Thursday, 1 May 2014

The Top 25 Rivalries in Wrestling History - DVD Review

There's one thing that keeps the world of professional wrestling going, and that's the rivalries. For decades fans have watched show after show to see how these rivalries develop, and how they will ultimately end.

Now the good people at WWE have dipped into their ever-growing video archive to bring us a list of the biggest rivalries ever, with the three disc set entitled The Top 25 Rivalries in Wrestling History.

As is the custom with these reviews let's start at the very beginning with.....

Disc One - The Documentary
Presented by the ever popular Renee Young and coming in at a shade under three hours this part of the collection follows the formula that has become a staple part of television shows around the world, the list show.

This formula is quite a simple one, begin the countdown from the highest to the lowest number, take a look at each ranking in turn, and put in a few talking head segments explaining to us why what they're talking about is so great, and when it's done right it makes for great viewing.

Which is just what this is, with the good and the great of the business over the years as our guides we're taken on a trip down memory lane, and we're also given a few new memories as well with a look at some rivalries we may not be familiar with.

The rivalries included here are legendary, and then some. Naturally there's Steve Austin versus Vince McMahon right at the summit, but there's also some classics where the protagonists had you eating out of the palm of their hands.

Most of the ones from 1989 onwards I remember extremely well, and although I'm a little disappointed that Bodydonna Skip versus Barry Horrowitz never made the list I would give this part of the set the big thumbs up  on it's own, but there's more to this collection than a bunch of talking heads. There's also a twelve matches to get through, so let's move into review mode with.....

Disc Two
February 18th, 1995
We begin in the World Wrestling Federation and Madison Square Garden as Roddy Piper challenges Hulk Hogan for the WWF title at War to Settle the Score.

This is the first time I've seen this one, and as a set-up for the first Wrestlemania a few weeks later it's perfect. It's a great spectacle, even though the match only lasted a shade under ten minutes.

In essence it was just one big fight, and the only hold of note came when Piper tried to put Hogan down with a sleeper hold. The all hell breaking loose segment began a few moments later when Piper's bodyguard Bob Orton, with his arm in a sling, tried to interfere and got clobbered for his troubles.

Orton was quickly replaced at ringside by Paul Orndorff, and when the referee took a snooze he joined Piper in attacking Hogan. Hogan's buddy Cyndi Lauper jumped onto the ring apron to try to stop the assault, and when Mr. T left his front row seat and jumped into the ring things got so heated that a ton of security and a brigade of New York's finest came down to break things up.

As for the result, that was a disqualification win for the Hulkster.

November 28th, 1985
It's on to the National Wrestling Alliance and Starrcade as Magnum T.A. challenges Tully Blanchard for the United States title in an I quit steel cage match.

If you ever wanted an example of a brutal 1980's match then this is it. It's the complete opposite to what the WWF was offering at the time, no cartoon characters, just two guys who didn't like each other in and outside the ring beating the proverbial out of each other.

Within minutes of the start the blood was flowing when Blanchard rammed Magnum head first into the cage. Blanchard joined him in that respect a few moments later when he was bleeding from his head and his left arm.

From there it was brawling all the way with neither man willing to give in, and when Blanchard's lady Baby Doll (a perfect 10? I would have said six and a half) threw a wooden chair into the ring the champion smashed it open and tried to use it on his challenger.

Magnum managed to fight back though, and with the wooden spike in his hands he dug it into Blanchard's forehead. The champ held out for as long as he could, but it wasn't long before he was saying those magic words, giving Magnum the win and the title.

July, 1987
Texas and the World Class territory is the destination for our next match, with Bruiser Brody taking on Gary Hart's Abdullah the Butcher.

Bruiser Brody is one of those wrestlers I've heard so much about but seen so little of. On the other hand I know a lot about the Butcher. As for the match, well, it seemed fitting that their battle was held in a rodeo stadium, given the way that these two big bulls went at it.

It began with Brody clobbering Abdullah in the head with a petrol can, busting him open straight away. The Butcher soon got his own back though when he took out a spike from his tights and jabbed it into Brody's head.

Within minutes these two were out of the ring and fighting through the fans, with many of them running for safety and just as many running so they could get a good view, and after they rammed each other into a camera platform the coverage ended, mainly because the announcers and the camera crew were having trouble following the action.

The result? I haven't got a clue.

February, 1988
Sticking with World Class action it's a chapter from the famed Von Erich/Freebirds feud, with Kerry and Kevin taking on Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts in a Badstreet Rules match.

If you're wondering what Badstreet rules are, it's basically a street fight, where the wrestlers where street clothes and can hit each other with anything they want, although they can get counted out.

The match itself is pretty decent. It began as a normal affair but quickly broke down with brawls in and around the ring as they clobbered each other with belt buckles and boots. After a brief commercial break the action returned to normal, if you can use that word to describe a match like this, but just when it looked like the brothers were on top a ringside brawl between Freebird ally Iceman King Parsons and Von Erich buddy Chris Adams spilled into the ring, with the referee calling for the bell.

The Angel of Death then made an appearance, handcuffing Kevin to the ring so the bad guys to inflict more damage, but the referee quickly released him so he could send the Freebird and their buddies running for cover.

The result? Once again I have no clue.

August 29th, 1988
It's back to the WWF and the very first Summerslam. With Jesse "The Body" Ventura as special referee, the Mega Powers, Hulk Hogan & WWF Champion Randy Savage, take on the Mega Bucks, Ted Dibiase and Andre the Giant.

Now this brings back some memories. Summerslam '88 was one of the first wrestling videos I ever brought, and while the majority of the show was made up of throwaway matches that didn't really advance any feud this main event was the continuation of everything that had gone on at Wrestlemania V.

Hogan and Savage were clearly the better team here, while Dibiase carried the load for his unit, which was perfectly understandable considering the Giant was in the latter stages of his career.

Both the Hulkster and the Macho Man took their turns in the punching bag role, and when Dibiase and the Giant sent both of them crashing out of the ring they demanded that Ventura made a count. However, they would be foiled by what would have been considered somewhat shocking back then.

Savage's manager Miss Elizabeth got onto the ring apron, and when Dibiase's bodyguard Virgil and Andre's manager Bobby Heenan jumped up to complain Liz shocked everyone by removing her skirt. All of the red blooded males in the ring were shocked at the sight of a woman with no skirt.

After Hogan and Savage congratulated each other over their dastardly distraction they stormed the ring. Savage took the Giant out with a top rope axe handle that sent him over the top rope. They then took out Dibiase with a top rope elbow/leg drop combo, and as Hogan went for the pin a reluctant Ventura stopped his count at two, with Savage striking the Body's hand to the mat to get the three count and win.

June 23rd, 1996
It's a battle of the monsters as Mankind faces the Undertaker at the WWF's King of the Ring.

The first pay per view match between these two is somewhat tame when compared to their other offerings. Mind you, that's not surprising considering they were a boiler room brawl, a buried alive match and a certain cell match two years later.

The match itself was a good opening chapter for their rivalry. The mind games began early when Paul Bearer came to the ring alone, and when the lights came back on the dead man suddenly appeared on the top rope, attacking Mankind with a flying clothesline.

Mankind was at his sadistic best here, and after a few years of battling giants and monsters from around the world Taker seemed a lot more content battling someone nearer his own size.

In hindsight the role Bearer played in the end was an interesting one. He accidentally clobbered his man with the urn, which gave Mankind the chance to apply the mandible claw. There was no way out for the dead man, and it wasn't long before the referee called for the bell to give Mankind the submission win.

That wasn't enough for the deranged one though. As soon as the match finished he grabbed a chair and tried to go after Bearer. The manager quickly backtracked, while Mankind stopped his pursuit when the groggy Undertaker left the ring.

Disc Three
April 13th, 1997
It's on to ECW and "the grudge match of the century" as Taz takes on Sabu at Barely Legal.

Watching this one you got the distinct impression that these two didn't really like each other. As a match it's okay, but it's hardly the big spectacle it was made out to be.

Both protagonists put in credible performances, but the match just seemed to lack flow of any kind, with neither man getting any sort of sustained offence. It was like you hit me a few times then I'll hit you a few times sort of thing.

That changed towards the end a little after Sabu had the audacity to use Taz's own finisher against him. Taz then went on to throw his man around the ring with a series of suplex....sorry Tazplexes until he locked in the Tazmission for the submission win.

The story didn't end there though. After Sabu and Taz engaged in a mutual show of respect Sabu's tag partner Rob Van Dam jumped the ring and attacked Taz from behind. At first it looked like Sabu was chastising his partner until he joined in on the attack, with Sabu putting Taz through a table at ringside.

Then came the big double cross. Taz's manager Bill Alfonso got into the ring to confront his client's attackers, and when it looked like he was about to get his backside kicked he took off his Taz tee to reveal a Sabu tee. The turn was complete when he raised Sabu's and RVD's hands in victory.

June, 1997
We're still in the land of Extreme for the "final battle" between long-time rivals Raven and Tommy Dreamer at WrestlePalooza.

This was billed as the final battle because Raven was heading for the bright lights of Monday Nitro, and before the match began his lackey Lupus tried to take his place in the match after he'd convinced his boss that he should leave because he didn't need this match. Dreamer promptly pie-faced Lupus to the canvas before he headed off and stopped Raven from getting out of the front door.

What followed certainly had that last time meeting vibe about it as they went around the building beating the proverbial out of each other, throwing each other off the various bleachers and putting each other through tables. The crowd were going mad, and it didn't matter to them that it took over ten minutes to get to the ring.

Once there the drama went up a notch or three as we got a cat fight between Raven's lady Chastity and Dreamer's woman Beulah McGillicutty, a cameo appearance from Louie Spiccoli, and Dreamer finally reversing the roles and getting the win after taking Raven out with a DDT on a road sign. The way the crowd went after Dreamer won I'm surprised they didn't need to replace the roof at the bingo hall.

June 27th, 1999
It's WWF/WWE for the rest of the collection, beginning with Steve Austin taking on Vince and Shane McMahon in a ladder match for control of the company at King of the Ring.

This one had a unique stipulation. Although disqualifications normally meant nothing in ladder matches Austin, who was the head honcho at the time, inserted a clause that if any McMahon corporate cronies interfered then they'd get DQ'ed.

These three aren't exactly known for their ladder match prowess, but they still put on a pretty good encounter. For the most part it was Austin giving the McMahons the woodshed treatment, beating the proverbial out of them around ringside and up the aisle. At one point he managed to drop the whole entrance way onto them.

Vince and Shane had brief moments of offence, but they were very brief indeed, and their best moment came when Vince pushed over a ladder at ringside and Austin crashed into the non-breaking announcers table.

At one point Austin came very close to grabbing the briefcase until a mystery man raised the case so he couldn't reach it. A few moments later the case was mysterious lower than before when Vince climbed the ladder.

The final few moments saw Austin and Vince battling on top of the ladder. Shane then sacrificed his old men when he pushed the ladder over. A few moments later he scaled the ladder and grabbed the briefcase as the McMahons regained control of the company.

April 30th, 2000
With Shane McMahon as the special referee Triple H defends the WWF title against the Rock at Backlash.

This was right at the height of the McMahon-Helmsley Era, and it featured a ton of twists and turns, the first of which came before the match had even begun. Originally Steve Austin, who'd been out since the previous November after neck surgery, was meant to be in the Rock's corner to counteract the threat of Vince McMahon and Women's Champion Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley, but he wasn't there due to "unforeseen circumstances".

So with all that in place what we had here was a great piece of work from all concerned. Everyone played their part to perfection. You had Shane the extremely bias referee who clearly favoured Trips but lambasted everything Rocky did, you had the chairman of the board getting in cheeky shots whenever he could, especially when the special referee was otherwise engaged, and Rock play the part of the plucky underdog, who began with the world against him before he slowly took that apart.

That began when he took Trips and Shane down with a rock bottom at the same time, putting them through the announcer's table. The champ soon regained control, but with no referees Vince brought corporate stooges Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco down as back-up referees, and when they still couldn't put Rock away after a chair shot from Vince and a legitimate count the old-timers joined in the attack.

Then we heard the sound of breaking glass as Austin finally arrived, taking on the role of the chair swinging freak as he took out everyone in sight. He then left as fast as he had arrived, and with every referee out of commission we got another surprise as Linda McMahon came down to the ring with recently-fired referee Earl Hebner. Linda pushed Stephanie to the ground when she tried to stop her, and when Rock took Trips down with a spinebuster and finished him off with the people's elbow Linda sent Hebner into the ring to make the title-winning three count.

Then, as the Rock celebrated his win Austin returned, this time in his pick-up truck, towing the DX-Express bus he'd almost destroyed a few days before, as he joined the new champion in downing a couple of beers.

November 3rd, 2001
It's a trip to Blighty at the height of the WWF/Alliance war as WWF Champion Steve Austin defends his title against the Rock at Rebellion.

This was back in the good old days when the WWF would come over here and hold UK-only pay per views that featured great matches that ultimately had no relevance to the storylines, as evidenced by this match.

It was a pretty good match, with Austin, as leader of the combined WCW/ECW forces, heeling it up perfectly, giving the finger to the fans whenever he could. We also had cameo performances from Austin's Alliance buddy Kurt Angle and Rock's ally/rival Chris Jericho as the referee took a snooze, with Angle playing a pivotal part in the ending, clobbering Rock with the title belt before Austin scored with the stone cold stunner for the winning pin.

August 24th, 2003
It's the battle of amateur greats as Brock Lesnar challenges Kurt Angle for the WWE title at Summerslam.

Whenever you put these two in the ring against each other you know you're going to get a quality match, and that's just what we've got here.

When they first faced each other at Wrestlemania a few months before Lesnar was the fan's favourite hoping to take the title from Paul Heyman guy Angle, but with Lesnar aligning himself with Vince McMahon and Angle making a quick comeback after a neck injury the roles had been reversed.

This match does make for interesting viewing, especially when you compare the Lesnar of 2003 to the Lesnar of today, and while many of the signature moves are there it feels as if he's even more of a beast now than he was then, as if his stint in the MMA world has added an extra level of intensity to his aura.

Both guys put in great performances here, and it's a good piece of storytelling. Angle played his part perfectly, while Lesnar was just as good as the frustrated monster who would do anything to get his title back.

There was also the obligatory forty winks for the referee, and it was during this that Vince McMahon almost cost Angle the title, clobbering him with a chair to free Lesnar from the ankle lock. It gave Lesnar a brief respite, but it wasn't long before our Olympic hero synched in the hold again, and although Lesnar did everything he could to escape the inevitable happened as he tapped out to give Angle the submission win.

Angle's night was far from over though. As he celebrated his win McMahon tried to attack him with a chair. Angle managed to stop this heinous act before gaining some measure of revenge by putting McMahon through the chair with an Angle slam.

October 2nd, 2006
It's the final match of the collection, and Edge, accompanied by Lita, challenges John Cena for the WWE title in a steel cage match on Raw.

These two had one of the most storied rivalries in recent times, and although this wasn't one of their most high profile matches it was certainly right up there as far as match quality goes.

Cena came into this one with his left arm heavily bandaged after an attack from World Champion King Booker and his royal court. This was an obvious target for the rated R superstar, and it proved to be a good focal point for the match.

From there they gave us plenty of good back and forth action with a few cameo appearances mixed in for good measure. These came after Lita had handed Edge a chair and while the referee was taking a snooze. After Cena had clobbered Edge in the head with the chair Edge's allies Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch got into the cage to lend him a hand, but as they tried to drag him out of the door DX's Triple H and Shawn Michaels came out and stopped them, with Michaels super kicking Murdoch into the cage door, which in turn slammed it into Edge's head as he was about to make his escape.

Their job done, DX left Cena to clear things up when he took Edge down with an FU (it wasn't the attitude adjuster then, mainly because Linda McMahon wasn't running for the senate then), and one three count later Cena had retained his title.

In conclusion - so over seven hours and over three thousand words later we've finally reached the end of a set that has it's good and bad parts.

There are loads of good parts in this collection. The documentary is top notch and a must for wrestling fans if you like that sort of thing. The choice of matches is interesting, but I couldn't help but think that perhaps it could have done with another match or three.

For instance, Bret Hart versus Shawn Michaels is one of the most talked about rivalries on this collection, yet there is nothing of their work here, and while I wasn't expecting them to put the '97 Survivor Series match here there are other matches they could have used. Even an old Rockers/Hart Foundation match would have sufficed.

You could also say the same sort of thing about other rivalries. For instance there's no Hogan/Savage match, no Dudley/Hardy/E&C three-way, and if they could have found an old Verne Gagne vs. Nick Bockwinkel match it would have been a great way of teaching modern fans about wrestling from their era.

But despite that criticism I have to say that this is another great collection from the WWE archive, and it was great to see some of these rivalries again, and it's for these reasons I'm giving this the big thumbs up.

With thanks to Fremantle Media and Fetch Publicity for supplying a copy of this release. The Top 25 Rivalries in Wrestling History is available to buy online at

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