Saturday, April 17, 2010

Art of Managing with Gary Hart & Sir Oliver Humperdink

The Good
Gary Hart was one of the greatest shoot interviews ever and I've never heard him do anything that was not excellent. Sir Oliver Humperdink, in stark contrast to his on-screen character, is pretty low-key and uncontroversial, but insightful nonetheless. Mark Nulty is generally a meticulous researcher and interviewer and this is perhaps his best effort yet. What makes a great manager? How do you get talent over? How do you get the right heat? How do you cut a "money promo"? And so on and so on, Mark Nulty puts together an orderly and provocative interview. Gary Hart carries the day here (as one would expect) and even throws a couple jabs at John Nord, Jim Ross (I think?!) and "The" Sting. Humperdink is excellent as well and cuts a great lil' impromptu promo on Dusty Rhodes. This is just great stuff and what I think Kayfabe Commentaries is largely geared toward.

The Bad
I'm sure plenty of people might find this boring. It is in-depth, thorough and not particular controversial in its commentary. While one could find this dull that is largely a matter of opinion. I personally found this riveting and cannot say much negative about it.

The Rating: *****

Friday, April 16, 2010

The American Dream
Directors: Kevin Dunn
Distributor: WWE Home Video
Released: 6/06 

Featured Talent
Arn Anderson, Shelton Benjamin, Tully Blanchard, Jerry Brisco, John Cena, Simon Dean, Ted Dibiase, Ric Flair, Tony Garea, Mike Graham, Superstar Billy Graham, Michael Hayes, Bobby Heenan, Jerry Lawler, Chris Masters, Vince McMahon, Trevor Murdoch, Gene Okerland, Pat Patterson, Roddy Piper, Bruce Pritchard, Harley Race, William Regal, Dusty Rhodes, Michelle Rhodes, Dustin Runnels, Sgt. Slaughter, Joey Styles, Triple H

The Good
Dusty Rhodes is one of those once-in-a-lifetime personalities that comes along and despite hardships and limitations, they have that special something that makes them a legend. Dusty Rhodes story as the son of plumber in Austin, Texas is true, so telling it is very easy. There are great photographs and some fitting music that compliment the distinct voice and vernacular of the man. Like numerous other biographical documentaries by the WWE, the personality of the performer carries much of the quality of the piece. Although he's no Billy Graham, Dusty Rhodes can talk well and keep the viewer engaged with his storytelling. The legacy of the Texas Outlaws (Rhodes and Dick Murdoch) is appropriately explained, but there is definitely more to that story. The Florida territory is succinctly and accurately described in a way that helps the modern fan understand how it worked and why it worked. Eddie Graham is put over and it connects to Dusty's own promotional acumen. Luckily they address some of Dusty's faults as well because he certainly has some that cannot fairly be left unsaid. Ultimately though it explains how Dusty Rhodes simply had a gift for getting things over, namely himself. He got over as a bad ass heel, he got over as a flamboyant jive-talking average Joe babyface and he even got over in his yellow polka dots. The tales of that last part are particularly funny. While you can grasp some of his excellence on the mic, it does not come across as strongly as in the Superstar Graham DVD. The real highlight of this is the story of the Dusty and Dustin Rhodes. They genuinely try to explain the hardships that being a pro-wrestler have on a family and how difficult it is for a son to follow his father when that father is a huge star. Dustin Rhodes brings a lot of emotion and honesty to this and it makes this more than a run-of-the-mill documentary about a pro-wrestling legend. The extras are all good from okay matches to great promos and vignettes. 

The Bad
Dusty Rhodes' legacy within the WWF is very different than his time spent elsewhere. He had a great feud with Superstar Graham in the late 70s and a run in the late 80s that many believe ruined his legacy. Although he was moderately successful in that ridiculous role and it was fun for everybody, it did his career no favors. The character of Sapphire and the racial baggage that comes with it is not even addressed (no surprise there), but she stands out as an example of the underlying bigotry that existed in the WWF worldview at that time. The final sticking point is that Dusty Rhodes does not seem to really take much of the heat for the death of Jim Crockett Promotions. He admits he usually catches the blame, but by no means admits his guilt. He was not alone, but he was certainly complacent as JCP spent its way into the ground. 

The Rating: ****1/4

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bruno Sammartino - Straight Shootin' with Jim Cornette

The Good
Jim Cornette's run in Ring of Honor was perhaps highlighted by his involvement with the Straight Shootin' series where he interviewed legendary personalities.  I'd heard parts of the Bobby Heenan interviews, which were gold, but this was the first one I'd been able to really focus on and hear all the way through.  I'll be the first to admit, I'm a big mark for Jim Cornette and I tend to think any project he involves himself in is improved by his involvement.  Now TNA might be the exception, but whether its shoot interviews, documentaries, books, radio shows, audio commentaries on DVDs or whatever, he is a genius in the modern product with his old-school ways.  Bruno Sammartino is a great interview in my view.  He led a storied career, he's opinionated, he tells great stories, he has integrity and he is honest (although his perspective is his perspective), so why should he not be?  I'd seen Corny paired with Heenan (his idol), Percy Pringle/Paul Bearer (a colleague) and Bill Watts (former boss), but Bruno Sammartino?  This odd couple worked so well though.  Cornette did his homework himself, inserts comments, guides the interview well and builds respect with the interviewee (him being in the business certainly helps greatly).  I've heard Bruno with many good interviewers and many not-so-good interviews and this blew them all away.  These two had great chemistry and it spilled out in a way that I'd love to see more often.  Les Thatcher has the same knack although he's a less of a historian than Cornette, but has seniority, variety of experiences and extensive in-ring experience in his favor.  This was one of the best talkers paired with a respectable talker and only great results coming out.

The Bad
Bruno Sammartino's viewpoints are his own and he owns them inarguably.  Whether you agree with them or not, one must respect him for sticking to his guns.  He makes factual errors as you should realistically expect, but nothing that is completely ridiculous or offensively false.  Jim Cornette could have probably called him out on a few comments, but he kept it positive and keeping that rapport between he and Bruno was probably more important than doing a hard-hitting interview.  You could fault Corny for that, but I think his respect for Bruno Sammartino trumps his need to be a tough interview.

The Rating: *****