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, most importantly, 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.
Monday Night Raw (later shortened to Raw) has been WWE's flagship program for over 15 years. At first, this one-hour show served as a gateway to further entice casual fans and draw in new viewers, but the show's brief running time was soon doubled as ratings improved. Eventually, one weeknight show wasn't enough...and thanks to The Rock's famous catchphrase, Smackdown was born as the 1990s drew to a close. This Thursday night extravaganza originally ran head-to-head with WCW Thunder (in the same way that Raw competed with WCW Monday Nitro) but recently switched to Friday evenings, since there's no longer any direct competition on Thursdays. After the infamous WWE brand split several years ago, Raw and Smackdown no longer serve as bi-weekly showcases for the entire WWE roster; instead, they're separate entities that don't always see eye-to-eye. Bragging Rights is WWE's annual pay-per-view where the brands face off for...well, bragging rights. Last year's installment was the first of its kind, so let's see if 2010's follow-up avoided the sophomore slump.
For starters, let me admit my biased perspective going in: I'm not, and never have been, a big fan of WWE's brand division. Ever since the company bought out WCW and ECW by the end of 2003---along with their massive library of matches---they've basically monopolized the last few decades of wrestling, whitewashing just about everything with the "F"-less watermark. Realizing what a short-sighted mistake that was (and continues to be), I'd imagine that this brand division was born from a desire to create a heightened sense of competition within the WWE; especially since TNA, ROH and the like are (still) barely a blip on WWE's radar. I doubt that the "Smackdown vs. Raw" rivalry is half as big with the fans as WWE thinks it is...and to be honest, it just makes following the story that much more difficult. In any case, these two rabid teams are (once again) color-coded with bright red and blue t-shirts...and by God, one of them's leaving with the Bragging Rights trophy. Let's take a look at the card, shall we?
Complete Match Listing
(7 matches on 1 single-sided DVD)
Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler [Champion vs. Champion Match]
The Nexus vs. Cody Rhodes & Drew McIntyre [WWE Tag Team Championship Match]
Ted DiBiase, Jr. vs. Goldust
Layla vs. Natalya [WWE Divas Championship Match]
Kane vs. The Undertaker [Buried Alive Match for the World Heavyweight Championship]
Team Raw (The Miz, R-Truth, John Morrison, Santino Marella, Sheamus, CM Punk & Ezekiel Jackson) vs.
Team Smackdown (Jack Swagger, Rey Mysterio, Alberto del Rio, Edge, Tyler Reks, Kofi Kingston & Big Show)
Wade Barrett vs. Randy Orton [WWE Championship Match]
Overall, Bragging Rights 2010 is a decent follow-up to last year's surprisingly good show...but it's certainly not without a few faults. First, the good stuff: Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler is a great opener, and these two talented young men have no problem kicking things off in a great way. The Bragging Rights Elimination Match (Team Raw vs. Team Smackdown) is another winner, featuring plenty of fast-paced action during its almost 30-minute length. Like the opener, some of the best moments come from the younger, less-known superstars in WWE's extensive roster. The main event of Wade Barrett vs. Randy Orton is another decent brawl, and the somewhat overcooked storyline still manages to end this year's show with a bang.
Slightly less satisfying matches include The Nexus [David Otunga & John Cena] vs. Cody Rhodes & Drew McIntyre (a weak story, and Otunga's lack of experience dampens the energy quite a bit), the obligatory Divas snooze-fest (Layla vs. Natalya) and the Buried Alive Match between Kane and The Undertaker (it's never been a particularly great gimmick match, and this one's no different). Ted DiBiase, Jr. vs. Goldust is probably closest to the bottom, aside from the Divas' match: while both second-generation athletes are certainly decent in the ring, this just feels like a throwaway match from start to finish. Overall, Bragging Rights 2010 is passable as far as WWE PPVs go, but it definitely leans toward the side of "less memorable" in the long run. If you've already seen it the first time around, I doubt you'll be eager to add this one to your permanent DVD collection.
On the technical side of things, this DVD is on par with recent WWE releases: production values are decent enough and all matches are apparently free from edits. Unfortunately, only one minor bonus feature has been included. This is bad news for those who already spent $40 on the PPV the first time around, though new viewers probably won't mind as much.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in a 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio and enhanced for 16x9 displays, Bragging Rights 2010 looks to be on par with last year's release...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 this is probably about as good as we'll get from WWE.
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. A Spanish 2.0 play-by-play track is also available, though it's not quite as dynamic overall. As expected, optional subtitles and Closed Captions are not provided.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the plain-wrap menu designs are basic and easy to navigate. The 2.5-hour show has been divided into roughly a dozen chapters (one per match and significant "filler" event), while no obvious layer change was detected during playback. Several WWE-related trailers and promos play before the main menu can be accessed; annoyingly enough, some of them are not skippable. This one-disc release is housed in a standard black keepcase and includes no inserts of any kind.
Only two short extras are on board, and these Bonus Segments include a post-match interview with one of the Bragging Rights Teams and a promo for The Undertaker & Kane's "Buried Alive" match. Like the rest of the show, these segments are presented in 16x9 format and do not include captions or subtitles. Unfortunately, the pre-show dark match between MVP and Chavo Guerrero has not been included here. Why does WWE continue to overlook these?
Although Bragging Rights 2010 is a decent follow-up to last year's installment, more than half of the included matches are more lukewarm than red-hot. WWE puts about as much effort into this release as most of their other PPV titles (read: not much), pairing a decent technical presentation with minimal bonus features. It's certainly a better value than the initial pay-per-view itself, but Bragging Rights 2010 is a better weekend candidate than a recommended purchase. Rent It at the very most.
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.