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Written By: Mark Armstrong
Running Time: 528 Minutes
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: January 12 2015
The year 2014 was a turbulent one for WWE. On one hand, we had the rise of Daniel Bryan to championship glory at WrestleMania XXX, the continued ascension of The Shield members before and after their break-up, the re-establishment of Brock Lesnar an absolute monster, and the debut of Sting at Survivor Series. On the other hand, we had the initial outrage at Daniel Bryan’s non-entry in the Royal Rumble match, CM Punk walking out the following day, the end of The Undertaker’s Streak at WrestleMania XXX and other moments of frustration (such as the repeated delaying of the WWE Network launch in the United Kingdom). If nothing else, it was a very memorable year, and many of the year’s biggest memories came on Pay-Per-View.
As we have seen previously, this DVD set brings us plenty of the best or most memorable PPV matches of the year. Like with previous sets, Survivor Series and TLC aren’t touched, and one or two omissions are surprising, as I will explain. This set also has a thrown-together feel to it by the generic artwork and the lack of a host. However, because it wasn’t released on Blu-ray (and wasn’t released in the United States at all, strangely), the running time is longer, giving us more action and basically more bang for our buck. (Okay, “bucks” are American currency and wouldn’t apply since it wasn’t on sale in the US, but the expression still works, dammit!).
This set, the fifth to focus on WWE’s PPV highlights, begins on a high with Daniel Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt from Royal Rumble; whilst slightly overrated, it is nonetheless a great opener to that show and this collection. You may not be shocked to learn that Randy Orton vs. John Cena from Rumble and Batista’s RR win, both of which were s–t on by fans for different reasons, are not included here. So, we jump to Elimination Chamber and what was arguably the year’s best WWE match: an outstanding six-man bout pitting The Shield against The Wyatt Family. Then, we have the Chamber main event inside the chain-link domed structure: Orton vs. Cena vs. Bryan vs. Cesaro vs. Sheamus vs. Christian isn’t talked about much these days, but as the evidence shows here, all involved put forth a great effort as a couple of storylines were advanced with WrestleMania in mind.
Speaking of WrestleMania, it was Daniel Bryan’s night, and here we get his two major matches from that show: an excellent battle with Triple H to enter him into the main event, and the headline bout against Orton and Batista which tells a logical story and ultimately provides an extremely satisfying conclusion to an unforgettable WrestleMania. Even better, because the DVD includes some promo videos, we get the awesome promo video (set to Monster by Imagine Dragons) which encapsulates Bryan’s rise perfectly. However, The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar – you know, the match where the Streak ended and which is already one of the most memorable moments in WWE history – is not here. Okay, so the match was a let-down, partly due to Taker suffering a concussion early on, but being such a shocking chapter in WWE’s lifetime, surely we should have still had it on this DVD? Even a few seconds of clips showing just the finish and the post-match fan reactions would have been worthwhile. Oh, well. Similarly, a quick recap of Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin and The Rock opening up Mania together in the ultimate feel-good segment would also have been appreciated.
Moving on to Extreme Rules for disc two, we get a Pre-Show match in this series for the first time with the surprisingly entertaining WeeLC bout between Hornswoggle and El Torito, which is enjoyable for everyone except vertically-challenged people, who may feel patronised by the overall match presentation. Big E vs. Bad News Barrett is basically filler; not sure why this is here, because it isn’t particularly memorable. The same cannot be said of The Shield vs. Evolution from the same show; whilst a shade inferior to Shield vs. Wyatts from Elimination Chamber, this is still a gripping six-man match and provides the Hounds Of Justice with a real boost.
Next up, it’s Payback, which treats us to Sheamus vs. Cesaro before their matches felt stale, and John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt is a really good Last Man Standing match filled with memorable spots. Although we aren’t shown footage as evidence until later on, Seth Rollins broke up The Shield after Payback, so the feud between him and Dean Ambrose runs into the Money In The Bank Ladder match which is next on the DVD. This MITB match is one of the best, in my opinion, partly because the rest of the cast seemed to have no chance of winning, so the action that we were treated to resulted in a much better bout than I was expecting. The second disc ends with a great Usos-Luke Harper and Erick Rowan clash from Battleground under Two Out Of Three Falls rules, and the Intercontinental Title Battle Royal from the same card which is pretty decent, but probably wouldn’t be described as one of WWE’s “Best Pay-Per-View Matches” in 2014.
Disc three now, and it’s onto SummerSlam, where WWE decides to focus on the mid-card for the purpose of this DVD. To that end, we get a rushed AJ Lee-Paige match, a well-executed yet not exactly classic Jack Swagger-Rusev bout (where the winner has their flag raised at the conclusion), and on a better note, one of the best Lumberjack matches that you are likely to see between Ambrose and Rollins; it descends into controlled chaos and is very well-received by fans in the Staples Center that night. Oddly, Brock Lesnar’s mauling of John Cena en route to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship from SummerSlam wasn’t included (maybe the producers dislike Brock?), but their very compelling Night Of Champions rematch is here. Before that, we get two other NOC bouts: The Usos vs. Goldust & Stardust (a good match, but inferior to the Usos/Wyatts bout from earlier) and a very good showdown between Chris Jericho and Randy Orton. The DVD ends at Hell In A Cell once again with a thrilling Dolph Ziggler-Cesaro match, also under 2 Out Of 3 rules, and Cena vs. Orton in a HIAC match (which is good enough to overcome fan apathy at their latest PPV meeting; you may spit out your drink when the pre-match promo video seems to put their feud on the level of Ali vs. Frazier, which is a laughable over-exaggeration).
Although there’s loads of action on offer and many of the matches are good, very good or excellent, the absence of Lesnar’s two biggest bouts from the year (which he ended as WWE Champ, don’t forget). And because Survivor Series and TLC are again omitted, we are denied the outstanding ten-man main event from Survivors that sees Sting’s historic first appearance in a WWE arena, as well as the hard-hitting Ziggler-Harper Ladder match from TLC. Why WWE won’t just delay the release to allow for this to be a true overview of the year gone by, I do not know. It’s more inexcusable here because the US market didn’t get it, meaning that a change to the format would have had a reduced impact. On the bright side, we do get nearly nine hours of action; and whilst the main DVD shows clips from matches not featured here (which WWE does not normally do on its home video releases), eagle-eyed viewers may spot a surprise at the end of the menu montage. Hint: think of a scary man with a lamb mask.
Summing this one up, the thing is: if you are interested in this DVD, there’s a good chance that you may have already seen the supershow matches on offer, and if you have the WWE Network (which is about to finally launch in the UK, or so one hopes!), you can access the top 2014 PPV matches with a few button clicks. Also hindering the DVD is Lesnar’s Streak-ending win over Undertaker and his SummerSlam annihilation of John Cena being excluded, and the inclusion of a fair amount of filler. However, there’s still a lot of high-quality action here, and whilst there was no definitive Match Of The Year in WWE, most of the top contenders are on this compilation. Despite the longer running time, it’s probably the weakest entry so far, but it is still a very entertaining round-up of a memorable year for WWE nonetheless.
Overall Rating: 7.5/10 – Good