Friday, July 13, 2012

Smarkass Reviews: WWE Superstar Collection - John Cena

So, this is one of the first releases of the new "WWE Superstar Collection," a cheap set of DVDs aimed at the more casual WWE fan. This one, along with one for Zack Ryder, came out on Tuesday, each running around an hour and a half total and meant to be just quick catch-ups/spotlights of wrestlers. I'm oddly enthused about this line of DVDs, mostly because it will give some guys who aren't ready for the three-disc treatment DVD releases. That doesn't look like it will always be the case necessarily given some of the guys getting sets in the future (like the October releases, which seem to be Shawn Michaels and Rey Mysterio), but it's fun and something that you can watch in a short period of time. There isn't, like, nine hours of stuff to get through, which is kind of nice.

The John Cena set only has four matches and one of which kind of annoys me (the triple threat with Shawn Michaels and Triple H), because it was featured on his most recent three-disc set, the John Cena Experience. I don't see why they felt the need to include a match already on a John Cena DVD set (one that's only a couple of years old at that). It's a bad case of double-dipping when they had a variety of other matches that could have filled that spot like a Cena/Big Show match from 2010 or maybe the Cena/Triple H/Randy Orton triple threat from 2010, or even one of Cena's matches with Batista from 2011. None of those have shown up on any recent compilations and would have fit in pretty well, because Cena's disc here is really just a random collection of matches that show off Cena's ability. I think this is especially problematic when John Cena is one of those guys who the more casual fan will buy the DVD of, so there's an increased chance that fans will be getting the same match twice when there's really no reason for it.

Aside from that conceptual problem, let's go through the matches and see how this set fares...

Match #1: World Heavyweight Championship Match - John Cena (C) vs. Chris Jericho (Armageddon 12.14.08)
At first, I thought this might be a duplicate for me from the History of the World Heavyweight Championship set, but that has their previous match, from Survivor Series, where Cena won the belt off Jericho. I pay attention quite well... I remember seeing this match in the bar where I watched every WWE PPV (aside from Armageddon 2008) from the fall of 2008 through Backlash 2010, and it was dead. Completely dead. It was a little awkward, because Michelle and I aren't big drinkers. I'd usually get a pitcher of coke (maybe a second later in the show), while she'd get a pitcher of pop, too, if I recall correctly. I think one other person turned up to see this show. This match was a disappointing at the time, because it seemed to mark the end of Jericho's awesome 2008 where he became the best wrestler in the company by pretty much all standards. The tap out at the end seemed so rushed. Rewatching it for the first time since then, I liked it. Jericho was more vicious, even using headbutts against Cena early on (I can't recall him doing that any other times really). The story was that Jericho wanted the title back, but also wanted to utterly destroy Cena, because Cena was his son's favourite wrestler. Nice to see Jericho step up the aggression for a story like that. It was a match where Jericho was in control more often than not, but usually not for extended periods of time. There was a lot of back-and-forth and counters with few down moments. They kept up a steady pace and avoided the usual 'heel beats on Cena for long periods of time' style. It's a subtle thing to have the heel dominate without long periods of just beating the shit out of the face, but they managed that through the simplicity of the counter. Cena would break the rhythm by trying to hit a move and Jericho would counter it. It was a sign of life on Cena's part without him actually getting any offence in. Clever stuff. The finish still seems a little rushed with Jericho's tap out to the STF coming pretty quickly, but they'd built up enough fake-outs and near wins for Jericho that you buy the idea that he was mentally worn down -- also, he'd tapped out at Survivor Series, so there could be a sense that he knew he couldn't escape, so why suffer? Jericho has a habit of delivering good matches with Cena and, while this isn't their best bout, it definitely fits that trend.
Winner and STILL World Heavyweight Champion: John Cena [***1/4]

Match #2: Triple Threat Match for the WWE Championship - John Cena (C) vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H (Survivor Series 11.22.09)
This has one of my favourite openings to a match. This was the semi-end of the 2009 DX reunion (or the beginning of the end at least) and, going into this match, the question of how Michaels and Triple H would behave was a big driving point of the story. Cena against a tag team, basically -- but both tag partners would want to win, right? So, the bell rings and Cena is in one corner, facing both members of DX and... Shawn Michaels superkicks Triple H! The look on Cena's face of sheer surprise sold the moment so well. It just came out of nowhere and was fantastic. The match itself was basically told in four parts: Cena vs. Michaels; Cena vs. Triple H; Michaels vs. Triple H; and Cena vs. Michaels vs. Triple H. It's an interesting way to structure a match like this and all of the parts weren't equal (the Michaels/Trips part was pretty short compared to the rest), but it kept things clear and fresh. A trio of short singles matches before all three men collide in the finale? I can think of worse ways to approach a triple threat. It's a nice build and, when things started to collide in the final stretch, it worked quite well. Moves blended together -- I loved when Cena had the STF on Triple H and Michaels put the Crossface on Cena before Cena countered and put Michaels in the STF. They got into a nice rhythm/flow that paid off the trio of one-on-one moments earlier. They made you want to see all three guys at once instead of simply giving it to you right away. I complained about the double-dipping of this match on Cena DVDs, but I can't complain about the quality -- there's a reason why this is on both this and the John Cena Experience.
Winner and STILL WWE Champion: John Cena [****]

Match #3: Superstar of the Year Match - John Cena vs. Randy Orton (Monday Night Raw 12.14.09)
This is an epilogue match to the 2009 feud between Cena and Orton that a lot of people shat on at the time, but I've enjoyed whenever I've gotten the chance to see their matches from that period. This was for the Superstar of the Year Slammy Award (it used to be awarded like any other award, but they began holding matches in 2009 for it) and it's not an amazing match. It's mostly a competent Cena/Orton TV match, but I like the idea that, after their One-Hour Iron Man Match at Bragging Rights that we got a small epilogue TV match. One last regular match between the two where they show how well they work together. Orton dominates, Cena comes back, they tease their finishers until Cena puts him away. Solid stuff and I'm not sure you'd find a much better Cena TV match to put on this set.
Winner: John Cena [**1/2]

Match #4: Steel Cage Triple Threat Match for the WWE Championship - The Miz (C) vs. John Cena vs. John Morrison (Extreme Rules 05.01.11)
A bittersweet match, because is basically the End of the Miz as a Main Eventer. I really like the Miz's work in the WWE and am still annoyed that losing the WWE Championship here killed his validity as a main event performer (more because of how he was handled in the wake of losing the belt than anything else). But, this is a pretty good match. Each man has clearly defined roles: the Miz is the cocky champion that knows he's hated by everyone and has to bust his ass to keep his belt; John Cena is the powerhouse face that is the favourite, but somehow can't beat the Miz; and John Morrison the agile and quick newcomer that has a history with the Miz and is this close to proving he's just as good as his former partner. Within that framework, the three men work well -- lots of quick escape attempts by Morrison, the Miz frantically alternating between the two men, the two faces sometimes working together to beat on the Miz... there aren't a lot of Cena/Morrison moments, but that fits the story. The spot of the match is easily Morrison's modified Starship Pain off the cage onto the other two. R-Truth's involvement doesn't work as well when viewing this match out of context, but it did put the focus on the real story, which was Cena finally ending the Miz's reign as champion. Despite this being a triple threat match and Morrison's history with the Miz, the Cena/Miz stuff was the heart of this match, and R-Truth's involvement put it back in focus.
Winner and NEW WWE Champion: John Cena [***3/4]

Overall, this is a decent set. Nothing too special, particularly if you buy PPV DVDs, but it's an hour-and-a-half of good matches -- and another reminder that Cena is better than most online give him credit for.

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