DVD Review. Some blood. Many words in the title
Thu, 1 January 1970
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The legendary "steel cage match" is one of wrestling's most dangerous styles. The participants find themselves in a ring that is surrounded by a steel enclosure. The wrestlers can (and usually do) use the cage as a weapon. Numerous displays of cartoonish brutality can be expected in this kind of bout. The wrestlers might throw or slam each other into the structure, or perform the ever-popular act of grating the opponent's faces against the mesh. Also quite common is for one guy to leap from the top of the cage onto his opponent.
In most WWE cage matches the winner is the first person to exit the cage either by climbing out or going through a door. Personally, I never understood the logic behind this style; it kind of defeats the purpose of being in a cage in the first place. And why bother climbing out when going through the door will always be quicker and easier? I much prefer the NWA/WCW type cage matches that require a pinfall or submission to achieve victory. Anyway, logic has little place in the world of wrestling, so let's just move on.
Historically the cage match was mostly used once a rivalry built up to such a degree that the two guys need to be locked in together to settle things once and for all. To some extent that tradition continues today. It is usually assumed that once the grapplers get inside a cage some blood will eventually be poured, hence the (rather bloated) title of this two-disc dvd set: Bloodbath: Wrestling's Most Incredible Steel Cage Matches.
The majority of the first disc is a brief history of cage matches presented in a documentary type of style. Fifteen different cage bouts are discussed, starting with Pat Patterson vs. Bob Backlund in 1979, up to the more recent Edge vs. Kurt Angle in 2002. Various wrestling personalities comment on the matches, which is followed by some footage of each one. Most of the discussions are interesting enough for fans of the business but, since there's nothing particularly revelatory on offer, it is unlikely anyone would find themselves watching this feature more than a couple of times. I certainly didn't hear anything that I didn't already know…except maybe for some details about Jerry Lawler picking his nose to make it bleed and frankly that's information I could've done without. It would have been much better if the talking was kept to a minimum because the accompanying match footage is clipped annoyingly short.
At first it seemed like this set was going to be a let down in terms of full matches, but thankfully that turned out to not be the case. There are four full matches included on the first disc's bonus section and the majority of the second disc is devoted to entire bouts. Overall there are eleven complete cage matches on this set- certainly not too shabby, particularly given the reasonable price of the dvd. I can't say that I was all that impressed with the quality of the matches included however. Some of the choices are rather odd, with a few of the ones they decided to show in full being nowhere near as good as others that are shown only in clipped form. But Bloodbath does provide a pretty good mix of different time periods and styles. Of the full matches included the best ones, in my opinion, are:
Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart: Bret rarely had a bad match and his late brother Owen was a fantastic performer as well. It was no shock that these two worked really well together. This particular bout is a little different in style from the technical wrestling they were usually known for, due mainly to being in a cage. This is a really good brawl, with a lot of intensity and a hot crowd. They make great use of the cage itself, build up plenty of tension as they both attempt to escape and trust each other enough to use some pretty stiff shots. Some blood would have added to the intense nature of the match, but that kind of thing wasn't allowed on WWF(E) shows at the time. I'd say this is overall the best match on the dvd set. Mind you- since I'm a huge fan of both these guys- it could be footage of them mowing the lawn and I'd probably still find something to like about it.
Bob Backlund vs. Pat Patterson: nothing too impressive by today's standards, but they did some inventive stuff and worked the crowd in ways that have proven to be very influential. These two are pretty legendary figures. Backlund had a long run as WWE world champ. Patterson was the first ever intercontinental champion; he "won" the title in a fictitious tournament that never actually took place. These days Patterson is probably best known for his role as one of Vince McMahon's stooges during the "attitude" era.
Magnum TA vs. Tully Blanchard: as well as being in a cage this is also under "I quit" rules; to win you have to force your opponent to say that he quits. Strangely nobody has ever used a Celine Dion recording during one of these- but I guess that would be enough to make both participants quit and render it a draw. Magnum and Tully put on a very aggressive and action packed show. Lots of blood, screaming and drama. This match was also pretty influential and was quite innovative at the time. The crowd is really into this one and that always helps. With this intense, violent brawl Magnum and Tully prove that wrestlers don't need to be giants to make people care.
Jimmy Snuka vs. Don Muraco: the match itself isn't really that great, actually it pretty much sucks, but Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka's leap off the top of the cage is a historic moment. It helped establish the daredevil style that is common today and inspired Mick Foley (who can be seen in the crowd) and many others to become wrestlers. And you have to hear the crowd reaction to believe it; Snuka in his prime was easily one of the most popular wrestlers of all time. Muraco was a master at getting the crowd to hate him. Also, back in those days a large portion of the crowd actually believed that the characters were real and thought wrestling was a legitimate sport. The crowd is deafening; cheering Snuka and jeering Muraco like their lives depended on it. Wrestling audiences (or most audiences for that matter) are much more jaded and cynical these days and they rarely get as ridiculously passionate as they did back then.
Kurt Angle vs. Edge: although both these guys have had better matches, both with each other and against others, their wrestling styles and high levels of charisma click well enough that every time they meet you can be assured of something impressive. Some good action and great bumps are on offer here. Also, this took place just after Angle lost a "hair match" to Edge. So Angle had his head shaved, but he's wearing a ridiculous wig and claiming that his hair grew back. It is as stupid as it sounds, but trust me folks- it is comedy gold!
Most of the other matches are not terribly impressive- ranging from pretty good to downright boring. There are also a couple of things on this set that really don't belong on the list of the "most incredible" anything, unless it is the most incredibly bad. Isaac Yankem especially would fall into that category. For those who don't know (consider yourselves lucky), Yankem was an evil dentist wrestler and he sucked just as much as one would expect from such a ludicrous gimmick. Glen Jacobs, the poor guy who was given that awful role, is now known as the Undertaker's "brother" Kane- a vastly more entertaining persona. Most, including myself, hoped that the Isaac character would never be spoken of again. Why they included him in this collection is a mystery we will probably never solve.
All of the footage on these discs is crisp and clear, which is particularly impressive for some of the older stuff. The sound is also top notch, so there are no real complaints as far as the technical side of things. There are quite a few "easter eggs" hidden on the discs, which is always welcome. Having over five hours of material included sounds impressive- but really it is probably closer to two hours of stuff that is worth watching more than once. I found the packaging rather dull when compared to the Ric Flair set, but that's certainly no big deal.
Casual wrestling fans would probably be better off just renting it or borrowing it from a friend. For hardcore fans Bloodbath: Wrestling's Most Incredible Cage Matches is well worth purchasing. It isn't perfect by any means, but there's some interesting stuff included and as a whole the good definitely does manage to outweigh the bad.
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