A Legacy of Greatness is the new US Championship DVD hitting the shelves on Monday, 9 May 2016.
This latest release from WWE Home Video takes a look at the legacy of the US Championship DVD. Spanning over 35 years and 30 matches (plus more exclusive bouts on the BluRay), this JBL hosted set aims to look at some of the greatest names to have held the belt and showcase some of the greatest matches involving the Championship.
Although JBL is allowed to offer up a few small history lessons, both on the circumstances surrounding the belt and the people who held it, his linking pieces are of limited value. He’s simply not given enough time to do anything than utter a few simple plaudits about those concerned. On the plus side the match choice covers a lot of ground and a lot of great performers and offers a reasonable NWA/WCW to WWE balance (with the first two thirds of the set being dedicated to pre-WWE bouts).
We start with what sounds like, on paper, a winner. Ric Flair Vs Ricky Steamboat? With Andre The Giant as a special guest referee? Even in 1978 Flair and Steamboat had a winning chemistry but a combination of limited camera work and no commentary makes this an interesting historical curio only, rather than anything that can justifiably live up to the genuine classics they would bring us in future years.
From there we skip to an 1983 Greg Valentine / Roddy Piper match that isn’t their famous Starrcade Dog Collar Match but is a fun look at NWA TV from the time. Tully Blanchard and Magnum TA, on the other hand, IS their famous Starrcade 1985 Steel Cage I Quit match. Two awesome performers at the peak of their powers in one of the greatest feuds of the era…who could possibly ask for more? Magnum’s subsequent bout with Nikita Koloff (in the seventh match of a best of seven series) can’t hold up to that but is fun nevertheless. Similarly Lex Luger and Dusty Rhodes from Starrcade 1987 is great fun, as is a Power Pro match between Rhodes and the wonderful Bobby Eaton.
It’s disappointing for me that Barry Windham’s one appearance here is opposite the very limited Junkyard Dog in what is a typical JYD effort. A couple of Sting matches against Lex Luger and Ravishing Rick Rude offer up much more hard-hitting entertainment before the ever welcome site of Ricky The Dragon Steamboat hovers into view again with the finals of a 1993 tournament against Dustin Rhodes for the vacant title. As I could watch Steamboat wrestle a broom you can rely on one of his matches to be great entertainment.
A Steve Austin/Great Muta Spring Stampede 1994 is another good match and the last representation of the pre-Nitro era. Bookended by a Starrcade 1996 match between Diamond Dallas Page and Eddy Guerrero (which is decent, but a little disappointing) and a Rick Steiner/Booker T match from WCW’s final ever PPV Greed (fairly dull) are a series of Nitro matches. Only one really stands out, the Raven vs Bill Goldberg match from April 1998. As far as five minute virtual squash matches go this is right up there with one of the best ever. It’s easy for WWE fans to mock Bill, but the atmosphere for this one is off the charts. Other matches offer promise but fall a little short (Dean Malenko/Chris Jericho and Goldberg/Bret) whilst others, such as Curt Hennig vs The Giant are typical “big name, phoned in action” Nitro bouts.
The final third of the collection is dedicated to the WWE era. Things kick off in unique style as Kurt Angle and The Undertaker battle over the belt from a November 2001 Raw match. The two would have better matches, for sure, but the heat is off the scale. The United States/Intercontinental unification match between Edge and Test from Survivor Series 2001 is a very good match, even if it sounded the death knell for the US title for a period (a fact acknowledged here).
We return to the fold at WrestleMania XX where, shock horror, a Mania crowd cheers John Cena on his way to a win over the Big Show. It’s a basic match, but certainly qualifies as a “moment”. The next five years of action are covered by a mere two matches. Lashley and Booker T from a June 2006 Smackdown is ok, but the Backlash 2008 match between MVP and Matt Hardy is a fun reminder of their entertaining feud. MVP drops the belt to Kofi Kingston in a June 2009 Raw bout which I enjoyed (mainly because Kofi has always been great) before Daniel Bryan, John Morrison and The Miz clash in an exciting Triple Threat match from Hell In A Cell 2010. A 2012 NXT match between Cesaro and Tyson Kidd is great fun too, a Sheamus vs Rusev 2014 Network exclusive less so. The set ends with two John Cena matches; the first is a good match from his “Open Challenge” run against Dean Ambrose. The second is Alberto Del Rio’s return to the company at Hell in a Cell 2015. If Del Rio had done anything of note since then this might have been a more fondly remembered match.
The BluRay adds another six matches. The Rhodes family features in the two pre-WWE bouts as Dusty takes on Ivan Koloff from 1988 and Dustin takes on Rick Rude from 1993. Four WWE TV matches range from JBL vs William Regal in 2006 to John Cena vs Cesaro in 2015. The extras add a nice finishing touch to the overall package.
As a history lesson this set would fall short, but it’s a match compilation and as such it lives and dies on the quality of the matches. Whilst it’s not all excellent there is certainly enough top notch in-ring action to entertain most fans and I particularly enjoyed the fact that there plenty of pre-WWE matches to get through. As a snapshot of some of the great names who have held the United States Championship over the years, this is a worthwhile trip down memory lane.
Photos courtesy: Fetch, Fremantle Media
Format reviewed: Blu-Ray
Thank you to our partners, WWEDVD.co.uk and Fetch for providing our review copy of the A Legacy of Greatness: US Championship DVD, which is available on DVD & Blu-Ray in the UK on Monday 9 May 2016. You can buy your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk now by clicking here