Matthew Roberts checks out the latest release from WWE Home Video; a trip down memory lane to look at “The Best of Raw and Smackdown 2017”
The World Wrestling Federation’s Television output can often be an easy target for disgruntled fans with an internet connection. But putting aside the ideology of five hours of prime time TV a week in comparison to other promotion’s screen time there is often plenty of good things that happen on Raw and Smackdown and a compilation that proposes to bring us the best of 2017 from both shows certainly promises to have it’s fair share of great action.
For the most part this set brings us that.
Hosted by Charly Caruso, this three disc, nine hour set gives a chronological look at matches and segments from across the whole year with a distinct focus on title matches, gimmick matches and “dream match” clashes.
After the introductions are out of the way disc one kicks off match wise with The Miz against Dean Ambrose for the Intercontinental Championship in what is a good, spirited encounter. The Steel Cage match between Alexa Bliss and Becky Lynch is another spirited title tussle which one year later serves to remind you that Bliss is perhaps the master of the Women’s Division in terms of “old school” style psychology and that it’s a crying shame that these days we usually see Lynch buried within multi-women matches when her talent is crying out to be showcased in singles matches.
RAW takes over next with the “historic” in-ring showdown between Brock Lesnar, Goldberg and The Undertaker (which really went nowhere, in all honesty) and a Raw Women’s Championship title defence by Charlotte against the huggable Bayley. The result seems as strange and counter-productive now as it did then, as if any consideration as to what was best in the long-term was sacrificed at the altar of a one night pop.
A “look back” at the Festival of Friendship is next although why we get this in clip form rather than the full thing is open to question; perhaps running time was the main consideration. A Neville and Rich Swann Cruiserweight Title match from March is pretty much spot on in terms of a microcosm of the good and bad points of the division in 2017. Spirited action, to little effect (despite the best efforts of both). A Randy Orton and AJ Styles “#1 Contender’s match” from the same month is good, as you’d expect with Styles in the ring, but never really grabs you. The same can be said for the subsequent Smackdown Tag Team Titles match between American Alpha and the Uso’s.
Seth Rollins’ return to Raw is profiled, before we have fun and games with Miz and Maryse as they impersonate John Cena and Nikki Bella. I’m well aware I was in the minority who found the whole thing “faintly amusing” rather than “one of the funniest series of skits ever” but perhaps even the most ardent fan of them might concede there is little repeat value in them nearly a year on.
A New Day vs The Revival tag is fun, but again hardly seems like “best of” material but that seems like the most worthwhile inclusion on the set when it is followed by Shinsuke Nakamura’s Smackdown debut. Yeah, the violin playing is cool, but the whole thing spends a hell of a lot of time to ultimately deliver nothing.
Disc two kicks off with a very good Triple Threat #1 Contender’s Match (that stip again!) between Finn Balor, Seth Rollins and The Miz before being followed up by Chris Jericho’s latest (at the time) swansong from the WWE as he puts over Kevin Owens both for the United States title and in a more general sense too.
Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins is a typically strong effort involving “The Big Dog”. It’s all too easy to poke fun at Vince’s chosen one but only the most one-eyed and biased of his detractors would find fault with his in-ring efforts in 2017. A Samoa Joe video packing of him “sending a message” to Brock Lesnar serves to highlight what the WWE could have done with Joe in 2017 (and admittedly, his injuries played some part in that) but that is followed by a segment with Enzo and Big Cass that the WWE probably wish they could have erased from this release after Enzo’s, erm, release. To be honest, it could have done with being erased from this release on terms of quality levels alone.
A #1 Contender’s (that stip AGAIN) Gauntlet match involving Raw’s women is good fun even if again it seems like lazy storytelling. Thanks to the “error” the WWE made at the Money In The Bank PPV with the women’s match (say hello to James Ellsworth) we get the Smackdown re-run here as the bookers attempt to erase their mistake. It’s a good effort, all things considered.
AJ Styles and Chad Gable clashing on the 4th July Smackdown might have meant more if the company had done anything much with Gable since. The second disc closes with two triple threat matches. Smackdown gives us a US Title match between Kevin Owens, AJ Styles and Chris Jericho. Raw gives us Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman and Samoa Joe. Again I may be in the minority, but the Raw match shaded it between the two of them for me.
The final disc kicks off with, yes, a #1 Contender’s match although for the sheer fact that it pits John Cena against Shinsuke Nakamura we can forgive the repetition of the stipulation. And once again whilst John Cena might be an easy figure of fun, he goes full hell for leather in this one, takes Nak’s trademark offence and puts him over, clean.
The promo that “re-unites” Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins from an August Raw is fun; Bobby Roode’s Smackdown debut (opposite Aiden English) is less memorable. But hey, we all have to start somewhere. The video package highlighting the “personal” feud between John Cena and Roman Reigns is typically top-notch but without the pay-off match it seems out of place.
A Braun Strowman / Big Show Steel Cage match is fun, as is a streetfight for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles between The Uso’s and The New Day. Even more fun in Braun Strowman beating up Curt Hawkins, seemingly for the sheer hell of it, before the monster amongst men takes on Dean Ambrose. A look back at the genesis of Rusev Day doesn’t particularly strike you as something that would go on to be one of the most over things in WWE before there’s more video packages/vignettes surrounding the reformation of The Shield.
We round off the set with three title changes. AJ Styles WWE Championship win over Jinder Mahal from Manchester, England is a work of art. Natalya and Charlotte Flair is less so, but is still a commendable effort. The Miz against Roman Reigns, from the Raw after Survivor Series, is another top notch effort that, result aside for the anti-Reigns bores, ends a great collection on a particularly high note.
Not everything on hear will meet everyone’s tastes; neither does the fact that it is jam packed with great matches and good moments hide the issues with the WWE’s TV product. But as a step down 2017 memory lane, this is a very enjoyable collection indeed.
Format reviewed: DVD
Thank you to our partners, WWEDVD.co.uk and Fetch for providing our review copy. The Best of Raw & Smackdown 2017 is out on DVD 26 February 2018. You can buy your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk now by clicking here