Review: WWE - The Top 100 Moments In Raw History
|REVIEWS - DVD REVIEWS|
The best moments from twenty years of men in tights...
Wrestling is like Marmite. You either love it or you hate it. I fall firmly into the former camp, having grown up being aware of the old Saturday afternoon World of Sport wrestling with Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks back in the late 1970s before really falling hook, line and smackdown for it after accidentally discovering the WWF (as it was known then) at the start of the 1990s.
This was the era of Hulk Hogan, Randy 'Macho Man' Savage, Brutus 'The Barber' Beefcake and the like, but it was also the beginning of the ascension of Vince McMahon's empire and the birth of the grappling epoch that would bring us the superstars that we revere today. Performers like The Undertaker, 'Heart Break Kid' Shawn Michaels, Bret 'Hit Man' Hart, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock all started becoming household names around the same time I started watching them so in some perverse way it feels as though we've grown up together.
I watched my first Wrestlemania twenty years ago this year (Wrestlemania IX from Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, fact fans!), which means that I've been watching sweaty men in tights slap each other and roll around in rings for the better part of my adult life. Since then it's gone through its highs and lows, been ridiculously popular and a laughing stock, seen scandal and acceptance by popular culture, but throughout the last two decades one thing that has remained a constant is WWE RAW.
Since it first aired on 11th January 1993, and I was lucky enough to catch it on a late night satellite station way back then, RAW has notched up over one thousand episodes, making it the longest running syndicated show in television history. In that time it's played host to a great many memorable moments, not all of them for the right reasons, and so having passed the magic thousand episode mark, what better way to ease it into its third decade than by compiling a collection of the Top 100 Moments In RAW History.
As with any feature in this format there will always be heated debate not only as to which clips are chosen, but to the order in which they are counted down, and this collection is no exception. One thing is certain about these top 100 RAW moments, though, is that there's a great mix of drama, comedy, and good old fashioned sports entertainment that made my wife (possibly an even bigger fan than I am) and I laugh, cry and occasionally cringe as we lost count of the number of times we exclaimed “I remember that!”
The one constant throughout this collection, though, is the incomparable Vince McMahon. Love him or hate him, there aren't many billionaire CEOs who have the comic timing, the acting talent and the sheer cojones to submit to the ridicule and indignity that he does
While not wanting to spoil all of the surprises for any wrestling fans who may be reading this and want to be discover the moments for themselves, I will cherry pick a few favourites that stood out, some of which brought back particularly vivid memories while others, particularly from the latter half of the 2000s when I drifted away from the squared circle for a while, that we were seeing for the first time.
Unsurprisingly The Undertaker features prominently, having wrestled on the first RAW and been one of the few constants in the WWE Universe ever since, as does Triple H, who it's interesting to see evolve from the foppish, reasonably muscular Hunter Hearst Helmsley into the almost cartoonishly proportioned man mountain that is The Game. Showcasing their superior acting talent and charisma, there is a segment leading up to Wrestlemania XXVII in which the two men match thousand yards stares and challenge each other to a match, all without uttering a word.
Confrontations like this are all part of the entertaining soap opera that is wrestling and so we also get The Rock, another larger than life legend, first standing brow to brow with Hulk Hogan, the then new generation's People's Champion challenging the old guard to their 2002 Wrestlemania X8 bout and then engaging in a role reversal nine years later when current WWE poster boy (and it has to be said, dull as dishwater) John Cena calls on him to accept a tussle at 2011's Wrestlemania XXVIII.
Whatever your views of the sports side of wrestling, there's no denying that a performer like The Rock can do the entertaining part of the job with aplomb, and we found ourselves crying with laughter at two clips from 2003, with The Great One in full on heel mode before his imminent departure for Hollywood first insulting Toronto (and struggling to keep a straight face as he does) and then ripping the persistence out of Philadelphia with an out of tune guitar.
There are poignant moments, too. Shawn Michaels' farewell speech after being defeated by The Undertaker the previous night at Wrestlemania XXVI in one of the best WWE matches in history, is both moving and affectionate, and Adam 'Edge' Copeland's retirement speech brought more tears as he sincerely thanked the fans for allowing him to live his dream until one injury too many had forced him, sensibly, to hang up his tights for good. The third of the farewells, for Nature Boy and legend Ric Flair conjured up more water works at the sheer respect he commanded from his fellow wrestlers – even The Undertaker bowed in an uncharacteristic but all the more powerful for being so gesture - but has become bittersweet as unlike the other two men, Flair has since returned to the ring.
There are celebrities to behold, the true measure of the popularity and acceptance of the WWE, as Seth Green and Hugh Jackman both have fun in the ring, and boxing legends Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield (who looks like a Hobbit next to the gargantuan Big Show) mug it up for the audience.
I was initially surprised at the inclusion of a couple of clips, namely the overtly homophobic skit with cross dressing Golddust giving Ahmed Johnson mouth to mouth, and an uncomfortable incident featuring Stone Cold, Brian Pullman and a real gun that got McMahon's show in all kinds of hot water when it aired. However, I then considered that as these were during the infamous Attitude Era, back when Vince wasn't afraid to aim his product at the adult market (witness the 'live' sex show between Lita and Edge) rather than the watered down version that currently airs, it made sense to represent this stage of RAW's life.
The one constant throughout this collection, though, is the incomparable Vince McMahon. Love him or hate him, there aren't many billionaire CEOs who have the comic timing, the acting talent (yes, really – we laughed more at Vince than anyone else) and the sheer cojones to submit to the ridicule and indignity that he does. Whether being assaulted with a bed pan while wearing a hospital gown by Stone Cold, or having excrement dumped on him by D-Generation X after they’d mocked him and his family, McMahan is quite possibly the most dedicated performer of them all, stopping at nothing to make his product a success.
The Top 100 RAW Moments In RAW History is pretty much an essential addition to any wrestling fan’s collection, and even though some of the moments have been covered in previous releases, and often in more depth, it’s a great stroll through twenty years of WWE history. The DVD also adds the entire 1,000th episode of RAW as a bonus, with the Blu-ray adding a Legends of Wrestling feature on the History of RAW (which is apparently worth the price of the Blu-ray set alone, though I haven’t seen this myself as I review the DVD version).
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