WWE may be steering all its fans to subscribing to its new network, but four ambitious new DVD releases prove the company is far from done with traditional home video. Here's a look.
The Best of Sting
For years, pro wrestling fans have been waiting for the Sting DVD collection that could only be put together once "The Icon" finally joined WWE. Well, they can keep on waiting, because this isn't it.
That's not to say that "The Best of Sting" is a disappointment. In fact, as a collection of fun, rare matches featuring WCW's franchise player, it's pretty terrific. But, there's nothing about this three-disc set that says: "Finally, Sting has arrived in WWE."
The DVD set's release coincides with Sting finally doing business with WWE after nearly three decades of earning his legendary reputation in other promotions -- most notably, WCW. In recent months, WWE has launched a major marketing campaign surrounding Sting's involvement in the new WWE 2K15 video game and also featured Sting in several new sit-down interviews for programming on its new network. And, of course, there's a lot of speculation about Sting returning to the ring for his first ever WWE match -- speculation that WWE has happily fueled.
But a viewer wouldn't know any of that from watching "The Best of Sting," which might as well have been put together years ago. And, judging from some of the talking heads in the documentary style portion of the DVD set (including the late Mike Graham), that could very well be the case.
But more curious than the wrestlers who WWE's production chose to interview for "The Best of Sting" is the one wrestler it didn't -- Sting. Yes, despite Sting sitting down with WWE cameras in recent months to discuss everything from the Monday Night War to the Ultimate Warrior's passing, the only time we see Sting reflect on his career in this DVD set is in interview clips that are nearly 20 years old.
In fact, the thrown-together documentary segments, which include the likes of Natalya and Dean Ambrose weighing in on such probing topics as Sting's facepaint and the origins of the Scorpion Deathlock, are where "The Best of Sting" falls flat. WWE Home Video would have been better off skipping the career retrospective stuff all together and offered this up just as a collection of matches.
After all, it's the matches that make this DVD set something really special. From a 1988 world title match with Ric Flair on an episode of NWA Pro Wrestling, to an NWA Power Hour TV title match against Great Muta, to a bounty match against Vader from a 1992 episode of WCW Worldwide, "The Best of Sting" is loaded with classic Sting bouts that most fans likely haven't seen since they originally aired. WWE dug deep to find matches featuring Sting against a variety of novel opponents, including Dutch "Zeb Colter" Mantel, Ron Simmons and a young Steve Austin.
To be sure, it's the best Sting match compilation that's ever been released. But there's really no reason fans had to wait until now to get it.
United We Slam: The Best of the Great American Bash
Long before SummerSlam was known as "The Biggest Party of the Summer," the Great American Bash was an annual highlight for fans of the NWA, and later, WCW. This three-disc DVD, two-disc Blu-Ray set features some of the most memorable bouts from the July supershow.
First, the good news: It does not feature any matches from WWE's version of The Great American Bash, which was revived as a pay-per-view event from 2004-09. Nor does it include anything from WWE's Bash-themed episodes of Friday Night Smackdown from recent years. A few of those shows featured some terrific matches, but they had nothing to do with the original Bash franchise that began under Jim Crockett Promotions in 1985 and lasted until 2000.
What this set does feature is some classic bouts from the Bash's glory days of the mid-1980s and early 1990s, including Ric Flair arriving in a helicopter to defend the NWA title against Nikita Koloff in 1985, the original War Games match from 1987's Bash, and Sting's dramatic unseating of Flair to win his first world title in 1990. The matches from WCW's later years are less special, but do include a couple gems such as Randy Savage vs. Flair and Chris Jericho vs. Dean Malenko.
Bash pioneer Dusty Rhodes suitably introduces the matches from mid-ring in WWE's Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, but he adds little more than his usual, overdramatic superlatives.
Rhodes is much better providing new commentary alongside Larry Zbyzsko on a few matches featured here. While Zbyzsko is hardly synonymous with the Bash, whenever you get two old timers like "The American Dream" and "The Living Legend" to sit down and watch a match together, the ensuing conversation is a riot.
If you subscribe to the WWE Network, you can pull up just about any of these bouts from the WCW pay-per-view library. But as a compilation of mostly good matches, with some fun new commentary tracks, it deserves a place on the DVD shelf of fans of classic NWA/WCW wrestling.
Greatest Wrestling Factions
WWE is good at a lot of things. Giving accurate pro wrestling history lessons is not one of them.
And so, not surprisingly, WWE's attempt to cover all of the greatest factions in wrestling history is lacking quite a bit.
Of course, the three-disc DVD, two-disc Blu-ray set hits on all of the more obviously influential stables in wrestling history, including the Four Horsemen, the New World Order and D-Generation X. It also includes segments on other worthy factions, such as Paul Heyman's Dangerous Alliance from early 1990s WCW, and the 1997-era Hart Foundation, which featured Bret Hart doing some of the best work of his career as an America-hating heel.
But where this compilation falls way short is in wasting time and effort covering inconsequential groups such as Right to Censor, which was little more than a brief, mid-card act, and the Brood, which will be remembered more for the tag team work of Edge and Christian and less for their affiliation with Gangrel.
And while the Horseman and the Fabulous Freebirds unquestionably belong on a list of the best factions ever, the inclusion of such non-WWE acts only draws attention to the many other historically significant wrestling factions from the territory days that were omitted, including Jimmy Hart's First Family in Memphis and Skandar Akbar's Devastation Inc.
For what it is -- namely the usual WWE propoganda spliced together with fun archival footage -- Greatest Wrestling Factions is fine entertainment. But if your wrestling knowledge extends beyond the last 10 years, this DVD set won't make you any smarter.
Brothers of Destruction (Coming October 4)
This DVD featured some The Undertaker and Kane's best tag-team matches is no-frills in the sense that it does not include any introduction, narration or interviews, nor any back-story on the bizarre relationship between Kane and 'Taker. It also doesn't feature the most memorable times Kane and The Undertaker shared a ring -- namely, as opponents.
But none of that is meant as a criticism. In fact, it is somewhat refreshing to watch a WWE video release that features nothing but wrestling matches, without any of the babble and revisionist history lessons that sometimes take away from the enjoyment of a DVD.
And, unlike with other WWE compilation videos, Brothers of Destruction features several matches that could otherwise be hard to find. They include a tables match against the Dudleys from a 2001 Raw, a 2006 Smackdown bout against the pairing of MVP and Mr. Kennedy, and a 2008 match against John Morrison and The Miz from ECW on Syfy.
Although the Brothers of Destruction may seem like a peculiar choice for a themed WWE DVD release, that only makes it that much more refreshing, and enjoyable.