Typically, my expectations do not change too much from the time when a DVD/Blu-ray is first announced to when it is actually released. Greatest WCW Pay-Per-View Matches Vol. 1 had one of those big changes, though. When first announced, I was excited for this release. I always prefer PPV matches to TV matches on compilation sets, since PPV matches tend to have more gravitas (in general). When the WWE Network was announced, though, this set became immediately superfluous. If I have access to all of the PPV’s on the Network, why would anyone need to buy this now? Sure, some fans like to have a full home video collection, but it seems like at the least most would choose to wait for a sale. I was hoping there would be some extra aspect to this release to justify the purchase.
When the listing was announced, though, it became clear that there wasn’t anything to elevate this release. There were very few hosting segments present, and no other extra materials. In the end, while this was a worthwhile release, in today’s Network-filled world, it’s very hard to justify a purchase. The DVD/Blu-ray is rated TV-14 and the runtime of its full content with exclusives clocks in at approximately 8 hours and 30 minutes.
Before getting into the meat of this set (the matches), let me quickly address the hosting segments with Booker T. I really liked Booker in this role. He has a lot of energy, and brings some fun to the introductions. However, these hosting segments are way too few and far between to have any real impact. It seems random where they were placed, and ultimately they don’t add anything to the overall release. This was a big disappointment, since it was the one opportunity WWE had to make this set feel separate from the Network.
“Where The Big Boys Play”: The Matches
NWA Championship Steel Cage Match: Ronnie Garvin Vs. Ric Flair (Starrcade, 11/26/87) – ** 1/2
It’s hard to complain about any Ric Flair title match, but this never totally comes together. While Garvin is a technically proficient wrestler, he never really connects with the crowd. I’m pretty sure he was supposed to be the good guy here, but the crowd was solidly behind Flair for the bulk of the match. There are some good moments throughout this match, but the lack of charisma from Garvin prevents it from being anything great.
United States Championship Match: Barry Windham Vs. Dusty Rhodes (Great American Bash, 7/10/88) – ** 3/4
Classic Dusty Rhodes matches have a slow, methodical pace to them, and it doesn’t translate that well to the modern era. Watching this match, I could easily see why Rhodes was so popular, and I was thoroughly invested in everything he was doing, but the pacing is a bit slower than we are used to. The storytelling throughout this match is really strong, and the crowd was really into it, which made it even more fun.
Tag Team Championship Match: The Road Warriors Vs. Sting & Dusty Rhodes (Starrcade, 12/26/88) – ***
As a lot of you know, The Road Warriors are not exactly the greatest technical wrestlers, but they still were able to get the crowd excited about their matches, and this is a great example of that. The match is kept relatively short, Sting & Dusty serve as great opponents for them, and the storytelling is simple, but effective.
NWA Championship Match: Ric Flair Vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat (Chi-Town Rumble, 2/20/89) – **** 3/4
This is viewed as one of the greatest matches of all time, and I certainly can’t argue with that sentiment. Although their styles were relatively similar, Flair & Steamboat had very different characters, which made them perfect foils. There’s a reason this rivalry ranked so high on the Top 25 Rivalries DVD last year, and this is a great example why.
United States Championship Match: Lex Luger Vs. Brian Pillman (Halloween Havoc, 10/28/89) – ** 3/4
I was impressed to see that Luger & Pillman played off of each other pretty well, even though their styles are fairly different. Luger’s power moves looked great against a smaller guy like Pillman. I also enjoyed that the ending of the match seemed to come out of nowhere; you don’t see that too often nowadays, so it’s fun to see in these classic matches.
NWA Championship Match: Ric Flair Vs. Sting (Great American Bash, 7/7/90) – ****
Sting & Flair are great rivals, and the chemistry between the two is outstanding. Even though I knew the outcome of the match, I still was excited the entire time. I felt like I didn’t know what was going to happen next, and the exchange of moves was very organic. The ending of the match also still feels like a big deal today.
WCW Championship Steel Cage Match: Lex Luger Vs. Barry Windham (Great American Bash, 7/14/91) – * 3/4
This match was held for the vacant WCW Championship after Flair left for the WWF, and it felt like it was thrown together quickly. It never felt like there was any impetus that led to these two men fighting, and this led to a big lack of chemistry. The cage gimmick is also completely wasted.
Light Heavyweight Championship Match: Jushin “Thunder” Liger Vs. Brian Pillman (SuperBrawl II, 2/29/92) – ****
Here, we see that even if there isn’t a big storyline going into a match, a competitive rivalry is enough to keep the audience entertained. Liger & Pillman had an awesome series of matches in the early 90′s, and this match is a definite high point. The action is exciting throughout, and both men come up with interesting ways to try to “one up each other” over the course of the match. For 1992, this was pretty revolutionary.
War Games Match: Sting’s Squadron (Sting, Nikita Koloff, Dustin Rhodes, Ricky Steamboat, & Barry Windham) Vs. The Dangerous Alliance (Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton, Steve Austin, Larry Zbyszko, & Rick Rude) (Wrestlewar, 5/17/92) – **** 1/2
This might be the most famous of the War Games matches, and it is certainly the most brutal. Rhodes and Austin in particular bleed buckets. The big time feeling is huge here, which helps make the brutality feel authentic. Add in the fact that most of these guys are pretty good in-ring workers, and you’ve got the makings of a classic match.
Texas Death Match: Vader Vs. Cactus Jack (Halloween Havoc, 10/24/93) – ** 1/4
I had pretty high expectations for this match, but the gimmick really killed it for me. There are some good spots, and this match could have been a lot better if it had been strung together more seamlessly. The constant breaks for the “30 second rest period” after each fall, followed by the 10 count, led to a lot of breaks in the match. The ending also was a little confusing; why were the wrestlers allowed to fight during the rest period?
United States Championship Match: “Stunning” Steve Austin Vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat (Bash at the Beach, 7/17/94) – **** 1/2
Austin/Steamboat is one of the great underrated rivalries in wrestling history, and I’m glad to see that it was represented on this DVD (even if we’ve seen many of their matches before). The characters played off of each other perfectly, and the story they told throughout this match is great. Even the screwjob ending works wonderfully.
WCW Championship Career Vs. Career Steel Cage Match: Hulk Hogan Vs. Ric Flair (Guest Ref – Mr. T) (Halloween Havoc, 10/23/94) – ** 1/4
Hogan & Flair never gelled together perfectly, but they put together a decent match for the first 3/4 or so here. Nothing stands out as particularly special, but it works overall. When all the interferences start, though, the match gets a bit silly, and makes Flair look like a loser. For a match that was supposed to be Flair’s “retirement”, he is treated pretty poorly.
The Outsiders Vs. Sting, Lex Luger, & “Macho Man” Randy Savage (Bash at the Beach, 7/7/96) – ** 3/4
Probably one of the top 3 most memorable moments in the history of wrestling occurs at the conclusion of this match. The rest of the match surrounding it isn’t bad either. Even if we’ve seen this match many times, it needed to be included due to its significance.
No Disqualification Match: Diamond Dallas Page Vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage (Spring Stampede, 4/6/97) – ** 1/2
Savage & DDP had some solid matches in 1997, but this was my least favorite of those I’ve seen so far. For such an intense feud, there should have been more energy in this match, but something felt missing throughout. The ending also didn’t totally work for me. It wasn’t believable that the match would have really ended in that way (and you need to have SOME believability in wrestling, even if the fans know it isn’t real). I was also shocked that Eastbound & Down‘s Kenny Powers made a guest appearance as a ref at the end of the match!
Mask Vs. Cruiserweight Championship Match: Eddie Guerrero Vs. Rey Mysterio (Halloween Havoc, 10/26/97) – **** 1/2
A classic match that was a no-brainer to include on this DVD. The story throughout this match is outstanding. Even though Mysterio gets in little offense in the first 3/4 of the match, it felt like he was always “still in it”. All of the comebacks from Mysterio worked for me, and it was impossible to not get caught up in the emotion of the match.
Bret “Hit Man” Hart Vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage (Guest Ref – “Rowdy” Roddy Piper) (Slamboree, 5/17/98) – **
Hart & Savage seemed to just be going through the motions during this one, and there was very little excitement to the match. I actually found that this match went on a little too long (it was around 15-18 minutes) for what is was; the middle portion dragged a lot. And in the end, of course, we learn this match really only existed to set up a new feud for Hogan.
Cruiserweight Championship Match: Chris Jericho Vs. Juventud Guerrera (Guest Ref – Dean Malenko) (Road Wild, 8/8/98) – *** 1/4
A technically proficient match, but there was no real feud to keep the energy going. The main feud here was between Jericho and Malenko, and the match did get more interesting whenever Malenko got involved. Other than that, it was a solid, but fairly generic, WCW cruiserweight match.
WCW Championship Match: Goldberg Vs. Diamond Dallas Page (Halloween Havoc, 10/25/98) – ***
Even though this match is quite short, it’s one of the best matches of Goldberg’s WCW career. Less is more with Goldberg, and that is seen pretty clearly in this match. The good guy vs. good guy storyline even works pretty well, and helps to elevate a title that had become pretty meaningless in WCW by this point. However, should this match really be included on this DVD when the PPV went off the air before this match even started?
WCW Championship Match: Jeff Jarrett Vs. Booker T (Bash at the Beach, 7/9/00) – *
This match represents all the bad from late-era WCW. There is little story behind the feud, and “big spots” are done throughout the match without any consequence. Of course, the ending also is screwy, and even though the good guy wins, his win is tainted. A nice moment for Booker, but not a good match.
#1 Contender for the Cruiserweight Championship Ladder Match: 3 Count Vs. Jamie Knoble & Evan Karagias Vs. The Jung Dragons (Starrcade, 12/26/00) – * 3/4
Take the TLC matches from WWE at this time, remove any semblance of story, and you get this match. Yes, there are some cool moments throughout. They don’t really mean anything, though, when there is no story throughout this match at all, even with the history between the men involved. Of course, a tag team match for a #1 contendership for a single’s title doesn’t make much sense to begin with anyway.
WCW Championship Falls Count Anywhere Match: Scott Steiner Vs. Diamond Dallas Page (Greed, 3/18/01) – ** 3/4
While there isn’t anything “special” about this match, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Steiner is easy to despise, and this helps bring you into any matches in which he plays the heel. The screwy ending is disappointing, but other than that, this was an enjoyable match.
Blu-ray Exclusive Matches
Thunderdome Match: Ric Flair & Sting Vs. The Great Muta & Terry Funk (Guest Ref – Bruno Sammartino) (Halloween Havoc, 10/28/89) – *** 1/2
This is one hell of a fight. There isn’t much of a story to this, but there are some fun spots. The gimmick is a little silly, but the wrestlers are talented enough to make it work, and, as I said, it leads to some fun moments. Flair & Sting were also VERY over with the crowd, which will easily draw you into this match.
Jean Paul Levesque Vs. Alex Wright (Starrcade, 12/27/94) – **
Yes, this match is technically proficient, but it is painfully dull. Levesque’s gimmick nearly forced him to be dull and have no personality, and by grounding Alex Wright, he also doesn’t have much to do. There are some good moments, but overall it’s tough to get through the 15 or so minutes.
Dennis Rodman Vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage (Road Wild, 7/14/99) – 1/4 *
Speaking of painfully dull… I assumed this would be bad, and it was about as bad as I expected (at one point, it literally ends up in shit). I have no problem with celebrity involvement in wrestling if it is kept to the sidelines or in tag matches, but expecting a 12 minute match out of Rodman is ridiculous.
Billy Kidman Vs. Hulk Hogan (Guest Ref – Eric Bischoff) (Slamboree, 5/7/00) – * 1/4
This is certainly a unique match-up, and the match ends up being a bit of a mess as a result. It never felt like Kidman had a chance at all against Hogan, even with Bischoff interfering on his behalf. Again, this match goes on way too long.
“Wooooooo”: Closing Thoughts
I’ve already alluded to it a few times, but let’s get the obvious out of the way first: this release is completely superfluous with the WWE Network now available. For that reason alone, I don’t think this is a must-get immediately. Down the road, collectors may certainly choose to pick this up, but I would wait until it goes down in price or there is a big sale at your favorite retailer.
Regardless of the presence of the Network, I was somewhat let down with this release overall. I’m not someone who has a big problem with repeats on DVD’s; this is called Greatest PPV Matches, so I’ll take some great PPV matches that have already been released over a bunch of random midcard matches just because they are new. The match selection does serve as a nice history piece for WCW; all of the major eras are well-represented, and each big-name superstar has a match or two in which they show why they were important in the history of the promotion.
While the choices were nice from an historical perspective, the match quality just wasn’t totally there. I knew the post-nWo formation matches would be of lesser quality (even if they can often be very entertaining), but I had much higher hopes for a lot of the earlier matches. There are definitely some standouts, but a few underdelivered for me (like Vader vs. Cactus) and some felt a bit slight. This made the Blu-ray as a whole much more of chore to get through than it should have been.
While the match quality may not have been all there, I still did feel that this was a nice representation of what made WCW stand out. You’ve got plenty of matches with crazy finishes, and the in-ring wrestling is highlighted in (some of) the matches from the early days. Watching this from front to back, it worked in that regard. I just wish I had a little more fun. I also wanted a few more hosting segments, to help give each match throughout the set the perspective only given to a few. After working on this review, I noticed I had less to say than usual about this release, and I think that reflects my overall thoughts: it was pretty “okay”. If you are a WCW fan, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this, but at this point, I’d just watch classic WCW PPV’s on the Network instead. If you don’t have the Network, I would give this tepid recommendation. It’s a nice history piece, but didn’t live up to my expectations.