WWE serves up roughly a dozen pay-per-view events every year...which, if you ask most long-time fans, is at least six too many. There used to be plenty of time to build up big storylines and the tension that came with them, allowing for more epic main events every few months. Beginning with In Your House in the mid-1990s, WWE began offering many more PPVs (right before the "Attitude Era" kicked into high gear)...and to be fair, they had enough going on to justify the additional events. But after a few years, it was easy to see that there just weren't enough wrestlers and creative stories to go around, so we started to see many of the same faces on every card. Nonetheless, the increased number of PPVs allowed for a greater number of highlights; after all, there was more material to work with, even if it tended to bleed together after a while. Not surprising, considering WWE's brand divisions and monopolization of the sport.
Beginning with Best Pay-Per-View Matches 2009-2010, WWE began offering multi-disc highlight collections for those who didn't pony up for the individual releases (or the actual events, more than likely). These annual volumes, available on DVD or Blu-ray, were also originally designed to lead up to the respective year's edition of WrestleMania. Before long, however, they switched to a more condensed "January-October" format, rushing an early release at the expense of the November and December events (Survivor Series and TLC, just for the record). So yes, the title isn't exactly accurate, but that's been WWE's formula since 2011 and it doesn't look to be changing soon. If that weren't enough, this also marks the first year that Best Pay-Per-View Matches isn't available as a Blu-ray option, presumably due to low sales.
So what else is new in 2013? Not a whole lot, as it turns out. Undertaker and HHH still have buzz cuts, Michael Cole still uses words like "vintage" and "WWE Universe" and the company's still stuck in "PG" land. Newly-named events arrive in the form of Payback (June's event, replacing former February mainstay No Way Out) and Battleground (October's event, replacing short-lived May PPV Over the Limit). These are basically just cosmetic changes, however: neither has a gimmick like Royal Rumble, Extreme Rules or TLC, so the end result feels even more like an extended edition of Raw or Smackdown than ever before. As a whole, the 17 matches included here range from passable to very good: nothing really screams "price of admission" and nothing is blatantly horrible...but any way you slice it, 7+ hours of decent material for less than $30 is a good deal, especially since most WWE PPVs easily cost more than that by themselves.
As expected, these 17 matches are spread across three DVDs, each running from 2-3 hours apiece. The highlights include anything featuring former WWE employee CM Punk or Daniel "Mountain Goat" Bryan, as well as one-shot matches like the six-man Tag Team match from Elimination Chamber, Alberto Del Rio vs. RVD, the Triple Threat IC Match from Battleground, and several others. As for those two Divas Championship matches...well, they're probably on here out of some kind of contractual obligation or something. Intermittent lead-in segments are hosted by WWE interviewer Renee Young, giving this collection an accessible magazine-style format that casual fans should feel comfortable with. All things considered, this is a decent enough collection that, basic complaints aside, should appeal to those who want nothing more than a surface-level summary of 2013. Not surprisingly, die-hard WWE fans probably shouldn't bother.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and enhanced for 16x9 displays, Best Pay-Per-View Matches of 2013 is par with most current WWE releases...but that's not a free pass. Notable amounts of pixellation, mosquito noise, edge enhancement and compression artifacts can be seen during many entrances and fast-moving sequences, which has been a long-standing problem we've become accustomed to. Colors are generally bold and bright, though some of the warmer hues are often a bit too saturated. It's certainly not a five-star presentation but well within the standards set by their past WWE standard definition titles. Those hoping for a Blu-ray option, as offered in past years, will be disappointed.
DISCLAIMER: These compressed and resized screen captures are strictly decorative and do not represent this title's native 480p resolution.
The audio is presented in a robust Dolby 5.1 Surround mix, which does a fine job of recreating the WWE live experience. There's definitely some depth on occasion, which really helps to sell the experience and gives most of these matches an appropriately "big" feeling. Crowd noise and play-by-play commentary come through loud and clear, creating a satisfying soundstage overall. Though Spanish play-by-play commentary was included on most of the individual releases, there's no such option here. Unsurprisingly, optional subtitles or captions are not included during any of the matches.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the plain-wrap menu designs are basic and easy to navigate. This seven-hour compilation has divided into roughly two dozen chapters (one per match or hosted segment) while no obvious layer changes were detected during playback. This three-disc release is housed in a foldout digipak case and includes a complete content listing printed on the packaging interior. Due to the format and running time of this release, no bonus features have been included.
My regular exposure to WWE has diminished a bit in recent years, so collections like Best Per-View Matches 2013 offer an easy way to start getting caught up. This year's crop of matches, partially due to the company's habit of glossing over November and December, is very good at times but never crosses the barrier into "truly memorable" territory (and, with the recent departure of the well-represented CM Punk, things aren't looking much better in 2014). Still, there's more than 7 hours of watchable content here for under $30, which represents a good value for more casual fans of the sport. As expected, the A/V quality is right on par with recent WWE DVDs from this era, but the lack of a Blu-ray option may keep some folks away. Recommended, but only for those who haven't seen the bulk of these matches already.
Randy Miller III is an affable 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.