With WCW firmly old history in the eyes of WWE and all of its once famed top stars now well past their prime and into retirement, the WWE has been slowly but surely offering fans the occasional collection highlighting the glory days of its most feared competitor. Enter "WCW: The Greatest Pay-Per-View Matches- Volume 1" and for perhaps the first time, a WWE released WCW collection manages to highlight from stem to stern, the glory of WCW from its late NWA/pre-PPV days to its dismal final PPV, Greed. Hosted by WCW icon and legend, Booker T, the collection features more than 20 matches, all must sees and many pro-wrestling classics.
The first disc runs from 1987 to 1990 and to longtime fans, the matches fall more into the all-time greats category including the Chi-Town Rumble between Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat to a somewhat forgotten match between Lex Luger and Brian Pillman that showcased both performers early in their careers. The second disc is where things get more interesting, with the infamous Great American Bash '91 match for the World Heavyweight Championship wherein the crowd chanted "We Want Flair" over the match up of Lex Luger and Barry Windham. The match itself is far from technically sound, but in terms of company history, it's a key moment, solidifying Ric Flair as the heart of WCW for many fans. Other highlights include a fantastic match between Brian Pillman and Jushin Liger, exemplifying WCW's standard of giving the "little guy" a stage to shine for a national crowd as well as bringing foreign talent to the states and offering a new view of pro-wrestling.
The third and final disc is where I'd argue most WCW fans would be divided. Naturally it kicks off with the game-changing Bash at the Beach '96 that resulted in the formation of the nWo. From there are two truly great big time matches: DDP vs. Randy Savage and DDP vs. Goldberg. Those who have heard DDP interviewed recently will know the significance of those matches and the talent from all involved is undeniable. A lesser-known match resides with Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio, once again showcasing WCW's mid-90s roster of the world's best high flyers. The disc winds down with the best WCW had to offer during its slow death crawl including the last PPV World Heavyweight Match between DDP and Scott Steiner; fortunately this dismal end is preceded by another last gasp at cruiserweight stardom with 3 Count vs. The Jung Dragons vs. Jamie Knoble and Evan Karagias for a shot at their weight division's title.
The set is by no means comprehensive as evidenced by its "Volume 1" branding. There's a load of gold in the WCW video vaults and while this hits all the big moments (or at least key moments), future volumes will hopefully focus more on the cruiserweights and some of WCW's underrated tag division. One sad but understandable point of disappointment is the likelihood that not a single Chris Benoit singles match will ever make it to a DVD release; his bout with Dean Malenko at Hog Wild springs to mind and would have been very fitting on this release. At the end of the day, it's a reasonable business decision and as a whole, WCW and pro-wrestling fans should be pleased by the end result here.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is more than serviceable for the main bridging segments, with archival material varying in quality depending on its age.
The Dolby Digital English 5.1 audio is never utilized to full effect during the documentary portion, with the entire feature firmly rooted in a stereo soundscape. Archival footage is on par, if not bit flat and tinny at times. English SDH subtitles are included.
A great initial volume offering of the best WCW had to offer on its pay-per-view platform, the matches chosen remain classic rewatchable on a regular basis to more key moments in the company's history. The bottom line, is this set is a great trip down memory lane and a key addition to a pro-wrestling fan's library. Highly Recommended.