Sunday, June 27, 2010

Icons of Wrestling: Lou Thesz

Director: Dale & Claude Barnes
Distributor: TWC (The Wrestling Channel)
Released: 1/06
Featured Talent: Pampero Firpo, Hard Boiled Haggerty, Antonio Inoki, Charlie Thesz, Lou Thesz

The Good
If you have never seen any footage of Lou Thesz, this is a neat little featurette about him. It offers a lot of photos, video and comments that gives some insight into why many have considered him the greatest pro-wrestler ever. This gives a very brief overview of a long and full career breaking up the story into two halves. First are the early years with him cutting his teeth and being managed by “Strangler” Lewis. Then after explaining his hand-to-hand combat training during World War II, it covers the post-war period. This second part features the advent of television and focuses on his time in California. There is quiet a bit of footage of him and his family on the beach, hosting a party and playing on his ranch. Then fast-forward to the mid-70s when he is working periodically in Japan as a legend and meeting his third wife Charlie. It is difficult to cover such a career and this is about as good as one would expect to get in less than thirty minutes. Lou Thesz is pretty candid and there is a semblance of order to the story.

The Bad
While this came out a few years ago, since the advent of youtube, something like this seems dull. While there is only a fraction of Lou Thesz’s matches saved on video, most of it is him as a balding forty year old man. He was a great athlete, a great performer and a great champion, but it is difficult to dress up this footage and get that idea across. Things just look so different and he looks so old that some explanation is required to pull out the positive aspects and that is not really done here. Another issue is that everything that Lou Thesz said had a reason behind it, whether it was to put someone over, protect his own legacy or whatever. It is part kayfabe, part fuzzy memories, but it adds up to a not-so-honest version of history. While Hooker is a great book, it has that dimension to it and so does this. Lastly, if you want to memorialize someone, spell their name correctly.

The Rating: ***

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