DVD Review: The Best Of Raw – 15th Anniversary – WWE

Image Source: Amazon

Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 530 Minutes
Certificate: 18
Number Of Discs: 4
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: April 14 2008

It’s Raw week on Writebase! Under profile here is a four-disc DVD which was released in early 2008 to mark the first 15 years of Monday Night Raw, consisting of a disc dedicated to a five-year period and a bonus disc (more on that later). It is a mixture of matches and segments from 1993 to 2007 and at some point features most of the top WWF/WWE stars of the 15-year period. A lot of the matches are not going to blow anybody away, but there are some gems in there; however, this DVD is largely characterised by the segments, and the vast majority are historic in Raw lineage and are very entertaining.

We open with a quick look at a Raw episode 1 before Raw’s two most notable matches of 1993 (held on the same night, actually): the 123 Kid’s incredible upset win over Razor Ramon and a great Intercontinental Title bout between Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels. A brilliant 1994 WWF Title match between the Kid and Bret Hart is a standout, although the talking point of Owen Hart vs. Shawn from 1995 is HBK’s apparent collapse (I only discovered years later that this really was part of the show). Non-wrestling moments are infrequent here, from a fight on the streets (which is different to a Street Fight) between HBK and Mr. Perfect to the mystery of The Undertaker as investigated by Leslie Nielsen in his guise as Lt. Frank Dreben from The Naked Gun (see my other reviews to read about this brilliant comedy trilogy of movies).

The complexion of Raw changes in 1996: whilst we get an Undertaker-Mankind match, we see more angles, increasing in controversy (Vader’s attack of on-screen figurehead Gorilla Monsoon, Goldust “reviving” Ahmed Johnson and the frightening Brian Pillman-Stone Cold Steve Austin incident). The year 1997 is eventful: in the ring, we get a superb British Bulldog-Owen match and an exciting USA-Canada Flag match, whilst outside the ring we see a recap of the original ECW invasion, Stone Cold’s first Stunner on Vince, the infamous “Bret screwed Bret” speech post-Montreal, and suggestive segments involving Sable and a new unit called D-Generation X to conclude disc one.

The years 1998 and 1999 have very few matches on the DVD (a Vince-Austin match which doesn’t happen, a historic WWF Title bout between The Rock and Mankind and a Stooges-Mean Street Posse comedy match which apparently broke ratings records), but there is a good reason why. This was the apex of the Attitude Era, and so we get a ton of memorable segments: the classic Stone Cold-Mike Tyson confrontation (“Tyson and Austin!”); The New Age Outlaws launching a dumpster containing Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie; X-Pac joining D-Generation X; DX impersonating The Nation Of Domination; Stone Cold’s brilliant segments with Vince involving a Zamboni, a hospital bedpan (preceded by the debut of Mr. Socko), a cement truck and a toy gun with the message “Bang 3:16”; Austin’s Beer Truck and Monster Truck invasions from spring 1999; a recap of the reveal of Vince as Greater Power for the Corporate Ministry and Austin as CEO (this tremendous segment should have been here in full); arguably Raw’s best debut ever for Chris Jericho; the hilarious “This Is Your Life” for The Rock as presented by Mankind; and clips of the original McMahon-Helmsley wedding (which also should have been here in full).

There were other memorable moments from the time period not here, from Undertaker “sacrificing” Austin to Rock and Austin scrapping on a bridge, but I guess you can’t have everything, and almost everything that is here from the era is classic. The remainder of this disc is shorter and covers 2000-2002; due to the (justifiable) focus on 1998 and 1999, a lot of key occurrences from this period are not here, but it does include a Jericho-HHH WWF Title match from 2000; a feature on the WCW buyout and Raw/Nitro simulcast (this segment definitely should have been here in full); the end of Austin Appreciation Night (ditto); Triple H’s return in Madison Square Garden; the Rock/Hulk Hogan confrontation in Chicago; and the shocking debut of Eric Bischoff.

Disc 3 covers 2003-2007, beginning with angles including The Rock Concert and Kane unmasking for 2003 (where was Goldberg’s debut?), and a game of Musical Chairs hosted by Eugene (Ric Flair is hilarious here), Evolution turning on Randy Orton and a strange segment parodying the US’s Monday Night Football for 2004. We then enter 2005 with Batista’s classic turn on HHH, followed by a superb Michaels-Shelton Benjamin match (ending with the best Sweet Chin Music ever); John Cena being Drafted to Raw (a major event at the time); Shawn shockingly superkicking Hogan; and the end of Chris Jericho’s first WWE tenure. That year also included Raw Homecoming, represented here by a Kurt Angle-HBK 30 minute Iron Man match and Austin Stunning all four McMahons. From 2006, we get the Live Sex Celebration involving Edge and Lita, a great send-up of Vince and Shane McMahon by DX, and a Cena-Edge-RVD scrap for the WWE Title. The main programme of the DVD ends in 2007 with a really good Michaels-Edge Street Fight and HBK returning from injury to superkick the then-new WWE Champion Randy Orton.

Some notable absentees in this section include coverage of the Mick Foley-Orton feud from 2003-4, more from Edge’s feud with Cena in 2006 and the great Cena-HBK match from London in 2007. Still, the period is covered fairly comprehensively, and proves that Raw still provided a lot of memorable moments after the end of the Attitude Era. The DVD set includes an extra disc for the very first episode of Raw on January 11 1993. It’s also worth noting that the DVD includes on-screen trivia notes throughout, which are intriguing at times but, given the choice, having an option to turn them off would have been better.

In hindsight, what Raw moments would have made an additional disc or two to run up to the modern day? My wish list would include highlights from the actual 15th Anniversary (and 20th Anniversary) shows; Jeff Hardy’s insane Swanton off the Titan Tron onto Randy Orton; Ric Flair’s farewell ceremony; CM Punk cashing in Money In The Bank in 2008; Randy Orton punting Vince McMahon and his feud with HHH; sections on the guest hosts and the 2009-2010 Taker-Shawn feud culminating in his goodbye; Bret Hart’s return; the arrival of the Nexus; The Rock returning in 2011 and his feud with John Cena; the Undertaker-HHH double comeback; Edge retiring; CM Punk’s “pipe bomb” speech; HHH becoming COO; Brock Lesnar returning; a feature on Raw 1000; Dolph Ziggler cashing in MITB and the Fandango craze from the same show; the arrival of The Wyatt Family; Hulk Hogan’s 2014 return; the Occupy Raw segment involving the Yes Movement; the reunion of Evolution; The Shield breaking up; Sting making his Raw debut; and great matches involving Cena, Punk, Daniel Bryan, The Shield and The Wyatt Family, amongst others. If you agree or disagree, leave your comments below!

Returning to the time period under review here, this DVD is a great collection of classic matches and moments from WWE’s greatest TV show, despite a lot of glaring omissions. Those who buy these releases for the bouts may be disappointed, although some gems are here; but for those who want a round-up of the first 15 years of Raw’s greatest moments, in and out of the ring, this compilation is an essential purchase.

Overall Rating: 9.5/10 – Classic