With a mammoth 45 “never before seen” matches, you certainly couldn’t say that WWE Unreleased 1986-1995 skimps on the value for money aspect of production. And indeed for “old school” fans there will is plenty to whet the appetite on this much looked forward to release. But does it work as an overall package?
It’s a blast to see the Event Centre’s very own Sean Mooney co-hosting with the delightful Charly Caruso. The running joke about Mooney living in the basement of Titan Towers scouring the archives runs thin by the end and their interactions add little to the proceedings in terms of history but they are a fun pairing who bring some spark to things. Mooney must also have access to the elixir of life in the video archives basement too. He certainly doesn’t look to have aged the full twenty plus years he’d had since his heyday.
It’s also worth pointing out from the start that nothing has been done to spruce up these unreleased matches. Whilst picture quality is usually very good (and always watchable) there is no added commentary to any of the matches. It didn’t put me off (part of the fun is the idea that you’re being let into long lost matches here) but some may find it a strange experience.
The set is tackled chronologically, starting in September 1986. Within the first handful of matches we’ve seen Randy Savage tackle Pedro Morales, Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper team up and one of the very earliest appearances of The Ultimate Warrior (under his old Dingo Warrior name).
From an era when TV tapings were chock full of squash matches the atmosphere from the big names carries the day, rather than there being too much top-class wrestling throughout the collection. It’s also fair to say that whilst there are some matches that push past the ten-minute mark, there are also plenty that don’t.
It’s fun to see matches pitting Randy Savage against Andre The Giant, Dusty Rhodes against Ted DiBiase and a couple of Savage – Ultimate Warrior bouts but you would be hard pushed to say that any produce classic matches. Tryouts for the likes of Brian Adams (who would come to fame as Crush) and Earthquake Evans (yes, THAT Earthquake, who is dressed like a lumberjack here) are fun curiosities too on disc one.
Disc two takes us flying into the 1990s. Hogan beating The Earthquake (now without the Evans) months before he would be memorably “put out of action” by him is a fun watch and seeing real-life pals Mr Perfect and Rick Rude teams up to take on The Ultimate Warrior & The Texas Tornado is a blast too. Watching Jake Roberts and Rick Martel, in effect, practise their WrestleMania VII Blindfold match is less so, merely confirming that if you’ve, erm, seen one Blindfold match you’ve no need to see another one ever. Ric Flair has some typically entertaining encounters against Roddy Piper and Hulk Hogan, whilst there’s an Undertaker-Ultimate Warrior Casket match and a special appearance from “Mr Madness” in a bout against Jake Roberts. That Juan Cena thing was nothing new you know…
The pick of disc 2 in the ring is a June 1992 match between Bret Hart and Davey Boy Smith, which does prove their Summerslam 1992 classic was no fluke. The disc ends with two matches in one. The debut of “The Toxic Turtles” and the last math of the Toxic Turtles. It has to be seen once to be believed.
Disc Three opens with a Giant Gonzales match against the Undertaker, which is as rudimentary as you might expect. The debut of Kip Winchester and Brett Colt is fun just for the abysmal music the Smoking Gunns had before they became Billy and Bart. A tryout in 1993 for The Tazmaniac (who would of course leap to fame in ECW as Taz) sees a familiar face opposite him in the form of Scott “Skippy” Taylor before matches like Shawn Michaels Vs Mr Perfect and Hulk Hogan & Brutus Beefcake Vs Money Inc. provide the star power.
Bret Hart has matches with Yokozuna and Jim Neidhart, Jeff Jarrett pulls double Ladder Match duty against Davey Boy Smith and Razor Ramon; the first of those two matches does at least show that whilst the Ladder gimmick usually ensures thrills and spills it can’t work it’s magic on it’s own. Things wrap up with Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart teaming up together in 1995 to take on Jerry Lawler and Hakushi and a fantastically awful Diesel/Yokozuna Steel Cage match from July 1995.
As you might have guessed, this collection succeeds on the novelty value of watching the unseen rarities on show. Old school fans will love the nostalgic trip down memory lane. Newer, attitude era and after, fans might not be quite as entertained.
Photos courtesy: Fetch, Fremantle Media, WWE
Format reviewed: DVD
Thank you to our partners, WWEDVD.co.uk and Fetch for providing our review copy of WWE Unreleased which is available on DVD in the UK from Monday 4 September. You can buy your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk now by clicking here