Matthew Roberts takes a look back at the year that was for WWE Home Video and brings you what he considers to be the best DVD and BluRay releases of the year.
5) Ruthless Aggression Volume 1
2020 saw a re-release of all three volumes of “The Attitude Era” collection in one handy box set but it was a look back at a less well-remembered time that gets my vote for this list.
Across five episodes of the “first season” of this show, we get in-depth looks at the likes of Brock Lesnar, John Cena and the Evolution stable as well getting glimpses of Ohio Valley Wrestling, the “failed” WCW invasion and the origins of the Raw Vs Smackdown “Civil War”. Whilst it is understandable that the more (in)famous Attitude Era has been profiled and, well, bled dry, over the past couple of decades, this is a fantastic look at what came next.
4) Royal Rumble 2020
I might be biased to some extent because I was there in Houston (and doesn’t the idea of travelling across the Atlantic to watch a Wrestling show with 40,000 other people now seem rather fantastical/other worldly) but there was more than enough action on here to warrant a place in the WWE’s best shows of the year.
The highlight was the men’s Royal Rumble, which joins 1992 and 2001 at the top of my own personal Rumble list. A lot of this was down to Brock Lesnar, who put in one of the performances of his carer. But the match was about much more than his first-half dominance; post-Lesnar the match still had twists and turns and surprises galore.
The women’s Rumble was another good effort and Asuka/Becky was a strong effort too. Hell, I even enjoyed Roman Reigns/King Corbin and not just because the match finished in front of my seating area AND I got my ugly mug on camera.
3) Retro WrestleMania’s
At the risk of this turning into an “I Was There” piece, the re-release of WrestleMania’s 15, 17 (X-7), 18 (X-8) and 19 was a highlight for me because it brought back memories of the times I did the Mania trip (long before it became the “in” thing) in both 2002 and 2003. In 2020, with all its problems, we all needed reminders of better times and revisiting these events certainly helped me.
Watching back now, 15 is a bit (a lot) of a mess, largely thanks to Vince Russo’s general incompetence when given too much control. 17 stands up to this day as one of the best Mania’s we’ve seen and perhaps is the commercial and artistic peak of the “Austin” years. 18 may to all intents and purpose be a one-match card, but that Hulk Hogan vs The Rock match is one of the greatest spectacles in the history of the WWE. There’s an argument to be made that whilst 19 can’t match the atmosphere of 17 it might just edge it on overall in-ring quality and it too remains a great watch today.
With all kinds of retro extras from the original releases included (which generally aren’t available anywhere else) these releases proved to be a very worthwhile trip down memory lane.
2) WrestleMania 36
It’s almost normal now to see big Wrestling shows taking place in front of either no crowd at all or a virtual one at best. Yet although it’s obviously still less than a year ago it’s difficult to look back and remind yourself just what a “novelty” that idea was back in the early part of the year. Teething troubles as WWE tried to work out how best to present the product on TV were always likely but the idea that WrestleMania 36 could be anything like the stadium packed extravaganzas seemed daft. And of course, it couldn’t be. But in very trying circumstances, over TWO nights, I thought the WWE did a grand job. Some great matches, some good, some baffling.
And even if what, at the time, we hoped was a temporary change of setting for WWE events became the “norm” as 2020 progressed, WrestleMania still stands up today as an entertaining event that was a lot more “Mania” than it had any right to be.
1) The Last Ride
It seems incongruous to have to remind yourself that Mark Calaway is a real person. Some people may not want to see him as one, preferring to remember him merely as the mysterious “Dead Man” who plied his trade in a WWE ring for 30 years. But The Last Ride was a timely reminder that there has always been a man behind the gimmick and that if you thought you were disappointed with some of the matches in the twilight of his career your feelings had nothing on Calaway’s himself.
And yes, this is a documentary on a wrestler, but it has a universal reach that resonates far beyond devotees of the squared circle. It just happens that The Undertaker’s battle with himself to go out on his own terms and in his own take place within a wrestling ring. This really is must-see stuff.
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