If you've already got the complete Summer Slam collection that the WWE put out a while ago, there's no need to bother with this collection, which contains the events that took place between 2003 through 2007, as it doesn't contain anything that isn't in that set. Further, these are some of the weaker years of the WWE's big sunshiney summer draw, and while there's still enough here to satisfy most wrestling fans, it's far from the best of the anthology releases to have been released so far.
By the time 2003 had rolled around, the WWF was gone and the league was redubbed World Wrestling Entertainment. Why does this need to be mentioned? Because in previous DVD releases the old WWF logo was blurred out, which was not only annoying but distracting as well. This time out, there isn't a WWF logo to blur out, so you don't have to worry about that. That's the good news. The bad news is that most of the material here is old hat, and that which hasn't has been made available on other WWE collections of the last few years, making this a release meant for competists only. That doesn't mean you won't have fun with this, as there's some good material here, but compared to the earlier Summerslams much of it feels phoned in.
But hey, let's take a look. Wrestling is usually pretty fun, right? And for the record, this review is intentionally omitting who won what, so read ahead without fear of any spoilers.
The best of the events in this collection was the 2003 Summerslam held in front of a fairly rabid crowd in Phoenix, Arizona. After Lilian Garcia sings the national anthem, we get a so-so World Championship Tag Team match in which La Resistance takes on The Dudley Boyz. Things improve when the Undertaker, here in full on biker mode rather than horror movie mode, tussles with A-Train in a pretty solid bout that features some good moves. This is followed by an even better match where Shane McMahon takes on Eric Bishoff. Not only is the fight a good one but it's got some fun surprise cameos that take place towards the end.
From there we get a Fatal Four Way Match with the U.S. Championship belt hanging in the balance. Eddie Guerrero, the champ at the time, takes on the late Chris Benoit, the strange Japanese wrestler known only as Tajiri, and the King Kong Bundy influenced Rhyno. It's a solid fight if a little overlong. Better is the WWE Championship match in which the Olympian himself, Kurt Angle, goes at it with Brock Lesnar, which is followed by a Falls Count Anywhere match where Rob Van Dam takes on a mask-less Kane. Last but not least is a pretty exciting Elimination Chamber Match for the World Heavyweight Championship title. Triple H, Chris Jericho, Shawn Michaels, Goldberg, Kevin Nash and Randy Orton all get in on this one and again, there's a surprise twist at the end.
The next year, Summerslam would take place in Toronto, Ontario and start off with a decent enough Six-Man Tag Match starring Spike Dudley and the Dudleys squaring off against the always awesome Rey Mysterio, Paul London and Billy Kidman. Rey Mysterio is always fun to watch, the guy just has this endless energy and some pretty fly moves as well. Kane, again without the mask he used to wear, takes on Matt Hardy in a 'Til Death Do Us Part match in which no one actually dies. False advertising? Not really, at least not when you learn that a certain wrestling diva is supposed to marry the winner.
From there, current WWE films action star John Cena gets in the ring with Booker T for the first match in a best of five series for the Undisputed United States Championship title. There sure are a lot of different championship titles in the WWE these days. Once Cena and Booker are done, check out the more interesting Triple Threat Match where Batista takes on Chris Jericho and Edge while Eddie Guererro goes at it with his at the time arch-rival, Kurt Angle all while Triple H and Eugene throw down. This leads into a stupid segment called Diva Dodgeball, which is exactly what it sounds like, before the event finishes up with its two headline bouts - John Layfield versus The Undertaker for the Championship title and Chris Benoit against Randy Orton for the Heavyweight Championship. Not as strong an entry as 2003, there's still a fair bit of entertainment value to be had here.
Moving to Washington D.C. for this event, things kick off with Chris Benoit again, taking on Orlando Jordan for the United States Championship title. It's not a particularly strong way to open but the next match, in which Rey Mysterio goes off against Eddie Guerrero in a kick ass ladder match with the custody of Dominick hanging in the balance is a lot of fun and something a little different from the norm. From there we get a length bout where Kurt Angle takes on Eugene in a match where the gimmick is that there's no time limit. Meh. Next! The Undertaker brings it to the ring to go toe to toe with Randy Orton in another fairly tired match, followed by the Championship title match where Chris Jericho goes against John Cena.
The penultimate bout in which Batista goes against JBL in a No Disqualification Match for the World Heavyweight Championship title is okay, but more fun (especially for those of us who loved the WWF in the eighties) is the final fight where none other than Hulk Hogan shows up to battle Shawn Michaels in the Legend Versus Icon finale. It's a neat gimmick, bringing Hogan back, but this is otherwise a surprisingly unexciting Summerslam compared to some of the earlier ones.
Heading north to Boston for the 2006 Summerslam we kick off with a good opening match in which Rey Mysterio throws down with Chavo Guerrero before Big Show and Sabu scrap it out in the Extreme Rules Match for the ECW Championship. This one should have been intense but it's more than a little bit silly and a bit overdone. Hulk comes back to fight Randy Orton in the Legend Versus Legend Killer match and yeah, Hogan's got plenty of charisma but he's not doing anything new here and this feels more like a publicity stunt.
The highlight of the event is the 'I Quit!' match where personal favorite Mick Foley, sporting his Cactus Jack tights and his lumberjack shirt, gets into a bloody brawl with Ric Flair, the loser's career hanging in the balance. This one gets nasty and bloody and as ridiculous as it is, you've gotta love these two living legends. From there things go downhill again when King Booker goes against Batista for the Heavyweight Championship title. Last but not least we get D-Generation X taking on Mr. McMahon and of course Shane McMahon - it's goofy as goofy can be, and we've got the WWE Championship match where Cena takes on Edge for the biggest of the big titles. It's not a bad match but it won't floor you and for what should have been the best match of the event if feels a bit tired.
The last Summerslam in this set, which takes place in the lovely town of East Rutherford, New Jersey, sees Kane rumble with Finlay to start things off. It's not a bad fight, but the Triple Threat Match with Umaga versus Carlito versus Mr. Kennedy while simultaneously facing Rey Mysterio against Chavo Guerrero is far more interesting just because of some of the storylines it plays with. From there it's time for the girls to get their time in the spotlight as we bear witness to the Divas Battle Royale featuring Maria, Beth Phoenix, Melina, Jillian Hall, Mickie James, Torrie Wilson, Victoria, Kristal Marshall, Michelle McCool, Layla, Kelly Kelly and Brooke.
Going from one extreme of ridiculous to the next, we see MVP ask Matt Hardy to take him on in a beer drinking contest before we get to the ECW Championship match where John Morrison goes against CM Punk. From there, we get a more enthusiastic and energetic fight as Triple H and King Booker do their thing, which leads to a disappointing World Heavyweight Championship rumble where Great Khali takes on Batista for the title. Things finish off with the headliner match where John Cena takes on Randy Orton for the WWE Championship title. The last match is the best of the bunch, though the twist ending (it's not really a twist at all if you think about it) where a 'surprise guest' shows up at the beer drinking match is fun.
Each of the five events contained in this set was broadcast in 1.33.1 fullframe and that's how they're presented on DVD. The quality is acceptable, but it's not great thanks to some pretty consistent compression artifacts noticeable during each of the five Summerslam presentations. Color reproduction looks alright and skin tones are fine but the black levels can sometimes be a little blotchy looking. Everything is watchable enough, but considering the high price of this set it's not unreasonably to have expected slightly better video quality than what we get.
Summerslam 2003 and Summerslam 2004 contain Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo tracks while the other three events have Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mixes. There are no alternate language dubs, subtitles or closed captioning options. The audio here is fine, there aren't any obvious problems to report. The dialogue is always easy enough to understand and there are no issues with hiss or distortion worth complaining about. The 5.1 tracks sound understandably fuller than the 2.0 tracks do, with some nice crowd noise coming from the rear channels but they remain front heavy for the most part. There's nothing reference quality here, but the sound is okay.
Each disc is divided into chapters - one for each match - and contains a static menu. That's it. This is about as barebones as they come...
While there are some great matches here, they're spread out among far too much material that is either average or rather unimpressive. This makes for a pretty uneven package that lacks the consistency of the earlier collections in the series, and this isn't helped at all by the far less than perfect video quality and the barebones presentation. There's some stuff here that's worth seeing for sure, but unless you're a WWE completist, you can safely consider Summerslam - The Complete Anthology Volume 4: 2003 - 2007 a rental.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.