The practice of discussing the best, coolest and most charismatic in sports has been one that has passed from generation to generation. It is a simple practice; crack open a beer with some friends and talk about who is the better athlete, regardless of era or rule constraint. Ruth or Aaron? Magic or Michael? Montana or Brady? You could easily cover a few hours discussing the pros and cons of any players you chose. And the folks at World Wrestling Entertainment felt this type of discussion could be viable in their area of familiarity, so an interesting compilation, the 50 Greatest Finishing Moves in WWE History, was born.
Running at just under two hours in length, the feature includes interviews with many of the young stars of the WWE such as Wade Barrett, Kofi Kingston and Daniel Bryan as they recall the moves they saw growing up as kids and what they liked. Additionally, older WWE star Mick Foley serves as the 'historian' of the bunch, recounting the moves from the stars of the '70s and early '80s. And on top of that, dated interviews from the wrestlers involved helped to provide a larger picture in case any gaps may be missing. How it is laid out is fairly upfront and devoid of distraction.
However, one could make the case that that is the problem with the feature. The more the countdown, er, counts down, it is fairly easy to figure out what moves are going to place where. Even for a guy like me who watches not a lot of professional wrestling these days, I was pretty much able to shake out the last 15 or so finishing moves. And seeing this compilation of those in one area, I was left with the impression of how more than a couple of them are basically the same move, just with a small individual wrinkle to them. I mean, Diamond Dallas Page's Diamond Cutter and Stone Cold Steve Austin's stunner are ultimately different moves, but their core is the same, no? So while conceptually the debate about what move is best is fun, it does tend to leave one feeling hollow after a while.
The good news, as is the case with other WWE releases, is that they have included matches by many of the discussed athletes to help provide illustration. And not just on one disc either; the second and third discs on this set include matches, with a total runtime of 2:22:32 on Disc Two and 2:51:35 on Disc Three. It should be noted the match list I am about to tick off may serve as a mild spoiler (though to this point I have not revealed the order of the finishers), so please look away if you are so inclined.
Rick Rude vs. Jake Roberts (Finishing Move Wins - October24, 1988)
Curt Hennig vs. Kerry Von Erich (WWE Intercontinental Championship Match - January13, 1994)
Bob Backlund vs. Bret Hart (WWE Championship Match- July 30, 1994)
Kevin Hall & Scott Nash vs. The Giant (WCW Tag Team Championship Match - Superbrawl VII, February23, 1997)
Mankind vs. Jerry Lawler (King of the Ring, June 8, 1997)
RVD vs. 2 Cold Scorpio (ECW Living Dangerously, March 1, 1998)
Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair (WCW Championship Match - Spring Stampede, April 11, 1999)
The Rock & Chris Jericho vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin & Kurt Angle (November 15, 2001)
Brock Lesnar & Eddie Guerrero vs. Bubba Ray Dudley & RVD (June 3, 2002)
Chris Jericho & Christian vs. Jeff Hardy & Shawn Michaels (February 17, 2003)
The Rock vs.Goldberg (Backlash, April 27, 2003)
Ric Flair, HHH & Randy Orton vs. The Dudleyz (July 14, 2003)
Trish Stratus vs. Lita (WWE Women's Championship - December 6, 2004)
Randy Orton vs. Shawn Michaels (December 29, 2008)
Batista vs. Rey Misterio (Bragging Rights, October 25, 2009)
Seamus, Edge & John Cena vs. Wade Barrett, Chris Jericho & Randy Orton (Night of Champions, September 19, 2010)
While the fact that two discs chock full of matches may be impressive, the fact that a good portion of these on the third disc are of the 'put two singles wrestlers together in a tag match' variety screams to me that the WWE folks seemingly wanted to check off as many names off the list as possible rather than put some thought into the quality of said matches. Additionally many of the names on the Top 50 are nowhere to be found, while a couple of them are on the disc twice or three times.? Curious selection to say the least.
Look, I don't mind discussing who is the best or did the coolest thing in sports or sports entertainment, but when looking at all three discs of the 50 Greatest Finishing Moves in WWE History, the two discs that one would figure would be teeming with quality matches and memorable moments to further reinforce a superstar's finishing move just come off as being a thrown together compilation for compilation's sake. If you are going to stimulate discussion, go ahead and do that on one disc and I'm fine with it. But these two other discs seemingly distract from the discussion, which just leaves me feeling hollow. Well, at least I have a Steve-weiser.
All of the discs are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, with the older matches' full frame aspect ratio preserved accordingly. Considering there is a mix of interviews old and new, matches older and newer and a weird Powerball-like computer animated sequence counting down the moves, the disc handles all of this fairly well, with any apparent flaws inherent in the source material. The new interviews look as good as it is going to get, and the image itself does not have any distracting bouts of edge enhancement, the source is as pristine as can be, and all three discs are a pleasurable viewing experience. And unless I missed it, it looks like many of the old WWF logos remained on the matches/interviews for the disc (in the past they had to be blurred as part of a court ruling where the World Wildlife Federation sought to protect their branding), perhaps a settlement was made or the old video guys were extremely selective in what they grabbed out of the library?
Dolby Digital 5.1 surround rules the day, and it's a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, the recent matches sound good, but the older matches do not get served that much with a six-channel track, much less a Dolby one. The track on the whole presents all of the action in the front channels, with ambient/crowd noise being the sole focus in the rears, and no real channel panning or convincing immersive experience to be had. There is no subwoofer engagement (which admittedly I was not surprised by) on the track and over the course of three discs, there are no real shocks when listening.
What, two discs full of matches don't saturate your appetite? Well, be gone with you then!
50 Greatest Finishing Moves in WWE History may have its heart in the right place, but its mouth and its other means of delivery are flawed and tend to be underwhelming. Technically the disc is fine and while normally I would say two discs full of matches would be a no-brainer to own, the matches themselves are a little overly dramatic for my taste. I would definitely check this out if you are relatively recent to the pro wrestling scene, and newbies may even take the plunge to buy it. Older fans? Not so much.