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 believe it or not, 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.
Survivor Series is WWE's regular November pay-per-view; it's been a yearly tradition since 1987, shortly after the massive success of Wrestlemania III. As one of the "Big Five" PPVs (the others being Royal Rumble, Wrestlemania, Summerslam and King of the Ring), this annual event has enjoyed a great amount of success over the years. Though various championships are often on the line and featured as the main events, Survivor Series is known for several elimination matches of the same name that take place during the event. These matches are generally between two four-man (or woman) teams, while the individuals on each side are eliminated via pinfall and/or submission, giving a more weighted advantage to the team with more participants left. Of course, we're often teased with valiant one-man comebacks and fierce battles for survival, and that's part of the charm: Survivor Series is based on a simple gimmick that works, and it's one of the few regular WWE PPVs that hasn't changed its basic structure much during the last two decades.
My first real exposure to WWE/WWF, aside from the occasional match while channel-surfing, didn't occur until around 1993. So while I missed the first few years of Survivor Series, I caught just about every installment from then on. This second volume of WWE's continuing anthology series represents the beginning of a turning point for the struggling company; as a snapshot of WWF circa 1992-1996, this five-disc set shows the company on the road to securing their place in pop culture for a second time. The newly-named "Attitude Era" was just around the corner, with superstars like "Stone Cold" Steve Austin leading the way (The Rock actually makes his WWF debut during the 1996 installment, though in a much less cocky and charismatic manner). Many goofy characters and gimmicks were still around, but the company was shifting towards a much darker version of the clean-cut wrestling that older WWF fans were used to. It would lead to an exciting era for wrestling fans, and WWE's dynamic new approach---spurred on, of course, by competition from the now-defunct WCW and ECW---was beginning to show in almost every aspect of their product. On a match-by-match basis, here's what's included on Survivor Series Anthology, Volume 2:
(30 matches on 5 single-sided DVDs)
NOTE: Discs 1-5 can be found on Survivor Series Anthology, Volume 1, available separately.
Disc Six: Survivor Series 1992
The Headshrinkers vs. High Energy [Tag Team Match]
Disc Seven: Survivor Series 1993
Marty Jannetty, Randy Savage, Razor Ramon & The 1-2-3 Kid vs.
Disc Eight: Survivor Series 1994
Razor Ramon, The 1-2-3 Kid, The British Bulldog, Fatu & Sionne vs.
Disc Nine: Survivor Series 1995
Skip, Rad Radford, Tom Prichard & The 1-2-3 Kid vs.
Disc Ten: Survivor Series 1996
Doug Furnas, Phil Lafon & The Godwinns vs.
It's certainly not WWE's most consistent collection of pay-per-views, but Survivor Series Anthology, Volume 2 manages to deliver a few better-than-average matches and classic moments. Though its locker room had talent to spare, many of the prominent storylines and characters were products of a bygone era---and as the years wore on, fans began to notice. Goofy, fan-friendly gimmicks like "High Energy" (the tag team of Koko B. Ware and Owen Hart) and Hogan himself were eventually done away with, creating room for darker, more dynamic icons like "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Hardy Boyz. We don't see the clear-cut end of this transition, of course, since Survivor Series Anthology, Volume 2 stops just short of the full-blooded "Attitude Era"---and though we catch a glimpse of Austin, future icons like The Rock were still squeaky clean.
In any case, this collection of five consecutive Survivor Series events generally gets better as the years go on---except for the 1993 installment, which is easily one of the least essential. For the most part, the best matches are saved for the main events, especially during 1992, 1995 and 1996: Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels, Bret vs. Diesel and Michaels vs. Sycho Sid, respectively. All three offer plenty of high-risk moves, nail-biting suspense, close calls and a few unexpected twists along the way. Of course, several of the mid-card matches deliver as well: Randy Savage & Mr. Perfect vs. Ric Flair & Razor Ramon (1992), The Rock & Roll Express vs. The Heavenly Bodies (1993) and Undertaker vs. Mankind (1996), among others. The undisputed highlight of the mid-card matches, of course, is Bret Hart vs. the up-and-coming "Stone Cold" Steve Austin: though it's not quite as flawless as their submission match at Wrestlemania 13 less than six months later, it's still a classic bout between two competitors in their prime. Duels like these are often overlooked for the higher-profile WWF Championship matches, but they're equally as entertaining...and often more so.
Ironically enough, the Survivor Series matches themselves are fairly hit-or-miss, and the 1993 installment actually features one as the main event. This uneven level of quality, more often than not, is typically due to the characters involved; in short, it's usually just a bunch of bad guys and good guys haphazardly thrown together. This leads to matches fairly similar to an All-Star game: most of the athletes are capable enough, but they rarely shine as a cohesive unit. The chief exception is 1996's first match, featuring The Godwinns, Doug Furnas & Phil Lafon vs. The British Bulldog, Owen Hart, Leif Cassidy & Marty Jannetty: more than half of the participants are excellent competitors, and most of the lesser ones are eliminated early on. Lafon & Furnas are particularly excellent---and though this long-standing team was popular in Japan and ECW, the WWF never gave them a decent title run. But I digress: most of these Survivor Series brawls are strictly middle-of-the-road, neither the worst matches on the card or genuine highlights.
As a total package, Survivor Series Anthology, Volume 2 is no better or worse than the sum of its parts. On the technical side of things, this five-disc set is generally on par with modern WWE releases: production values are decent, entrance music is intact and full matches are included. As with several other vintage WWE releases, the company's former initials are audibly edited...though pre-Attitude Era "block" logos (and audible mentions of the company's complete former name) are left intact. Glaring edits aside, most wrestling fans should find this collection worth the price of admission; it's a bargain when compared to most other stand-alone PPV releases. If you've got a soft spot for this era of wrestling and several evenings to spare, Survivor Series Anthology, Volume 2 is worth a spin.
Presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Survivor Series Anthology, Volume 2 is easily on par with other like-minded WWE DVD releases...taking its age into account, of course. The company wouldn't switch to their now-regular 16x9 format for another decade or so, so fans of this era should know what to expect. Colors are generally a little on the dull side, on-screen graphics are crisp and black levels are usually solid. Several digital issues arrive in the form of pixellation and compression artifacts (especially during pyrotechnic sequences and crowd shots), which keeps this collection from looking as good as it ought to. With that said, these digital issues have affected all WWE DVDs thus far, so fans should be used to what's on display here.
The audio is presented in a fairly standard Dolby Surround mix; likewise, it's roughly on par with recent WWE releases. Crowd noise and regular play-by-play commentary come through loud and clear, creating a satisfying soundstage overall. Optional subtitles, Spanish commentary or Closed Captions are not offered during these events, unfortunately.
WWE has continued to release their massive pay-per-view library as digestible five-disc sets, but Survivor Series Anthology, Volume 2 isn't on bar with their better collections. This is mainly due to a substantial amount of less-than-impressive matches, even though plenty of memorable moments and classic bouts are peppered throughout. To the company's credit, everything from the original shows is included here (aside from the usual editing of the company's former name, as well as the dark matches)---and without a doubt, this package is quite a bargain compared to their regular stand-alone PPV releases. The technical presentation is on par with other WWE releases from this era, while the lack of extras is offset by the fourteen hours of included content. Casual fans will be happy with a rental, but die-hard WWE enthusiasts will want to grab Survivor Series Anthology, Volume 2. Mildly 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.