Available at Amazon.com
Bret “Hit ManÃ¢â‚¬Â Hart
Rob Van Dam
Studio: World Wrestling Entertainment
Rating: Not Rated
Run time: 540 minutes
Number of discs: 3
Release Date: June 5, 2007
Wrestling used to be simple. Matches would take place inside the confines of a squared circle with two men (or four or more if it was a tag team affair) and a referee. If a pinfall couldn’t be reached because of a time-limit draw, stipulations would be added to the rematch in attempts to determine a clear-cut winner. Ah, but this was when wrestling was regarded as sport and not as entertainment.
Today certain wrestling affairs don’t just have stipulations attached, they are special attractions altogether Ã¢â‚¬â€œ oftentimes used to blow-off a feud. And like the wrestlers who face off against one another, the stipulations Ã¢â‚¬â€œ gimmicks Ã¢â‚¬â€œ vary in size and scope. They can be ill-conceived ideas (see the Blindfold match from WrestleMania VII pitting Jake “The SnakeÃ¢â‚¬Â Roberts against “The ModelÃ¢â‚¬Â Rick Martel) or they can take us away from a wrestling ring (i.e., Falls Count Anywhere matches).
In fact, there are so many different specialty matches in WWE that their official website lists 30 different types of matches with some kind of stipulation attached. As impressive as that may read, more surprising is the number of matches that make use of various objects, or “plunderÃ¢â‚¬Â as “The American DreamÃ¢â‚¬Â Dusty Rhodes would call it. None more so than the spectacle that is a Ladder Match.
To fully appreciate this type of match imagine a high-speed car chase sequence from a Hollywood movie and mix it with a hard-hitting, fast-moving fight sequence. Now, replace the speeding cars with 15-foot-high ladders and the brawlers/martial artists with wrestler, um, sports entertainers and you pretty much understand the spectacle that unfolds.
Those unfamiliar with how a ladder match works, it breaks down like so. An object (regularly a championship belt) is suspended high above the ring, and is only accessible with the help of a ladder. The way to win is elementary: Grab the object before your opponent does. Such a feat is easier said than done, as it requires more physical exertion than the typical wrestling encounter. One slip up and it could be catastrophic. You would lose the match, yes, but also may take a trip to the infirmary because you suffered a concussion or a severe bone sprain or break. With these types of risks involved it’s no wonder WWE precedes its home video releases with a “Please Do Not Try This at HomeÃ¢â‚¬Â public service announcement.
No matter what Vince McMahon would lead you to believe, the ladder match was not a creation of the World Wrestling Federation back in the early nineties. The origins of the ladder match date back to 1972 when Dan Kroffat, a booker in Canada’s Stampede Wrestling, thought up the concept of the match. In the promotion wrestlers climbed a ladder to grab hold of championship gold that was placed on a scaffold structure above the ring. Since its implementation, various promotions have held the specialty match over the years. As such, WWE has included a pre-modern ladder match from Stampede Wrestling, circa July 1979.
But, for the most part, this three-disc collection (aptly titled The Ladder Match) spotlights some of the best ladder matches WWE has put on over the last 14 years. With a nine-hour running time it is a fitting compilation, allowing us to see how the ladder match has evolved Ã¢â‚¬â€œ from it being a two-man contest with a single ladder to a multi-team affair with tables and chairs thrown into the mix. And, like the match selections on a number of other WWE home releases, there is always something to nitpick about, especially when a few historical matches are omitted from the collection. Still, there is enough material here to satisfy both new and old fans.
Not withstanding the athleticism put on display, the presentation is of utmost interest. Because of a lawsuit with the World Wildlife Fund, the WWF logo from the “Attitude EraÃ¢â‚¬Â (1997-2002) has to be blurred out, no matter if it is on a banner or a piece of clothing. And any mention of the company’s name by commentators has been muted. If you have never picked up a WWE release that catered to retrospectives, this may seem jarring. But for those who have gotten accustomed to seeing blurred logos and muted comments with certain WWE DVD titles this is not that big of a hang-up.
Something good to point out is that ring entrances are complete as are replays after the match. Typically when matches are bonus features to hour-plus-long documentaries the entrances are trimmed and no replays are shown. I guess the additions here are to be expected for a three-disc collection that is strictly matches, no documentary at all. The only break from the action is introductions by WWE personality Todd Grisham, who is sometimes featured with the likes of Shawn Michaels and Edge.
Far from a five star classic, this compilation glaringly excludes the first Shawn Michaels/Razor Ramon ladder contest from WrestleMania X. I’m not clear as to why the producers left it off, as it is historical when showcasing the “modernÃ¢â‚¬Â ladder match. My guess is that WWE has realized the fans don’t want to see the same matches on multiple DVDs Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the Michaels/Ramon match is on the Michaels’ retrospective release From the Vault and is part of the WrestleMania Anthology.
Nevertheless its importance is undeniable. At least we get the inclusion of a WCW match. Though, there is the omission of the triangle ladder match from WrestleMania 2000, a match that would inspire the first Tables, Ladders and Chairs (TLC) match at SummerSlam that year.
Even with the two WrestleMania matches nowhere to be found, The Ladder Match is one hell of a wrestling compilation. 21 matches in all, there are many classic bouts Ã¢â‚¬â€œ see the makings of future stars when The Rock and Triple H face off against one another Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and plenty of stunts and spots that just make you want to cringe. If WWE can hammer out a release like this, I can’t wait for a collection of Hell in the Cell matches, or, better yet, WarGames!!
Complete Match Listing
Jake Roberts vs. Big Daddy Ritter [AKA Junkyard Dog] (Stampede Wrestling, July 1979)
Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels (House show, July 21, 1992)
Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon (SummerSlam 1995)
Triple H vs. The Rock (SummerSlam 1998)
Edge & Christian vs. The New Brood (No Mercy 1999)
Dudley Boyz vs. Edge & Christian vs. Hardy Boyz (SummerSlam 2000)
3 Count vs. Jung Dragons vs. Jamie Knoble & Evan Karagias (Starrcade 2000)
Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho (Royal Rumble 2001)
Edge & Christian vs. Dudley Boyz vs. Hardy Boyz (Wrestlemania X-7)
Edge & Christian vs. Dudley Boyz vs. Hardy Boyz vs. Jericho & Benoit (SmackDown, May 24, 2001)
Christian vs. Edge (No Mercy 2001)
Eddie Guerrero vs. Rob Van Dam (Raw, May 27, 2002)
Jeff Hardy vs. The Undertaker (Raw, July 1, 2002)
Kane & Hurricane vs. RVD & Jeff Hardy vs. The Dudleys vs. Jericho & Christian (Raw, October 7, 2002)
Chris Jericho vs. Christian (Unforgiven 2004)
Benoit vs. Jericho vs. Edge vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. Christian vs. Kane (Wrestlemania 21)
Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio (Summerslam 2005)
Edge vs. Matt Hardy (Raw, October 3, 2005)
Edge vs. Ric Flair (Raw, January 16, 2006)
John Cena vs. Edge (Unforgiven 2006)
Jeff Hardy vs. Johnny Nitro (Raw, November, 20, 2006)
London & Kendrick vs. MNM vs. The Hardys vs. Regal & Taylor (Armageddon 2006)
A/V QUALITY CONTROL
Everything is presented in 1.33:1 full screen and the colors really stand out. The inclusion of the match from 1979 shows its age with a little wear and tear. Entrances with lots of pyrotechnics could pose a problem, your picture suffering mild pixellation and artifact issues. But if you like to zip past the intros anyway, you won’t have anything to worry about. The audio presentation is a 2.0 surround sound mix. It’s about as good as we can get considering the source. Color and play-by-play commentary come in quite clear, and depending on the speaker, does not distract from the match at hand. Those who are hard of hearing should note that neither subtitles nor Closed Captions have been included.
There are no extras per se, because we have three discs worth of matches to weed through. As far as wishful thinking goes, alternate commentary tracks for select bouts or a collection of interviews would have been nice. But a collection such as this does not need extras to be considered a great release.
THE INSIDE PULSE
While the ladder match may seem commonplace, its saturation through the years making it seem clichÃƒÂ©d, its legacy is undeniable. Such a match has jumpstarted many a wrestler’s path to greatness, and has allowed relative unknowns to steal the show, if only for a night. They are the equivalent to a summer blockbuster, so what better way to beat the heat than to plop down on the couch with your favorite beverage and snacks and enjoy a DVD collection in which the replay value outweighs its relative low price. High recommendation for The Ladder Match.
|The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for The Ladder Match
|RATING(OUT OF 10)|
|9(NOT AN AVERAGE)|