Attracting an unparalleled amount of media attention, the weekend of June 24th 2007 will go down as one of the most talked about in U.S. wrestling history. Sadly it had nothing to do with anything that occurred on the pay-per-view that Sunday but the Benoit tragedy the events of which happened that weekend. Considering the very real events that took place that weekend, at times it was hard to review this DVD.
Length:Approx running time 2 hrs 48 mins
- World Tag Team Championship Match: Lance Cade & Trevor Murdoch vs. The Hardys
- King Booker and Queen Sharmell Discuss Booker’s Match
- WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match: Chavo Guerrero vs. Jimmy Wang Yang
- Todd Grisham Interviews Bobby Lashley
- ECW World Championship Match: Johnny Nitro vs. CM Punk
- Randy Orton Confronts Mick Foley In His Locker Room
- WWE Intercontinental Championship Match: Santino Marella vs. Umaga
- WWE United States Championship Match: MVP vs. Ric Flair
- Todd Grisham Interviews John Cena
- WWE Tag Team Championship Match: Deuce ‘N Domino (w/Cherry) vs. Sgt. Slaughter & Jimmy Snuka
- World Heavyweight Championship Match: Edge vs. Batista
- WWE Women’s Championship Match: Melina vs. Candice Michelle
- WWE Championship Match: John Cena vs. Mick Foley vs. Bobby Lashley vs. Randy Orton vs. King Booker (w/Queen Sharmell)
- Barry Windham & Mike Rotunda Interview
- Magnum T.A. Interview
- Harley Race Interview
- Dean Malenko Interview
- Ricky Steamboat Interview
- Tony Garea & Rick Martel Interview
JBL (on Sgt. Slaughter): “The person that Hasbro named their G.I. Joe after…”
Michael Cole: “And Sarge still looking good. Former WWE Champion won that title back at the Royal Rumble back in 1991 mopping the floor with The Ultimate Warrior…”
JBL: “The world owes him a favour.”
(Vengeance: Night Of Champions, 24/06/2007)
The foundations for Vengeance were laid during the 11th June, 2007‘Three Hour Draft Special’ episode of Monday Night Raw, a night which doubled as ‘Mr. McMahon Appreciation Night’ . In the course of the show the WWE Chairman revealed that for the first time everytitle would be on the line on one pay-per-view at Vengeance: Night Of Champions. He also claimed any former World Champion who was left on the Raw brand by the end of the night would be eligible to compete in a special ‘Championship Challenge’ match for the WWE Title at the show. Those men turned out to be Randy Orton, Mick Foley, King Booker and Bobby Lashley. Since Lashley was in there on the merits of being a former ECW Champion, then technically that meant The Sandman should have been eligible as well (I can understand why he wasn’t but they could have at least come up with a reason to write him out). The final moments of the‘Appreciation Night’ / ‘Draft Special’ saw Vince McMahon step into his limousine which promptly exploded.
The ill-fated Vince McMahon death angle (dropped the following week after the Benoit tragedy hit the news) is referenced several times throughout the pay-per-view as Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler provide a voice-over of the explosion footage and we get footage from the ‘Press Conference’ held by Investigator Beck. McMahon’s apparent demise is also the subject of interviews with Bobby Lashley and John Cena. As tasteless as that might seem, the main story of the night is actually that of the titles. On the night, fifteen thousand fans packed the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas for Vengeance: “Night of Champions”, to see every WWE title in under three hours. Throughout we get a selection of clips from famous title matches and before each match, in an attempt to link the title being defended with its history, they announce a guest former Champion/Champions holder of that particular belt/belts (except the Women’s Title). For those interested, the relevant wrestlers and titles are as follows:
The U.S. Express: Barry Windham and Mike Rotunda – two-time WWF Tag Team Champions
Dean Malenko – four-time WCW Cruiserweight Champion
Ricky Steamboat – WWF Intercontinental Champion
Magnum T.A. – two-time United States Champion
Rick Martel and Tony Garea – two-time WWF Tag Team Champions
Harley Race – eight-time NWA World Champion
John Bradshaw Layfield – WWE Champion
In the case of JBL he even got the ring-announcer to read out a long introduction listing his accomplishments. JBL is in his element here, making even Michael Cole applaud him. Whilst they did their bit to try and make the titles mean something, the show itself suffers from title overkill as one title match quickly follows the next, only two of which manage to pass the ten minute mark. As a result nothing has the chance to leave a lasting impact.
The rivalry between The Hardyz and Cade and Murdoch was one of the better executed storylines of last year. For weeks The Redneck Wrecking Crew adopted a more sportsman like attitude, befriending and then finally turning on the brothers Hardy and taking their World Tag Team Titles. In the opening match Cade and Murdoch showed why they are the best tag team around right now as they continued to play up to their insincere ‘sportsmen’ gimmicks with some nice team moves before concentrating on Matt’s knee injured by Finlay with his Shillelagh on the previous edition of SmackDown! Of course The Hardyz are willing and able to fight back with babyface fire and the result is a good match which could have done with been five minutes longer. Unfortunately, the ending came out of nowhere just when it was starting to get interesting.
Following a backstage segment in which King Booker lists all of the titles he’s won over the years (“They should all bow down and call me ‘King Champion’!”) and footage of the late great Eddie Guerrero wining the WWE Title from Brock Lesnar at No Way Out 2004 we are treated to one of the better Cruiserweight matches of recent years between Chavo Guerrero and the man he pinned for the belt at No Way Out 2007 Jimmy Wang Yang. These two have some good chemistry together and already had produced some entertaining TV matches leading into the pay-per-view, JBL did a good job of putting over the title lineage of the Guerreros through Gori, Chavo Sr., Eddie and Chavo Jr., and at 9:15 for a change the Cruiserweight match is actually one of the longer matches. I’d say this is one of only two matches on the card (along with the SmackDown! World Title match) that feels the right length and as a result it’s one of the few matches on the card where everything ‘clicked’ and there seemed to be a very real chance of a title change.
Footage of Tazz winning the ECW Title from Shane Douglas at Guilty As Charged ’99 leads us into the most controversial match of the night as Johnny Nitro (now John Morrison) was picked to fill in as a replacement for Chris Benoit against C.M. Punk for the ECW Title, vacated by Lashley after he was moved to Raw on the ‘Draft Special’. Considering Nitro only came to ECW in the ‘Supplemental’Draft (exclusively on wwe.com) following a massive de-push on Rawthis turned out to be a stroke of luck for him. Thrown together at the last minute, this is a short TV-style match which mixes high-spots and rest-holds. It is worth noting that before releasing the DVD WWE have edited out all mentions of Chris Benoit by Joey Styles and Tazz. What they haven’t edited however is the crowd who let rip with a booming “We want Benoit!” chant throughout the match.
After some clips of Shawn Michaels beating Bret Hart in the Iron Man match at WrestleMania XII, we get a tense backstage confrontation between Mick Foley and Randy Orton which turns out to be one of the highlights of the show.
Using Ricky Steamboat for the Intercontinental Title match may have been a mistake because after Jim Ross puts over Steamboat’s match with Randy Savage at WrestleMania III – which only emphasizes how far the Intercontinental Title has fallen. At under three minutes this is your basic squash match, the highlight of which is Jerry Lawler getting in one of the best lines of the night: “It’s going to take a miracle for Santino to win but Umaga’s not gonna give him time to pray”. Held two months after the ‘Milan Miracle’, the most interesting thing here this is the way the live crowd reject smiley underdog babyface Santino Marella (before his radical overnight gimmick transformation into a stereotypical Italian ladies man) and encourage ‘The Samoan Bulldozer’ with chants of “One More Time!”.
Magnum T.A. is in the crowd for the U.S. Title bout between his old rival, the man JBL names “the best to ever lace up a pair of boots”,Ric Flair and reigning Champion Montel Vontavious Porter. Flair is actually one of the more over people on the entire card but unfortunately this was an awkward match, featuring some poor timing.
Deuce and Domino’s match with ‘Mystery Opponents’ Sgt. Slaughter and Jimmy Snuka goes beyond awkward as the Hall Of Famers stumble through a poor match which only succeeded in exposing Deuce and Domino’s weaknesses. The interesting thing about the match (not acknowledged here) is that Deuce is Snuka’s adopted son in real-life. The highlight comes from the commentary after the match when Snuka, Slaughter, Rick Martel (looking as good as ever – he really was ‘The Model’), and Tony Garea are celebrating: “I wouldn’t try to out-drink any of them either. I think the kids would learn a lesson on that too” (JBL).
Batista against Edge billed as a “Do or Die” match, basically means it was to be Batista’s last shot at the World title as long as Edge was champion… Which as fate would have it turned out not to be very long as within the next month Edge suffered a (legitimate) torn pectoral muscle and was forced to relinquish the title and ‘Big Dave’ was back challenging for the title again at the next pay-per-view The Great American Bash. The best laid plans of mice and men… Whilst not the best they’ve had, this was still a decent match built around the story of Edge working on Big Dave’s shoulder. At almost seventeen minutes (more than double some of the other matches) it turns out to be the only one really given time to develop. It succeeded in it’s aim to get Edge over as a sneaky heel who would do whatever it took to keep his title and building towards some nice drama at the end.
In the surprise of the night, before the Women’s Title match, they actually showed footage of the infamous bout from November 25th 1985 where The Fabulous Moolah beat Wendi Richter for the Women’s Title in the most famous real-life double-cross of the modern era until a certain incident in Montreal in 1997. The Women’s Title match continued the story from WrestleMania of Melina’s ongoing grudge against any Diva who posed for Playboy. At four minutes eighteen seconds the match itself was forgettable (definitely not as good as their rematch would turn out to be at The Great American Bash) but it had what the rest of the show was missing:real emotion. As a result it made the Women’s Championship seem important, something most of the other title matches failed to accomplish.
The preview package asking “What is a champion?” did a brilliant job of laying out the motivation of all five men and gave the Main Event that big match feel. In fact, according to recent interviews with Foley this will likely go down as his last Main Event match. In an amusing moment, JR put over former eleven-time WCW Tag Team Champions Harlem Heat (Booker and his older brother Stevie Ray) as “a great tag team combination” before questioning “But where’d he get that Lenox Lewis like accent?” The numbers mean it is very much like the ‘Money In The Bank’ match from WrestleMania XXIII as there wasn’t much room for actual psychology in-between everyone squeezing in their trademark moves. “God Almighty! This is like watchin’ a WWE All-Star Game!” screamed Ross at one point. Still what looked like an awkward clash of styles turned out to be a fun match with everyone played their roles well as they took turns brawling inside and outside the ring with highlights including Lashley’s running no-hands plancha onto all four opponents at ringside, Foley and Booker’s short-but-intense-brawl, and Cena delivering an FU to Lashley through the ECW announcer’s table (how ironic!). At least the show finished on a high note with a good Main Event to send the fans home happy although as good as it was, allocating five bignames only ten minutes total meant it was as rushed as the rest of the card. The whole show was over in two hours, forty minutes and twenty nine seconds!!!
Aesthetically I like the lay-out of this DVD. The Main Menu emphasizes the ‘showcase of titles’ aspect of the event by looking like a ‘display case’. This compliments the pay-per-view itself where the set was arranged so the stage was supported by pillars with a long red carpet stretching all the way down the aisle to the ring.
The Extras complete this image of focusing on championship gold since they consist of six interviews with legends: Barry Windham and his real-life brother-in-law Mike Rotunda talk about winning the WWF Tag Team Titles from Hall Of Famers The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff (“It was as entertaining for us being in the ring with them as it was for everyone out in the crowd”); Magnum T.A. discusses the importance of the U.S. Title when growing up as a wrestling fan, his legendary feud with Tully Blanchard and the October, 1986 car crash which ended his wrestling career; the legendary Harley Race explains what it meant to be NWA World Champion back in the glory days of the territories (“It’s the greatest experience anyone can ever have is be considered the very top and be honoured by your peers.”); Dean Malenko talks about beating Shinjiro Ohtani for his first WCW Cruiserweight Title and what that meant considering the depth and talent of WCW’s Cruiserweight Division during WCW’s mid-Nineties; Ricky Steamboat discusses his rivalry with Ric Flair from 1977 and puts over his classic Intercontinental title win over the ‘Macho Man’ (The match that I had with Randy Savage at WrestleMania III was probably one of the top five highlights in my wrestling career”); and Tony Garea and Rick Martel explain what it was like to work with The Moondogs.
Whilst the interviews with the legends are a nice idea emphasising the historical importance of the belts being defended, they should have gone a step further and included a couple of (preferably unreleased on DVD) classic title matches involving some of the belts to further illustrate this point.
TheBigBoot’s Best Match: WWE Championship Match: John Cena vs. Mick Foley vs. Bobby Lashley vs. Randy Orton vs. King Booker ***½
TheBigBoot’s Most Memorable Quote:“Arguably, but in my opinion, the greatest ECW World Champion ever, the first wrestler to make his opponents tap-out to indicate submission, ‘The Human Suplex Machine’, the pride of Red Hook, New York, and this is not arguable, always the most miserable man on the planet, my broadcast partner and my friend Tazz.” (Joey Styles, Vengeance: Night Of Champions, 24/06/2007)
If Vince Russo’s style of booking proved that too many gimmick matches can devalue a pay-per-view then at Vengeance WWE proved that the same holds true for title matches. Cramming nine title matches into under three hours – compared to, for example,WrestleMania XXIII’s eight matches over four hours – the event brought back memories of 1999 Attitude-era style episodes of Raw(although back then the matches were being rushed through to get to the promos and skits, whereas here the matches are rushed so we can get to more matches). The problem was not so much the number of matches (plenty of three hour pay-per-views have had nine or ten matches and done just fine) but the way the value of the belts was diluted by having one title match after another making it harder to accept them as important prizes to be fought over rather than something that needed to be rushed through to get to the next title with only the World, WWE and Women’s Championships feeling like they really meant something to those in the matches. There were no less than nine titles on the line … And some people wanted ECW to have a set of Tag Team Titles as well!?!? The fact that all the matches other than the main event are ‘straight’ no-gimmicks affairs means they all begin to blend into one. This is actually one card that would have benefited from a gimmick match somewhere, be it a Ladder or a Cage. It was recently reported that WWE plans to change the name of this event simply to Night Of Champions from 2008 onwards. One positive thing about the demise of the Cruiserweight Division is that at least it means this year there will be less titles to squeeze onto the show.
I appreciate the effort made here to distinguish the pay-per-view from the interchangeable monthly offerings that make up the non-‘Big Four’ events by giving Vengeance its own identity. Whilst the idea might have looked good on paper, it fell short in execution. In terms of wrestling this was a decidedly average B-Level show. To be fair, other than the WWE Tag Team Title match involving Deuce, Domino and the WWE Hall Of Famers there is nothing abysmal. It had its moments most notably the Cruiserweight, World and WWE Championship matches but nothing was ‘must see’ either.
Points: 5 / 10