Generic Pre-Review Wrestling Disclaimer: Long before my affinity for globetrotting documentaries, Martin Scorsese films and The Criterion Collection, I found a soft spot for professional wrestling. Don't ask me how this happened; it just did. Despite this declaration, I shower daily, all my teeth are accounted for, I have a college degree...and, most importantly, I have a wife with the same merits. I'm not alone, of course. The wrestling fans I know aren't slack-jawed yokels; they simply appreciate the spectacle and illusion that this genuine sport creates, in the same way movie lovers enjoy fast-paced fights and thrilling chase sequences. Long story short: we know this stuff is "fake", but we like it anyway. Give us a break.
Sometime during the last 15 years or so (beginning mostly with a series of low-tier events titled "In Your House"), WWE has managed to dilute their pay-per-views by offering them on a monthly basis. This isn't quite at the level of having Christmas every day, but you know what I'm trying to get at: special events just aren't as exciting when they're more frequent. Unlike, say, The Royal Rumble or Wrestlemania, these newer PPV excursions rarely have the pomp and circumstance of their "older brothers". At the very most, these events can be surprising: when a particularly memorable match or moment occurs, it helps to alleviate the $40 PPV fee (or ticket price, if you're part of the crowd)...but usually, these events represent a slightly longer hybrid of Monday Night Raw, Smackdown and whatever passes for ECW these days.
Unlike most of the other "lower-tier" pay-per-views, Cyber Sunday has something of an interactive gimmick that sets it apart from other monthly events; specifically, fans can vote online to determine certain aspects of every match. Whether it's the match stipulations or even the challenger(s) in a title defense, this approach creates a more spontaneous atmosphere that can make or break the three-hour event. Originally conceived as "Taboo Tuesday" in 2004---and switching to its current name (and timeslot) just two years later---the most recent installment of Cyber Sunday took place on October 26th, 2008 at the US Airways Center in Phoenix, AZ. Though the buy rate for this event showed a slight decline compared to last year's installment, it's a more impressive show overall.
NOTE: Due to the voter-determined nature of this event, the match listing below should be considered a spoiler...but since this release has been available for several months, it should be old news by now. Even so, please skip ahead to the technical review (and erase the screen captures from your memory) if you'd like to be surprised.
Complete Match Listing (as voted by WWE fans)
Rey Mysterio vs. Kane [No Holds Barred Match]
From start to finish, Cyber Sunday 2008 proved to be one of the most well-rounded WWE events in recent memory, thanks in part to the fan-driven atmosphere. The most credit, of course, goes to the athletes themselves, who manage to deliver a series of well-paced and suspenseful matches. Rey Mysterio and Kane lead things off---and though WWE's typical "David and Goliath" matches rarely run past the five-minute mark, this deliberate duel includes a number of near-falls and surprising comebacks. Matt Hardy's ECW Championship defense is another easy standout; the larger athlete squares off against a hungry young newcomer, who manages to give Hardy quite a run for his money. The Undertaker squares off against The Big Show in a satisfying big-man brawl, made even better by their fierce back-and-forth rivalry in the weeks leading up to this event. Both the WWE Championship and World Heavyweight matches are also excellent in their own right: from Hardy's daring attempt to bring home the gold to the rotating referees during Jericho vs. Batista, Cyber Sunday 2008 ends just as it began: on a high note.
In fact, aside from several between-match filler moments (here's looking at you, Diva fashion show), only one match sticks out like a sore thumb. Santino Morella and The Honky Tonk Man's Intercontinental bout is basically a joke, though it's hardly long enough to notice. What's even more frustrating, though, is that a superior pre-show match has been relegated to the bonus features (listed below), while throwaway moments like these manage to get time in the spotlight. WWE's history of burying talented athletes behind comedy relief---especially in the ranks of the underappreciated IC division---doesn't look to be stopping anytime soon, and Cyber Sunday 2008 mildly suffers for it. More athleticism and less gimmicks, please.
On the technical side of things, this DVD is on par with recent WWE releases: production values are decent enough and all matches are free from edits (aside from a flub made by Vickie Guerrero during the Undertaker-Big Show introduction, which has thankfully been corrected). Unfortunately, only two bonus features have been included, and only one is exclusive to this DVD release. This is bad news for those who already spent $40 on the PPV the first time around, though new viewers probably won't mind as much.
Presented in a 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio and enhanced for 16x9 displays, Cyber Sunday 2008 looks to be on par with most current WWE releases...but that's not necessarily a good thing. Notable amounts of pixellation, edge enhancement and compression artifacts can be seen during many entrances and fast-moving sequences, which has been a long-standing problem we've undoubtedly become accustomed to. Colors are generally bold and bright, though reds pop out almost unnaturally at times. Certainly not a five-star presentation overall, but this is probably about as good as we'll get from WWE.
The audio is presented in a robust Dolby 5.1 Surround mix, which does a fine job of recreating the WWE live experience. Crowd noise and play-by-play commentary come through loud and clear, creating a satisfying soundstage overall. A Spanish 2.0 play-by-play track is also available, though it's not quite as dynamic overall. As expected, optional subtitles and Closed Captions have not been provided.
Aside from that, we're also treated to a backstage Interview with Goldust, Roddy Piper and the Honky Tonk Man, in which the former superstars argue over who was the better IC champion (1:22). Not exactly first-rate material here, but fans may still want to give it a once-over. Like the main event, both extras are presented in 16x9 format, though the bonus match is window-boxed at 1.33:1. Similarly, neither one includes optional Closed Captions or subtitles.
Cyber Sunday isn't exactly known as one of WWE's "heavyweight" pay-per-views, but this 2008 installment proves to be an enjoyable and well-rounded event. Three of the four title defenses carry their own weight, while most of the mid-card matches keep the momentum rolling along nicely. A few obvious "filler" moments slow things down along the way, but they're not long enough to detract from the overall experience. On the technical side, this release maintains par with a passable technical presentation, though the bonus features don't exactly add a great deal of value. Relatively new WWE fans---and those who already saw the event live, of course---may be satisfied with a rental, but all other interested parties should be able to pick up Cyber Sunday 2008 for pennies on the dollar by now. Firmly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, second-guessing himself and writing things in third person.