Generic Pre-Review Wrestling Disclaimer: Long before my affinity for globetrotting documentaries, Martin Scorsese films and The Criterion Collection, I found a soft spot for professional wrestling. Don't ask me how this happened; it just did. Despite this declaration, I shower daily, all my teeth are accounted for, I have a college degree...and believe it or not, I have a wife with the same merits. I'm not alone, of course. The wrestling fans I know aren't slack-jawed yokels; they simply appreciate the spectacle and illusion that this genuine sport creates, in the same way movie lovers enjoy fast-paced fights and thrilling chase sequences. Long story short: we know this stuff is "fake", but we like it anyway. Give us a break.
WWE serves up roughly a dozen pay-per-view events every year...which, if you ask most long-time fans, is at least six too many. There used to be plenty of time to build up big storylines and the tension that came with them, allowing for more epic main events roughly four times a year. Beginning with In Your House in the mid-1990s, WWE began offering many more pay-per-views (right before the "Attitude Era" kicked into high gear)---and to be fair, they had enough going on to justify the additional events. But after a few years, it was easy to see that there just weren't enough wrestlers and creative stories to go around, so we started to see the same faces on each and every card. Still, the increased number of PPVs allowed for a greater number of highlights; after all, there was more material to work with, even if some of it tended to bleed together after awhile. It's certainly taken long enough, but WWE has finally decided to cherry-pick the best PPV moments for a "Best Of" DVD collection. Best Pay-Per-View Matches 2009-2010 is their first attempt.
A quick look at the DVD's title, the match list and a calendar shows that Best Pay-Per-View Matches 2009-2010 doesn't exactly live up to its name, though. A more appropriate title would have been Best Pay-Per-View Matches April 2009-March 2010; not only does it skip the first few months of last year, but we've still got plenty more of 2010 to go. Of course, I can see why WWE chose to go this route: Best Pay-Per-View Matches 2009-2010 starts with post-Wrestlemania highlights and builds towards this year's big show. Still, it's going to confuse casual viewers expecting a full two-year collection. In any case, let's take a look at the card:
Complete Match Listing
(15 matches on 3 single-sided DVDs)
John Cena vs. Edge [Last Man Standing Match for the World Heavyweight Championship - Backlash 2009]
Jack Swagger vs. Christian [ECW Championship Match - Backlash 2009]
Edge vs. Jeff Hardy [World Heavyweight Championship Match - Judgment Day 2009]
Chris Jericho vs. Rey Mysterio ["Mask vs. IC Championship" Match - The Bash 2009]
Kofi Kingston vs. MVP vs. The Miz vs. Jack Swagger vs. Carlito vs. Primo
[US Championship "6-Pack Challenge" Match - Night Of Champions 2009]
Randy Orton vs. John Cena vs. HHH [WWE Championship Match - Night of Champions 2009]
Rey Mysterio vs. Dolph Ziggler [IC Championship Match - Summerslam 2009]
Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk ["TLC" Match for the World Heavyweight Championship - Summerslam 2009]
Randy Orton vs. John Cena ["I Quit" Match for the WWE Championship - Breaking Point 2009]
Disc Three *
DX vs. The Legacy [Tag Team "Hell in a Cell" Match - Hell in a Cell 2009]
HHH, Shawn Michaels, Big Show, Mark Henry, Cody Rhodes, Jack Swagger & Kofi Kingston vs. Chris Jericho,
Kane, Matt Hardy, Finlay, R-Truth, David Hart Smith & Tyson Kidd [Bragging Rights 2009]
The Miz, Jack Swagger, Sheamus, Drew McIntyre & Dolph Ziggler vs. John Morrison,
Evan Bourne, Matt Hardy, Finlay & Shelton Benjamin [Survivor Series 2009]
Christian vs. Shelton Benjamin [Ladder Match for the ECW Championship - TLC 2009]
Michelle McCool vs. Mickie James [Women's Championship Match - Royal Rumble 2010]
The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels ["Streak vs. Career" Match - Wrestlemania 2010]
* - Includes Additional Bonus Features (see below)
So, title nitpicks aside, it's no surprise that Best Pay-Per-View Matches 2009-2010 is loaded with plenty of fantastic moments that fans should enjoy revisiting. Of course, some matches stand out a little more than others: of particular note are Jack Swagger vs. Christian (a terrific singles match from Backlash 2009), Chris Jericho vs. Rey Mysterio, Randy Orton vs. John Cena vs. HHH (a "Triple Threat" match with a thrilling conclusion), Rey Mysterio vs. Dolph Ziggler (another mixture of high-flying action and terrific mat wrestling), Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk (one of the best TLC matches in recent years), the sixteen-man tag match from the "Raw vs. Smackdown" event Bragging Rights 2009 and, of course, The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (a rematch from Wrestlemania 26, though I'd have rather seen their WM 25 match here instead). No matter if you've seen these matches a half-dozen times already or haven't seen them at all, they're incredibly entertaining and worth the price of admission alone.
Some of the lesser (but still excellent) matches include: the "6-Pack Challenge" match from Night Of Champions 2009 (too short for its own good), Randy Orton and John Cena's "I Quit" Match (brutal and well-paced, but we've seen these two wrestle six billion times already), Christian and Shelton Benjamin's ladder match from TLC 2009 (a decent match with two underused athletes, but a few mistakes keep it from being better) and several others. There's really only one bad entry in the bunch: Michelle McCool vs. Mickie James from Royal Rumble 2010. It's a joke of a match and only runs about 30 seconds---and all joking aside, there are plenty of halfway-decent women's matches that could've been chosen over this one. Either way, Best Pay-Per-View Matches 2009-2010 serves two basic purposes: to highlight the best matches over a 12-month period, and to introduce new and casual fans to a variety of characters, feuds and match styles. For the most part, it gets the job done with energy to spare.
On the technical side of things, this DVD is on par with recent WWE releases: production values are decent enough and all matches are free from edits...aside from a few "Holy Shit!" chants, which seem to have been purposefully drowned out by the in-ring audio. Michael Cole and Matt Stryker are our hosts, appearing in short segments roughly half a dozen times during the nine-hour show. A few minor bonus features have also been included; they're almost unnecessary, give the nine hours of main content already included.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in a 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio and enhanced for 16x9 displays, Best Pay-Per-View Matches 2009-2010 looks to be on par with most current WWE releases...but that's not necessarily a free pass. Notable amounts of pixellation, edge enhancement and compression artifacts can be seen during many entrances and fast-moving sequences, which has been a long-standing problem we've undoubtedly become accustomed to. Colors are generally bold and bright, though reds and purples pop out almost unnaturally at times. Certainly not a five-star presentation overall, but fans should know what to expect.
The audio is presented in a robust Dolby 5.1 Surround mix, which does a fine job of recreating the WWE live experience. Crowd noise and play-by-play commentary come through loud and clear, creating a satisfying soundstage overall (although the Michael Cole / Matt Stryker segments aren't mixed very well). Though Spanish play-by-play commentary was included on most of the individual releases, there's no such option here. Also, no subtitles or Closed Captions have been provided for any of the matches or bonus features.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the plain-wrap menu designs are basic and easy to navigate. This nine-hour compilation has been divided into roughly two dozen chapters---one per match or behind-the-scenes chat with Michael Cole and Matt Stryker---while no obvious layer changes were detected during playback. This three-disc release is housed in a foldout digipak case and includes a complete match listing insert.
The only extras included are a few Interviews with various WWE stars about their participation in some of these matches. Participants include John Cena, Christian, Rey Mysterio, Kofi Kingston, Cody Rhodes, Ted DiBiase, Matt Hardy and The Miz. Most of these interviews are roughly a minute apiece---and, as expected, are done completely in character. Just once, I'd love for WWE to step outside the box and not play it completely straight. Aside for six year-olds (and Cletus up there), who really believes the storylines are real?
Like the matches themselves, these bonus interviews are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and do not include optional Closed Captions or subtitles. Oddly enough, no "Play All" option is included, either.
The name certainly isn't 100% accurate, but there's no doubt that Best Pay-Per-View Matches 2009-2010 delivers plenty of entertainment for pennies on the dollar. Here's hoping WWE continues this tradition: not only does it let casual fans keep tabs on wrestling's biggest company, but it'll undoubtedly draw in a few new ones in the process. From a technical standpoint, this three-disc release is on par with other WWE titles, pairing a decent technical presentation with a handful of lightweight bonus features. All things considered, it's nine hours of mostly top-tier wrestling...and honestly, what more could WWE fans ask for? Without a doubt, Best Pay-Per-View Matches 2009-2010 comes firmly Recommended to those who don't own more than half of this material already.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, second-guessing himself and writing things in third person.