Wednesday, January 6, 2010

In honor of Bret Hart's return to live WWF/WWE television, here's a review of his WWE distributed documentary and DVD set from 2005: 

Bret "Hitman" Hart: The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be

Director: Kevin Dunn
Released By: WWE Home Video
Release Date: 11/05

Featured Talent: Animal, Steve Austin, Chris Benoit, Jerry Brisco,Christian, Bret Hart, Jimmy Hart, Steve Lombardi, Vince McMahon, Gene Okerland, Roddy Piper, Bruce Pritchard, Jim Ross

The Good
The Bret Hart story is one of the most fascinating in pro-wrestling and this WWE production with Hart's close involvement does a respectable job. His early years are covered in pretty good depth, which is not often the opposite in these documentaries. It talks about his amateur background, his legendary father and shows more Stampede than you would expect. Although it is in highlight form (Stampede's library is limited), it focuses on his greatest rivals, which are consequential some under appreciated talents like the Kiwis (later known as the Bushwackers), Bad News Allen, The Stomp, David Schultz and it shows plenty of the Dynamite Kid. Then his legendary thirteen year run with the WWF is covered in great depth. From his early days as a near jobber and later half of the extremely talented Hart Foundation, his abilities as a young worker and heel are displayed. Then his singles days as the “excellent” Intercontinental Champion workhorse, the unlikely World Champion and then the superstar in his prime. This climbing-the-ladder story is a simple and frequently used one on the WWE documentaries, but it plays well here because it is a drawn out story. After he reached the pinnacle, it discusses the many hardships that befell him – unexpected hatred from the American fans, the Montreal screwjob, his pathetic WCW run, the death of Owen Hart, his sudden retirement and his stroke in 2002. The documentary stays away from the numerous deaths that Bret experienced over the last ten years and that prevents this from becoming too morbid, although the DVD Extras has a nice piece about Bret's dead colleagues. This a well put together DVD package and it has many great matches to boot. The star commentary here is from, not surprisingly, Bret Hart himself and the DVD Extras add some of the bits that couldn't neatly fit into the documentary.

The Bad
In these WWE documentaries there is often a lack of duality to the commentary. Bret Hart really believes in his legacy and he is the overwhelming presence here and not many other views squeak into the story. Vince McMahon and Jim Ross provide some good perspective, but they are not exactly critics of Bret Hart. This is not surprising because it was a tricky operation to put this DVD package together. There is a shocking lack of diversity to the commentators though, which is tragic. None of his family members are featured, most notably Jim Neidhart, there is a lack of Stampede personalities and even old veterans (Nick Bockwinkel, Harley Race, etc.) who could have been interviewed. There is plenty of Ed Whalen in the Stampede highlights, which is unfortunate because it makes the product seem so far league. Otherwise, this is a solid documentary and a great DVD package.

The Rating: *****

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