Written By: Mark Armstrong
Running Time: 520 Minutes
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: November 5 2018
(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)
Over the last three years, AJ Styles has become one of WWE’s top stars, and arguably the company’s best in-ring performer. AJ had already established quite the legacy in wrestling due to his long list of great matches from his days in TNA, ROH and NJPW, but his WWE tenure has ensured that his body of work is now recognisable to wrestling fans all over the world, and ensures his place amongst the all-time greats. If all that wasn’t enough, his year-long WWE Championship reign has further established him as one of the best.
Given AJ’s popularity, talent and consistency, a DVD profile of The Phenomenal One was inevitable, and so we have this compilation which, as the name implies, runs through many of his best WWE encounters to date. The early portion focuses on his link with Chris Jericho; his first Raw match against Y2J in January 2016 is a good introduction for Styles to WWE fans, and the extremely short-lived Y2AJ taking on New Day is an underrated tag match from Raw in front of a typically rowdy Chicago crowd. This would set up AJ’s first WrestleMania bout against Jericho (which is very good, but inexplicably sees Y2J triumph), and a fine four-way the next night which earns AJ a WWE Championship match, kick-starting his World Title adventures that have continued on and off ever since.
AJ’s two PPV main events against Roman Reigns from Payback and Extreme Rules 2016 are here; the first bout is more than adequate, and their rematch under Extreme Rules is even better. Closing disc one is his win over John Cena from SummerSlam, which in my eyes was the best WWE match all year (at least if you ignore NXT-related activities). AJ was as hot as could be at this point, which feeds nicely into him winning his first WWE Title from Dean Ambrose at Backlash in one of Dean’s best singles matches. Their TLC rematch is also here; in hindsight, James Ellsworth helping AJ to win is a ridiculous decision, partly because the obvious fall-out – a Dean vs. James quarrel – didn’t really happen, and ultimately contributed to Ambrose losing much of his aura.
Styles’ first WWE Title run ends at Royal Rumble in another match with Cena, which is just as good, if not better, as their SummerSlam clash. A forgotten gem of a three-way against Cena and Bray Wyatt from a February episode of SmackDown is followed by his show-stealing clash with Shane McMahon from WM 33, which is far better than anybody expected it to be; it’s not quite a classic, but it was the clear in-ring highlight of that very long card. Disc two ends with another three-way, as AJ defeats Sami Zayn and Baron Corbin to enter the United States Championship picture.
Disc three kicks off with a hidden gem of a match between Styles and Chad Gable from SmackDown, and an exciting three-way with AJ, Kevin Owens and Jericho for the U.S. Championship, which was the in-ring high point of the (admittedly disappointing) AJ vs. KO feud. Surprisingly, AJ dethroning Owens for that title a few weeks earlier at a Madison Square Garden house show is not here (at least in full length), and I say that because word at the time was that the title switch at MSG happened partly for the purpose of showing the match on a later DVD set such as this one.
AJ moved past the U.S. gold to focus on the WWE Championship again, and his second WWE Title win over Jinder Mahal is the next match here. It’s quite the moment: not only is it Jinder’s best match, but his hugely unpopular WWE Title reign ending was a joy for fans to see, plus it happens in Manchester, England, creating additional history. Having attended this live, I can tell you that the reaction for AJ’s title win was something special, and possibly AJ’s finest moment in a WWE setting. Better still, AJ has reigned as WWE Champion and, in fact, is celebrating his one-year anniversary with the title as I write this.
Another benefit of him winning the title against Jinder was that it changed Survivor Series plans; instead of Mahal, it was Styles that fought Brock Lesnar, and their match is superb, arguably Brock’s best in years. AJ’s feud with Shinsuke Nakamura is covered by their bouts at WrestleMania 34 (which is good, but doesn’t meet expectations that suggested it would be an all-time classic) and Money In The Bank (under Last Man Standing rules, which ends an underwhelming rivalry on a high note). It randomly ends with another thrilling bout against Andrade “Cien” Almas from a July episode of SmackDown. Interspersed between matches are comments from the subject of the DVD himself.
As a round-up of AJ’s WWE tenure so far, this is brilliant. Almost all of his best matches are here (and to be fair, I can’t think of any glaring omissions off the top of my head), his two WWE Title wins and all three of his WrestleMania matches so far are present, and most of his top feuds are covered in some form. It’s possible that we get another AJ DVD in the future which acts as a full documentary, possibly with footage of his TNA and ROH tenures (which is more feasible a prospect than it has ever been, given how WWE has used footage from both companies on recent DVDs for the likes of The Hardyz and Kevin Owens). In the meantime, though, this is the perfect snapshot of AJ’s WWE run to date, and the best WWE DVD on a full-time performer in ages. It’s Phenomenal!
Overall Rating: 9/10 – Outstanding