06th Sep2013

‘The Best of WWE at Madison Square Garden’ Blu-ray Review

by Chris Cummings

WWE-BestofMSG

The Best of WWE at Madison Square Garden is an interesting release from WWE and it’s nice to see them going into the massive video library at their disposal and putting together a compilation of matches and segments that is a little different to the usual things they put out.

The DVD is on three discs and the Blu-ray, which I will be reviewing, is on two discs. The quality of the picture improves as the matches progress, with earlier matches from the 1970’s being a mixed bag in quality of sound, picture and match content. We see early matches with the likes of Bruno Sammartino, The Iron Sheik, Bob Backlund and Billy Graham which vary in terms of entertainment value but are good to see as a history lesson. The Sheik/Slaughter boot-camp brawl is a fun watch but I imagine many of today’s casual wrestling fans will find much excitement in the headlock heavy contests that begin this presentation.

We move on through the 80’s, 90’s, 00’s and up to current day. There are standout contests in the set, such as the excellent SummerSlam 1991 battle between Bret “Hitman” Hart and Mr Perfect, the famous ladder match from WrestleMania X between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon and many more. We get the debut of Rocky “The Rock” Maivia from 1996, and some historic segments such as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin stunning Vince McMahon for the first time ever in 1997.

The talking heads are mostly good, with the likes of Sheik, Harley Race, Howard Finkel, Vince McMahon and others talking about the Garden and its importance to the WWE and those that have performed there. There are some odd choices for talking heads too, such as The Miz gushing over The Ultimate Warrior at one point. Matt Striker is the host and offers commentary on an early Backlund/Patera match. He is often distracting and it feels like he’s reading from a wrestling encyclopaedia much of the time, but there have been worse hosts and at least his factoids make sense and help move the presentation along smoothly. Personally I would have preferred a wrestling veteran with alot of general knowledge, such as Jim Ross, to host the set, but we can’t always get what we want.

Disc one ends with a house show match between Kevin Nash and Bob Backlund from 1995 in which Nash wins his first WWF title. Disc two covers the attitude era and beyond featuring the names of those days. Recent and current performers are featured too, such as John Cena and CM Punk. It’s got enough mixture as a set to appeal to old and new fans, casual and hardcore. It’s a nice, easy to watch, history lesson of the wrestling business and the important role that Madison Square Garden has played in WWF/E’s times gone by and continues to play today. The key players are all here, from Hogan and Andre, through Shawn and Bret, all the way past The Rock and Austin, and up to Cena and Punk. It’s laid out simply and I can’t fault the way in which each match is introduced with relevant comments by people who have worked in one of the most famous venues on the planet.

To fans of what the business used to be, as well as fans of what the business is today, I recommend picking The Best of WWE at Madison Square Garden up. The Blu-ray looks good, especially the second disc which runs from 1996 to present day. If any venue deserved a compilation set released regarding its importance to professional wrestling and sports entertainment, then MSG is certainly the one. Check it out.

The Best of WWE at Madison Square Garden is released on DVD and Blu-ray on September 9th.

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