Tuesday, January 12, 2016

WWE Network Original Specials - 2nd Half 2015

I have been surprisingly staying on top of a lot of WWE Network Specials and exclusive series the last several months. In case you do not have time to sift through the archives I thought I would give a quick breakdown on the newest exclusive specials and series that have been on the Network in the second half of 2015. If you want to see even more of my past WWE Network coverage, click here for my analysis on the specials that came out in the first half of 2015, and make sure to see my articles covering WWE Network’s tributes for Ultimate Warrior and Dusty Rhodes memorial weeks.

Undertaker 25th Anniversary - Undertaker debuted at the 1990 Survivor Series so the week of the 2015 Survivor Series marked the 25th anniversary of “The Dead Man.” Aside from posting an assortment of past Undertaker moments and matches, they posted several exclusive WWE Networks Specials throughout the week. Make sure to check out the two part Legends with JBL special where he interviews Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin and Triple H as they all discuss past moments, stories and matches with the Undertaker. It is not too often you hear of behind-the-scenes antics of Undertaker and the guys here have quite a few noteworthy tales you do not want to miss out on.

25 Phenomenal Years is a countdown of Undertaker’s top 25 moments throughout his career. Some of the clips feature new interviews from the talent involved. Undertaker’s Gravest Matches is a two hour collection of the many specialty matches made famous by the Undertaker such as the Casket Match, Buried Alive Match and the infamous Hell in a Cell. These two specials features content that has been recycled on countless other match collections and specials and is not worth going out of your to relive again unless you are a diehard ‘Taker fan or a newer fan that has not been exposed that much to his past. However, definitely make sure to catch the two-part JBL interviews.

Breaking Ground - This will go down as the flagship exclusive WWE Network show of 2015 much like The Monday Night War was the Network’s best exclusive show for 2014. Breaking Ground covers a couple months in the lives of several up-and-coming stars in WWE’s NXT developmental territory. The 10-episode special interviews many of the current NXT stars and even a few who have yet to make their proper NXT TV debut. William Shatner narrates each episode that sees stars rise through the ranks, succumb to injuries, or even worse get their release from their contract.

The Breaking Ground season finale culminates with the Takeover: Respect special that featured the highly acclaimed Bayley/Sasha Banks “Iron Woman” match. If you are a big fan of NXT like I am then rest assured you will get a lot out of Breaking Ground as it goes behind-the-scenes into talent meetings with trainers and management unlike any other WWE documentary or special before it. Highest recommendation for this series above the rest covered in this article.

Table for 3 - Props to the folks at the WWE Network for coming up with affordable to produce, yet enticing to watch content such as Table for 3. The show is exactly as it sounds as three superstars sit down for dinner and talk shop and share stories. There are already ten episodes available and even the least entertaining episodes are still worth checking out for many behind-the-scenes stories from the road or facts I never heard of before. WWE rarely tracks down retired women wrestlers to interview so I was ecstatic and pleased with how the episode featuring Molly Holly, Ivory and Madusa/Alundra Blayze turned out. The episode with New Day is also a riot to watch as you can tell the three are enjoying their long overdue success. The “King’s Court” episode is also worth checking out as William Regal, Sheamus and Wade Barrett jest about being the worst King of the Ring winners among other things.

Legends with JBL - There are only four episodes of this up so far, with two episodes interviewing Eric Bischoff about the Monday Night Wars and the aforementioned two are only found in the Undertaker Anniversary section where he interviews Austin, Michaels and Triple H. Both feature a lot of questions from JBL that covers the talent’s career in and out of the ring and are all get my recommendation.

The WWE List - This show replaced the old WWE Countdown show that ran on the first year of the WWE Network. There are 14 episodes available, and it is an alternative take on the countdown format. Instead of the traditional countdown show, an episode picks a theme and runs down several of the most popular candidates for it. While I prefer the traditional countdown-themed format more, The WWE List is a more condensed watch at around 30 minutes an episode where the old Countdown shows averaged around an hour each. My favorite episode of the year is easily the “Failed Factions” episode that trashed many past factions that you could tell were doomed from the start like 3 Man Band and The Job Squad.

Unfiltered with Renee Young - If you only got 10-15 minutes to kill then definitely check out any episode of Unfiltered. Renee has been pretty consistent at posting a new episode every other week and currently there are 20 episodes. There are a handful of episodes where she interviews actors on press junkets promoting their latest movies that are mostly skip-worthy fluff pieces but the episodes where she interviews wrestlers mostly cover the star’s day-to-day life and hobbies outside the ring and are entertaining watches as Renee is tremendous at getting the stars to open up and discuss their personal lives.

Superstar Inc - I am not that much into the tattoo scene, but NXT announcer Corey Graves is as he interviews several WWE stars like Roman Reigns, Big Show and Kofi Kingston on the meaning of their tats.

Stone Cold Podcast - I am a fan of Steve Austin’s podcast and for about once a month the last several months he has been interviewing former and current WWE talent. Austin is a natural at talking shop with his guests and he has a nice combination of easy-going day-to-day lifestyle topics with the wrestlers and usually mixes in a couple hard hitting questions too. The Shawn Michaels episode features a lot of hunting talk which is a passion for both Austin and Michaels, but they also make sure to discuss the infamous “Montreal Screwjob” moment from 1997 and where Shawn has taken his life since retirement. I really enjoyed the Paige interview which featured a ton of facts on the Diva I never knew of before and how she came out of a family dedicated to the business. Almost every episode is must listen, especially his earlier episodes with McMahon and Hunter that featured more hard-hitting questions, though more of his latest episodes are getting to be more casual laid back discussions, which are still entertaining episodes worth checking out.

Culture Shock with Corey Graves - It has been a couple months since Graves has unleashed a new Culture Shock joint, but for awhile it was running concurrently with Unfiltered, and was another entertaining option on the Network if you only got 10-15 minutes to spare. In this series, Graves travels the country and covers various culture festivals and conventions. Your mileage will vary on this depending on the subject matter at hand, but each episode is short enough that it provided a informative-while-entertaining quick look at hobbies I have zero interest in like when Graves invades Brony-Con and a Star Wars-con, but I get even more out of festivals he attends that I have a varying degree of enthusiasm in like the X Games or Comic-Con.

WWE Rivalries - Last year WWE debuted this new exclusive show which features near hour long looks at top wrestling rivalries of the past. These are extremely well produced, and most feature new interviews to go along with each episode. Last year had a seven episode long season, while 2015 only features a three episode season, yet features legendary rivalries like Steamboat/Flair, Trish/Lita and even the Rock/Cena opus.

The Vault - Until a couple months ago, the WWE Network had rarely updated their vault section of the Network which consists of archived shows from past WWE programs and other promotions. However the last few months the WWE Network has gone wild adding in many past episodes from their extensive tape library. For starters, WWE filled in many gaps in the RAW, Smackdown and ECW TV libraries. Then a couple months ago the Network posted about a random dozen episodes each from the Global Wrestling Federation, Mid-South Wrestling, Stampede Wrestling and the American Wrestling Alliance promotions.

The major show worth mentioning that the Network made sure to add to their lineup was the old premiere NWA show of the mid-80s, World Championship Wrestling. WWE posted nearly an entire two year run from late 1985 until late 1987 when Crockett Promotions was competing nose and nose with the old WWF back when Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen were in their prime feuding with Dusty Rhodes. I already watched a couple episodes of the old WCW show and it has a more sports-like feel without all the over-the-top theatrics that dominate WWE today. Some of the wrestling is a little antiquated by today’s standards, but it is definitely harder hitting, and the promos are leagues better than the painfully line-by-line rehearsed ones we have today. The best thing to compare it to would be a mid-80s version of NXT.

That about wraps it up and as you can see WWE produced tons of new original content this last half of 2015. Hopefully this guide provided you with a convenient way to pick and choose which content to track down first.

Past Wrestling Blogs

Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 2
Biggest Knuckleheads
Bobby The Brain Heenan
Daniel Bryan: Just Say Yes Yes Yes
Dusty Rhodes WWE Network Specials
ECW Unreleased: Vol 1
For All Mankind
Goldberg: The Ultimate Collection
Its Good to Be the King: The Jerry Lawler Story
Ladies and Gentlemen My Name is Paul Heyman
Legends of Mid South Wrestling
Macho Man: The Randy Savage Story
Memphis Heat
OMG Vol 2: Top 50 Incidents in WCW History
RoH Supercard of Honor V
RoH Supercard of Honor VI
RoH Supercard of Honor VII
RoH Supercard of Honor VIII
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
Superstar Collection: Zach Ryder
Top 50 Superstars of All Time
Tough Enough: Million Dollar Season
Warrior Week on WWE Network
Wrestlemania 3: Championship Edition
Wrestlemania 28
Wrestlemania 29
Wrestlemania 30
The Wrestler (2008)
Wrestling Road Diaries Too
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2015

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