Running Time: 557 Minutes
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: February 11 2019
(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)
It’s once again time to reflect on another year of wacky happenings on both Raw and SmackDown with this annual recap. As ever, the timeline expires in mid-November, and it manages to pack in a fair bit of action to cover the year that was in WWE (on television, anyway).
It kicks off with a forgotten gem of a match between Roman Reigns and Samoa Joe, during Roman’s reign as Intercontinental Champion (which feels so long ago now). That is followed by Bobby Roode defeating Jinder Mahal to become United States Champion in his biggest moment since coming up from NXT, and two Asuka matches against Sasha Banks and Bayley (the Sasha match is the best of the two, partly because of the brutal bumps she takes). Next up, it’s AJ Styles vs. John Cena as part of Cena’s quest to get to WrestleMania; his victory here allowed him to participate in the Fast Lane main event, making it a six-pack challenge, which was ultimately won by AJ.
After a segment on Daniel Bryan being cleared to return to in-ring competition (which was probably the biggest positive story for WWE fans all year), we get Ember Moon’s main roster debut alongside Nia Jax against Alexa Bliss and Mickie James, and Carmella cashing in Money In The Bank on Charlotte Flair, as well as the first AJ vs. Bryan match in WWE. A great Raw main event between Seth Rollins and Finn Balor is arguably the top TV match of the year, which is followed by a less exciting scrap between Braun Strowman and Kevin Owens, and an enjoyable AJ vs. Shinsuke Nakamura encounter from London, England to finish disc one.
Disc two opens with a forgotten yet fun six-man tag as The New Day take on The Bar and The Miz, and then we get a gauntlet match to determine who would face AJ for the WWE Title at Extreme Rules (Rusev’s triumph was unexpected but very much welcomed). Then, it’s a cracking battle between Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler, and an entertaining bout between Shinsuke Nakamura (by now the U.S. Champion) and former titleholder Jeff Hardy. Next up, it’s Bobby Lashley against Roman Reigns to see who will face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at SummerSlam, and Ronda Rousey’s Raw debut against Alicia Fox. Sandwiched between two New Day matches against The Bar and The Bludgeon Brothers respectively is Roman vs. Finn Balor from the night after SummerSlam, which plays host to the surprise reunion of The Shield.
Onto disc three now, and we get Seth vs. Kevin Owens held in Canada, which seemed to set up an intriguing storyline of KO quitting WWE (only for him to return a week later with no real explanation given). Bryan vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas is really good, as one might expect, and Nakamura vs. Rusev led to a feud that has just recently turned into a partnership. Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre vs. The Revival is decent enough, before we get the segment where Elias and Owens are literally drowned in boos for several minutes straight. Then, we get the first appearance on the DVD for Becky Lynch (bear that in mind considering her current status) as she faces Charlotte Flair, as well as a forgettable Big Show-Randy Orton match from the same night. Surprisingly, there is nothing from SmackDown 1000 (or Raw 25, for that matter), but we do get Rollins/Ambrose vs. Ziggler/McIntyre on the night that Roman Reigns announced he had to leave WWE to battle leukaemia, with the big feel-good Tag Team Title change being followed by a shocking Ambrose heel turn. Rounding off the DVD is a huge ten-woman tag match that stars Trish Stratus and Lita, Kurt Angle vs. Drew McIntyre, Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade (which is superb), an Ambrose promo on why he betrayed Rollins, and AJ losing the WWE Championship to a heel-turning Bryan, which is a logical way to conclude proceedings, considering that nothing from late November onwards would be included.
As you can tell, the quality levels never drop at any point, meaning that almost all of the content is either good or better. I would say that we are lacking in terms of genuine, all-time unforgettable moments: DB confirming his return to the ring and the heel turns of Ambrose and Bryan are the only happenings which will be talked about for years to come that are included here. Of course, that is partly on WWE for not creating enough of those unmissable segments on its programming, but there definitely could have been more to savour on that front. There are also some notable absences with regards to the matches (the Ultimate Deletion between Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt being a good example), though many of the bouts here are adequate, very good or fantastic.
Overall, then, it’s a strong DVD showing, as is often the case for The Best Of Raw & SmackDown. In-ring standards are so high in today’s WWE that what would constitute a second-rate match today is still more than respectable. The upshot is that we take the matches on today’s television programmes for granted at times, and that’s hammered home with this DVD: few of the angles or matches truly stand out, but everything else is still worth watching. So, this is far from a must-see compilation, but it is still a very enjoyable wrestling DVD.
Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good