2012 was interesting year for the WWE; while as the standard pro-wrestling formula follows, the majority of the biggest matches occurred on pay-per-views, what arguably draws the largest portion of viewers are the weekly television shows, Raw and Smackdown respectively. While meant to be somewhat separate brands (or at least at times they are treated as such), Raw has forever been and likely forever shall be the flagship of WWE programming. Even in the mid 2000s when booked by Paul Heyman, Smackdown may have had the wealth of talent at the time, but it's Raw where the biggest storylines go down. 2012 was no exception, with the year kicking off with fevered anticipation towards the (then) "once in a lifetime" match between The Rock and John Cena at Wrestlemania; but as any wrestling fan knows, a big Wrestlemania storyline can only carry you though the event itself (and maybe a rematch a month later); so for the remainder of 2012, the WWE had a lot of time to fill and in the process, numerous careers were changed; some for the better, some better not mentioned.
The "Best of Raw and Smackdown 2012" is the WWE's best attempt at a highlight reel for their television product, but by no means should be mistaken for a true recap of WWE events. Spanning three discs and running nearly eight hours, the matches and clips are presented chronologically with sparse interludes to propel viewers towards the next segment in WWE's 2012 history. The result often shows the product at its best, but sadly, those with a discerning eye and those who had the pleasure (or in cases, displeasure) of seeing the monthly pay-per-view events these shows build towards, just how illogical WWE writing can be at times. One need look no further than any segments or matches featuring Daniel Bryan who enters Wrestlemania a champion having wrestled memorable matches against CM Punk on TV and pay-per-view alike (one in 2012, I'd call one of the best of the year), but by the end of the year is one-half of a comedy tag duo with Kane, a gimmick strung out far too long in 2012 alone and continues to fester to this very day.
Ultimately, the collection reveals just how much filler the WWE presents on TV with mediocre matches making their way to this disc just because they represent the finest the B-level of the WWE has to offer. On the positive, I commend those who crafted this set for keeping the Cena/Rock feud offerings to the best each individual had to offer: Cena's late February calling out of the Rock and the amusing, albeit conceptually tired Rock Concert. On the flipside, some of the latter year offerings are truly exciting, including matches allowing Dolph Ziggler to shine alongside the main event heavies. Understandably, only one segment from the 1000th episode of Raw makes it to the disc as that episode itself is more worthy of a separate DVD release, even though it's yet to get one. If you've made it this far, you might be asking yourself, what about Smackdown? It's true I've mentioned essentially nothing of what Smackdown has to offer toward this set and that's frankly because the show's offerings are considerably bland and repetitive, showing that the Friday night television staple is not equal in the eyes of the WWE creative team. The bottom line though remains that "The Best of Raw and Smackdown 2012" does feature some of the best the respective shows had to offer, but much more filler; I can only imagine this is a conscious decision as what is truly best might fill one DVD at best and not a more marketable three disc set.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer sports brilliant, rich color reproduction of the event itself. Detail levels are not as strong as something sourced from a modern HD broadcast should be, possibly due to some minor compression artifacts that seems to be the standard for WWE DVD releases (it's much better than a few years back).
The Dolby Digital English 5.1 audio is a solid, albeit non-mind-blowing experience. Commentary is front and center, but never mixed to overpower the sounds of the arena, nor do the mics focused on the in-ring action feel off-balance. A few matches in, and the sound isn't as immersive as being live (simply due to the constant commentary), but there's nothing to detract from the experience.
While sporting an impressive three-discs of matches and segments, "The Best of Raw and Smackdown 2012" is on a whole, a marginally entertaining way to spend nearly eight hours. It's naturally a collection marketed toward the two extremes: long-time devoted fans who will buy it sight unseen and those wanting a quick rental to see what they may have missed from being unable to commit to five hours of TV a week that often fails to deliver basic promises of entertainment. Recommended.