Sunday, 14 June 2015

DVD Review: WWE The Best of Raw & Smackdown 2014

WWE is on the agenda again as we dip into the ever-growing pile of DVDs sent to me by the good people at Fremantle Media and Fetch Publicity. This time around we're going to look at the collection celebrating the best that WWE's TV shows had to offer with The Best of Raw & Smackdown 2014.

And as is the custom with these reviews, let's start at the very beginning with.....

Disc One
January 27th
A day after the Royal Rumble it's a six man tag on Raw as the Shield take on John Cena, Sheamus and Daniel Bryan, with the winning team qualifying for the WWE World title Elimination Chamber match.

With the individual success that Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose have enjoyed over the past year or so it's easy to forget just how good these three were as a unit, and this match is a great example of their work. Many fans probably thought there'd be a bit of tension within the ranks after Reigns eliminated his buddies on the way to breaking the Rumble record, but there was no sign of that here.

It was a top notch encounter. The babyfaces enjoyed a great deal of success early on, but when the Shield boys began to use Cena as their personal punching bag they put in some great team work. Eventually Cena made it back to his corner for the hot tag to Bryan, and it was then we saw the best exchanges of the match as Bryan took it Rollins.

Cena tagged back in a few moments later, but as he applied the STF to Reigns the lights went out, and when they came back on a few seconds later Cena found himself surrounded by Bray Wyatt and his boys. Bryan and Sheamus helped fight off their attack, but the Wyatt's intervention led to the Shield getting disqualified, which sent Bryan, Cena and Sheamus onto the Chamber match, much to the annoyance of the Shield.

February 3rd
Daniel Bryan faces an old enemy as he goes up against WWE World Champion Randy Orton on Raw.

This was the first in a series of matches set up by the Authority in which Orton had to face each of his Elimination Chamber opponents, and this one would have fitted right in on any pay-per-view, it was that good.

Bryan looked absolutely brutal as he targeted Orton's left leg with a series of stiff kicks, although in truth most of Orton's body was on the receiving end of one of those kicks at one point or another. It was a joy watching a master technician taking the champion apart, and a sad reminder of how much he's missed because of his on-going injury problems.

Despite Bryan's dominance Orton managed to work his way back into the match, working over Bryan's right arm and shoulder. The champ looked pretty good as well as he tried to take Bryan apart with his somewhat more sadistic tactics.

The action moved along nicely as they put together some nice back and forth exchanges, but when things weren't going too well for Orton his buddy Corporate Kane came down to lend a hand. Unluckily for him Bryan quickly dealt with him, and back in the ring he avoided Orton's RKO attempt and took the champion down with a running knee for the winning pin.

But despite the win Bryan found his celebrations cut short when Orton and Kane attacked, with the corporate one putting a stamp on things when he took his old tag partner down with a chokeslam.

February 14th
It's on to Smackdown and a fatal four way match between Rey Mysterio, Jack Swagger, Kofi Kingston and Mark Henry, with the winner getting a shot at Big E's Intercontinental title.

With Swagger and Henry providing the power and Kingston and Mysterio providing the speed this proved to be a very enjoyable encounter, one that I'd describe as short and sweet if it was an ROH show opener.

All four men were involved in some decent exchanges, particularly when Mysterio and Kingston went at it. Henry did his usual power stuff, although thankfully his threat to fly over the top rope never came to fruition, while Swagger had some pretty good back and forth stuff with Kingston as well.

It was those last two that had featured in the ending. When Kingston went for the trouble in paradise kick Swagger grabbed his leg and slapped on the patriot lock. Kingston fought it for as long as he could until he tapped out, giving Swagger the submission win.

February 17th
The following Monday on Raw Switzerland's most famous wrestler Cesaro goes up against John Cena.

With Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter watching on from ringside these two put on a hell of an encounter, a near-twenty minute match filled with great back and forth action and two great performances from both men.

Cesaro certainly stepped up to the plate here. Having beaten WWE World Champion Randy Orton a few days before on Smackdown he was looking to add Cena to his list of prestigious victims, and he gave the multi-time champion a run for his money here. Everything he did looked so good, so crisp, he looked like he belonged in such lofty company.

Cena, as always, put in his usual solid performance. I've come to realise over the years that with Cena you're guaranteed a 100 percent performance, no matter who he goes up against, as was the case here.

All of this is what made this match great, and as the action went on and both men became frustrated with their inability to put the other away you just knew that it would only be a matter of time before someone got lucky. That luck went to Cena, when he finally managed to put Cesaro away with the attitude adjuster for the winning pin.

February 28th
Having voiced his displeasure at the WWE fans earlier on Smackdown, Batista accepts the challenge of Dolph Ziggler.

In a way this is more or less a squash match, with Batista cementing his fan-led heel turn against one of the company's most popular performers. Ziggler had some success with his hit and run tactics early on until big Dave slowed the pace down with his power moves.

However, just a couple of minutes later it looked as if Ziggler could come out on top after he took his man down with the famouser, but after Batista kicked out of the pin attempt it was pretty obvious how things were going to play out. A couple of spinebusters and a Batista bomb later and the number one contender had the winning pin.

March 3rd
It's a veritable battle of the generations on Raw as the Usos challenge the New Age Outlaws for the Tag Team titles.

The Outlaws were in full heel mode here as they refused to entertain the Chicago crowd with their trademark catchphrases. The fans responded by chanting the name of their town's most famous wrestler. You know...that fella....what's his name.....

The Road Dogg and the Bad Ass then ganged up on Jey for the first few minutes until he got the hot tag so Jimmy could clean house as he put together some nice exchanges with Billy Gunn before Jey tagged back in and applied the finishing touches with a superfly splash off the top rope for the title-winning pin.

Disc Two
March 24th
Three weeks later on Raw, John Cena goes up against Bray Wyatt guy Luke Harper.

Now this was impressive, and it was the perfect way to set up Cena's match with Wyatt at Wrestlemania. Harper dominated the majority of the match with his power game, and whenever Cena made a comeback he kept looking back over his shoulder at Wyatt and his other flunky Erick Rowan at ringside. This left him open to Harper's counter attack time and time again, and it got to the point where he couldn't really get going.

But when he did finally manage to get into high gear, lifting Harper onto his shoulders so he could take him down with the attitude adjuster the lights went out, and when they came back on seconds later Cena was tied up in the ropes wearing Rowan's sheep head mask as the Wyatt family surrounded him, gloating about their efforts, the fans showing their approval with a "this is awesome" chant.

As for the result, it was never announced. But then again who cares? That was a great moment.

April 7th
On Raw the day after Wrestlemania Divas Champion A.J. Lee faces the impromptu challenge of NXT Women's Champion Paige. As far as reviewing this one, I'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't. Moving on.....

April 14th
One week later on Raw the Shield, now beloved babyfaces, face the wrath of the Authority as they face Rusev, Alberto Del Rio, Bad News Barrett, Jack Swagger, Fandango, Titus O'Neil, the Three Man Band and Rybaxel in a handicap match.

Messrs Rollins, Reigns and Ambrose were really up against it in this one, and that's probably one of the biggest understatements I've made. This eleven-on-three match saw the Shield boys put up a good fight at first before Rollins took the punching bag treatment for a few minutes. But when the action spilled out to ringside and Reigns speared Ryback all hell broke loose. The referee immediately called for the bell as the match began a glorified mugging.

It was then that the re-formed Evolution came down to the ring, and after Triple H called off the troops he joined Randy Orton and Batista in dishing out further punishment as they took the Shield guys down with the various finishers.

May 5th
It's a tough task for Dean Ambrose on Raw as he defends his United States title in a twenty man battle royal.

With superstars ranging from Heath Slater and Santino Marella through to Dolph Ziggler and the Big Show this proved to be a very interesting encounter with one constant question: could Ambrose survive the odds?

The answer to that was yes, for the most part. The champion did pretty well, eliminating the likes of Ryback and Curtis Axel as he made it to the final three, but after he eliminated Jack Swagger Sheamus took him out with the brogue kick, making it easy for the big Irishman to throw him over the top rope for the title win.

May 9th
Over on Smackdown John Cena faces his demons once again as he teams with the Usos to take on the Wyatt Family.

Well, as it was Smackdown it meant that this main event only lasted ten minutes or so, but despite that it wasn't that bad. Sadly the freaky singing kid who had cost Cena the win in his cage match against Bray Wyatt a few days before wasn't there, but Bray and his boys still managed to look great as they beat the proverbial out of Jey.

Jey eventually managed to get the hot tag to his brother, and it wasn't long before the bodies were flying all over the ring, with one of the Usos taking out Wyatt and Erick Rowan out at ringside. It didn't help his team's cause much though as Luke Harper took out the other Uso with a flying clothesline a few seconds later for the winning pin.

May 23rd
British fans are given a chance to Bo-lieve as Bo Dallas faces Sin Cara on Smackdown.

As annoying as the son of a taxman is I have to admit he put in a decent performance here, pulling off some nice moves as he controlled the early exchanges. The masked man came back strongly though, but it wasn't long before Dallas finished this short encounter when he took his man down with a springboard bulldog for the win.

Disc Three
June 16th
Over on Raw, Curtis Axel and Ryback take on Goldust and his new tag team partner, Stardust.

This is basically a squash match to introduce Cody Rhodes' new persona. Goldie puts in a couple of moves and spends most of his time holding off the big guy outside while Star takes care of Axel in the ring, taking him down with that rather unique finisher of his for the winning pin. That's about it really.

June 23rd
One week later Smackdown General Manager and everyone's favourite cougar Vickie Guerrero puts her career on the line against Stephanie McMahon.

Well, this was a strange one. After Vickie came down to the ring Stephanie revealed that this would be a mud pool match, and whoever got thrown into the mud would lose the match. She then revealed her little helpers for the night as Layla, Rosa Mendes and Alicia Fox appeared on the scene.

So what essentially became a four-on-one handicap match looked like it was going to be over within seconds when the Divas got their hands on Vickie, until she managed to break free of their grasp and sent them one by one into the mud.

This left Vickie alone with Stephanie, and after a knee strike to Vickie's back Stephanie pushed her into the gloop, winning the match and ending Vickie's career. Mrs. Guerrero had the last laugh though. After Stephanie sang that certain song Vickie grabbed hold of her and threw her into the mud, much to the delight of the fans in attendance.

August 18th
It's a battle of former Shield members on Raw as Dean Ambrose takes on Seth Rollins in a falls count anywhere match.

You know, as good as the Shield were together this past year has shown us that they're even better as opponents, and this match is a great example of that. It's the proverbial knock down, drag out affair that sets the pulse racing as two former best friends beat the hell out of each other.

Both men showed that they could more than cut it on their own in this encounter as they brawled in the ring, through the crowd, on the stage, and eventually back to the ring. It was then that the real fun began when the toys came into the equation, particularly when Rollins powerbombed Ambrose onto a pile of chairs.

But when Corporate Kane came down to the ring things got even more interesting. Ambrose had initially foiled Kane's attempts at interference, but when he looked to take his man out with dirty deeds on the announcer's table the former Big Red Machine stopped him with a chokeslam.

Then came the shocker. Kane revealed a pile of cinder blocks at ringside, and after putting Ambrose in position Rollins ran across and took him out with a curb stomp on the blocks. Ambrose was lifeless, and after the referee told Rollins he'd gone too far he called for the bell, giving Mr. Money in the Bank the win.

September 8th
It's a good old fashioned cage match on Raw as Chris Jericho and Bray Wyatt look to settle their differences.

I have to admit I wasn't exactly enamoured with the whole Jericho/Wyatt feud, but this match was pretty decent. Okay, it wasn't as good as Wyatt's previous cage match against John Cena, but it certainly achieved what it set out to do.

As Wyatt's flunkies Luke Harper and Erick Rowan patrolled the ringside area these two tore strips off each other, with each man meeting the steel on several occasions, and with each man making several attempts to escape the cage. At one point Wyatt even used that crazy crab walk of his to walk to the door.

The drama quotient was certainly taken up a notch or three when Jericho climbed the cage trying to escape. But with Harper and Rowan waiting for him below he had no choice but to climb back up to the top, and when he looked down at Wyatt in the ring he invoked the spirit of the Superfly and flew down onto Wyatt below.

But instead of helping him get the win it only served to hamper him when he injured his knee as he hit the canvas, and having avoided Wyatt's bullet on his way to the cage door the crazy guy stopped him as he tried to crawl out of the door, indulging in a spot of ground and pound as he tried to stop his man. The job done, Wyatt then rolled out of the cage door to take the win.

Wyatt's work wasn't done though. After slamming the cage door onto his injured knee he dragged Jericho back into the ring, putting an exclamation point on the proceedings when he took him down with sister Abigail.

October 10th
Over on Smackdown 15th anniversary show it's a battle to find out who their greatest General Manager was, with teams representing Teddy Long and John Laurinaitis going at it.

Well, this wasn't too bad I suppose, although it's the weakest match on this collection. There were some nice moves throughout, with Big Johnny's boys using Jimmy Uso for target practice before the hot tag and the all hell breaking loose segment, which gave us the memorable sight of Bo Dallas throwing El Torito onto a crowd of wrestlers at ringside.

In the end it was Long's team that came out on top, with Sheamus taking Damian Mizdow out with a brogue kick and Jey Uso sealing the deal with a superfly splash.

November 3rd
Back on Raw it's a battle of Authority members as Randy Orton goes up against Seth Rollins.

With Vince McMahon having made the announcement that the Authority could lose control if they lost their Survivor Series match Trips and Steph put this match together in the hope that their team co-captains would "blow off some steam" and learn to get along afterwards for the greater good.

What followed was a keenly contested match with the powers that be watching on from ringside looking none too happy with the events as they unfolded. It was a good enough match, with plenty of back and forth action, but not a patch on their Wrestlemania encounter a few months later.

It was also one of those strange affairs that had hardly any crowd reaction, due in part to the fact that it was an all-heel affair. Indeed, the only major reaction came when Orton took Rollins down with his hangman's DDT and set up for the RKO. That move never happened. When the Viper went to put his man away Rollins countered with a backslide for the three count.

But that was nowhere near the end of things. Orton wasn't too happy with the defeat, and it was only after a brief chat with Triple H that he reluctantly shook the hands of the other members of the Authority. When it came to Rollins though, he shook his hand and appeared to make up with him until he took him down with an RKO.

Orton then went berserk, fighting off the attack Kane and the new stooges until Trips got in the ring and tried to calm him down. It looked like it had worked, but when Orton brushed past the Game and Trips grabbed his arm Orton decked him. The vultures then swarmed again as the numbers got too much for the Viper, and when the action spilled out to ringside Rollins connected with a curb stomp on the announcers table.

Orton was out of it, and Trips was still reluctant to see Orton taken care off in this way, and it was only when Steph ordered her guys to "finish it" that Trips finally cut his ties, and after walking up the ramp Rollins launched himself of the announcers table and took Orton out with another curb stomp, this time on the ring steps, ending what was a masterful piece of storytelling.

November 14th
Over on Smackdown Dolph Ziggler defends his Intercontinental title in a triple threat elimination match against future tag team partner Cesaro and Tyson Kidd.

This proved to be a nice little treat for the English fans. I really enjoyed this one, as I did the last time I reviewed it. All three men put in good performances, especially when they combined their efforts, such as when Cesaro tried to take both Kidd and Ziggler down with a superplex from the top rope, only for Kidd to counter and take Cesaro down with a sunset flip powerbomb as Cesaro took Ziggler down with the aforementioned superplex.

As for the eliminations, Cesaro was the first to go. After Ziggler took him down with the zig zag Kidd jumped back into the ring and threw Ziggler out, taking the pin for himself.

This left Kidd alone with Ziggler, and after a ton of great exchanges Ziggler rolled out of Kidd's sharpshooter and took him down with another zig zag for the title-retaining pin.

December 1st
It's the final match of the collection, and back on Raw John Cena, Ryback and Dolph Ziggler face Seth Rollins, Kane and Intercontinental Champion Luke Harper.

Although it was missing a few names this was more or less a re-match of the Survivor Series main event, the match that saw Team Cena beat the Authority with a little help from Sting, taking away their power.

It was a pretty decent encounter. The former Authority team put in a good stint as they used first Ziggler and then Cena as their crash test dummies, and it certainly was better to see Kane in the ring instead of serving hot dogs.

Of course, Cena eventually getting the hot tag led to the all hell breaking loose segment in which all six men got to show off their big moves, and it seemed kind of right that after this the action ended with rather a simple move as Ziggler countered Harper's powerbomb attempt with a sunset flip for the winning pin.

The post-match brawl began immediately when Harper attacked Ziggler, and the good guys looked in good shape until the Big Show came down to join the party and attacked the guys he'd sold out at the Survivor Series. Things looked to be going well for the former Authority boys until Erick Rowan, steel ring steps in hand, made his way to the ring and began clobbering everyone before finally clobbering Show, with a little help from his friends.

This collection isn't just about the matches, there's a whole load of segments as well. Disc one features The Undertaker answering Brock Lesnar's open challenge for Wrestlemania and Batista turning heel following the less than favourable fan response to his return.

Disc two features one of the best things I've seen in years with Bray Wyatt's choir more or less terrorising John Cena, as well as Daniel Bryan and the Yes Movement taking over Raw and Seth Rollins backstabbing his Shield buddies and joining the Authority.

Disc three features Seth Rollins explaining, or rather not explaining, why he joined the Authority, the contract signing for Stephanie McMahon and Brie Bella's Summerslam match, and Brock Lesnar boasting about how he won the WWE World title at Summerslam.

In conclusion - so, over seven hours and thousands of words later, it's time to wrap this thing up, so how did someone who no longer watches Raw or Smackdown on a regular basis view the best that these shows have to offer?

Well, I have to say that this is a pretty enjoyable collection. There's some really good matches on here, with some that would were pay-per-view quality, and with the various segments it was nice to see some of the major storylines playing out, especially that Bray Wyatt choir sequence. I can only imagine what it would have looked like if WWE hadn't been PG.

However, if this collection shows anything it shows me once again that Smackdown is no longer the mighty show it once was, and as far as storylines go it plays second fiddle, because of the nineteen matches on here, and only six of them came from Smackdown. That wouldn't have been the case a few years ago.

But apart from that major gripe this is a collection I would definitely recommend, which is why I'm giving this thing the thumbs up.

With thanks to Fremantle Media and Fetch Publicity for supplying a copy of this release. WWE The Best of Raw and Smackdown 2014 is available to buy online at www.wwedvd.co.uk.