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Mr. Tito's PHAT Video Review - WWE Best of "In Your House" Blu-Ray Review
By Mr. Tito
May 10, 2013 - 12:22:20 PM
Hey guys... Old man Mr. Tito here! I've been at this since October 1998. Yes, I know, it's sad... But to be able to hold up this big megaphone in front of the great LordsofPain.net / WrestlingHeadlines.com keeps me coming back for more! In the past, and we're talking late 1990's and the first half of the 2000's, I did many reviews on wrestling books, video games, videos, and even audio CD's. My review archive is quite extensive (CLICK HERE) and I'm amused at how much of my disposable income I spent on wrestling stuff back then. I gave it all away in a trivia contest, so one lucky fan out there still has my stuff. I'm most proud of the BOOK reviews, as that was time consuming and I was pretty timely on getting the books and completing them for a review.
In recent times, I have been buying various WWE videos. In some cases, I've been buying DVD collections that the WWE released years ago and have been marked down in price. In other instances, I've bought some recently released WWE videos. CM Punk's awesome video and the re-released New World Order videos come to mind. But I have been trying out WWE's Blu Ray videos, too. The NWO was on Blu Ray, although I have mixed feelings about buying older stuff on the Blu-Ray format due to how Standard Definition (SD) stuff is often presented on High Definition (HD). Why? I have a 52 inch widescreen television in my living room. I HATE when any of that screen is wasted! Many television networks and videos will place vertical letterboxes to the left and right of the old SD videos, thus wasting part of your screen. I would rather networks and/or video makers STRETCH the video instead of wasting my screen. That's why I have bought some DVD releases because the HD TV will stretch the video...
But the WWE puts extra matches on the Blu-Ray releases... Damn you WWE!
Recently, the WWE released the WWE In Your House video and I couldn't resist. I bought the Blu-Ray version, although this standard definition issue on Blu-Ray has me reconsidering. Who the WWE brought in to host the video, Todd Pettengill, also has me reconsidering the video all together. It's not as bad as the completely insulting decision of Matt Striker and Maria hosting the "Macho Man" Randy Savage video, but it's close. Pettengill was certainly a WWE personality during the early days of these In Your House Pay Per Views, but there was a reason why the WWE let him go. Wrestling needs on-screen personalities who appear to be fans of the wrestling business and not guys who are performing television duties as just a job. To a new wrestling audience who might be curious about the WWE's past, Pettengill as the host becomes an even worse decision. Someone like Jerry "the King" Lawler, a wrestling guy and a commentator for most of these matches, would have been a better host choice.
Instead of having bad hosts for these videos, the WWE should not only consider better hosts, but to inject video packages before each matches. Younger WWE fans are curious as to WHY the Mankind vs. Shawn Michaels match might have happened or WHY Triple H wrestled Henry O. Godwin (HOG) in a hogpen match, not just Pettengill giving a brief explanation. Video packages before each and every match could help better inform younger wrestling fans as to WHY these matches were classics along with giving older fans some nostalgia. With the WWE Network not happening anytime soon, lots of this Monday Night RAW footage is just sitting in the vaults and hoping for WWE 24/7 to sometimes bring it out of the woodwork. Most of the hype videos were actually made for the In Your House Pay Per Views, anyway... Just reuse it!
What was the In Your House Pay Per Views, anyway? It was a product of the Monday Night Wars where the WWE saw legitimate wrestling competition against World Championship Wrestling (WCW). WCW changed the business model of professional wrestling forever. Not only did they create WCW Monday Nitro, the Monday Night competitor to Monday Night RAW, they went LIVE with Nitro versus RAW's taping, brought in many wrestlers from different places, and they aired Pay Per Views monthly instead of just several times a year like the WWE was doing (Royal Rumble, Wrestlemania, King of the Ring, SummerSlam, and Survivor Series). There were great advantages to running Pay Per Views monthly, as WCW saw... You'd use television to hype the shows and make a killing on holding off the top matches for the Pay Per View. It was no loss to the WCW promotion, as the LIVE gate of the show in the arena always protected the promotion from loss (as it still does today).
WWE "got with it" and began running these In Your House Pay Per Views, starting in May 1995, and with a cheaper price of around $15 compared to the "Big 5" that were priced at $30. Each of these non-Big 5 events were called "In Your House", but were often given an additional name based on what occurred with the event. For example, the 2nd In Your House event was headlined by a Kevin Nash (Diesel) vs. Sycho Sid match that was a Lumberjack Match. Thus, the second In Your House was called "In Your House: The Lumberjacks". Eventually, some of the additional names selected were so good that the WWE kept the names as regular Pay Per View names and ditched the "In Your House" name all together. In particular, Backlash, Unforgiven, Over the Edge, No Way Out, Fully Loaded, and Judgment Day became regular Pay Per View names (I'm sure that I'm forgetting a few).
Overall, especially during the early days, these Pay Per Views were a bit thin. The WWE roster was depleted during the mid-1990's and the WWE itself was still stuck in the old business model of corny gimmicks and cliche Main Event feuds. These shows weren't worth buying individually, and ditto for many monthly WCW events, but I'm thankful to have many great friends in High School who were willing to buy these Pay Per Views collectively. Often, 1 match from the show would standout while the rest of the matches were questionable. What's nice about this In Your House video is that the WWE takes the standout matches and puts them together in one convenient video. That's why this video is very much worth buying and the WWE gets the match listing right. In terms of matches, it's one of the best prepared videos and I have very little objection over match selection. In fact, I won't bother nitpicking at all over the match listing and actually recommend buying this video for an impressive job by the WWE.
But the stuff around the matches calls this video into question. Todd Pettengill is a weak host and I can imagine newer WWE fans crapping on this video's presentation because of him. The lack of highlights surrounding the matches is appalling to me. Today's WWE is missing psychology and I guess this video represents today's WWE by not explaining WHY many of these great matches actually happened. I recommend the DVD over the Blu Ray in this case. The Standard Definition letter boxes is just painful to me and the Blu Ray transfer didn't clean up too much. To save money while actually using your entire HD TV screen is a better deal for the DVD. The Blu Ray extra matches are nice, but nothing to increase your demand to buy this. I wanted to experiment with the Blu Ray but the WWE keeps letting me down on the Standard Definition presentation on Blu-Ray.
The matches are great, though... Nice mix of great main event and even standout midcard matches. I'll use a match listing and briefly give you thoughts on the match as I've rewatched them and remember them from the past.
Bret Hart vs. Hakushi - When Diesel was WWE Champion, they kept Bret Hart away from him between Royal Rumble 1995 and Survivor Series 1995 as Diesel dealt with the heels of the time (Mabel, Shawn Michaels, Sid). Thus, Bret Hart had various mini-feuds with midcard wrestlers and for some reason, he had a pretty decent feud with Hakushi. Hakushi didn't do much after this feud, however... Good match.
Shawn Michaels vs. Jeff Jarrett - Outstanding match here. Michaels was, well, Shawn Michaels and Jeff Jarrett seemed to have perfect chemistry with HBK. Easily, Jarrett's best match ever on record and it makes you wonder how far he could have gone without the "Double J" gimmick holding him back. God, it was awful!
Razor Ramon vs. Dean Douglas - Shawn Michaels was unable to defend his Intercontinental Title so he thus forfeited the title to Dean (or Shane) Douglas. Funny thing is that Douglas was immediately forced to wrestle another Clique member, Razor Ramon, and Razor of course won. I believe Douglas's short Intercontinental Title reign still holds up in the record books and will probably purposely be kept there. Douglas and the Clique didn't get along and it's still personal to this day. Just watch any of their "Shoot" interviews online and you'll see the bitter feelings still existing.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Henry O. Godwin - Hogpen Match - Triple H, who has creative input backstage, could watch this match and see how professional wrestling works. Triple H, back then, was a blueblood snop who was disgusted by people like Henry Godwin, whose gimmick was an actual Hog Farmer. Godwin would actually dump pig slop on his opponents after the match... It was a perfect clash of different personalities and it worked extremely well in the WWE midcard. Things became heated between HHH and Godwin that this match was set up. It is an actual match in a muddy hogpen and it's very entertaining. The fans wanted to see Triple H "get his" and went crazy when HHH was slammed in the mud.
Bret Hart vs. British Bulldog - Excellent match. Doesn't come close to the SummerSlam 1992 battle, but what the hell does? If I remember correctly, WWE had a policy against blading and yet Bret Hart cut himself anyway.
Shawn Michaels vs. Diesel - Kevin Nash's going away present from the WWE before he joined WCW in 1996, but it's easily his best WWE match. Just an absolute battle from start to finish. Diesel's powerbomb on Michaels through the announcer's table is just BRUTAL in this match. Not many matches during 1996 are as good as this one.
Shawn Michaels vs. Mankind - My "Match of the Year" for 1996, I think... Mick Foley pushed Shawn Michaels to a great match, which is rare thing to say about HBK. You could tell early in the match that Michaels wasn't sure about the match and then Foley started selling his offense like a champ. Then, in return, Foley was aggressive with Michaels and motivated Shawn to step up his game. They could have wrestled for an hour at their pace and nobody would have complained. Only the ending sucks on this one, as it was Vader running in to cause a Disqualification. Funny thing is that the match was originally booked to have Mankind win the WWE title but Vince McMahon changed his mind after the announcer table spot. You can visually see McMahon advising the referee and wrestlers of the new finish...
Steve Austin vs. Triple H... No, it wasn't from late 1999 or 2001... We're still in 1996, as Austin was beginning to get red hot. Reading some background on this match, Triple H appeared to be a fill-in for the highly underrated Savio Vega. In my opinion about Savio Vega, he was never the greatest wrestler, but he was good enough in the midcard and actually helped give Steve Austin a decent feud to assist in getting the "Stone Cold" character over. Decent match here in October 1996 as both guys are no where close to their peak years yet. Very odd to see Triple H with his blueblood midcard gimmick wrestling what appears to be Stone Cold Steve Austin, the main eventer. Bizarro world here...
Mankind vs. Undertaker, Buried Alive Match - Great match. Nobody pushed the Undertaker during the mid-1990's like Mick Foley. Undertaker was used to wrestling hosses or extremely overweight wrestlers, but Mankind was a different animal who could actually sell Undertaker's offense effectively. Yet, Mankind had credible offense himself to always appear as a viable threat to the Undertaker. In my opinion, Mick Foley brought out the in-ring potential that the Undertaker always had and would display moreso during the 2000's. Fun match between the two, although they'd have a more dangerous match years later at King of the Ring 1998.
Steve Austin vs. Undertaker vs. Vader vs. Bret Hart - This is the Shawn Michaels "Lose Your Smile" match, where a knee injury forced him to vacate the WWE Title. This match was supposed to be a #1 contender's match that had psychology following up the Royal Rumble 1997 debacle where Austin was eliminated by Bret Hart yet the referees didn't see it. Austin returned to the ring and won the 1997 Royal Rumble by tossing Undertaker, Vader, and Bret Hart. Thus, this match occurred... Michaels vacating the title changed the match from being a #1 contender's match to a WWE Title match! And it was a damn fine match, too. LOOK AT THAT TALENT! Sadly, the WWE wasted Vader when he bolted to the WWE from WCW and this match shows the potential lost. Vader's SummerSlam 1996 match with Michaels ruined him.
Bret Hart/British Bulldog/Owen Hart/Brian Pillman/Jim Neidhart vs. Steve Austin/Goldust/Ken Shamrock/Legion of Doom - Possibly, the greatest 10 Man Tag Team of all time. I only say "possibly" due to my love of the DX/Radicalz vs. Rock/Foley/Too Cool/Rikishi match of early 2000 on RAW. This match was in Canada and thus fans were going ape for the Hart Foundation stable, although Steve Austin was getting some cheers. Hot crowd for this Canadian Stampede In Your House show throughout and match was an absolute battle. I loved the psychology of Austin injuring Owen Hart on the steel post and then the Harts getting redemption for that by injuring Austin. So much heat in this match, it's incredible. If Austin vs. Hart didn't happen at Wrestlemania 13, this is possibly "Match of the Year" for 1997. It's THAT good.
Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker - This was not the Badd Blood "Hell in a Cell" match, as it was the match that set it up... Disappointing omission, but like Mankind vs. Shawn Michaels, I have that match several times over now... This match is still great, however, and you can see the instant chemistry formed between the two that could carry on for 2 more great matches (Badd Blood and Royal Rumble) along with their future matches at Wrestlemania 25 and 26. Michaels and Foley got the best out of the Undertaker during the 1990's, no doubt.
Steve Austin/Mick Foley/Terry Funk/Owen Hart vs. Triple H/New Age Outlaws/Savio Vega Savio Vega?!? Shawn Michaels was supposed to be in this match but his back was screwed up from the Casket Match at Royal Rumble 1997. So Savio Vega was his replacement... Odd, but Vega brough his A-game to make up for it. GREAT 8 man match that was pure chaos from start to finish. In my opinion, this match not only added to the legend of Stone Cold, but it might have convinced the WWE management that Billy Gunn and Road Dogg were perfect DX additions. Funny how the wrestling business works sometimes.
Kane/Mankind vs. Undertaker/Steve Austin - I didn't remember this match occurring and wasn't actually impressed with viewing it again. Could have been a better tag match, given the talent of the ring. Just didn't work...
Ken Shamrock vs. Mankind - Could have been good but the chemistry was not there between the two. Shamrock worked better with lighter, more traditional mat wrestlers. Foley's style was too much for him, I think.
Rock vs. Mankind - Last Man Standing - 3 Foley duds in a row, thanks WWE. Actually, Foley's best stuff around this time either occurred on RAW or during the Big 5 Pay Per Views. That "I Quit" match with the Rock at Royal Rumble is just BRUTAL. For this match, the 10 Count for the Last Man Standing rule just kills the momentum of the match. They should have done an "I Quit" rematch instead.
BLU RAY EXCLUSIVES
Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin - The rematch to the 1997 "Match of the Year" from Wrestlemania 13... But it wasn't quite that match. They just didn't have the psychology of the Wrestlemania 13 match and the ending sucks with the
NWO Hart Foundation run-in.
Taka vs. Brian Christopher - Very odd Blu Ray exclusive. Not sure why on this addition, as it's not a standout midcard match or anything.
Shawn Michaels vs. Ken Shamrock - Good, but not great match. Shamrock is a weird bird to wrestle and by the time he was becoming a good in-ring wrestler with experience, he leaves the WWE! Sometimes, it just doesn't click...
D'Lo Brown vs. X-Pac - They had a good feud together back in the day, but I remember better matches existing between the two than this included match.
THE LAST WORD: In my opinion, I would purchase the DVD version instead of the Blu-Ray. Why? (a) Blu Ray exclusives are not that good. (b) Vertical fucking letter boxes on Standard Definition matches on the Blu Ray, which the DVD version would just stretch to fit the entire screen. (c) Not much screen quality is added with Blu Ray. With these nitpicks in mind, I'd probably grade the Blu Ray edition of the In Your House Video as a B+ and would lean A-territory if I bought the DVD video instead. We would go "A+" if the WWE selected a better host, other than Todd Pettengill, and had video packages before each match. The match selection, however, is awesome and makes this video (DVD of course) highly recommended! For the younger fans to understand the "best of" WWE during 1996-1998, this is a good starting video especially.
So just chill til the next episode...
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