My first regular exposure to pro wrestling was 20 years ago, right around the time I entered high school. WWE's flagship show Monday Night Raw debuted earlier that year, and keeping up with wrestling at the time was easy: aside from the one-hour Raw, there were recap shows like Mania (Saturday morning) and, of course, the occasional pay-per-view like King of the Ring and Survivor Series. But these $30 events were a tough sell if you weren't the one paying the bills, so I didn't even ask to order one until 1994's Wrestlemania X arrived. It was worth it, but I'll be honest: my family wasn't rolling in cash, so it's not like we kept ordering them every two or three months. 1995 arrived and so did WWE's newest concoction: In Your House, a new PPV series which occurred every month that one wasn't already scheduled. Priced at just $14.95 and running two hours in length, IYH was priced to attract casual viewers like myself.
The plan worked, because I remember ordering every installment of In Your House during that year...and, as luck would have it, my dad scored us tickets to the December 1995 event when WWE came to town. It was a memorable experience and much different than watching on TV...but personal stories aside, it was simply one more installment of a dependably good PPV series that lasted until 1999. Of course, IYH can also be seen as a point when the company's PPVs became watered down: after all, how exciting can they be when they happen so often? Though the name "In Your House" eventually went away in favor of lurid titles like Backlash, Judgment Day and Fully Loaded (and prices continued to rise), WWE's strategy of flooding the industry with pay-per-views was similar to Jaws' creation of the summer blockbuster.
During its four-year lifespan, In Your House helped to usher in a bold new era of wrestling as lines were regularly crossed, its popularity skyrocketed and the WWE's competition with rival promotions shifted into high gear. The Best of In Your House is a new three-disc DVD collection (also available on Blu-ray) that celebrates some of the best matches and moments featured during this 1995-99 PPV series. Hosted by former WWE employee Todd Pettengill, it features more than eight hours of material from 14 of In Your House's 28 total installments. Does this suggest a second collection is in our future? Here's hoping.
For now, this enjoyable collection goes down pretty easy. While Todd Pettengill's brief retrospective segments don't offer more than surface-level remarks and awful puns, they also don't distract from the wrestling too much. A glance at the table of contents (listed below) will undoubtedly lead to many wish lists filled with matches that (for now?) have missed the cut. I won't pretend that a chronological release of every single event would realistically sell, but it's too bad there isn't another disc of matches---or hell, even a few highlight reels---to make sure that forgotten moments got another chance to shine. I'd love to see more Owen Hart and Razor Ramon matches, an appearance from Sycho Sid, additional stuff from 1997's Canadian Stampede and plenty more. Until then, here's what this three-disc DVD set includes:
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, In Your House is easily on par with other like-minded WWE DVD releases...taking its age into account, of course. The company wouldn't switch to a widescreen HD format for another several years, so fans of this era should know what to expect. Colors are limited but true to the source material, on-screen graphics are generally crisp and black levels vary depending on their location. Several digital issues can be spotted including pixellation, jagged edges and compression artifacts (especially during pyrotechnic sequences and crowd shots), but the majority of these problems are likely inherent to the standard definition masters and nothing else. A separate Blu-ray has also been made available, but I couldn't imagine this material looking much better than what we get here.
The audio is presented in a fairly standard Dolby Digital 2.0 mix; likewise, it's roughly on par with recent WWE releases from this era. Todd Pettingill's monologues, crowd reactions and live commentary all come through loud and clear, creating a limited but satisfying soundstage overall. Optional subtitles, Spanish play-by-play commentary or Closed Captions are not offered during this material, unfortunately.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the plain-wrap menu designs are basic and easy to navigate. Each disc is divided into a handful of chapters, one per match or hosted segment. This three-disc release is housed in a foldout digipak case and features appropriately retro fluorescent graphic design. A separate insert booklet has not been included, though complete match listings are printed behind all three of the disc hubs.
Only the separate Blu-ray edition features a few extra matches and moments, a practice I continue to find pretty off-putting. Even so, there's over eight hours
of content here so it's tough to complain.
Like many WWE collections of the past, The Best of In Your House is more than just a trip down memory lane: it's an all-around great collection of classic wrestling matches and moments. In Your House paved the way for a number of good (and bad) new directions for the company during the 1990s, but it's best remembered as a low-priced PPV series that broadened its growing fanbase. With so many memorable highlights, perhaps my only complaint about this three-disc set is that it's not twice as long (and with no indication of future volumes, some will debate what content should've made the cut instead). While this release has a limited A/V presentation and lack of bonus features---unless you shell out for the Blu-ray, of course---it's still a terrific collection that WWE fans will enjoy digging through. Recommended.
Randy Miller III is a likable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.