WWE have been upping their documentary game with these special career retrospectives on the WWE Network called ‘WWE24’. Matthew Roberts takes a look to see if it’s worth a late festive purchase.
This collection brings together four of the WWE’s 24/7 Specials on a two DVD set. Roughly an hour long per episode, the occasional series brings intimate portraits of superstars and backstage access to some of the biggest events on the calendar and is generally one of the things the WWE do very well.
First up is The Hardys: Woken. This is the documentary that the previous Twist of Fate release could have been in many respects. Although the WWE are now more willing to acknowledge that performers may have had their “demon”, shall we say, in the past (only on the firm caveat that those days are behind them) it’s still quite astonishing that an official WWE release would go into as much detail as this documentary does about just how far down that road both men travelled.
Neither man makes any excuses for their misdemeanors and there seems a genuine embarrassment from both men about their previous actions. Perhaps most interestingly though it the thing that isn’t said; for all the genuine concern that the likes of Christian, Big Show and other showed for both men during their worse days it seems shocking that even when Matt Hardy falls asleep during a interview for a DVD (shown here from archive footage) that isn’t a signal for management to immediately try and make an intervention. Indeed, despite their troubles both men found employment in TNA.
There is TNA footage aplenty and the documentary does not shy away from Jeff’s infamous “match”with Sting, which Eric Bischoff discusses at length. Again, you can’t help feeling though that a professional organisation should not have sent Jeff out there in the state that he was in.
Luckily there is the happy ending to the story; Matt discovers the Broken character which reinvents his career, Jeff also gets back on the straight and narrow and both men make a triumphant return to the WWE on their own terms. And we all know a long list of names who had similar “demons” who never got that opportunity.
Also on Disc 1 is WrestleMania Orlando, a look at the festivities surrounding 2017’s WrestleMania 33. In some way this is a slight piece; there’s only so much “this is the biggest night of the year”hyperbole you can take from the cast of hundreds involved. Still, it is always interesting to take even the smallest glimpse at just what goes into organising and putting on the such a massive show. It’s also always worth a reminder that the people that we cheer and boo at arena’s and on our television screens are, at the end of the day, normal people.
There are three matches included on this disk too; from WrestleMania 33 we get the Ladder match for the RAW Tag Team Titles,which saw the return of the Hardy’s and the passable if unmemorable 6 Pack Challenge for the SmackDown’s Womens’ Championship. We also get the wacky Ultimate Deletion Match between Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt from March 2018. If you’ve never seen that one, it certainly isn’t different.
The second disc kicks off with Empowered, a look at the Women’s Revolution. As ever with that topic this is very much aversion of history that focuses on the here and now and the ever increasing profile of the women without delving too deeply into exactly why a Revolution was necessary in the first place. And yes, there’s plenty of Stephanie McMahon to go around too.
Largely built around the build up to the historic first ever Women’s Royal Rumble this has plenty of backstage footage from the rehearsals for that match and from the event itself. It’s all very interesting up to a point but there’s only so many times you can hear one of the new breed of superstars put over how it was the hard work of everyone who came before them that paved the way for them…without ever explicitly pointing out it was the McMahons themselves who booked two minute bra and panties matches.
The documentary also looks at a number of other “firsts” including Carmella’s Money In The Bank (without ever acknowledging the James Ellsworth thing) and Alexa Bliss and Sasha Banks wrestling in Saudi Arabia.
The final episode on the collection is the RAW 25 anniversary, a look back at what was actually a universally panned night of action from January 2018. Luckily we don’t have to sit through that monstrosity and are instead led through a reasonably entertaining chat with some of the returning legends and The Miz about what a special night it was for them. If I hear Shane McMahon utter phrases like “the longest ever running episodic entertainment show in television history” again though, I may well lose the will to live.
Extras on this disc are a Koko B. Ware Vs Yokozuna match from the first ever RAW, the McMahons “giving thanks” and two Charlotte Flair matches as she tackles Ruby Riott (from Fastlane 2018) and Asuka (from WrestleMania 34)
Only The Hardy’s documentary comes anywhere near being described as “hard-hitting” but when a company like the WWE is telling their own story…well,they can tell it however they like. And then in that one, there is the underlying theme that none of what happens to it’s performers can be blamed on the WWE.
The other three features all follow a similar path to each other, and as entertaining as they can be at times they’re not perhaps designed to be watched in one three hour session. All in all though, this is a collection that is a nice look at what happens behind and what goes into putting on wrestling shows and a reminded that the people putting their bodies on the line for our entertainment through a lot to do so.
Format reviewed: DVD
Photos courtesy of Fetch and WWE.
Thank you to our partners, WWEDVD.co.uk and Fetch for providing our review copy of WWE:24 Best of 2018 which is out on DVD Monday 10 December. You can buy your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk now by clicking here.