Saturday, February 27, 2010

Wrestling (1964 Documentary)

Directors: Michel Brault, Marcel Carreiere, Claude Fournier, Claude Jutra
Distributor: National Film Board of Canada
Released: 1961 (reaired 2004)

Featured Talent
Wild Red Berry, Eduord Carpentier, Al Costello, Dominic Denucci, Ivan Kalimikoff, Tony Lanza, Yvon Robert 

The Good
The simple fact is there is not much quality pro-wrestling footage out there prior to the 1980s, so when some gems like this are avaliable, it is important to enjoy them. This brief documentary shows some great insight into the "Golden Age" of pro-wrestling. That sport that has a lot of tongue-in-cheek comedy, simple characters and more white hot heat than anything you see on TV today. This documentary focuses on pro-wrestling in Canada, specifically Quebec. It shows legendary trainer Tony Lanza working with some of his students. It has a lengthy highlight reel of sorts from the card being featured. Seeing these nondescript wrestlers go through moves on black and white film and the action being set to Bach is fascinating to see. It is at times whimiscal, at times artsy and it even borders on beautiful a few times. The main event is Eduoard Carpentier and Dominic Denucci against Al Costello and Ivan Kalimikoff. These are four men who were top stars in the 60s, but receive little, if any, fanfare today. To see Carpentier is amazing - a thickly muscled, charismatic babyface who flips around and works the crowd to perfection. Denucci, known now mostly as Mick Foley's mentor, shows why he was a top draw in Australia as he sells a pounding that drives the Italians in the crowd wild. Costello and Kalimikoff, two master tag wrestlers, heel it up and they generate that heat you just don't see these days. Also it should be mentioned Wild Red Berry cuts a promo at the end that along with Kalimikoff shows how simple it is. 

The Bad
I have few complaints about this. Thirty minutes was way too short to satisfy me, although I loved seeing this action. They didn't name the undercard matches or wrestlers, so I didn't know who was who is all the black trunks and black boots. While some may say a lot of this looked fake, this is from near fifty years ago! Sure, parts of this don't compare to today's action, but the heat is just amazing to experience. I wouldn't call this a must-see for everyone, but if you are into pro-wrestling history this captures much of what made the television era so great.

The Rating: ****

Friday, February 26, 2010

Rock-N-Roll Express [RF Video Shoot Interview]

The Good
Ricky Morton didn't just carry the team, he carries this interview.  Opinionated, honest, funny and insightful, Morton has to be one of the best shoot interviews out there.  Robert Gibson "works the apron" by adding in little comments and jokes when needed and one brings to truly understand the dynamics of the Rock-N-Roll Express.  Although I usually feel RF's questioning is poor, it is acceptable here and he really digs into some of the early years in Tennessee and Alabama more than I would have expected.  It is really Ricky Morton's powerful personality that make this fantastic and you'll see him in a whole new light when you catch this.

The Bad
Without dwelling on the faults of RF Video Shoot Interviews, one would find this really enjoyable.  I always want to here more about the Alabama region because it has been downplayed so much.  Ricky and Robert seem to have more nostalgia and excitement in talking about Memphis than any other place and that could probably be an interview all by itself.  My faults with this are pretty minimal.

The Rating: ****1/2

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Shawn Stasiak [club wwi shoot interview]

The Good
Shawn Stasiak has a reputation of being a little out there and while that does come across a bit here, he certainly seems well-spoken and one has to buy into the ability, marketability and potential that he had.  He has reached a place in his personal life where he's not angry and bitter, but certainly feels that he was misused throughout his career.  One has a hard time in not being convinced by his arguments.  Regardless of how one views his opinions, Shawn Stasiak is a long-winded talker and if you like to listen to him go on, then this is just great.  He has some unique perspectives and interesting stories that he shares and overall makes this a strong interview.

The Bad

Part of you buys into the Shawn Stasiak story.  He was the second generation son of a WWWF Champion, he was an exceptional collegiate athlete, he did look like a star, but something always seemed amiss.  While you'd never get that from listening here, Shawn Stasiak simply never delivered the goods in the ring the way he needed to and that is ultimately why he never cracked through the midcard.  He talks about his background, but you'd really like to hear more about Stan "the Man" (my suspicion is that Stan's later days were very sad ones as he became a broken-down alcoholic from most accounts), but Shawn gets into his own experiences.  I could totally under someone thinking this is boring and wholly uninteresting.

The Rating: ***1/4

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

This is My Yard
Director: Kevin Dunn
Distributor: WWF Home Video
Released: 9/01

Featured Talent
Kurt Angle, Brooklyn Brawler, Edge, Howard Finkel, Matt Hardy, Paul Heyman, Hardcore Holly, Chris Jericho, Kane, Lita, Diamond Dallas Page, Pat Patterson, Jim Ross, The Undertaker, X-Pac

The Good
The Undertaker is probably the best character the WWF ever created. While Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin and The Rock were arguably bigger stars and stronger draws, they were not the type of "character" that Mark Calloway has created and portrayed. This is a decent bio before the WWF/WWE really began putting a lot of effort into their documentaries. The Undertaker was just wrapping up a decade in the WWF and this look back was nostalgic, but foward looking. He talks about his time in WCW, his entrance into the WWF, his learning under Jake Roberts and the original dimensions of his character. Then it delves into how The Undertaker character had tranformed over the years, focusing largely on the original and the Ministry version. Since he was the "American Bad Ass" character when this was released, it mainly focuses on that, which is close to his true self. His tattoos and bikes are covered, which is very "WWF Confidential," but fine documentary filler as they always have. The comments by his peers about how he is a lockeroom leader and how hard he works is one of the strengths of this documentary. That is the aspect of The Undertaker that is not exactly displayed on TV (although it is widely known), so having it explained is appropriate. 

The Bad
By jumping right to "Mean" Mark, this documentary leaves out his time in Texas, the Spoiler and his development in Memphis, which are all more pivotal and important than his short stint in the New Skyscrapers. The WWF did not own the rights to World Class or the USWA at that point, so those omissions are understandable. The story jumps around a bit and certainly focuses too much on the character he had when this was produced. His forgettable feuds in 2000-2001 with Kurt Angle, Triple H and Steve Austin are overplayed and make this look weird a few years after the fact. His rivalries with Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels and various freaks and giants should have gotten more time. The presense of a masked Kane, semi-kayfabing, is really lame. The over-the-top nature of their feud and the fact they are kayfabe brothers really made this weird in spots. As strange as that was, featuring Sara (his now ex-wife), really dates this documentary. Perhaps the most disappointing was the lack of star power being interviewed on this. The WWE will definitely do a documentary in the future and hopefully they can use pieces from this to generate a more deserving product. 

The Rating: ***1/2

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bruiser Brody Shoot Interview from 1988

The Good
Not surprisingly, Bruiser Brody is very frank here (no pun intended).  I've never heard where this interview came from, but it is a total gem.  He explains why he believes the pro-wrestling of the late 1980s is better than it has been in the past, his logic for working independents and small shows, how he flips between babyface and heel night after night and .  Of course, he kayfabes to an extent and asks that the early portion where he reveals his real name (Frank Goodish) and the fact he produces World Class Championship Wrestling should be edited off.  That aside, he very carefully and seriously answers questions without looking like a total goof (even over twenty years later!).  I am not sure who the interviewer is, but he clearly knows the business and asks Brody questions directly and respectfully.  This is surreal to see and hear and while it is not a true shoot interview (in a sense), it is unlike anything I've ever seen.  This predates the original shoot interview that Bob Barnett did with Eddie Gilbert by several years.

The Bad
Obviously, someone could really crap all over this.  Brody certainly kayfabes, he probably dodges questions to an extent, he pulls the conversation into other areas (specifically football) in an effort to legitimize pro-wrestling and its athleticism and downplay its entertainment aspects.  If you go in understanding that, how can you dislike this?  Sadly, Bruiser Brody died months after this was recorded and was never able to do a shoot interview like the stars of yesteryear have done.  Although, you have to wonder if he wouldn't have to kayfabe like Stan Hansen and others always do.

The Rating: ****

Top 100 Pro-Wrestlers of All-Time

Author, Ghost Writer, Editor: John F. Molinero; Jeff Marek, Dave Meltzer
Publisher: Winding Stair Press
Released: 12/02

The Good
A fun read that is pretty accurate and fair to people's legacies. It tries not to be negative, for better or for worse. Molinero and his editors know their wrestling and the fact they push some of the people as high as they do is probably alarming to some, but I think after a single reading anyone would be sold on anyone of the questionable wrestlers. That is a difficult task. Some wrestlers are romanticized to an extent and some are not and either makes for an interesting read. It's pretty straightforward and if you don't learn something I'd be surpised.

The Bad
As one would expect there is so wrong with this list. The three guys that made it are very knowledge, but they're fallible in their selection as anyone would be. They do acknowledge that at least, but it doesn't dismiss them. Dave himself thinks the first 75 are strong, but the last leg is here & there. Certain minorities are groups are ignored, namely Japanese women (Chigusa is 45!), Europeans (there are only like 5 native borns) and one could make cases for Japanese and Mexican wrestlers as well and not to mention countries that no one knows a lot about (India's Dara Singh is kind of the exception), but everywhere from Puerto Rico to Australia is overlooked to a degree. I could go on forever about all the flaws of this list, but the fact is it's an impossible task. Other than that it has a few inaccurate pictures, which never looks good, but they're not ones that most people would notice.

The Rating: ****1/4

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Every Man Has His Price: The True Story of Wrestling's Million Dollar Man
Author, Ghost Writer, Editor: Ted DiBiase
Publisher: Multnomah Publishers, Inc.
Released: 10/97 

The Good
Nice overview of the man's life. He talks plainly about the good things in his life and is very upbeat and yes, very Christian. He goes into the details of breaking in and Mid-South pretty well, which people always want because that's the stuff that's hard-to-get usually.

The Bad
This comes across as very fluffy with not a whole lot of content and a disturbing lack of bitterness. While it's uplifting in a sense, DiBiase never really gets into his demons, so it seems to lack that punch. There's kind of a lot of calms with no real storms. He does sort of an overview of his WWF and WCW years, which will bug some, but not others.

The Rating: **1/2