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Written By: Mark Armstrong
Running Time: 250 Minutes
Number Of Discs: 2
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: March 28 2011
The Nexus storyline was one of the best WWE plots in years when it first began in June 2010. Out of nowhere, the first group of NXT rookies suddenly destroyed John Cena, CM Punk and others while wrecking the ring and generally causing chaos. This invasion was designed for the newcomers to take control of WWE through sheer destruction. The hugely intriguing storyline took a big hit when they lost to Team WWE at SummerSlam, and the excitement had gone by the autumn months. In a last-ditch attempt to save Nexus, John Cena was made a reluctant member of the faction, with his fate to be determined in a major match between Wade Barrett and Randy Orton at Survivor Series.
It is on the road to SS where the November 2010 UK tour took place, and the Free Or Fired bout (if Barrett became WWE Champion, Cena would be free from Nexus, but if Orton retained, Cena would be fired; oh, and Cena was refereeing said match) is the focus of most of the television here. Raw builds to said bout with Cena refereeing a 10-man match involving Nexus, and he also gets a chance to face rebelling Nexus member David Otunga (another “two-in-a-row” series on UK tours). To be honest, the rest of Raw is pretty uneventful, with the only highlight being a (very entertaining) Teatime segment as Santino Marella and the now-comedic Vladimir Kozlov trying to make peace with Sheamus, but failing miserably. The sight of Divas wearing Liverpool kits made me smile, as did the unspoken irony of the Man United-clad side having to cheat to win.
Perhaps the most intriguing non-Nexus elements of Raw at this point were the ongoing developments involving certain characters. The Miz was the rising star by a wide margin, and despite being a heel, Miz was over like Rover in Manchester on this night. He would become WWE Champion within a matter of weeks via Money In The Bank, which believe it or not seemed entirely logical at the time. Meanwhile, Michael Cole was now a firmly-established heel announcer, albeit one who still demonstrated occasional babyface tendencies which was very confusing. And then there was the Anonymous Raw General Manager, who would email announcements into the show (“remember “And I quote” from Cole?), but with his identity remaining secretive. As it turned out, the saga was never properly resolved, but that’s a story for another time.
All of this, along with Daniel Bryan’s minor babyface push and his showstealing PPV matches, may make Raw seem really interesting. But the one thing missing from all of this was quality wrestling on a weekly basis, which we weren’t getting at the time, and certainly this show had only mediocre action at best. Add to that the ailing Nexus plot and you have a show which, despite clear signs of structure and development for certain talents, was at times a chore to watch. To be honest, it was only when The Rock surprisingly returned in February 2011 that Raw became interesting again. So, don’t expect much from this Raw; as noted, Santino’s Teatime is probably the highlight.
NXT was based around women at this time, and if you remember NXT Season Three, you’ll know that it was treated appallingly by announcers Michael Cole and Josh Matthews. Strangely, that was part of its charm: watched in mute, NXT on this DVD is uninteresting, but with commentary, you will laugh your head off. Really, as counter-productive as the announcing is, it is undeniably hilarious at times. It is still interesting to see AJ and Kaitlyn in their early days, mind you. Superstars is alright but at this point is complete filler, although Drew McIntyre (whose push was over by now) vs. Kaval is pretty decent.
As for SmackDown: it was based largely on the Edge-Kane feud, which would take a strange turn at the end of this very show when Edge kidnapped the recently-returned Paul Bearer. Yup. Before then, Edge battles Otunga in a match which had Raw/Nexus implications (the brand extension was fading by this point), and Kane takes on Big Show in an okay main event. We also see relative newcomer Alberto Del Rio take on Kofi Kingston, and an alright Intercontinental Title match between Dolph Ziggler and MVP. That’s your show, pretty much. Oh, and “Dashing” Cody Rhodes insults the UK fans (in admittedly funny fashion). It was watchable and at times entertaining, but it was only the best show of the week by default. The only extra is the Kane-Undertaker match from Mayhem In Manchester 1998 (well, highlights of it anyway), which is relevant considering that Kane was just coming off a(nother) feud with Taker at this point.
I attended these tapings (I actually won the SmackDown tickets in a WWE Magazine competition), and I couldn’t help but compare it to the last Manchester double-header of tapings in 2008. The number of big names who had left was shocking (Michaels, Batista, Jericho, The Hardyz), and some were off TV for various reasons (Undertaker, HHH). Their absences had yet to be filled, and the overall wrestling quality had declined, as had the number of intriguing storylines (Nexus was the only memorable plot going on, and even that had suffered since the summer of 2010). The shows were still entertaining from a live perspective, but it was clear that WWE was struggling both commercially and critically. Fortunately, things would take a turn for the better on the Road To WrestleMania XXVII.
This is worth watching from a historical standpoint, but I can’t honestly say that this is a DVD that you should own.
Overall Rating; 5.5/10 – Above Average