Friday, March 19, 2010

The Triumph and Tragedy of World Class Championship Wrestling

Director: Kevin Dunn
Distributor: WWE Home Video
Released: 12/07 

Featured Talent
Skandor Akbar, Ric Flair, Mick Foley, Dory Funk Jr., Verne Gagne, Jimmy Garvin, Gary Hart, Michael Hayes, Bill Irwin, Jerry Lawler, Bill Mercer, Shawn Michaels, Dusty Rhodes, Buddy Roberts, Jim Ross, Triple H, Kevin Von Erich

The Good
When the WWE bought the rights to the World Class library many feared the highly regarded Heroes of World Class documentary would be kept under wraps. It was not and in fact the WWE created a complimentary documentary with the comments of different talent and with some different approaches. This one did a comparable job in covering the rise and fall of World Class, but the period in between is not as dense or thorough. The crux of the rise was the Von Erich/Freebird feud, which looking at the cover and knowing the influence of Michael Hayes should come as no surprise. This facet was well built and covered, if only it had given so much time to other parts of the World Class legacy. The discussion about David Von Erich's death was interesting, people's thoughts on Kerry Von Erich's consequential NWA title win and the the coverage of Gino Hernandez's death were strong additions. What this has over Heroes are the parts about Ken Mantell, whose influence is undeniable and the bluntness in talking about the failure of the WCWA World title. WWE's documentaries have no problems with negativity and it added something that Heroes may have lacked. As with Heroes, Gary Hart was the highlight interview here and it did not seem redundant.

The Bad
Did you know the success of World Class essentially rode on the shoulders of the Freebirds? Michael Hayes will let you know throughout this documentary. They were the most innovative, the most heat-garnering and they were as important (perhaps more so) than the Von Erich boys. That B.S. aside, this documentary was not as offensively bad as it could have been. Gary Hart stated after this release that he felt the fascinating history of pro-wrestling in Dallas was downplayed by both documentaries and numerous personalities were left out. This was certainly done here as Bruiser Brody, Mark Lewin, Kamala, Kabuki, Abdullah the Butcher and others were only mentioned in passing. The trend seems that all heels other than the Freebirds and Gino Hernandez were not given much play. These omissions always happen due to the time constraints, talent involved and so on, but it is still unfortunate. This also featured the typical moments that were included and perhaps should have been left on the cutting room floor - Triple H railing against "hardcore," Bill Irwin adamant view that David Von Erich died due to an eating disorder and Bill Mercer's kayfabe are all standout examples. 

The Extras
This DVD set has a nice second disk with twelve matches of varying levels of quality and importance. There is a Duke Keomuka/Ricky Starr match that is totally detached, but an interesting inclusion nonetheless. The rest are from `82-`86 and they feature all the top stars and several who weren't really addressed. Two feature commentary with Todd Grisham (why?) and Kevin Von Erich, which is always a cool feature. 

The Rating: ****1/4

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