Saturday, March 11, 2006

Capsule Review Cavalcade: The Wrestling DVDs

Wrestling for me is starting to skid away from the analytical and getting fun to watch again. Only if the current product were actually engaging, but I digress. The E is doing a bang-up job of putting out fun documentaries and collections for me to view, so here we are.

I don’t think I can really do a PPV justice, so let’s start off with the DVD feature releases. I’m pretty drained after watching one of them, so I never get a chance to put pen to paper formally (fine, finger to keyboard, but follow me). That’s why we’re doing it this way. Besides, most of us know what the program will feature, so that part of the review is junk anyway. I’ll give my little opinion followed by the normal out-of-five star scale score. As WWE or anybody else churn out more for me to watch, expect some sequels to this post. For now, let’s get reviewing. In no particular order:

Bret Hart: The Best There Is, The Best There Was, And The Best There Ever Will Be (2005); Three-Disc Set
I was a huge fan of Bret Hart growing up. I was not a fan of the main feature on this set. For instance, they made a handful of points on Bret’s Stampede career in what felt like an hour. Sure the clips were nice, but maybe they could’ve saved half of that portion and made it a special feature. It’s especially annoying when the WWF years feel like they’re put through a blender during the 90s portion of the doc. I shut it off around then and never returned to it because the chronology and editing and what have you was just all off the mark.

As for the matches, they’re pretty good, but there were some notably absent bouts as well as some wonky choices. The match with Dibiase wasn’t bad, but wasn’t something to write home about either. The only worthwhile thing about it is the absent commentary and audible wrestler voices throughout.

People are cheering for a sequel, but you wouldn’t really need it if the match choices were more thoughtful. I guess, though, I’d like to see stuff like his Survivor Series ’96 bout with Austin and Summer Slam match with Anvil versus Demolition...and how could they forget his feud with Lawler!? So bring it on if you want to WWE. Buy if you’re a Hitman fan; for the newbies, it’s not necessarily your best intro to Bret. Don’t let the score fool you – what’s good here is great – but what’s bad just drags down the average. I was more disappointed considering the potential of this one. ***

The Rise and Fall of ECW (2004); Two-Disc Set
This is one hell of a show. Just about everybody you want to hear from is here talking about the glory days of ECW. Notice I say want to hear from – for example, what’s Sabu going to say? Also, I don’t see the verbal contribution of Terry Funk or Shane Douglas to be much in the way of insight as their careers are only part ECW; the people on the disc are mostly ECW born and raised.

On the negative end of things, there are always those rose-colored glasses people see ECW with - or in their case blood-stained glasses. In any event, there’s a lot of hyperbole here as to what changed the face of all wrestling, what ECW’s biggest pops/heat were for, etc, etc. And I never watched the extras, as the legacy of ECW for me will be in the way of a long-form story of its impact, not just one or two matches. Some chairshots and flips have little to say about what the company did as a whole. I haven’t tried watching this with my friends, to whom ECW is foreign, so I don’t know how it stands up from a general point of view. But as somebody who watched during their zenith, it was a lot of fun and well, WELL worth the money. ****¼

The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior (2005)
If I were producing this DVD, I’d have left the extreme and hilarious burial to guys like Heenan, Okerlund, Jericho, et al, and left the viewer to figure out he’s a complete nutjob from everything else. Then again if I did that, I wouldn’t be working for the E. As it stands, it’s just a complete snuff piece on Jim Hellwig from top-to-bottom. Perhaps a better title would have been “That Wacky Warrior!” or something else that has an exclamation point and a man shrugging to say the title.

It’s no secret if you learn about the guy that he was a bit out there and not the most talented wrestler. However, you can still convey that and give the guy a bit of credit for being part of some good angles and matches. Anything you say about his post-1992 WWF and WCW offerings should get the burial job done anyway. But they just couldn’t settle for that. Interesting watch, but not the best and most fair job they could’ve done. ***¾

The Monday Night War (2003)
It’s hard not to watch the main feature and laugh, cringe or otherwise react when you see a piece of blatant WWE revisionist history. That aside, it did keep me interested – so much so that I revisit it in full every now and then. Just like the ECW set, they got all the right people to speak. But was Austin’s confrontation with Tyson really that big of a landmark? Even watching it first run, I knew Foley’s title win and some of the other events had a bigger impact. Even if you disagree with me, they should have at least paid lip service to what WCW was doing in comparison that week/month/etc to put it in perspective.

Bischoff and WCW are given credit where credit’s due, so hats off to Vince and company on that one. This really could’ve been a two-disc set, though, as the extras feel really slapdash and incomplete. A cheap and easy pick up if you’re at Best Buy. ****

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