By BOB KAPUR and MATT MACKINDER – SlamWrestling
Any time TNA puts out a compilation DVD, it’s really a roll of the dice as to what you’ll get.
With their latest release, Ultimate Matches, it’s not exactly a spectacular two-disc set, but it’s not a stinker, either. It’s a random compilation of some of the company’s top gimmick matches from as far back as 2004 and as recent as this year.
TNA has always prided itself on being innovative. This DVD showcases this by presenting some of the company’s many signature gimmick matches. The matches presented represent either the best or the worst of the company, depending on your perspective. If you enjoy TNA’s brand of action, then this set certainly delivers the goods.
But if you’re looking for something non-WWE, not so sure you should look to this TNA compilation.
The collection follows a fairly simple formula. After a brief video package introducing the match type, featuring brief sound bite snippets from some of the TNA stars, two or three matches of that type are shown in their entirety.
As always, “Bloodthirsty” Bob Kapur’s comments are in regular type and Matt Mackinder’s are italicized.
Three King of the Mountain matches are shown first. Even the wrestlers explaining the rules appear to be confused by the multiple stipulations.
Yeah, you’d think TNA would explain the “rules” of matches to the wrestlers before, you know, presenting it on DVD. Bush league right off the bat can NOT be a good sign.
The first one, from Slammiversary 2006, starts off with a major high spot, with Sting leaping off of the penalty box to the floor. A way overbooked finish sees outside interference from Larry Zbyszko and a biased referee in Earl Hebner help Jeff Jarrett get a screwjob win. A fun match, but the ending was unnecessarily convoluted. What’s funny is that if you’re wearing headphones, Don West sounds hilariously like Yosemite Sam.
The ending totally ruined this match for me. Sometimes, and this is sad to say, but Don West can carry a match. And Bob, why were you wearing headphones?
The second match was from Slammiversary 2007. This topped the 2006 version, with lots of crazy action throughout. I was at this show live, and can attest that the electricity in the crowd certainly comes through watching it unfold on-screen. AJ Styles is the particular standout in this match, and some of the things he does personify his ‘Phenomenal’ moniker –- though everybody else steps up their game as well, including eventual winner Kurt Angle.
Well said, Bob. I couldn’t have said it better myself.
The 2008 Slammiversary match is next up. Perhaps it was due to burnout from having just watched two other KoTM matches, but for some reason, this one seems less exciting than the other two. Christian Cage tries really hard with some crazy moves, but ultimately this one feels flat. Even the ending, which sees Samoa Joe hang the belt to get the win, seems anti-climactic.
I agree. KoTM overkill is in full effect here. That and I cannot stand watching what is known as a reverse ladder match. Kind of an asinine gimmick, but hey, that’s why I just get paid to watch DVDs and not produce them.
The Ultimate X matches are up next. These matches, TNA’s variation of a ladder match, have earned a reputation of being some of TNA’s greatest. The sample of matches presented largely support that assertion. The first, an X-Division title match pitting Petey Williams vs. AJ Styles vs. Chris Sabin, is a tremendous affair that provides more jaw-dropping moments than some entire pay-per-views do. What’s great about this one, and the 2006 No Surrender match pitting Christopher Daniels and AJ Styles against LAX, is that even without the gimmick, the matches would be stellar — the gimmick is only icing on what would otherwise have been a very delicious cake.
See, that’s why I think TNA overbooks their matches. Just let the guys do their thing straight-up. Gimmicks sometimes ruin matches that don’t need gimmicks. Just let the guys go in a one-on-one match or a normal tag match. Sometimes I think that the harder TNA works to try and be better than WWE, they do too much and instead take a step backward.
Both matches have enough daredevil moves to make them must-sees. Less vital, but fun enough to warrant inclusion, is the Bound for Glory 2007 match between LAX and Triple X (Senshi and Elix Skipper). The overkill matches in this section include a multi-staged elimination match where winners advance to a new gimmick match (psychology-wise, it’s dumb that a wrestler could theoretically sit back and do nothing and advance, whereas another guy who goes out and nearly kills himself risks getting eliminated).
Like I said, just book a damn match! Do away with gimmick after gimmick. Okay, I think I’ve said that enough.
Nonetheless, it’s a fun watch and is representative of how good TNA’s X-Division used to be back when it was the company’s main focus. The other is a royal rumble style gauntlet match from Victory Road 2007 that leads into an Ultimate X match after the last person enters the ring. Some craziness ensues, but by the end, you’re just too exhausted to care.
Craziness is an understatement, my friend. So is the word “overkill.”
The Six Sides of Steel match is the next one to be featured. Here, the DVD goes back a few years to the Triple X vs. America’s Most Wanted match from Turning Point 2004. Back in the day, these two teams, along with The Naturals, had some of the most memorable matches in TNA history. This match, the final encounter between Daniels and Skipper and Storm and Harris, was no exception. Although it is most famous for Skipper’s tightrope walk across the cage to hit the hurricanrana, that was just one highlight. Undoubtedly, this contest, which sees AMW get the win, took years off of each of the competitors’ careers.
The next two matches, from Lockdown 2005 and 2006, see Abyss face AJ Styles and Christian Cage, respectively. Unfortunately, the matches are way too similar (lazy booking according to Mackinder). Both matches start off outside, with the smaller man taking it aggressively to the monster before Abyss smashes them into the cage. Both matches also include a nearly-identical moment where Styles/Cage has climbed to the top of the cage, but then Abyss throws the ref into the cage wall, causing the wrestler to slip and nearly fall off the top to the floor, barely catching himself on the corner. Also, both matches feature Abyss getting thrown into a big pile of thumbtacks. Individually, and a year apart, the matches were great — but presented right after each other, the duplication comes across as kind of lame.
Lame. Lazy. Same difference.
The Full Metal Mayhem match is described by some of the specialists as a TLC-plus match. Two Abyss matches comprise this section, namely his 2005 Against All Odds match against Jeff Hardy, and his Sacrifice 2006 match against Christian. The Hardy one is memorable for his crazy Swanton dive off of the entrance ramp wall driving Abyss through a table. The Cage match also includes a lot of craziness, with Cage really putting on a great performance. Watching this portion of the set is a bit frustrating, since it reminds you of how good Abyss used to be back when his character was an unstoppable hardcore monster, before they watered him down.
Yes, well said. Abyss’ schtick was that he was dominant and uncontrollable and yes, a monster. Then that was changed and somehow he got the NWA title and I’m not even sure what his creative direction is these days. Didn’t TNA just fire some backstage people? Why no writers were included is beyond me.
The Monsters Ball is the next match type featured, represented by the Bound for Glory matches from 2005 and 2006. The 2005 match with Rhino, Abyss, Sabu, and Hardy is the better of the two. Man, I miss Sabu — nobody can throw a chair to somebody’s head quite like him (though to be fair, it helps greatly that few people can take those shots as good as Rhino). This one sees the gamut of weapons used, from ladders to thumbtacks to tables and chairs. This match sees Hardy risk life and limb once more, as he hits an insane Swanton off the top of the entrance ramp, over the stage, and through Abyss whose lying on a table on the floor beside the rampway. Meanwhile, Sabu battles it out with Rhino, putting the War Machine through a table and whipping him into a chair. Ugliness here, as Abyss dumps Sabu over the ropes, face-first onto a table. A piledriver off the middle rope on Hardy gets Rhino the pin and the victory.
The 2006 match drags by comparison, probably because it’s primarily a showcase for Samoa Joe who isn’t known in TNA for matches of hardcore violence, which is really what FMM is all about. Even the inclusion of Raven and Brother Runt (Spike Dudley) and the insertion of Jake “The Snake” Roberts as guest referee don’t help. Not a bad match, but compared to the first, it can’t compare.
Being at BFG 2006 live, I enjoyed this match. It did drag, yes, but seeing Jake’s reactions to certain moves was priceless. Runt taking a dive off the entrance ramp scaffolding courtesy of Abyss was a nice spot, but Joe didn’t really fit in, even though he won by pinning Raven. Jake bringing out his python was a treat for us ‘80s throwbacks.
It seems a bit anti-climactic after some of those gimmicks to end the DVD on a section on simple Ladder Matches, but that’s what happens here. The only one featured here is the match from Genesis 2007 when Christian battled Kaz. There are some crazy brutal-looking moves throughout this one, and while they don’t do anything that hasn’t seen before with the ladder, they still give it their all. Overbooking comes into play yet again, as the Christian Coalition come into interfere in this one. They screw it up, though, and Kaz is able to push Cage off a ladder to the floor before getting the win.
As I was watching this, I kept wondering how the DVD would end. I figured all the goodies had been shown, so what was left? This set definitely ends on a sour note, but doesn’t take a whole lot away from the compilation. The sequence could have been done better, but as I always say, I just get paid to review, not produce.
Overall, Ultimate Matches delivers exactly what the title of the set implies — it’s simply a series of TNA’s biggest matches. However, while the package is loaded in terms of quality and content in that regard, there is very little else offered. The vast majority of the matches are taken from recent PPVs, and once again, it seems the company has wasted an opportunity to delve into the archives a little bit — surely there were some gimmick matches from the weekly PPV days that could have been included? Also, there is nary a bonus feature to speak of. Why not have the competitors do guest commentary on their matches, for example? So if it’s matches you want, then Ultimate Matches will be a must-have addition to your collection. If you want anything more, though, then better look elsewhere.
On a scale of 1-10, this rates an average 5. It is what it is, and while that phrase may be a tad overused in today’s society (just like “agreeing to disagree” — what the heck???), this two-disc effort makes a good addition to any wrestling fan’s library, but if you buy all the pay-per-views, then you already have these on DVD. If you want it, buy it. If not, no big worry.
This set seems like someone just threw together a string of gimmick matches, packaged it with the “ultimate” moniker and decided to sell it. It’s a decent collection, but as has become commonplace with TNA productions, the laziness and overkill of what is being presented is what sticks with the viewer.
This was the second tag-team effort for “Bloodthirsty” Bob Kapur and Matt Mackinder. They’d ideally head to WWE to join the tag team division as The New Can-Am Connection, but what competition would there be?