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TNA: The Best of the Asylum Years: Volume 1 DVD Review

November 7, 2010   ·   0 Comments

DVD Review
TNA: The Best of the Asylum Years: Volume 1

By Michael Campbell

Alongside their other current DVD release, TNA Wrestlings Greatest moments, The Best of the Asylum Years is the companys attempt to introduce some of their own history to current fans. Given the 2010 re-emergence of Jeff Hardy, and the ECW storyline of the summer, its actually pretty timely stuff.
The Nashville Fairgrounds played host to TNA events from 2002-2004, during the dark days of their weekly Pay Per Views. Although the product of 2010 is deeply flawed for most critics, the top-to-bottom cards they presented during this time period had to be seen to be believed. Generally, the standard was appalling. We were being presented with a confused looking Lex Luger, midgets, dancers in cages, Malice, Erik Watts, and everybodys favourite booker/onscreen character, Vince Russo. The balance between regional promotion and something more, was tenuous to say the least. What kept them watchable for many, was the unpredictability of incoming talent, and the sturdy pre-existing roster members (upcoming stars such as AJ Styles, Frankie Kazarian, and Christopher Daniels).  This collection offers a sampling of what they were about during that period.

Whats on it?

This is largely a match compilation with interview clips taking place between the featured bouts. Talking heads include all the usual suspects, Jarrett, Dixie, AJ, Shelley and Sabin, Mr. Anderson, and Jeff Hardy etc
However, for all intents, this set is about the bell-to-bell action, and some of it is very good indeed

Disc One kicks off with a very brief, but nice intro package, we get some comments from Jeff Jarrett, before heading straight into the first bout. Herein lies the biggest complaint with the overall package, wacky finishes to fairly uneventful bouts.
Ken Shamrock vs. Sabu is a fairly forgettable stunt match, with Shamrock attempting to slow things down, and Sabu setting up for a big dive or two. Its not overly inspired, and with a screwy ending that renders it all a bit pointless. Nice to see a TNA Shamrock match however.
Its a similar story with two singles efforts for Raven ,against Jeff Jarrett and Shane Douglas. The latter is a blood-filled garbage brawl, with stalling aplenty, and much unconvincing action. Where it does succeed, is in Douglas heel interaction with the crowd, and the brutally famous post-bout shaving of Ravens head. Jim Mitchells misuse of hair-clippers remains a truly terrifying visual.  
The Jarrett match is a typical Main Event style bout for both guys. There are  a ton of short-cuts, interference, and blood. Taken out of context though, its actually pretty effective, rather than being just one in a mind-numbing series of Jarrett bouts. Hes as oddly ineffective here as a Babyface though as per usual.
Were also treated to the rather disappointing three-way World title match between Styles, Raven, and Jarrett, with the Russo swerve, that nobody in particular wanted to see. Aside from that, its a solid enough effort.  Likewise, an X-Division tag encounter is watchable, but doesnt stand out whatsoever. The worst of the bunch though, by far, is a miserable tag bout that pits Lex Luger and Jeff Jarrett and AJ. Its a compressed mash-up of everything that was frustrating about the weekly PPV product.

On the other hand, we get a fine triple threat Ladder bout with the X-Division title on the line, between AJ Styles, Jerry Lynn, and Low Ki.  AJ Styles is the star of the show here, but neither of his opponents are slouches either. Lynn particularly, takes some tasty bumps, as he  plays the role of the guy still clinging on, searching for the title after years in the business. It was definitely a fresher role for him in 2002, than it was in ROH a couple of years ago.
Some of the high-spots are a little old-hat, but thats to be expected in this sort of encounter. Equally, theres also some spectacular stuff here, though it isnt, as Don West claims one of the greatest matches of all time. Nonetheless, the three pull out some really brutal, stiff action in places, making this far from the most spectacular X-Division ladder affair, but certainly one of the most hard-hitting. Great stuff.

More formidable still, is the Steel Cage Match between Triple X vs. Americas Most Wanted. This is the famous Cage collision that pre-empted the even more famous Six Sides of Steel bout in which Elix Skipper walked the Cage. Its not on a par with that one in terms of craziness, however it is chock-full of inventive, heated action. There was a real believability to AMW and they really shine here, selling a good, old fashioned beating, before making an intense comeback. One of the best efforts on the set, no  question.

Following some fine action then, the first disc self-destructs somewhat with a lame Fans Revenge match b between Dusty Rhodes and Jeff Jarrett. Exciting this one is not, instead providing several minutes of awful action. Disc two kicks off well though, going some way to redeeming the set

The strength of CM Punk & Julio Dinero vs. Terry Funk & Raven and its inclusion, is variety.  Thats not to say it isnt any good however. Far from it, this is a sprightly affair, with plenty of gratuitous blood, and some solid performances. Punk is more advanced here than those unfamiliar with his ROH run would expect, while Funk sells a beating in the manner only he can.
That collision is followed by a sparkling Ladder Match with AJ Styles vs. Abyss thats very good indeed. Much has been said about the chemistry these two have had with one another over the years, and this Ladder bout stands up to that theory. Crisp, exciting stuff.

This also happens to be where the base of the whole enterprise is revealed its in AJ Styles Herculean efforts. Every match he is featured in  is automatically enlivened and made more appealing by his conclusion.  Further battles with Frankie Kazarian and Jeff Jarrett are less thrilling, but still have erm, impact.  The Cage outing against Jarrett should be especially familiar to AJ fans, and is a great , feel-good moment. A Street Fight between AJ Styles and Kid Kash is a violent, unpredictable clash, that sprawls around the building.  with both guys sporting jeans, for that authentic, old-school look. Decidedly untraditional though, is the distinct lack of blood on show. Not that it prevents this from being very good though, and indeed, its a unique X-Division entry circa 2004. Kash has always been vastly underrated by the mainstream in terms of his heel work. The Kash of today though would look so much physically more imposing in this environment. Prior to the match, AJ talks about a particularly insane tables bump that both guys take off one of the balconys, and seeing it again, it does linger as a particularly nasty bump.

Elsewhere, the second shiny disc suffers from the same ailments as the first. A few oddball booking decisions take away from the repeat viewing value of several matches., and the non-finishes/run-ins becoming infuriating.  Jeff Hardy makes an appearance in a couple of outings, but neither are memorable, and worse still, he looks terribly unmotivated and disinterested throughout. The main feature climaxes with an underwhelming Hardy/Jarrett match that failed to capture the imagination of fans back in 2004, and is unlikely to do much more for them now.

In terms of extras, theyre limited to 5 bouts, all of which seem selected completely at random and could just as easily be part of the main feature. DLo Brown is in the best two of these, and its a treat to see the former WWE star here. Monty Brown is less well catered for, and those who have never seen him prior to this probably arent going to come away with a favourable impression. What they likely will feel however, is that they have been exposed to a grouping of widely varying grapplers.

Add to basket?

The strongest selling point really of this collection, is probably the assortment of early AJ Styles matches on offer. Fans of the Phenomenal one will likely find this set indispensable. Not every appearance of the guy is fantastic, and none are really amongst his best work, but they represent a fine assortment of oddities. In all likelihood, that would be enough of selling point for TNA fans to invest in this release, and the appearances of the likes of Kash, DLo, Shamrock, Hardy, and Jerry Lynn are just the extra juice.
Some of the linking segments are also really interesting, such as Dixie Carter and Alex Shelleys comments on the introduction of the six-sided ring. They also highlight some really important points, such as the introduction of the character Abyss, and what a massive deal it was at the time for them to acquire Sting.

On the downside, some of the claims made in these clips are preposterous.  DLo Browns reference to James Storm as being part of two of the most successful tag teams in not just this company, but the business being one that jumps out. Sure, Beer Money and previously, AMW, are both great (especially his tandem with Roode), however they are in no way amongst the most successful team in history. Its this sort of comment that while understandable (it is a TNA release after all), renders much of the offerings from the contributors as somewhat redundant.  Another issue, is with having too many guys talking about the Asylum experience, who werent actually in TNA at the time. The other performers, such as Kaz, AJ, and Jarrett (actually, more so than anyone else), have much more to offer.
Additionally, there are far, far too many non-finishes and run-ins in this smattering of matches. Granted, this was always an issue with the company, but to highlight it here is rather absurd. That said, its a small price to pay when several of the entries are of such high standard.

Different, and providing some recent nostalgia, Best of the Asylum Years Volume 1 has to be thoroughly recommended, despite the faults. Obviously, this review has been far from overwhelmingly positive there really is some crap here. It doesnt take away though, that their forays into the Asylum were an important time for the company, and it was a period that saw the odd piece of genuinely compelling wrestling. Assuming you dont expect any genuine classics, this set delivers.

TNA: Best of the Asylum Years Volume 1 is available now from www.tnawrestling.com and all the usual retail stockists.
Thanks for taking the time to check this out. I welcome any and all feedback and  I can be contacted  at bazilalfonso@hotmail.com or can be found on Facebook.

Credit: Michael Campbell, The Wrestling Observer www.f4wonline.com

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