The History Of The WWE Championship

The History Of The WWE Championship (2006)
WWE Home Video
Cast: Bruno Sammartino, Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock
Extras: Timeline

The world of professional wrestling is a colorful one, filled with larger-than-life characters and heart-pounding action. For more than 40 years, the title of WWE Champion has been one of the most coveted distinctions in professional sports. The excitement that fills the arena during the epic matches is palpable and feverish, with screaming fans ascribing an almost mythic importance to the proceedings. DVD viewers can now relive the glory in "The History of the WWE Championship," a 3-disc compilation of 25 of the greatest matches. Released through WWE Home Video, this DVD set is sure to score with the loyal fans who pack the stadiums to see their idols battle it out in bloody ferocity.

The matches are spread over three discs in chronological order. Famed announcer Jim Ross hosts the special, with commentary before and after each fight. In a first for WWE Home Video, fans were invited to vote online for their favorite matches to be included in this set.

Disc 1 covers the 1970s and 80s:
Ivan Koloff vs. Pedro Morales – Madison Square Garden, 2/8/71
Bruno Sammartino vs. Killer Kowalski – Madison Square Garden, 4/29/74
Bruno Sammartino vs. "Superstar" Billy Graham – Baltimore, MD, 4/30/77
"Superstar" Billy Graham vs. Bob Backlund – Madison Square Garden, 2/20/78
Bob Backlund vs. Greg Valentine – Philadelphia, PA, 1/16/82
Bob Backlund vs. Sgt. Slaughter – Madison Square Garden, 5/23/83
Iron Sheik vs. Hulk Hogan – Madison Square Garden, 1/23/84
Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy – WrestleMania 2, 4/5/86
Hulk Hogan vs. "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff – Saturday Night's Main Event, 1/3/87
Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant – WrestleMania III, 3/29/87
Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant – The Main Event, 2/5/88
Randy "Macho Man" Savage vs. Hulk Hogan – WrestleMania V, 4/2/89

Disc 2 covers the 1990s:
Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior – WrestleMania VI, 4/1/90
Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart – SummerSlam, 8/29/94
Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania XII, 3/31/96
Shawn Michaels vs. Mankind – In Your House: Mind Games, 9/22/96
Shawn Michaels vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin – WrestleMania XIV, 3/29/98

Disc 3 covers the 2000s:
Triple H vs. Cactus Jack – Royal Rumble, 1/23/00
The Rock vs. Triple H vs. Kurt Angle – SummerSlam, 8/27/00
The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin – WrestleMania X-7, 4/1/01
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Chris Jericho – Vengeance, 12/9/01
The Rock vs. Undertaker vs. Kurt Angle – Vengeance, 7/21/02
The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar – SummerSlam, 8/25/02
Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit – Royal Rumble, 1/19/03
John Cena vs. Chris Jericho vs. Christian – Vengeance, 6/26/05

Watching the evolution of the sport from the early 70s to the present day is fascinating in light of how much the overall atmosphere has changed. The early fights are reasonably straightforward, without the frills that have since become a hallmark of the sport. The flashy costumes and visual flair become much more prevalent in the 80s, especially with Hulk Hogan. Wrestling today is at its most unrestrained, with wild melodrama and fabricated rivalries. To its fans, it has become a second world of role playing and competition – a sort of glorified, homoerotic, and brutal extension of "Dungeons and Dragons." But enough analysis. It is quite simply an exciting sport that sucks you in, in spite of its inherent silliness, leaving your eyes transfixed on the screen until the very end.

The matches are brought to DVD in their original fullframe aspect ratios. As these were all shot on video for TV, quality is not spectacular, with noticeable artifacting and color fluctuation throughout. Black levels range from dull to acceptable. All of these defects, however, are attributable to weak source material and should be expected. Under the circumstances, the image really looks quite good and does not detract from the stunning fights.

A Dolby Digital 5.1 track makes a fine presentation for the audio, nicely bringing out the announcers' commentary in the front speakers with remarkable clarity while the roars of the crowds are distributed around to fully envelop you in the atmosphere. With the sounds from the fights and the bells come through the center channel, it all adds up to a raucous, spirited experience.

The only special feature is a Timeline of Championship highlights on disc 1. The closing moments of every title change in the history of the trophy are included, making this well worth a look.

With over nine hours of visceral action, there is no reason why any fan of professional wrestling should not run out and pick up this set. WWE has really delivered a hard-hitting treat that fully captures the flamboyance that we have all come to love and the emotion that ends every match. The all-star selections are made all the more significant because they were hand picked by the fans. There is just too much to gush over on this release. For uninhibited, violent entertainment, this is indeed a worthy selection.