, namely Scott Norton, Ice-Train, Dirty Dick Slater, Earl Robert Eaton, Rocco Rock, Johnny Grunge and The Barbarian (Slamboree, May '96), which is as much of a farce as you could imagine. A US title bout with Bret Hart (World War Three, Nov' 98) is a slog of a bout. Seriously, there's nothing bad going on, but there's just so much meaningless slop and for a PPV main event you would've expected a lot more. Things aren't helped by the near 20 mins of action concluding with a screwy finish either. 

The Giant [Big Show] provides an intriguing opponent for DDP (Starrcade, Dec' 98) next, with the pair doing some strong big man/small man schtick, which is different from most of the content on the set. Beyond the story, it's hard to get past just how green Giant is at this point and the fact this is WCW means the booking is confused as hell. A steel cage match with Jeff Jarrett (Monday NITRO, Apr '00) concludes a poor selection of matches, as despite the cage having a roof WCW still managed to use a screwy finish, which is then fucked up further by Kanyon. 

Everything ends with the debut of DDP for WWF (RAW, Jun '01), with Dallas doing his best with having to do the Undertaker's wife's stalker gimmick.


ATPW Scale Rating - 4.78/10

Positively Living is a strange release, because parts seem extremely well thought through, whilst others appear thrown together. The documentary is a strong film, telling it's story well and hitting most of the major points, whilst also creating a strong image of the man behind the character. The matches begin by following Page's arc of improvement and then jump about to title wins and then kind of gets lost. The match quality doesn't always reflect DDP's body of work, with matches against Raven (Spring Stampede, Apr '98), Chavo Guerrero Jr. (Fall Brawl, Sep '96), the aforementioned bouts with Randy Savage (The Great American Bash, Jun '97, Halloween Havoc, Oct '97) and Johnny B. Badd (World War 3, Nov '95) all missing, as well as a stellar three way with Raven and Chris Benoit (Uncensored, Apr '98) for obvious reasons. 

As a whole the match selection feels little bit like "Hah, wasn't WCW ridiculous?", instead of picking the stronger and most enjoyable matches of Page's career. With the WWE Network readily available, I'd personally want, if not all, of a person's best matches, at least, the majority to be here in one place. The lest said about the Blu-Ray exclusives the better.

This is a solid release, but had potential to be a lot stronger. 

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