Matthew Roberts takes a look at WWE Home Video’s latest DVD release, WWE 24: Best of 2019.
WWE 24 is the kind of thing the Network can do very well; after all the WWE has all the footage in the bag, and can plan these things ahead. This two disc set brings together the “Best of 2019” which comprises four episodes from the documentary series.
Which throws up the first anomaly. The WrestleMania: New Orleans episode is of course not the “2019” WrestleMania, but the 2018 show. This doesn’t matter of course and the episode did first air this year, but it’s just a strange staring point to some degree.
Most people, if not all, watching this one will be aware of what happened at the show itself and most of the big moments are covered in enough detail. Daniel Bryan’s return to the ring deservedly gets a lot of time, even if the distance we have from the event now makes this seem like another world now. There’s plenty of candid footage of wrestlers in the build-up to the show; some are interesting (Ronda Rousey’s thoughts on her involvement), some are more random filler (Rusev and Lana being driven to the show).
It’s fun to see some of the run through’s of the entrances though the most interesting part here is the interaction between Vince McMahon and son Shane, which perhaps tells a lot more than it appears to do on the surface about their relationship. The likes of Roman Reigns, Shane himself and Nia Jaz talk about their feelings leading up to the show, before the doors open and we get some neat interactions backstage that are the kind of things you will obviously never see on “WWE TV” but add another layer to proceedings here and remind you that whatever characters we see on our screens “WWE superstars” are just regular normal people.
From there we go through the show itself and see reactions and feeling from during the show itself. Again, it’s the interactions between the wrestlers backstage that will probably bring the most smiles to your eyes. As mentioned at the start of this piece, the WWE does this kind of documentary very well and this is a great look at everything that goes into a show the size of WrestleMania. Perhaps it won’t tell you anything you don’t already know, but it’s cool to get that little “backstage” peak at the biggest show of the year.
Becky Lynch was THE breakout star in 2018 so it made sense that the WWE would produce a special on her; Becky Lynch:The Man is an hour long journey through the storied career of WWE’s hottest star from her early days in Dublin all the way to the top of the mountain.
It’s impossible not to watch this and be enamoured with Becky. Yes, her on screen character is just that, a character, but the life-long dream of having to battle all the way to the top is no storyline invention. Her early days as a trainee are looked into and whilst Finn Balor says that he knew from the start that she had something, all concerned, including Becky’s brother, admit that she was dreadful at the very beginning. For reasons quite apart from that (she was a quick learner) she actually gave up wrestling before finally deciding to give it one last chance.
Of course finding her way to WWE might have been the hardest part of the battle, but there was just as much to fight for when she got there. After all her “Riverdance” phase in NXT is proof that Triple H doesn’t always have his finger on the pulse and although not explicitly the documentary comes as close as you can expect on a WWE production to saying that it was a terrible booking decision.
Fans will know all about her meteoric rise to the top of the WWE and it was all the more brilliant considering that it was never really supposed to happen. Of course watching this cold you’d almost believe that it was part of a brilliantly crafted story that was planned all along, but as we say this is a WWE documentary. Though trying to pretend that her attack on Charlotte Flair post Summerslam was anything other than an attempt to turn her heel might be pushing the credibility too far even for the WWE.
Naturally we end with Lynch lifting the Women’s Title in the main event of WrestleMania; you couldn’t really end anywhere else. WWE fans will know the story, but that doesn’t make this any less of an engaging hour in the company of, and chronicling the career of, Becky Lynch.
Of course the focus of the next documentary in some ways could not have had an easier route to the upper echelon’s of the WWE. We are of course talking about Ronda Rousey, whose name value from her UFC days meant that as soon as the WWE could get her to sign on the dotted line she was guaranteed to be treated and presented as a star. No “finding the right route” for Ronda.
That’s not to denigrate her though; a life-long wrestling fan she was clearly living the dream as a WWE superstar and her previous “rep” from UFC had to be capitalised on in the way it was. Her time in UFC is touched upon, with Dana White popping up as a talking head, before Ronda’s mum pops up to say that she told Ronda to throw her hat into wrestling. Her vignette with the Rock at WrestleMania 31 is touched upon, with the admittance that it was only a one-off thing at the time, before Triple H and Shayna Basler talk about getting Ronda to the big dance (complete with some footage from the Performance Centre) and perhaps the most interesting segment is her training with Brian Kendrick, who makes some very valid points about NOT training her in the “WWE Style”.
From there the documentary is a mixture of a run through of her WWE achievements in the style of the old WWE documentaries but with enough candid or “inside” moments to add some genuine back-story. It’s interesting to note her feelings about not really believing she was ready to raise the Women’s title when she did and her humility (which appears genuine) shows a very likeable side to Ronda. Just how much she progressed in a short time is shown with her match with Charlotte at Survivor Series, which Ronda admits is the match she was most proud of, largely because it was called ad hoc as it genuinely wasn’t the plan until Nia Jax put Becky Lynch out of action.
Of course we wend with the focus on her historic WrestleMania main event and seemingly the end of her WWE career. The fact she describes her year with the WWE as the “longest year of my life” shows just how tough life on the WWE road can be (and she was far from a full-timer) but that’s a comment made without any bitterness. Ronda and her husband Travis Browne heavily hint that’s it. Triple H is a little more cryptically optimistic. Whatever happens, this documentary certainly makes you hope that we haven’t seen the end of Ronda in a WWE ring.
The final episode in Kofi Kingston: Year of the Return. I’m not quite sure why it’s a “return” as prior to a strike of inadvertent good fortune (the injury to Ali) for Kofi in early 2019 it was almost a decade since anyone in the WWE seemed to seriously consider Kofi as a candidate to be the top guy. Still, it would be extremely churlish to not commend the WWE for listening to the fans in early 2019 and “giving them what they want”.
Whatever your thoughts on Kingston and his subsequent title reign this is another documentary from which you can’t help coming away from with a renewed liking for the person profiled. From the days in his youth when he loved pro wrestling as a kid (and was surprised that there were no ropes when he went to his first amateur wrestling session) to winning the World Title at WrestleMania, Kofi comes across as an extremely likeable individual. He’s able to laugh at his Tough Enough tryout tapes as well as show the obvious pride he has when he’s back in the country he was born (Ghana) but wishes that his New Day stablemates were with him.
His debut as a “Jamaican” is touched upon (with some behind the scenes footage from those vignettes) and his singles career, up until his current run, shows highlights of his many “secondary” championship victories. His wife admits that Kofi was frustrated he was never pushed higher but concedes he’s not the “complaining” type of guy. Don’t expect any mention of the “Randy Orton” thing here though.
The birth of the New Day is covered in great detail, again with some great behind the scenes footage, whilst the inference is that it was only when Vince allowed them to go full heel and gave them more freedom they started to really roll. As ever in wrestling, going heel eventually led to them being more popular than ever.
Kofi’s 2019 is obviously gone into in great depth and it’s a story we will all be familiar with. Seeing Kofi backstage with friends and family though, and interacting with numerous wrestlers past and present, adds another layer to things. The recapping of his Mania match with Daniel Bryan is superb stuff and seeing Vince celebrate with the New Day post match in the Gorilla position is amazing to see. The documentary stops well before the controversial dropping of the title to Brock Lesnar, but that’s another story for another time.
When the WWE does things like this, the results are usually top notch and this collection of four episodes is well worth your time, regardless of whether or not you think the likes of Lynch, Rousey and Kingston are your cup of tea. For the insights into the lives of a WWE superstar alone, these are essential viewing.
Extras come in the form of four matches, one to accompany each documentary. Daniel Bryan & Shane McMahon against Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn is a fun one, and Ronda Vs Charlotte from Survivor Series 2017 is very good indeed too. Bryan Vs Kofi from WrestleMania 35 is very good as well and if ultimately the main event from that year between Rousey, Lynch and Charlotte is a tad disappointing, it’s still as historic as they come.
Format Reviewed: DVD
Photographs courtesy of Fetch and WWE
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