Wednesday, July 6, 2011

DVD Review: Some random wrestling titles

Below are a few thoughts, a mini-review of sorts, on some of the professional wrestling documentary sets I have recently viewed.

Mick Foley: Hardcore Legend

Mick Foley is a world-renowned professional wrestler and has added a new dimension to his resume as a bestselling author (click here to read my review of his "Countdown to Lockdown" biography).

This was just a one-disk set, but it was broken up into two parts. The first half featured Mick Foley and TNA personality Jeremy Borash introducing Mick's greatest moments from his TNA career, starting with his TNA debut and ending with his November, 2010, Last Man Standing match against Ric Flair, which Foley said was most likely his last match.

The matches were good, as Foley has a unique style and has definitely learned how to mask and hide any physical shortcomings through a wreckless, entertaining wrestling approach. One of his better matches of the last decade was his 2009 cage match against Sting, the buildup and execution of which is the basis for his Lockdown book. The banter between Foley and Borash was entertaining, as they've proven to be a funny duo on television. They play off each other well and share a similar sense of humor.

The second half of the DVD takes a more serious tone and shows Foley away from the ring, as it talks about the charity work Foley does involving building schools in Africa. He is also interviewed about his family and the writing of his books. It's a very nice view of him outside of the wrestling ring.

Jeff Jarrett: King of the Mountain

This four-disk set is a career profile on the man who founded TNA, back in 2002. Released in 2009, it is broken up into small segments talking about a certain subject, for example his start in wrestling (as his father was a wrestler and promoter and his grandmother worked in the industry), which would then be followed by one of his TNA matches.

Several interesting topics are broached - his WWE and WCW careers, the last night of his WWE career where he allegedly "held up" Vince McMahon for money, the night Owen Hart died, the night Vince Russo "shot" on Hulk Hogan, the death of WCW, and much more. It was weird to talk about WWE and WCW things without the ability to show any WWE or WCW footage. For hardcore fans, it likely wasn't too big of a deal, but some more casual fans may not know all the details and would need some video as a reference.

The match selection is pretty good. A unique part of the DVD is some of the footage from the beginning of Jeff Jarrett's career, from his father's Memphis promotion. It's some of the only big footage from the "territory days" of professional wrestling that the WWE doesn't own. Some of Jarrett's first matches from the late '80s are featured.

Best of the Asylum Years: Volume One

TNA was formed in the summer of 2002 by Jeff Jarret and his father Jerry Jarrett. Its business model was somewhat revolutionary at the time (and proved to ultimately be unsuccessful) - to air weekly one-hour pay per views at only $10. Instead of what is considered the "standard" for a wrestling company - a prime-time cable show that builds toward monthly pay per views, TNA tried something different.

TNA's weekly pay per views were broadcast every Wednesday night from a building in Nashville that they dubbed the Aslyum. They ran pay per views in the Asylum from 2002-2004, at which point they switched to the more traditional format. Their "Impact" television show debuted on Fox Sports Net in 2004 before switching to SpikeTV in 2005.

What's even more interesting than the matches featured is the commentary between them. There are interviews with several of TNA's early names about the company and the matches on the disk. People like Jeff Jarrett, AJ Styles, Abyss, Alex Shelley, Dixie Carter (who is rocking some amazing cleavage on this set!) and more give a unique perspective to the company's formative years.

The 2-disk set starts with the first Asylum main event, a ladder match between NWA Champion Ken Shamrock and Sabu, all the way to the final Asylum main event, NWA Champion Jeff Jarrett vs Jeff Hardy. Inbetween, we see some great X-Division matches, including a great 2002 ladder match between Jerry Lynn, Low-Ki and AJ Styles; the brutal cage match between America's Most Wanted and Triple-X, the famous Hair vs Hair Raven vs Shane Douglas match (remembered for Douglas getting kicked in the testicles and puking in the middle of the ring), as well as Lex Luger's first match after the 2003 death of his girlfriend, Elizabeth Hulette (better known in wrestling circles in Ms. Elizabeth... the death was drug-related and Luger was initially implicated in the scandal).

It's a good set to familiarize yourself with the early history of TNA, if you're a new fan. If you fondly remember this era of TNA, it's a must-have. The "Volumne One" tag indicates there could be future installments. I wouldn't mind that at all.

The Very Best of WCW Monday Nitro

WWE released this 3-disk set last month. It has been hotly anticipated since it was announced earlier this year. Anticipation grew even more when it was revealed that "Diamond" Dallas Page, one of the biggest stars of World Championship Wrestling, would be hosting the set.

I bought it as soon as it was released. I wasn't disappointed... Sort of...

Like DDP says at the DVD's conclusion, it is impossible to encapsulate the very best of a weekly 3-hour program that aired for six years into 9 hours. The moments included are most of the historic matches and segments from Nitro's history. Disk one is the early years, from the show's creation in late 1995 until the formation and domination of the New World Order. Disk two is a collection of the best of wrestling's "glory years," 1998-1999. Disk three is sort of hit-or-miss. The last couple years of WCW were rough, as they were clearly losing the wrestling war to Vince McMahon's WWE. A lot of it was in the "so bad it's good" territory that I actually think a "Worst of Nitro" DVD set that chronicled the show from 2000-2001 would sell pretty well.

I enjoyed the set from a nostalgia standpoint. I was actually expecting to see more vignettes and interviews, as opposed to actual matches, but the three disks were very heavy on in-ring action. The special features on the disks aren't anything to write home about, but the body of the DVDs are very good. I'd recommend it to any person who was a fan during the "Monday Night War" era of professional wrestling.

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