Matthew Roberts looks at the latest release from WWE Home Video, the historic 25th Anniversary episode of Monday Night Raw.
A common theme in criticisms of the WWE in and around WrestleMania season is it’s reliance on “nostalgia”. Still, if the company ever had an excuse for nostalgia on it’s biggest scale you could argue that the 25th Anniversary of Raw was the time they could get away with it.
The main feature, the complete “three hour” (minus the adverts) at least starts off well. If you are a long term fan of the WWE you could not have failed to get a kick out of Stone Cold Steve Austin confronting, and Stunning, the McMahon’s one more time. Unfortunately the show itself peaked within that first segment.
Match wise there is nothing that stands out. Nia Jax, Alicia Fox, Sonya Deville, and Mandy Rose battle against Asuka, Mickie James, Sasha Banks and Bayley in a typical WWE “throw a lot of women in a match” television bout that is fine for what it is, but isn’t exactly a match you’ll be rushing back to watch again. The Miz’s battle against Roman Reigns for the Intercontinental title is another fine, but hardly memorable match. It’s worth pointing out on this nostalgia night that for all the “Vince’s boy” insults thrown in the Big Dog’s direction, Stone Cold Steve Austin in his prime would never have been booked to lose like Reigns did here.
The least said about Matt Hardy against Bray Wyatt and The Revival against The Club the better. But they were not moments you were supposed to be talking about when the show was done. Titus Worldwide against Heath Slater and Rhyno was nothing more than a vehicle to bring the Dudley’s out.
There might have been some happier memories if the majority of the segments during the evening had been better but in a seeming rush to fit a cast of thousands into the show in any way possible the adage that “less is more” was certainly proved true. So many names popped up for a mili-second that few made any impact.
A parade of former general managers was a waste of the likes of John Laurinitus, William Regal, Eric Bischoff and to have numerous past female superstars wander out onto the stage to do absolutely nothing was even more of a wasted opportunity with the historic first ever Women’s Royal Rumble just around the corner. If you’ve a particular yearning to see the likes of Chris Jericho, the APA, Ted DiBiase, Mark Henry, The Godfather, DX or Christian you’d be better served finding action of them in their primes than expecting anything from this show. And as for The Undertaker…well I’m still not sure what the point of his anti-climatic return was all about.
Perhaps on that score it is telling that the most entertaining segment after the Steve Austin opening was the one between Elias and John Cena, two current roster acts (even if many seem to wish that Cena was a “former” star). But as this would lead Elias precisely nowhere at least it fit the theme of the evening; i.e. not much of any relevance to the ongoing future of the WWE happened at all.
So that makes for a pretty bad DVD set then?
Well luckily there are some extras. The Raw Pre-Show is included, but that’s more pointless fluff. The real draw is the inclusion, in full, of the “25 Greatest Moments in Raw History”. Admittedly anyone with more than a passing interest in the WWE DVD collection will likely have a lot of these moments and the fact that there are so few matches in the run-down shows where the priorities lie on the WWE’s flagship show but I’d say any WWE fan will have an entertaining waltz down memory lane watching them.
Of course you will have your own opinions on what should and shouldn’t make it. I’ve no idea, for instance, why anyone would think ten minutes of HHH and The Undertaker saying nothing should make the cut, nor why a Chris Jericho highlight reel with John Cena gets an airing. Still, as ubiquitous as they may be, who won’t get a kick out of reliving moments such as Mankind’s first title win, Austin’s first Stunner on Vince and the hilarious “wedding” between Test and Stephanie.
As half the fun of the countdown is seeing what is in, we’ll leave it there (and largely spoiler free).
The main feature is a huge letdown but the set as a whole is saved by the classic moments countdown, even if many of these have been seen many times before.
Format reviewed: DVD
Pictures courtesy of WWE and Fetch.
Thank you to our partners, WWEDVD.co.uk and Fetch for providing our review copy. Raw 25th Anniversary is out on DVD now. You can buy your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk now by clicking here