This year has seen a series of great compilation releases from WWE (from Edge’s history through to ECW Unreleased) and they continue their trend of at least good releases with Falls Count Anywhere: The Greatest Street Fights And Other Out Of Control Matches.
Hosted by Mick Foley, we get a slightly odd series of match introductions which are endearing in Mick’s own comedy promo style, but don’t give a huge amount of insight to the matches other than the fact that doing this sort of thing hurts and WWE has got a bit more tame since Mick’s days at the top.
So onto the matches.
Things start a bit shaky, but interesting, with a match from the WWF in the early 1980s pitting Pat Patterson against Sgt. Slaughter. By any modern wrestling fans standards this is about as tame as a ‘street fight’ can get but it shows how wrestlers, managers and announcers can work together to tell the story and transmit the psychology of a match – specifically here with reference to the wrestlers boots and how they are used as ‘weapons’.
From there Hulkamania overtook WWF so the mid-80s to the mid-90s are represented by WCW and these matches are a very mixed bag with over blown gimmicks and over-basic camera work making the matches hard to follow out of context (though Jim Cornette demonstrates why he was such a great manager and we get to see Cactus Jack in his early prime going against legendary Sting).
The mid-90s matches see a mix of WWF and WCW matches showing how they were trying to make their product slightly less child-centric at the time but, ultimately, still falling short thanks to the producers clearly still not really knowing how to shoot these matches for TV and the various rules and stipulations getting a bit baffling (especially in Savage vs Crush at Wrestlemania X!).
Things really start to pick up though as we head into the late-90s and the birth of the “Attitude Era” of WWF, with the feud between Bret Hart and Steve Austin and the return of Cactus Jack against Triple H.
From here the collection is a rollercoaster ride of extreme matches that highlight a sort of pro-wrestling which has since left the mainstream, as chairs, tables, sledgehammers and ladders all become mainstays of the matches, along with some spectacular spots and set pieces.
This middle section of the two Blu-ray set is certainly the strongest as we get to see Triple H in his prime along with matches featuring the frankly fearless (or insane, or both) Shane McMahon along with some great late-era Ric Flair outings and Shawn Michaels’ impressive return.
As we head towards the end of the disc we head back into WWE’s PG pro-wrestling territory, so the matches become much tamer, but there are still a few performances of note, specifically from Triple H and Randy Orton, although the John Cena vs Umaga match seems needlessly shoehorned in just so Cena makes an appearance.
The Blu-Ray features four extra matches, one of which see’s Mankind going against ‘Santa’, which is frankly a waste of disc space, however the other three bonus matches show how WWE can still do a street fight even without chair shots to the head or excessive amounts of blood (Triple H’s neck/arm injury against Sheamus being a fine example of in ring story telling).
Overall this set isn’t up there with ECW Unreleased Vol.1 or You Think You Know Me: The Story of Edge from earlier in the year, however it is still certainly worth a look if you’re a fan of WWE’s contributions to the genre of hardcore wrestling.