Saturday, September 17, 2011

WWE Greatest Superstars of the 21st Century


This set is the third in WWE's series of decade retrospectives with the first being the '80's (which I reviewed way back in '06 here) and then the '90's (which I haven't seen but if anybody would be so kind as to burn my a copy that'd be swell). The documentary has 3-5 min. chapters each looking at a talent (i.e. Booker T, Brock Lesnar, Jeff Hardy, etc.) with highlights, background information, and some new interview bits with guys like Daniel Bryan, Kofi Kingston, Alex Riley, etc. It's a pretty breezy watch, I preferred to do it in smaller chunks, as in one sitting it'd likely get stale quickly. If you didn't watch a lot of WWE in the decade of 2000-2009 it certainly wouldn't hurt to see all of this, and even if you've seen every single PPV and episode of TV (like me) it's still worthwhile, it was fun to be reminded of when Kurt Angle was funny and when Kane, was, well, no Kane's always been terrible.


1. Booker T vs. The Rock - WCW Championship Match (WWE SummerSlam 2001) - 7

I hadn't seen Rock and Booker in a long time and didn't remember them working particularly well together. I was pleasantly surprised as they did, in fact, have some chemistry together and this was a pretty fun match. It was at the height of the whole Invasion angle, was the main event of a major pay-per-view, and had a hot crowd, all ingredients for something special. Rock can be a sort of selfish worker, he rarely lets someone else look good without ensuring he'll like even better, and we saw that here, although he gave Booker just enough to look like a threat (although also routinely made Booker look like an idiot bouncing him all over the place to his trademark snapping punches). Both guys were on with their facials, body language, etc. There was some interference here but I actually didn't mind it as it saw Shane McMahon first get annihilated by the APA at ringside, and then later, Shane ate a Rock Bottom on the floor. The finish saw Booker do the Spinaroni which lead to his demise and Rock popped up and hit a Rock Bottom. Had Booker not taken time to breakdance and gloat would he have been able to put down the "Great One"? I might be grading this just a touch high but I'm a longtime Booker T fan and this was arguably his biggest spotlight during his WWE tenure, that coupled with the energy throughout and I'm reccomending it with a "7".

2. Chris Jericho vs. Rob Van Dam - Intercontinental Championship Match (WWE Raw 9/16/02) - 4

Jericho looked ridiculous with a long, straggly goatee and the tip of his ponytail was cherry red. He must have went into a barber shop with a picture of a dog's ass and said: "I'll have this." I remember hearing that RVD was never one of Chris' favorite opponents and that's apparent here as early Chris is trying to talk out some spot with Rob as RVD is in the midst of one of his flurries. This kept moving along but after about ten minutes Jericho looked really dumb continually running face-first into Van Dam's kicks. Triple H ran down, guess he and RVD got into it earlier in the program, but this did lead to a cool visual as Van Dam was perched up-top and leaped off getting unreal air on a crossbody block onto HHH on the floor. Jericho goes over (winning one of his record 9 IC championships) and then post-match Triple H buried RVD further leading me to wonder if this was a shot at Van Dam and/or TNA.

3. Triple H vs. Kane - World Heavyweight Championship Match (WWE Raw 6/23/03) - 4

I've seen these guys work each other plenty of times and they've never really had a match of theirs together that stood out and I was hoping this would be it. It wasn't. If Kane lost he'd have to unmask. Triple H was rocking royal blue trunks, had Flair at ringside, was clean shaven, and was clearly in his Race and Flair fetishizing phase. This entire match was almost all HHH bumping off of Kane punches and other similarly dull offense so it was nothing to write home about. Finish saw the members of Evolution get involved including Kane taking an RKO from Orton leading to the cheap victory by Hunter. The crowd was dead flat for the finish as, just earlier, during a nearfall for Kane, they were exploding at the prospect of a title change, but seeing HHH retain again killed them quicker than Cropsey.

4. Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar - 60 Minute Iron Man Match for the WWE Championship (WWE SmackDown! 9/18/03) - 6

I like my matches like Sonic the Hedgehog and I prefer our chili cheese dogs: long. I just ordered the PWG event "Jason Takes PWG" last week because I heard Daniels and Styles go 60 min. in the main. So to finally get, for the first time ever, the complete, uncut Iron Man here is worth the price of the DVD alone. It's a majestic sight to behold, yet, has its share of flaws that keep it from quite being upper-echelon. Lesnar stalls early, he's no P.S. Hayes, though. I've got to say, I wasn't sure if Lesnar had this in him, he was still cutting his teeth in the business, most of his matches were kept short to protect his reputation as a monster, and here he had to fill an hour up. To that point, there did seem to be a bit of overkill in some categories, besides getting suplexes galore, as one would expect, I lost track of how many F-5 and Angle Slam spots this contained. Another thing that irked me is Angle lost the 2nd fall to an F-5 after 11 min., later, Angle loses the 4th fall via countout after being unable to get in the ring after an F-5 on the floor at 20 min. So why is Angle able to start kicking out of the F-5 when he's hit with it (multiple times) during the final stretch? Besides that and other psychology snafus, neither man really shows the torpor you'd imagine, and there is some nice psych moments, including Angle tapping out quickly as Brock applied Angle's own trademark Ankle Lock on him at 12 min. knowing he was caught and the devastation of the move so choosing to give Brock the fall and regroup instead of struggling to fight out of the hold. It's a match I feel like each time I watch it I'll have a slightly different take on.

5. Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio - WWE Championship Match (WWE SmackDown! 3/18/04) - 5

These guys are so good we often take for granted just how fine they were/are in the ring. This isn't one of their more famous encounters and doesn't come close to their best bouts but is still good stuff. It's mostly Eddie targeting Rey's injured arm. Not a lot of flying or back-and-forth drama. Rey, though, just wow, his vocal selling is scarily good, you'd think he was really being tortured by Michonne of The Walking Dead. There's a close-up of Rey on his side, a tight shot mostly comprised of his mask and eyes, and those eyes, Cole even commented on them, they held more depth and story in a look alone than must can muster in the ring period. Guerrero gets a victory with a cradle that capitalizes on Mysterio's maimed limb. Post-match Paul Heyman comes out and does a racist promo only for Undertaker to march out, when Paul turns his back to Rey and Eddie they shove him like two kids on a playground pushing a dweeb into the class bully or hot chick (depending on their tastes in barbarism) into Undertaker who gives the rotund loudmouth a Tombstone on his bald spot.


1. JBL vs. The Undertaker vs. Eddie Guerrero vs. Booker T - Fatal 4-Way Match for the WWE Championship (WWE Armageddon 2004) - 6

Out of everything on this set this was one of the matches I remembered least from its original airing. It was a pretty strong multi-man match. Eddie and Booker teamed up early, likely out of necessity being the smaller guys, and a sheer dislike of JBL and fear of Undertaker, but I liked to think of them joining forces as proud former WCW guys in my own head. JBL stooged for everybody eating shots before bailing. We got not one but two commentators' table bumps, the first being partially blown, as JBL gave Booker a powerbomb but didn't even get him up higher than his waist before dropping him on the table so of course it didn't break, prompting JBL to climb up the ring steps and drop a lousy elbow onto Booker to finish the job. JBL would later be the recipient of a one-way trip through a table courtesy of Undertaker. I don't remember Guerrero and Undertaker working together much in WWE so this was a treat and their stuff together was some of this match's best. Undertaker kicked out of two of Eddie's patented Frog Splashes, so the fiery latino pulled out a massive ladder and did another one off of it but still couldn't keep the dead man down. The last couple minutes hurt this overall and kept it from scoring higher, Jon Heidenreich got involved, and the match-ending Clothesline from Wall St. (presumably) by JBL on Booker was completely off-camera so I was very confused at the end which is rare for WWE to miss a finish yet alone on the main event of a pay-per-view telecast.

2. JBL vs. Big Show vs. Kurt Angle - Triple Threat Match for the WWE Championship (WWE Royal Rumble 2005) - 5

Fellow NHO contributor Jessie reviewed this match long ago and I recall him saying the pace was a full-on sprint of activity. It definitely was always moving forward. JBL is usually an aggressive bully but here we saw him get bumped around and beat up more as he was oversized and outmatched by Big Show and then Angle was eager to pick up the scraps. That being said, later when JBL wanted to get some of his own shit off, he had no problem disregarding the earlier damage he took to do so. There were a few gimmicked spots like Big Show being knocked off the ring steps through the commentators' table and later Show tackling JBL through the security wall which were both sort of weak. Angle was trying to capitalize but never really got a dominating section. Somehow the most random assortment of "talent" ended up involved in some way or another (Orlando Jordan, the Basham's, Mark Jindrak, and Luther Reigns). Angle sort of got shafted on the finish having to take a Clothesline from Wall St. by a semi-concious JBL. I liked the energy, probably felt different than other stuff off that PPV, but it lead to inconsistent and unsatisfactory selling at times.

3. Triple H vs. Edge - World Heavyweight Championship Match (WWE Raw 2/7/05) - 4

This match started off and I was thinking, "This will surely be a '6' or so", but then it crumbled like a week-old oatmeal raisin. They were in Japan at the Saitama Super Arena and the Japanese crowd was very appreciative and excited. They started off seemingly aware of this and its significance, almost felt like they were doing a NOAH main event, started with mat work, then the targeting of body parts (Edge's arm/shoulder and HHH's back), and we even got a suplex on the floor that Kobashi would have approved of. This train derailed, though, as the last few minutes were such woefully overbooked shit that it just spiraled into a mess. We got a ref bump, Batista doing indifferent interference, a few miscues, and the murdering of any goodwill I had left for it. For once, you're in Japan of all places, do a simple, physical, clean finish! It's like instead of just being handed the first piece of your birthday cake your friends toss it around playing catch, drop it, put it on the ceiling fan for a little spin, then hand you a crumbly, frosted mess. No thanks, assholes.

4. Lita vs. Trish Stratus - Womens Championship Match (WWE Unforgiven 2006) - 6

Really surprised by how much I liked this. This was "Rated R" era Lita who never looked hotter practically bursting out of a spaghetti strap top. Stratus was fighting in her own backyard. The thing I was most thrilled with was the selling, top-notch, Lita especially stepped up, and I was digging it. They also took their time and this was structured unlike most WWE women's matches which are commonly sprints. Stratus using the "Sharpshooter" in Canada to win the belt was a cool moment and she got a great ovation but kudos to Lita for one of her career best nights in-ring.

5. Shawn Michaels vs. Randy Orton vs. Edge - Triple Threat Match Winner Faces John Cena For The WWE Championship At WrestleMania 23 (WWE Raw 2/5/07) - 4

Edge and Orton both went and kept after Michaels (in lame DX regalia) here. I watched the match twice and still can't muster up much to say. Orton looked different, don't know if he was on the gas then, who knows, but he was bulkier, his face and upper-body were chunky. I hate when guys take those big, comical flat back bumps for basic Michaels punches. I've never got that. He hits people ove the head like he's Moe Howard and they kick their legs out and fling themselves backward like a first grader's first attempt at getting out on the floor at a skating rink. Edge is usually wired but looked phlegmatic here (odd given the match's circumstances). Finish saw HBK dodge a Spear that hit Orton instead, Shawn hit Sweet Chin Music on Edge, then covered the fallen Orton. Sort of established a hierarchy wherein Orton was the lowly one. This seemed rushed and save for determining Cena's opponent at WrestleMania it's clear the agents spent about as much time structuring and adding detail to this match as it takes one of them to run and get Vince's Pumpkin Spice Latte.

6. John Cena & Batista & Shawn Michaels & The Undertaker vs. Randy Orton & Edge & Mr. Kennedy & MVP (WWE Raw 2/15/07) - 4

This was more formula than the ones concocted by Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker in Muppet Labs. The heels got a segment of working over Batista, then Shawn, then Cena. MVP wasn't even a footnote. Kennedy looked out of place with that much talent in the ring. Orton went down to Sweet Chin Music, but, not before previously shoving HBK into Undertaker thus generating friction that lead to all the good guys going at it post-match. Sure this was a fun ending to a subpar Raw but on its own average at best.

7. Batista vs. The Undertaker - World Heavyweight Championship Match (WWE WrestleMania 23) - 8

I think Undertaker should have ended his WrestleMania run here. His condition has deteriorated with age (he looked surprisingly great here), he hasn't hit the topé suicida as good as he did here since, and for my money this was more exciting and gratifying than either of his battles with Shawn Michaels, last year's with Triple H, or Flair vs. HBK. I've never been a big backer of either guy in terms of personal favorites but was a huge fan of their series of matches together (my personal favorite being from Cyber Sunday '07). That series was probably the most I ever enjoyed Batista and ranks up with Undertaker's best stuff (i.e. versus Kurt Angle) from the decade. This was a war from the start, Batista hit a huge Spear on Undertaker to get it started, and the action didn't let up from that point forward. Watching a ton of WWE main event-style matches you'll usually get some gimmicked spots and they usually don't come off cleanly or particularly well but I loved them here. We got Batista hitting a running powerslam on Undertaker from one commentators' table to another and Undertaker being chucked through the barricade into the time keeper's area where he had a great moment of subtle selling as his eyes widened after surviving the impact like a guy getting hit with a bar stool in a bar fight, like, "Holy shit am I still conscious?" Undertaker made Batista look good allowing him to kick out of the Last Ride powerbomb and chokeslam. Undertaker also survived a Batista Bomb that spiked him like Randy Stoklos spiking a volleyball in Kings of the Beach. The crowd was really living and dying on every nearfall and this had energy I haven't felt in the last several WrestleMania events. Great stuff.


Jessie said...

bravo seemed to tackle this big set with relative ease....maybe some of our more historically accurate readers can verify....i remember a HHH v. Kane Chain match that was really good....but that's it.....yep....that Mania match was the shit.....running powerslam was probably one of the best table spots from any Mania.....the way it was filmed it looked so huge

Brian said...

yea.. 8+ hr. set but no sweat for me.. - yea loved that Batista bout.. Adam gave it a "5" on his old review though