At the core of professional wrestling is the storyline surrounding a good guy (or â€˜babyface') and a bad guy (or â€˜heel). The term for this storyline varies by the person using it, whether it is a â€˜program,' â€˜feud' or â€˜rivalry,' but it is something that has been integral to wrestling promoters and writers since the various regional territories gradually consolidated to what we have today. And with The Top 25 Rivalries in Wrestling History, World Wrestling Entertainment (or WWE) has tried to not only call on those who help cite the justification for why a rivalry should be on this list, but has utilized their extensive video library of classic matches in the process.
The resulting product is impressive, spanning almost three hours and featuring interviews with current WWE superstars and inactive ones who may have a unique insight into the process. They talk about what made the feud they were talking about special and noteworthy. Normally I would express sour grapes for lack of participation by those involved in the rivalry (even a little bit), the length and breadth of the feature itself is good. As one who has been a fan of pro wrestling for quite some time (albeit sporadically in recent years), what impressed me was the variety of the list. It could have been very easily to make this a WWF/WWE centric affair, but the disc includes old feuds from the 1980s in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) territories in the Mid-Atlantic and Texas, respectively. There is even a dusting of choices from Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) in the 1990s, the group that helped influence the WWE's "Attitude" era of the 1990s. And why not? The choices are perfectly reasonable, and to omit them would have been silly. The list itself is so good I could only think of one or two rivalry were not included that should have been, which was the Kevin Sullivan-Chris Benoit one in the 1990s. Considering the circumstances surrounding Benoit's death and that of his wife and child, and the WWE's reluctance to bring his name up in video releases, this was understandable on their part. The other was "Mad Dog" Buzz Sawyer and Tommy Rich, but the is a borderline pick and flirting with wrestling hipsterdom on my part.
For as good as the feature is (possibly within the Top 3 of ones that I have seen done by the WWE when it comes to quality), the match selection does not live up to the high level the preceding feature set for it. I will list the matches in a second, but it is important to note that there is not a one for one ratio on matches to rivalries, despite the fact there are two more discs in this three-disc set. That said, the matches are as follows:
Hulk Hogan vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper (WWF Championship Match, " The War to Settle the Score," February 18, 1985)
Tully Blanchard vs. Magnum T.A.(United States Championship "'I Quit' Match" Starrcade, November 28, 1985)
Bruiser Brody vs. Abdullah the Butcher (July 1987)
Kevin & Kerry Von Erich vs. Terry Gordy & Buddy Roberts ("Badstreet Rules," February 1988)
Hulk Hogan & Randy Savage vs. Andre the Giant & Ted DiBiase (Summerslam, August 29, 1988)
Undertaker vs. Mankind (King of the Ring, June 23, 1996)
Tazz vs. Sabu (Grudge Match, Barely Legal, April 13, 1997)
Tommy Dreamer vs. Raven (The Final Battle," Wrestlepalooza, June 1997)
Steve Austin vs. Vince & Shane McMahon (Winner Take All Ladder Match, "King of the Ring," June 27, 1999)
Triple H vs. The Rock (WWE Championship Match, Backlash, April 30, 2000)
Steve Austin vs. The Rock (WWE Championship Match, Rebellion, November 3, 2001)
Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar (WWE Championship Match, SummerSlam, August 24, 2003)
John Cena vs. Edge (WWE Championship Steel Cage Match, Raw, October 2, 2006)
Considering the list of rivalries, the match selection for the discs is justâ€¦confusing. There is a guy who appears in two different rivalries in the TOP SEVEN of this list, and we don't see a match from him? And when it comes to the matches, one would presume to include a match that would define the rivalry. A feud between two different individuals translates into a tag team match with collateral participants on more than one occasion. Or if a rivalry is mentioned, then a match between the two may be included, but surely is not the best match between them. For instance, any discussion of an Undertaker-Mankind feud that does not have the complete Hell in a Cell match between them does not jibe. Why bother talking about a match if one does not include it?
For as great as The Top 25 Rivalries in Wrestling History is, and it is great, the subsequent two discs that are supposed to illustrate WHY the rivalries were do not provide the evidence that the feature wants to have emphasized. Picture a smooth-talking door to door salesman who gets inside your house, but is attempting to sell something underwhelming. The discs do touch the feelings and memories of pro wrestling fans through the years, but do little to tug at the strings.
As the feature is three discs featuring material as far back as the early 1980s, the discs include a mix of full frame and 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and the material looks about as good as one can expect. There are some flaws that are inherent in the source material, but those flaws (and the pixilation and image noise that seems to come standard with WWE releases) do not significantly distract from the image. Edge enhancement is at a minimum, and colors are reproduced as accurately as can be expected. Solid presentation material.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is fine, though one should take into consideration there is not going to be a lot of immersion in the listening experience. The subwoofer stays dormant and rear channels, while active, do no real panning or directional effects, almost sounding like a stereo track. A chunk of the material does come from the mono era, but it nothing to be concerned over.
Aside from the matches, nothing to speak of.
For as disappointed as I was with the second and third discs of this Top 25 Rivalries set, the fact that the first disc's feature was as strong and complete as it was makes the match list a forgivable sin. If one is a recent WWE fan (or a long timer returning to it), the set is absolutely worth the time to watch, with an eye towards buying for those inclined.