The Best Of Raw: 15th Anniversary DVD Review

Monday Night RAW, RAW is WAR or The War Zone; whatever you remember the show as, you cannot deny RAW’s impact on how wrestling is televised, or how it has influenced other aspects of television production.

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Certificate: 18

Running Time: 573mins (9hrs 33mins)

Discs: 4

Chapters

Disc 1

  • First RAW – January 11, 1993
  • Mr. Perfect vs. Ric Flair Loser Leaves WWE Match – January 18, 1993
  • Parking Lot Brawl – May 10, 1993
  • Razor Ramon vs. The Kid – May 17, 1993
  • Shawn Michaels vs. Marty Jannetty Intercontinental Championship Match
  • May 17, 1993
  • Gorilla Monsoon Fires Bobby Heenan – December 6, 1993
  • Bret Hart vs. 1-2-3 Kid WWE Championship Match – July 11, 1994
  • The Search for The Undertaker – August 1994
  • King’s Court with William Shatner – January 9, 1995
  • Shawn Michaels vs. Owen Hart – November 20, 1995
  • Vader attacks WWE President Gorilla Monsoon – January 22, 1996
  • A Touch of Goldust – May 27, 1996
  • Pillman’s Got a Gun – November 4, 1996
  • Mankind vs. The Undertaker No Holds Barred – December 9, 1996
  • Shawn Loses His Smile – February 13, 1997
  • The Ninth Wonder of the World – February 17, 1997
  • Original ECW Invasion – February 24, 1997
  • Owen Hart vs. British Bulldog WWE European Championship Match-
  • March 3, 1997
  • Bret Speaks His Mind – March 17, 1997
  • Flag Match – United States vs. Canada – July 21, 1997
  • Stone Cold Stuns the Boss – September 22, 1997
  • Bret Screwed Bret – November 17, 1997
  • Sable in a Sack – December 8, 1997
  • Gold Meets Water – December 15, 1997
  • Christmas with DX – December 22, 1997

Disc 2

  • “Tyson and Austin!”- January 19, 1998
  • DX Special Report – February 2, 1998
  • Dumpster Diving – February 2, 1998
  • Formation of the New DX- X-Pac Returns – March 30, 1998
  • Stone Cold vs. Vince McMahon – April 13, 1998
  • DX Invades WCW – April 27, 1998
  • DX Nation – July 6, 1998
  • Zamboni 3:16 – September 28, 1998
  • The Debut of Mr. Socko – October 5, 1998
  • McMahon’s Cement Corvette – October 12, 1998
  • Bang 3:16 – October 19, 1998
  • Mankind wins the WWE Championship – January 4, 1999
  • Stone Cold Beer Truck – March 22, 1999
  • Monster Truck vs. Town Car – April 19, 1999
  • Mean Street Posse vs. the Stooges – May 10, 1999
  • The Greater Power Revealed – June 7, 1999
  • Y2J – August 9, 1999
  • Rock: This is Your Life – September 27, 1999
  • Bossman Sympathy – November 8, 1999
  • What Happens in Vegas… – November 29, 1999
  • Jericho not the new Champion – April 17, 2000
  • Shane Purchases WCW – March 26, 2001
  • Milk-o-Mania – August 20, 2001
  • Triple H Returns – January 7, 2002
  • Past Meets Present – February 18, 2002
  • Worlds Unite- Bischoff Hugs Vince – July 15, 2002
Disc 3
  • “The Rock” Concert – March 24, 2003
  • Kane Unmasks – June 23, 2003
  • Musical Chairs with Eugene – July 5, 2004
  • Evolution Turns on Randy Orton – August 16, 2004
  • Are you ready for some wrestling? – November 22, 2004
  • Batista Turns on Triple H – February 21, 2005
  • Shelton Benjamin vs. Shawn Michaels – Gold Rush Tournament Match – May 2, 2005
  • John Cena Drafted # 1 to RAW – June 6, 2005
  • Edge / Lita Wedding – June 20, 2005Shawn Michaels turns on Hulk Hogan – July 4, 2005
  • Jericho is Fired – August 22, 2005
  • Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle – WWE Iron Man Match – October 3, 2005
  • A Stone Cold Homecoming – October 3, 2005
  • Eric Bischoff Trial – December 5, 2005
  • Edge / Lita – Live Sex Celebration – January 9, 2006
  • DX Impersonates Shane and Mr. McMahon – June 26, 2006
  • Edge vs. Rob Van Dam vs. John Cena – Triple Threat Match for the WWE Championship – July 3, 2006
  • Edge vs. Shawn Michaels – Street Fight – January 22, 2007
  • Shawn Michaels Returns! – October 8, 2007

Disc 4

(There are no chapters to this, so you have to view it in one sitting)

The first ever edition of RAW from January 1993.

  • 1st Ever Raw!
  • Koko B. Ware vs. Yokozuna
  • The Steiner Brothers vs. The Executioners
  • Shawn Michaels vs. Max Moon – Intercontinental Championship Match
  • The Undertaker vs. Damian Demento
  • Plus interviews with Jim Ross, Vince McMahon, Razor Ramon, Doink the Clown and more!

This set is a celebration of fifteen years (over 700 episodes) of what, to many people, was the show to watch in the mid-to-late nineties. With so much footage to wade through, it’s no surprise there is a lot of memorable incidents, skits and matches missing. Chris Benoit not being featured is to be expected, but some of the other people and incidents missing are harder to swallow.

There is no Val Venis (who was all over the show at one point), no Nation (except the DX parody), nothing on The Corporation, The Ministry, The New Age Outlaws (who were, at one point, one of the most over acts in the company) get a single mention and, most crucially of all, there is virtually nothing on the Invasion angle, with only a small sampling of the Steve Austin appreciation night where he mocks Taz.

But let’s not dwell on what’s missing and focus on what is included. There are so many memorable segments from the show, with some stellar matches thrown in for good measure. There’s not enough talking about the actual show itself though, which is a disappointment to me, because I would love to hear stories about certain incidents rather than just view them again.

Starting with a look over the first broadcast, Shawn Michaels talks about how only he and Undertaker are the only two wrestlers still with the company from that show. The first match shown is an absolute belter between Mr. Perfect (who only turned face two months prior) taking on Ric Flair in a “Loser Leaves the WWF” match. Ric was heading back to WCW, so did the right thing on the way out and put Perfect over while Bobby Heenan on commentary almost has a coronary at the result.

A spontaneous looking brawl between Mr. Perfect and Shawn Michaels is the first showing of the “anything can happen” nature of the show. On air graphics pop up now and again with information on the various segments as you watch them, and with this one we learn that the car belonged to The Fink and was damaged quite badly.

The good matches continue as Razor loses to The Kid (later The 1-2-3 Kid then X-Pac) in the first great upset of the show, HBK takes on a returning Marty Jannetty in the best match of 1993, and Bret Hart has an absolute barnburner against The 1-2-3 Kid for the WWF Championship (this was the best match, in my opinion, of Waltman’s original run with the company).

Other highlights of the first five years are Vader attacking Gorilla Monsoon in an angle designed to convey the former WCW Champion as an uncontrollable monster heel, Brian Pillman, post Steve Austin shattering his ankle and giving a name to crushing someone between a steel chair, defending his house as Stone Cold goes on a rampage by pulling a gun on his former best friend (this segment was unreal at the time, with Kevin Kelly selling it beautifully), the ECW invasion, Bret Hart turning heel and the rise of Austin, The Rock and DeGeneration X.

The second disc takes us into the Attitude Era and the hottest period in pro-wrestling history. Nitro and the nWo had been crushing RAW in the ratings, so things had to be picked up… and picked up they were. “Tyson and Austin” was the beginning of the resurgence for RAW and is still a compelling piece of television. The incident was featured in practically all of the world’s news media and propelled the WWE to mainstream acceptance.

Add to this The Rock breaking out to become a solo star and Austin becoming the hottest character since Hogan in his prime and you can see why WCW eventually struggled to come close to catching up after their initial surge.

Austin v McMahon (with Austin driving various vehicles into the arenas), DX invading WCW, DX parodying The Nation (still as hilarious as ever), Mr. Socko, The Mean Street Posse (who were awesome), The Stooges coming out to “Real American”, “This is Your Life” with The Rock and the debut of Chris Jericho (another segment that is still as thrilling the tenth time you watch it as it was the first) all feature in a disc that is full of highlight after highlight. We also get the final of the tournament to crown the first ever European Champion; a magnificent contest between The Bulldog and Owen Hart (who were also tag champs at the time). This is the best match the Euro belt ever had (even including the D-Lo Brown/X-Pac feud; the best feud the belt ever had) and the Euro belt must go down in history as having the shiniest faceplate in wrestling history.

Jericho winning, then being stripped of the title, is a nice angle, as is the Stone Cold homage of Kurt Angle driving into the arena in a milk truck. The latter is the only time The Invasion/The Alliance is mentioned, which is a shame, because the arrival of ECW into the story was perfectly executed and deserves to be seen here. For those who don’t know what happened, Lance Storm and Mike Awesome (who were part of the WCW side at the time) were facing off against Kane and Y2J. During the match, Rob Van Dam and Tommy Dreamer made their debuts by running in and attacking the WWE guys. With Awesome and Storm joining in, it became a four-on-two beatdown… but wait, here comes some help in the shape of Taz, Raven, The Dudleys, Rhino and Justin Credible. Unfortunately for Kane and Jericho, the six turned around and ECW was officially part of The Invasion.

It’s a pity the above angle was left out because it really worked well. The live crowd bought into it and the wrestlers did a great job of selling the story.

Ignoring the above disappointment, we move on to Triple H returning from injury at Madison Square Garden (to the pop of his career), The Rock challenging Hollywood Hulk Hogan to a match at Wrestlemania X8 (a truly electrifying encounter) and the second disc closes with the announcement of Eric Bischoff as RAW’s General Manager in a shocking segment that was one of those scenarios that leave you with your jaw on the floor.

The third disc, while still full of great segments, wasn’t as enjoyable as the previous two mainly because a lot of it is still fresh in my mind. That’s not to say there aren’t some gems amongst the chapters, because there are plenty.

These include, the first Rock Concert, Kane unmasking, Evolution turning on Orton, Batista turning on Triple H (in one of the best executed face turns in recent memory), a blistering encounter between Shawn Michaels and Shelton Benjamin (which is still Shelton’s best match with the company), Edge and Lita’s “wedding” (with Lita in the world’s greatest/most revealing wedding dress and one of the greatest conning the smarks swerve) and Shawn Michaels v Kurt Angle in an Iron Man match (the third and final match of their series).

Lita and Edge’s “Live Sex Celebration”, the highest rated segment of the modern era, is shown in it’s entirety as well, and really helped elevate the “Rated R“ portion of Edge’s character. Edge features heavily on the latter part of this disc, with a three-way against Rob Van Dam and John Cena for the WWE Title and a Streetfight against Shawn Michaels being very good matches to round out the collection.

To me though, the main highlight of the third disc is DX impersonating Vince and Shane McMahon. This really was the zenith of DX’s return and the comedy was pitched perfectly. HBK as Shane is an absolute riot and is one of those skits where you can watch it over and over with no loss of impact.

Extras

There are no extras on any of the three main discs, but the fourth disc wasn’t released in the US (except for Wal-Mart stores) and is the entire first RAW show in full.

The matches aren’t that bad, truth be told, and feature some decent action. The opener with Yokozuna taking on Koko B. Ware is a pitch-perfect squash match designed to get the giant sumo over as an unstoppable monster. The Steiners take out The Executioners (who would make a much bigger impact as The Headbangers years later), Shawn Michaels has the match of the night against Max Moon and The Undertaker main-events the first show against Damien Demento (who never revealed the secret of his loaded knee-pad before he left the company).

There was also a running gag with Bobby Heenan trying to get access to the building and Sean Mooney (a real “where are you now” guy) stopping his every charade. An interview with Razor Ramon hyping his WWF Championship against Bret Hart at the Rumble is pretty good too.

One of the main things to notice is how far some people went in the years following this broadcast; Scott Steiner became Big Poppa Pump, HBK grew into one of the greatest performers in history and Undertaker reached a level of respect and reverence very few can even hope to attain.

It’s also interesting to note other little things here and there; the lack of reaction to a Shawn Michaels superkick, Undertaker entering the ring before the music has even started for his entrance theme (my, how times have changed on that one) and how clean-cut and undefined (compared to now) Scott Steiner is. Probably the saddest aspect is seeing how far Scott Hall has fallen in the fifteen years the disc covers. He really was a good wrestler with a fantastic physique. Had he stayed off the booze and drugs, I think he’d still be a player today.

Overview

Bobby Heenan cuts one of the best sell-jobs of a (pre-taped) promo during the show too. This was just a few weeks before the 1993 Royal Rumble, and Heenan had promised to bring someone in to take care of Mr. Perfect, someone who was more flawless than Mr. Perfect and someone who would make Mr. Perfect weep with jealousy; Narcissist.

Bobby Heenan really made you believe that this guy was going to be something to look forward to, a man with so much talent that the entire WWF would tremble at his feet. That feeling lasted less than two weeks when Lex Luger was unveiled as the man behind the gimmick. The loaded forearm was a neat idea, but it was such a disappointment after the build “The Brain” gave him.

During what would have been the commercial breaks for the broadcast, we get to watch short interviews a few different people (none of whom, sadly, are Steve Lombardi) about what the show means to them and the legacy it has given. Jim Ross, HBK, Edge and Vince all chip in with bits here and there.

A fantastic collection with more missing than featured, understandable as that is. If you were there for it all like me, this is a great trip down memory lane and if you weren’t, then this is a perfect history lesson for you to find out what all the fuss is about.

There really isn’t a bad chapter on any of the discs, although the familiarity with the latter years do bring them down a notch.

My only problem with it is the lack of interviews with the people who were there. I would rather have had that than segment after segment after segment (as good as they are), just to break things up a little.

Regardless of that, admittedly minor, issue, this is an awesome collection of memories and matches, featuring no less than thirteen stellar matches and a few great skits/angles, there will be enough here for you to dip in and out long after you’ve worked your way through them all.

Points: 9/10

Buy it:

UK: DVD

USA: DVD

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