June 14, 2005
Raven, Final Resolution DVDs hold up well
By GREG OLIVER - Producer, SLAM! Wrestling
In the end, a wrestling DVD is only as good as its matches. All the bonus features, whiz-bang graphics and cool packaging help, sure, but you'll only pop in the DVD for a second viewing if there's something great. To that end, TNA's Final Resolution delivers, while with Nevermore: Best of Raven, the matches are good but the bonus commentary steals the show.
Final Resolution was TNA's first PPV of 2005, and is headlined by Jeff Jarrett versus Monty Brown for the NWA world title. Brown got to the match by winning a Last Man Standing bout against Diamond Dallas Page and Kevin Nash earlier in the show.
The Jarrett-Brown battle is good, but nowhere near great. Brown is still too light on his selling, and the devotion to guitar shots and chair shots gets downright silly. Having such a newcomer to the upper tiers of wrestling's main eventers work two matches in one night has to be questioned.
What people will really want the Final Resolution DVD for are the other two title matches.
The Ultimate X match, with Petey Williams defending against AJ Styles and Chris Sabin, is simply phenomenal, every pun intended. Styles just does a masterful job of selling an arm injury en route to the win, a fact reinforced by the best of the bonus features -- an aerial view of some of the greatest moments from the Ultimate X match.
The rest of Team Canada face America's Most Wanted in the other title match, a thrilling back-and-forth affair that was as solid as can be.
Most of the rest of the show was pretty forgettable, though all the matches had their moments: Jeff Hardy versus Elvis-lookalike Scott Hall with Roddy Piper hobbling around as the special referee; Raven versus Erik Watts; Dustin Rhodes versus Kid Kash; The 3Live Kru versus Christopher Daniels, Michael Shane & Frankie Kazarian; and Elix Skipper vs Sonjay Dutt.
The bonus features, as mentioned, are topped by a great viewed-from-above perspective of the Ultimate X match. The rest of the bonus features help round out characters a bit, perhaps, with pre-entrance cameras honed on Styles, Daniels, "Wildcat" Chris Harris, Shane & Kazarian and others. The part with Shane Douglas' son was cute though.
The word cute has never been used to describe Raven, however.
Nevermore: The Best of Raven is a hard-hitting, violent DVD that shows both his strengths in the ring -- creativity, aggressive, drive and colorful characteristics -- and his weaknesses -- repetition of moves, especially the chair and table spots and ref bumps / pulled from the ring. Of course, it really should be titled The Best of Raven in TNA, though, since the great stuff with Raven over the years is pretty well all owned by Mr. McMahon now. (A true Best of Raven from his his career would have had Scotty Polo using the hockey stick to help the Quebecers win the WWF tag titles and Scotty the Body promos from Portland!)
The matches take us right from Raven's TNA debut, through bouts with Sandman, Styles, Jarrett and his battles against Jim Mitchell's New Church, including his defrocking in a hair-vs-hair match against Shane Douglas. (The haircut itself is among the most gruesome things on the DVD; don't let Mitchell cut hair on TV again!) The two four-way matches -- Raven vs. The Truth vs. AJ Styles vs. Abyss; Deadly Draw for the NWA World Title: Raven vs. The Truth vs. AJ Styles vs. Chris Harris -- don't spotlight Raven quite as much, though they are enjoyable matches.
More true to the deviancy that we've come to expect from Raven is the buildup to, and the match with, the one and only Sabu. Raven's promos are masterful, and really shine because of the lack of them on the rest of the two-DVD set. His beatdown on Sonjay Dutt to provoke Sabu is gruesome and twisted. The Sabu-Raven match, however, is almost a let-down after the set-up.
While TNA announcers Mike Tenay and Don West do a good job explaining storylines and the matches in the ring on the DVD (Vince Russo's brief contribution is horrible however), it is the bonus feature with Raven and Terry Taylor calling matches that are the highlight of the DVD. The two chosen matches are Raven vs Chris Harris and Raven vs Styles, and they roll nicely into each other.
"Do you know what a scary, demented man I am?" Raven asks at one point. Raven veers all over the place on the often laugh-out-loud commentary:
Taylor's contribution is just enough too; he can keep Raven into the match while offering his own contributions and humor (especially in regards to Red Rooster-type moves).
The commentary (which sounds like it was recorded in a box) is pseudo kayfabe. They talk about the matches and strategy like it is legit, but then every so often, Raven lets the curtain hang open -- "Look at me selling that. I'm so talented" he brags after a shot to the announcers' table.
After the fun you'll have listening to Raven, it'll be impossible not to wonder why he wasn't heard more on the DVD.
Final Resolution matches:
The Best of Raven matches/features: