Whether WWE considers TNA Wrestling to be fully competitive or not, one could make an argument that TNA has the better product in at least two areas, namely the Tag Team and the Cruiserweight, or X, divisions. Each of these areas are given the spotlight in two recent DVD releases.
The Best of the Tag Teams: Volume 1 is primarily a compilation of matches featuring several of the company’s top tandems, namely America’s Most Wanted, Team 3-D, the Naturals, the Voodoo Kin Mafia, LAX, and the pairing of AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels. The set is fairly bare-bones and is broken up into mini-profiles on each team. Mike Tenay and Don West start off each segment by saying a few words about the team, and then two or three of their matches are shown. The bouts are a mix of those shown on TNA Impact and from Pay-Per-Views from throughout 2006, including a couple within the company’s signature Six Sides of Steel, some street fights, and an 8-team battle royal.
There’s really little more that can be said about this DVD. If you’re a fan of these teams, or of tag team wrestling in general, and you haven’t seen these matches, then I would suggest you give this a try. If, however, you’ve seen these matches already, then I would suggest you take a pass.
It’s too bad that TNA didn’t invest a little more time into Tag Teams to add some value for the price. For example, having the teams do a DVD-only interview or guest commentary over their matches. Maybe dip into the house show tapes and show a match that hasn’t aired before on TV or PPV. For example, the amazing match from Hardcore War in Philadelphia where Team 3-D brawled with AMW and VKM when they were still known as the James Gang. That match is alluded to in a bonus promo, so why couldn’t it have been shown?
Even the “Bonus” features leave you longing, as they are limited to a handful of pre-match promos from the featured matches. While these are pretty good — after all, the tag division does have some great talkers like BG James, Konnan (for LAX) and Brother Ray — it still leaves you wanting more. Where’s a promo from Shane Douglas, who was managing the Naturals for most of 2006? What about some bloopers from the VKM skits where they declared war on Vince McMahon (assuming, of course, that there are any)? why not dip into the archives and show a match or two from the original weekly PPV days?
It’s a blown opportunity, in my view, that nothing special was done for this DVD. For a compilation such as this one, which features some solid and exciting tag team action, why not give people who have already seen these matches an alternative reason to buy this?
Indeed, it is exactly that sort of content that makes Phenomenal: Best of AJ Styles Volume 2 such a good offering. In addition to several of Styles’ matches, the DVD also includes a full personal profile of the man who has shone brightly since day one of TNA five years ago.
The matches are a good cross-section of Styles’ career, and really demonstrate how multi-talented he is. They include a number of matches from 2005 and 2006, including various battles in TNA’s singles and tag team divisions, against opponents like Abyss, chris Sabin, Petey Wililams, and Jeff Jarrett. Like the Tag Teams DVD, they are all matches that have been seen on TV and PPV.
But unlike that set, Phenomenal is chock full of other material that makes for an interesting watch. There is a documentary interview, where AJ talks us through his entire life story. He tells the viewers about his humble childhood growing up in a trailer, to his indy career, his stint in WCW and his life in TNA Wrestling. He also goes into his life outside of wrestling, particularly his wife and family, and gives fans a full perspective of the man behind the persona. Having met AJ a few times, I can say that he’s a genuinely nice guy, and this really comes through in this interview section.
Even better than that, though, the Bonus features include a rare match from AJ’s days in NWA Wildside, the company he was with before TNA. AJ does the commentary for the match with another Wildside personality, but this is more like an extended Q&A as opposed to straight commentary. Some interesting tidbits about his early career come through in this — information that wasn’t touched on in the documentary — so it’s not just “Bonus” material in name only. with those features, even if you’ve seen all the matches before, it’s still worth buying Phenomenal.