WWE Live in the UK DVD Review (November 2008)

This episode followed on from the 800th RAW the previous week and begins with a fantastic recap video (I say it almost every review I do, but the WWE production staff really are masters of their craft when it comes to this kind of thing) of the Cage Match for the World Heavyweight Championship between Chris Jericho and the man who defeated him for that title at Cyber Sunday, Batista. The main decree going into this match was that the winner would face the returning John Cena at Survivor Series.

wwe-live-in-the-uk-dvd-review-november-2008-cover_0

Certificate: 15

Running Time: 206mins (excluding extras)

Disc: 2

Chapters – Disc 1 (RAW)

  • Batista wants a rematch with Jericho
  • WWE Intercontinental Championship Match: Santino Marella v William Regal
  • Kane knows no-one likes him
  • D-Lo Brown v Mike Knox
  • Beth Phoenix pays for Santino’s mistake
  • John Cena’s return at Survivor Series
  • No Disqualification Match: Rey Mysterio v Kane
  • Batista v Cody Rhodes
  • WWE Women’s Championship Match: Beth Phoenix v Mickey James
  • Last Man Standing Match: Shawn Michaels v Chris Jericho

Extras

  • U.K. Fans Love the WWE
  • The Undertaker v Jim Duggan (WWE European Rampage – London England. October 3, 1991)
  • Intercontinental Championship Match: Shawn Michaels v Crush (Sheffield Arena – Sheffield, England. April 11, 1993)

Chapters – Disc 2 (Smackdown & ECW)

ECW

  • 6-Man Tag Team Match: Cryme Tyme & Tommy Dreamer v John Morrison, The Miz & Jack Swagger
  • John Cena’s return at Survivor Series
  • Mark Henry v Oliver Biney
  • ECW Championship Match: Matt Hardy v Finlay

Smackdown

  • Undertaker seals Big Show’s fate
  • ECW Champion v United States Champion – Non-Title Match: Matt Hardy v Shelton Benjamin
  • Carlito v The Brian Kendrick
  • John Cena’s return at Survivor Series
  • Triple H and Vladimir Kozlov’s contract signing for Survivor Series
  • Kung Fu Naki v MVP
  • Divas Championship Match: Michelle McCool v Maria
  • Extreme Rules Match: Jeff Hardy v Undertaker

Extras

  • None

Seeing as this is simply the RAW, Smackdown and ECW television broadcasts, most of the people reading this review will have already seen them. The same argument can be made for the PPV releases, but it’s virtually unheard of to release a single episode of the weekly televised wrestling show for the DVD market. Of course, these are no ordinary shows… these are the “Live in the UK” broadcasts.

The above is the standard opening for all the “Live in the UK” releases.

Raw

The show proper starts off with Batista getting a monstrous ovation as he makes his way to the ring and stakes his claim for a rematch against Jericho for the World Heavyweight Championship. Batista is usually a stilted promo, but he also usually comes across the coolest and baddest mother on the roster. He’s let down a little by Stephanie being more wooden than a tree when she lays out why Dave can’t have his rematch tonight and the card for this edition of the TV show (although, she does get a good pop when mentioning Mike Adamle’s resignation from the previous week)… but the segment is saved when Orton comes out and cuts a great promo.

The opening match of the night, to me, is the biggest travesty in recent memory. Santino Marella, the greatest comedy wrestler ever, was in the midst of his “Honk-a-Meter” run as IC champion and defended said title against William Regal. Why WWE decided to kill one of the best mid-card angles they’d ever ran for a cheap pop and a nothing title reign for the Brit is a question that has no sane answer. I honestly detest that this gimmick was thrown away so cheaply.

Santino’s pre-match promo and unveiling of the “Honk-a-Perfect-Mountie-Meter” is hilarious and his ad-lib when the fans get behind his quest and start chanting his name shows a man with natural timing and charisma. It’s an unwritten law that, if the fans are behind something, you keep it going. The fans were 100% behind this angle and would, most likely, STILL be 100% behind it today if it had kept running.

Watching it back again, and with all that has happened since then (Regal’s nothing reign and CM Punk’s current run), I still get angry watching it. In my opinion, WWE’s worst decision in years was the result of this contest.

Kane’s backstage segment is, to me, a cheesy throwback to the late-80s promos of the more outlandish characters. It sets up the Rey/Kane match nicely, despite being as hokey as they come, and is filled with cheap-heat comments directed to the audience.

Why did WWE hire D-Lo Brown? He is a good talent and could have been used to provide “training on the job” to the younger guys on the roster. Instead, he was on TV infrequently and then released after doing almost nothing.

His opponent for tonight, Mike Knox, is someone I can see doing well. I like his gimmick and I like the attitude he exudes in this persona. This is a squash-match, a throwback to the pre-Monday Night Wars televised matches, and really puts over Knox and his basic moveset… capped off with the best version of the Downward Spiral-style finisher you’re likely to see. This is followed by another brilliantly performed backstage segment with Glamarella that sets up the Women’s Title Match for later on in the card. Beth Phoenix deserves credit for her comic timing as well.

The hype videos for Cena’s return at Survivor Series began is another awesomely put together piece with comments from a host of talking heads really putting Cena over. It’s a pity that the crowd in the arena booed it out of the building as soon as it finished… although Jericho comes out and takes the heat back with a great heel promo.

The No-DQ match between Kane and Rey would have meant more if they hadn’t fought under the same stipulation at Cyber Sunday a few weeks prior. The action is decent enough, with the counter to the first 619 being especially brutal, but I, for one, was glad to see the back of this feud.

The bait-and-switch in the proposed match between Randy Orton and Batista was annoying at the time, but makes sense in hindsight. Why throw away a huge match like Orton/Batista in a nothing match on free TV when you can build it up for a future PPV encounter? Cody Rhodes also gets some nice heel heat by saying that it should be him and not Randy to face “The Animal”.

I was expecting a squash along the lines of Brown/Knox earlier in the night, but that didn’t happen; Cody got in some nice offence and didn’t look out of his depth against a bona-fide main event talent.

The penultimate contest is the Women’s Championship Match between old rivals, Beth Phoenix and Mickie James. They’ve had some good outings against each other in the past, so hopes were high this would live up the reputation carved out with those bouts. It didn’t even come close and was another short nothing match with an underwhelming finish. The post-match celebration is the only reason (outside of Beth and Mickie’s, um, physiques) to watch this, in all honesty.

So, as has happened many times in the past, it was up to Shawn Michaels, with Chris Jericho (no stranger to this situation either), to save the show and give us a match worthy of main-eventing RAW. The feud these two had competed in was one of the highlights of the year, so to have them compete in a Last Man Standing Match to close the rivalry was a master-stroke.

The bout is brutal and hard-hitting, with both men going all out to give the end of the feud the send-off it deserves. The action is brilliant and inventive, with both men using the set and their surroundings to great effect. Another nice touch is that the finish is both logical and sets up what would be another great storyline featuring HBK.

RAW was a decent night of action (not DVD-release worthy) and the main-event, Santino and Orton are the reasons why.

ECW

The “extreme” portion of the release opens with a nice little vignette promoting the ECW Championship Match that main-events the show. It puts over Hardy as champion really well and lets us know that Finlay isn’t going to be a push-over.

A lot of fans (actually, pretty much all fans) see ECW as the weakest of all three WWE brands, but the latest addition to the WWE brand-extension has one ace in its deck; the announce team of Todd Grisham and Matt Striker.

Striker, a decent wrestler who was most famous for paying tribute to various gimmicks on the independent scene, has been a revelation on commentary since he replaced Tazz at the ECW table. Todd is also a lot better than people give him credit for as an announcer.

With that said, the crown jewel of ECW’s New Talent Initiative , Jack Swagger is, in my eyes, THE one to watch for the future. I’ve liked the guy since he made his debut and I think he has shone brighter than any newcomer in recent memory with, perhaps, the exception of Evan Bourne.

Swagger, the hottest prospect in the singles ranks in a good age, teams up with the greatest tag-team in recent years, The Miz & John Morrison, who, much like The New Age Outlaws and The Hollywood Blondes, were just thrown together without any real fanfare, yet have carved a niche for themselves and made their act a highlight of any show they feature on.

They’re opponents, however, don’t have the same attributes. I loved Tommy Dreamer in the original ECW (and even when he first arrived in WWE), but he is obviously struggling and, in the current climate, is actually detracting from any match he is in. Cryme Tyme, on the other hand, are decent enough in the ring (with Shad being my personal preference of the two), but they haven’t lived up to their early promise.

Even so, the fans are into the match (especially the last few minutes) and the action is decent enough (with a Dreamer pump-handle flapjack-suplex being a treat) and the finish is quite intense.

The previously mentioned “Cena Returns” video is replayed as well, which was fair enough when the shows were a few days apart like they are on TV, but when it is on all three show and you watch them one after the other, it does get a little grating. At least, this time, we can use the “skip” button and bypass it.

If you looked up “squash-match” in the dictionary, you won’t find it… but if it ever makes into the said reference book, this is the match that should be used as an example of one. Back in the day, this is how all talent, especially the big monster wrestlers, were put over. I personally think they should be slowly integrated back into today’s broadcasts because they still have the ability to put the character and the moveset of new wrestlers and, when they step up to face name talents, it means a lot more.

The ECW Championship Match, at least on paper, should have been a great encounter. Both Finlay and Matt Hardy had carved reputations as the ultimate “10-15min-match” wrestlers, so putting them together (and with the chemistry they had shown in the past) was a no-brainer.

The pace is slow to start with as both men feel each other out, but it picks up around the half-way mark and doesn’t let up until the out-of-nowhere end of the match. Both men drill each other with stiff shots and compliment each other so well. I am, though, getting sick of Hornswoggle. The sooner the midget is taken off the screen, the sooner Finlay can get back to being a hard-hitting heel.

Smackdown

The third and final show to take place in London is a real treat to have on DVD, going against every tenet set by the logic surrounding these releases.

Like the previous two broadcasts, this opens with an awesome recap of the previous week’s show where Jeff Hardy, pissed-off that he wasn’t getting another shot at Triple H’s WWE Title, went mental with a steel chair, smashing Miz, Morrison, Koslov AND Undertaker with the weapon (and, thus, setting up the main-event against “The Dead Man”).

The night opens with a casket in the ring, the lights dimmed, druids chanting and Undertaker delivering a morose edict from inside said coffin… until Jeff Hardy (in the promo of his life) interrupts Undertaker and freaks everyone out with a startling character transformation that brought comparisons to Heath Ledger’s take on The Joker.

The Champion v Champion match between Shelton Benjamin and Matt Hardy is a nice little encounter that far exceeds what I expected from the two. Matt, as I mentioned up there, is one of the best 10-15min match wrestlers on the roster, but Benjamin had become a little dull after he left ECW and went to Smackdown.

Whatever the reason, Shelton turned the clock back to the time of his first IC Title run and had a belter of a contest with Hardy. The moves were crisp, the crowd were into it and the finish was another out-of-nowhere stunner.

Carlito v Kendrick and MVP/Kung Fu Naki are both filler matches that don’t really add much to the show, but, by the same token, they don’t detract either.

The Brian Kendrick, who looks uncannily like Drew Galloway in the face, has been underused since his mini-push late last year, but the gimmick has been a revelation and he pulls it off with aplomb. Big Zeke as back-up is also a great touch that gives the character a little extra. Carlito also seems to have went under a transformation into someone who gives a damn since he was paired with his little brother, Primo.

They have a decent back-and-forth bout, with a finish that sets up a little mid-card programme for the The Colons and the pairing of Ezekial Jackson (who is a mammoth man) and The Kendrick.

MVP v Kung Fu Naki cannot, with the best will in the world, be classed in the same way. For no other reason than to punish MVP for a real-life discretion, this match serves no purpose other than to bury the former US Champ.

Sandwiched between the two matches, the ubiquitous Cena video is shown (to increasing apathy) and the contract signing for the WWE Championship Match at Survivor Series between Koslov and Triple H.

We’ve been conditioned to know that contract signings will never go well and this, as luck would have it, is no different. If you haven’t seen it, you won’t believe how this segment comes to a close.

The second-to-last match of the night is for the WWE Divas Title and the best thing about it is Maria, who, alongside Maryse, is the hottest female on the roster. Having red hair doesn’t hurt either. The bout wasn’t the worst you’ll see, but I can’t stand Michelle McCool, so I automatically disliked it on instinct.

It wouldn’t have mattered if everything outside of the main-event had been a snoozefest, the fans were here to see Jeff Hardy and vocally let us know it. The “Extreme Rules” match between Jeff Hardy and Undertaker evoked memories of their infamous Ladder Match for the WWE Undisputed Title from a few years back, so it had a reputation to live up to… and it more than lived up to those expectations.

Easily the match of the collection, ‘Taker and Jeff tore the house down and used everything they could get their hands on and that the could leap from to kill the other. Hard-hitting, high-flying and downright brutal, the no-rules environment was used to its full effectiveness.

This is a lesson to everyone on how a gimmick match should be utilised. Not thrown out there for no reason and contested between two guys with little to no history, this was a logical match between two guys who had motive for competing; Hardy wanted to show he hadn’t lost it and Undertaker wanted vengeance for getting a chair in the head.

There is one spot in the match where it seems Undertaker accidentally drops Jeff over the barricade to the floor in almost a powerbomb. It was a tense moment when watching it for the first time, you wondered if the match was going to end prematurely. Luckily for all of us, that wasn’t the case and Jeff gets back into it quite quickly. They then go into overdrive and deliver some awesomely exciting closing moments and a high-octane finish that brings the crowd to their feet.

A fantastic end to a great match and a brilliant way to conclude the set on a high.

Extras

Three extras on the disc and two of them are matches from the early-90s UK tours. The non-match extra is a series of comments from the UK fans as they hang out in/arrive at the arena before the show gets underway. It’s alright, but some people should never be within 100miles of a television camera.

The other extras comprise of Jim Duggan v Undertaker (this was slow-moving, non-speaking, frankly dull, Undertaker) and Shawn Michaels taking on Crush for the Intercontinental Championship and, by the looks of things, the World Mullet Championship into the bargain (Crush, for the record, wins this one hands down).

Both matches are of the era, with Crush v HBK having some nice action. The main disappointment is that both bouts have non-finishes, which, to be fair, was a lot more common affair back in the early nineties.

Overview

As I have mentioned in the previous “Live from…” reviews, if you were at the events live, this is a great reminder of your time at a televised WWE event. For the rest of us who watched them when they first aired, it’s not as essential a purchase.

Another part of these collections that I have mentioned with each release is the fact that all commercial breaks are included as well. The cameras are obviously rolling during these breaks (how else would we get the replays of what happened during them?), so it can’t be hard to include the footage in a DVD release that is put out months after the initial airing.

That being said, these shows all main-event with matches that are worth multiple viewings and Smackdown has the added bonus of a sterling one-on-one with Shelton/Hardy. The rest of the card ranges from just alright to decent, although I still get angry over the result of the IC Title match.

Repeated viewings of the Cena hype video does get annoying, but you can easily skip that if you want to.

One thing that won’t be skipped is the stunning metamorphosis of Jeff Hardy into a face-paint wearing psychopath who leaves destruction in his wake. It was, apart from the mini-feud he had with Orton and, perhaps, his work with Umaga, the greatest run of since he returned from TNA over two years ago (hasn’t time flown?).

The HBK/Jericho match is a work of brutal genius and Finlay/Matt is a great little encounter that is overshadowed by the more high-profile shows’ top matches.

“Live in the UK – November 2008” is the best of these collections yet released and has more value for money in regards to matches and extras. If you only buy one of these sets, I recommend this one… even if it is only to marvel at the monstrosity that is Crush’s mullet on the first disc’s final extra.

Points: 8/10

Buy It:

UK: DVD

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