Thursday, 12 July 2007

Bloodbath: Wrestling's Greatest Steel Cage Matches - DVD Review

Once again we dip into the video archives for this week's column, as we take a look at one of WWE's recent DVD releases, Bloodbath: Wrestling's Greatest Steel Cage Matches.

Disc 1
BOB BACKLUND v PAT PATTERSON, Madison Square Garden, 1979.
Two wrestlers who were normally known for their stellar scientific skills went at it in the first match shown, as Backlund defended his WWF title. I was a little disappointed that I didn't get to see the entire match, but it was still a good way to get things rolling, with Backlund successfully defending his championship.

BRUNO SAMMARTINO v LARRY ZYBYSZKO, Shea Stadium, 1980.
Only very brief highlights of the match here. Given the legendary status this feud has gained over the past few years, this was disappointing to say the least.

BOB BACKLUND v "SUPERFLY" JIMMY SNUKA, Madison Square Garden, 1980.
A year after defending his title against Patterson at MSG, Jimmy Snuka came after him in a cage. This time we're given more of the action as two wrestlers in their prime went at it. Snuka was absolutely brutal, and at one point,with Backlund lying prone in the ring, Snuka went to the top of the cage, and dived, falling face first into the mat as Backlund rolled out of the way and crawled out of the cage to retain the title.

"MAGNIFICENT" DON MURACO v "SUPERFLY" JIMMY SNUKA, Madison Square Garden, 1983.
This was a match I've heard about for twenty years, and let's not forget that Mick Foley lists this bout as one of his favourites of all time. What seems to have been forgotten over the years was that this was also a match for Muraco's Intercontintental title.

This match was everything I was told it had been, a brutal encounter between two guys who
hated each other. But luck wasn't on Snuka's side as a head butt accidentally sent Muraco flying out of the cage door, sending him to the floor and on to victory. Irate, Snuka dragged Muraco back into the ring. After a suplex, he climbed to the top of the cage for what is possibly the most seen big splash in wrestling history. A great match.

MAGNUM TA v TULLY BLANCHARD, Starrcade, November 1985.
Not your normal kind of steel cage match here. Although it's fought in a steel cage, you have to make your opponent say "I quit" to win, making this U.S. Title defence for Blanchard difficult in many ways.

Another brutal encounter here as Magnum and Blanchard went at it tooth and nail, yet neither man would quit. Then, Blanchard's valet threw a wooden chair into the ring. Smashing the chair and making a spike out of one of the pieces, Blanchard tried to grind it down into his opponent's head, but Magnum resisted until he was able to get the weapon from Blanchard and do to him what Blanchard wanted to. Moments later Blanchard screamed that he quit, and Magnum regained his U.S. Title.

HULK HOGAN v "MR. WONDERFUL" PAUL ORNDORFF, Saturday Night's Main Event, March
1987.
The cage match that was broadcast on NBC was part of the feud which saw attendances rise to record breaking levels. It was the first appearance of the big, blue clunking cage on the DVD as the two fierce rivals went at it with everything they had. With Orndorff's manager Bobby Heenan cheering him on at ringside, Orndorff looked to have the match won many times.

Confusion reigned later on as both Hogan and Orndorff climbed the cage and touched the floor at the same times. Both men declared themselves the winner. However, after it was determined that both men had touched the floor at the same time, the match restarted.

Hogan battered Orndorff, and looked like he was about to win, when Heenan came into the cage to stop Hogan. However, this wasn't enough. Having thrown the weasel into the steel cage, and having seen off Orndorff, Hogan climbed out of the cage and claimed the victory.

"NATURE BOY" RIC FLAIR v RONNIE GARVIN, Starrcade, November 1987.
Garvin had beaten flair for the NWA World title two months previously. Garvin then took a sabbatical, meaning that Flair couldn't get a rematch until this pay-per-view.

This was the first match on the DVD that had a referee in the cage with the wrestlers, which meant that pinfalls could also count in this contest. Garvin and Flair threw everything they had at each other. It made for a highly enjoyable match, which Flair won after catapulting Garvin into the steel cage. This began Flair's fifth reign as NWA World Champion.

BRET "HITMAN" HART v "THE KING OF HARTS" OWEN HART, Summerslam, August 1994.
This was the hot feud of the summer of 94. Owen, having turned his back on his family, had defeated Bret at Wrestlemania X, and two months later he won the King of the Ring tournament.

I hadn't seen this match for years, and seeing it again on this compilation certainly brought back some great memories, of two bitter siblings tearing a strip off each other as Owen tried to prove he was the better Hart.

This was probably the best match of their feud, with each man giving their all and using the cage well. The ending saw both Bret and Owen climbing down the outside of the cage at the same time, with Bret smashing Owen's head into the blue metal bars, before jumping down to the floor for victory.

BRET "HITMAN" HART v ISAAC YANKEM, Monday Night Raw, October 1995.
This was during the height of Bret's second feud with Jerry Lawler, who brought in his personal dentist, a pre-Kane Isaac Yankem, to get revenge on Bret after losing a "Kiss My Foot" match at Summerslam. Only brief highlights of this match were shown, as Lawler told the story of how his interference in the match brought out then WWF President Gorilla Monsoon, who ordered that Lawler should be placed in his own cage and suspended above the ring as the match took place. A highly amusing story from The King here.

MANKIND v TRIPLE H, Summerslam, August 1997.
This opening match from Summerslam 97 came two months after Triple H won the King of the Ring tournament. Around the same time, a series of interviews with Jim Ross on Raw gained Mick Foley something of a cult following, which boded well for him, after he narrowly lost to Helmsley in the KOTR final.

Despite Chyna trying to help her man throughout the match, Mankind was able to come through, even copying his teenage hero, Jimmy Snuka, as he came crashing down on Helmsley from the top of the cage, before climbing the cage to gain the victory. This was probably the match that began Mick Foley's first, true rise to super stardom in the WWF.

THE ROCK v TRIPLE H, Rebellion, October 1999.
The long-standing rivalry continued in England as Triple H, having recently won the WWF title, defended it against his long-time nemesis.

Those who watched this pay-per-view saw that the Rock was robbed that night. Having clobbered the ref as he tried to stop Triple H from using a steel chair, the Rock walked out of the cage door, but wasn't declared the winner because the ref was still out. As the two brawled around and eventually back into the ring, both men where then assaulted by the British Bulldog, whose promised title shot had not been given to him.

Then, as the Rock was about to leave the cage for a second time, Chyna rushed down and slammed the door in the Rock's face. It eventually got to a point where Helmsley tried to escape, but the Rock kept holding him back. Not even Chyna's interference helped. It was only when the Bulldog pulled the Rock back into the ring that Triple H could escape.

"STONE COLD" STEVE AUSTIN v VINCE McMAHON, St. Valentine's Day Massacre, February 1999.
One of the best moments of the Austin/McMahon feud. Before the match even began, they fought outside the ring. McMahon tried climb the cage to escape, but Austin rammed his head into the cage, and McMahon dropped fifteen feet down onto the Spanish announcer's table.

But it didn't end there. As McMahon was being wheeled away, Austin dragged him off the stretcher and dragged him back into the ring.

Austin dominated the match, but each time he went to leave the cage, McMahon gave him the finger. Austin was about to leave McMahon one final time when a pre-Big Show Paul Wight emerged from under the ring. McMahon ordered his new monster to throw Austin into the cage, but the plan backfired as the cage broke upon impact, allowing Austin to touch the floor with his feet, and to gain the victory.

EDGE & CHRISTIAN v THE HARDY BOYZ, Unforgiven, September 2000.
These two had a classic series of matches, and even though they will probably be remembered for their TLC matches, this steel cage match was a good example of both teams at their best.

While not the best match on the collection, this match did deserve to be there. It showcased the talents of both teams perfectly, with the Hardys winning the tag-team titles after knocking Edge off the top of the cage with a "con-chair-to". Not the best match between these two teams but definitely worth a look.

KURT ANGLE v CHRIS BENOIT, Raw, June 2001.
These two have had some classic matches down the years, and this steel cage encounter may have become one of their forgotten classics.

Despite being within the confines of a steel cage, these two put on a classic wrestling match, topped off with Benoit diving off the top of the cage with his trademark flying head butt.

This match took place at a time when Benoit was feuding with then-WWF champion Steve Austin, and the dastardly heel champion left his commentary position to interfere as much as he could. This led to Kurt Angle's victory as he escaped from the cage.

EDGE v KURT ANGLE, Smackdown, May 2002.
This was just weeks after Angle lost his hair to Edge, and Angle was wearing that hilarious wig, kept in place with that amateur wrestling head protector.

With Hulk Hogan, Edge's tag-team partner, patrolling the ringside area, these two went at it at the height of their feud, with an interesting spot involving Angle straddling himself on the door as he tried to escape. Eventually, Edge pinned Angle after a spear off the top rope.

Disc 1 Extras
BRUNO SAMMARTINIO v IVAN KOLOFF, Madison Square Garden, December 1975.
A match putting two of the biggest stars of the 1970's against each other, a match for the title, and actually the first full match I had seen these two legends in.

If you were expecting a classic match, then don't look here. Sammartino and Koloff sent the time literally beating the crap out of each other, with the champion whipping Koloff into the cage until he was busted open. After eleven minutes of clubbing, kicking and whipping, Sammartino walked out of the door to retain his title.

BOB BACKLUND v STAN HANSEN, Madison Square Garden, April 1981.
A bout pitting the tough Texan brawler against the standout pure wrestler of his generation proved to be far more entertaining than the previous encounter. Far more than a clubbing and whipping encounter, Backlund and Hansen tore strips off each other, as Backlund successfully defended his title when he walked out of the door.

Other matches on disc 1 included full versions of Pat Patterson v Bob Backlund and Don Muraco v Jimmy Snuka, which were also part of the main presentation.

Disc 2
Tons of extra matches here, including full versions of Tully Blanchard v Magnum TA, Bret Hart v Owen Hart, Mankind v Triple H and Edge v Kurt Angle. Also included were the following matches, not seen in the main presentation.

"NATURE BOY" RIC FLAIR v DUSTY RHODES, The Great American Bash, July 1986.
If you were expecting your typical punch and kick kind of steel cage match, then this is not the match for you. Two of the greats of the wrestling industry began this match a if it were a typical wrestling match, in a ring that just happened to be surrounded by a steel cage.

It wasn't until around the fifteen minute mark that the usual steel cage tactics came into play, and this still didn't detract from the overall wrestling action. The fact that Rhodes won the match after twenty minutes with a small package says it all about this one.

THE ROCK 'N' ROLL EXPRESS v THE ANDERSONS, Starrcade, November 1986.
It seems to be typical of NWA steel cage matches of the day that they seem to involve very few of the spots we associate with this kind of match today. This match, for the World Tag-Team title, was another example of this.

Pitting two of the top teams of the decade against each other, this was a fine example of tag-team wrestling at it's best, and although the cage was used to good effect at times, it wasn't really used in the way we are used to until after Morton pinned Ole Anderson, with the Horsemen members mercilessly throwing Gibson and Morton about after the match had been lost.

SHAWN MICHAELS v MARTY JANETTY, Colliseum Home Video Release, 1993.
To finish off this viewing fest, we have an Intercontinental title match previously released for the home video market, and to be perfectly honest, it doesn't really deserve to be on this collection.

There's nothing special to report here. Despite the fact that Michaels and Janetty are former tag-team partners who parted company in a violent way, there seemed to be no passion or fury in this match. It lacked spark, and was just an A-typical kind of steel cage match.

Because of the interference of his bodyguard, Kevin "Diesel" Nash, Michaels retained the title when he walked out the door. I'm sure there are far better examples of the steel cage match that could have replaced this bout.

In conclusion, an excellent collection, highlighting the importance of the steel cage match in the history of professional wrestling. It was well put together, well presented, and the segments involving the likes of Jerry Lawler, Gerald Briscoe and Tommy Dreamer fitted in perfectly. Well worth spending your money on, and it scores 8/10.

Match of the collection - a dead heat between the Flair/Rhodes battle from the 1986 Great American Bash, and the battle of the Hart brothers from Summerslam 94.