DVD Review: John Morrison: Rock Star – WWE

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Image Source: Amazon

Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 168 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: May 10 2010

With three-disc sets being the norm nowadays, even for compilations undeserving of the extended treatment, it was good to see a change in the formula for this single-disc release on John Morrison, at a time when he was one of WWE’s top rising stars. This DVD brings together eight Morrison matches, along with comments from Morrison about his career and about his passions outside of the ring, such as parkour (which would later be used as part of his character) and surfing. The DVD tries to show Morrison’s sense of humour in segments on The Dirt Sheet and answering fan questions, although the clips from the Dirt Sheet (which he sued to host on WWE.com with The Miz) are mostly embarrassingly unfunny, and the humorous answers only provide mild chuckles.

The real purpose of this is to demonstrate Morrison’s wrestling ability. We aren’t really enlightened into his career prior to becoming John Morrison (he co-won Tough Enough in 2003, trained in OVW after that for around a year, had a short-lived run as Eric Bischoff’s assistant Johnny Nitro on Raw before returning to OVW, came back to the main roster alongside Joey Mercury and then-girlfriend Melina as part of the dynamic MNM act in 2005, had a decent solo run from 2006-7 and after becoming ECW Champion at Vengeance 2007, as a replacement for Chris Benoit on that fateful weekend, he shortly renamed himself John Morrison in a segment on ECW which is included as a DVD extra), so the first bout comes from Morrison’s ECW Title reign; or, more accurately, the end of this run. His title-losing effort to CM Punk is a tremendous match, though, and probably the best ever match on WWE’s ECW show. Given that he originally became champion due to Benoit’s absence, which led to a raid of Benoit’s doctor Phil Astin’s surgery and the enquiry into what would become the Signature Pharmacy scandal, it is slightly ironic that Morrison was amongst those caught up in the scandal, meaning that this title loss was necessitated by his resultant suspension (and Punk, the noted straight-edge wrestler, was the man who beat him).

On a lighter note, Morrison rebounded by overachieving with his team alongside Miz, which went so well that it prepared Miz for an unimaginably successful solo run. The match from their double tag title-winning run comes in a non-title clash with D-Generation X leaders Shawn Michaels and Triple H from the Raw episode that celebrated 800 episodes (note that this wasn’t the 800th episode; it’s too long to explain). Right after the 2009 Draft split up Morrison and Miz, Johnny boy had his final ECW bout with Evan “Air” Bourne, which is the next clash featured here, and is an underrated gem of a match, and a sign that Bourne should be amongst the names that WWE could have looked to rehire ahead of this year’s Brand Extension (come to think of it, WWE should rehire Morrison too, if they are legally able to do so given his Lucha Underground status).

After that, the focus for the remainder of the DVD switches to Morrison’s SmackDown tenure. From May 2009 onwards for a good few months, SmackDown was a fantastic wrestling show; each week, it had one or two great wrestling matches, generally consisting of two or more from Rey Mysterio, Jeff Hardy, Edge, Chris Jericho, CM Punk and Morrison himself. The final five matches of this eight-bout DVD see the former Johnny Nitro take on each of the aforementioned names, with mixed results when it comes to wins and losses, but with each one of them being a strong wrestling encounter.

Morrison vs. Chris Jericho from Superstars is very good, and note how Y2J makes sure to remain the heel and cheats to win, which is picked up by announcers Jim Ross and Todd Grisham (the latter is an area where WWE does not succeed today). The episode of SmackDown which aired the next night featured the following match on the DVD, Morrison vs. Edge, which is superb; if not for another encounter later in the DVD, it would have been the best WWE television match of 2009. Edge makes Morrison look great, and even though the veteran comes out on top, the match greatly enhanced the younger Morrison.

Next up, Morrison scores an unlikely win over then-World Heavyweight Champion CM Punk (who was in the middle of a slow-burn heel turn) in a match which is exciting, but is inferior to Morrison vs. Edge. Morrison vs. Jeff Hardy five weeks later for the title is excellent; it’s hard to envision a better situation when you have a rising star losing his big World Title opportunity, because it didn’t harm Morrison one bit. (Although it has no relevance to Morrison, it’s a minor disappointment that the post-match capers, where Punk completed his heel turn on Jeff, aren’t included here.) The DVD ends with a bang; a genuine classic between Morrison and Rey Mysterio for the Intercontinental Title. Morrison’s biggest triumph in WWE is a flawless battle, the best of many great SmackDown bouts in 2009, and had this not been the year when The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels ascended to new heights at WrestleMania 25, this would have been the undisputed Match Of The Year. (As an aside, this result was instigated by Mysterio violating the Wellness Policy, making it the third title change scenario involving Morrison that was caused by a suspension or an absence of some kind.)

Watching this, I tried to work out why SmackDown in 2009 felt better than Raw does today, even though both boasted or currently boast great matches every week (and Raw had the full roster prior to the latest Draft). Besides the superior creative for SmackDown seven years ago, and two top bouts in two hours being better than one or two great matches over the course of three hours, the main thing I noticed here was the selling. Matches start fast-paced but slow down as the competitors have taken a visual beating, and the wear and tear is evident in the final few minutes of each match. Wrestlers looked strong, even in defeat, and results had an impact on future developments. Selling is the key, whereas today Dean Ambrose or Seth Rollins will have a great 20-25 minute match but won’t look any worse for the wear at the end, meaning that the matches have less of an impact. If wrestlers today did a better job of selling, the product would seem a lot better. And matches today have that 50/50 feel to them, rather than being a case of who is the best on the night wins, and goes on to achieve bigger things.

Returning to the DVD subject: this is a fantastic look at part of Morrison’s career, especially the 2009 bouts. There isn’t one weak match on the DVD, and besides the good-but-not-great tag bout, they are all either very good, excellent or, in the case of Morrison-Mysterio, classic. It’s hard to believe from watching this that Morrison ultimately did not end up capturing either the WWE or World Heavyweight Titles. Certainly, a 2010 push for the gold seemed assured, and Morrison becoming champion of the SmackDown brand would have been greatly welcomed by fans. Somehow, it didn’t happen, and so Morrison’s fans are left hoping for a day when he might return to WWE, having left in late 2011, and become World Champion then. Otherwise, fans of the current Johnny Mundo can still enjoy his work on Lucha Underground.

Nevertheless, considering that the single-disc nature of this DVD makes this seem less important than most DVDs released around the same time, and despite the disappointing absence of any pre-Morrison content, this is an excellent wrestling DVD that provides a nice look back at a great time for wrestling action on SmackDown, and a look at someone who seemed destined to achieve great things. Who knows whether he will in future?

Overall Rating: 8.5/10 – Excellent