Saturday, May 29, 2010

Body Slam! Want to Be a Professional Wrestler?
Director: Dennis Lofgren
Distributor: TLC (The Learning Channel)
Released: 6/01
Featured Talent 
Pamela Adams, Rick Bassman, Paul Bearer, Chris Daniels, John Heidenreich, Mike Henderson, Mikey Henderson, Tom Howard, Andrew Johnson, Nathan Jones, Deron "Malibu" McBee, Drzan McBee, Marty Rubalcaba, Test

The Good
This documentary focuses on Ultimate Pro-Wrestling (UPW), which was the WWF's West Coast developmental territory for a time. Although they had a respectable setup, UPW was very limited and that is perhaps why none of its stars never left for superstardom without a stop over somewhere else. This does feature a handful of WWF and TNA "stars"-to-be, most notably Samoa Joe and Nathan Jones. The focal points are four workers: Christopher Daniels, John Heidenreich, Mikey Henderson and Drzan McBee, whose success is about in that order. Daniels' story is interesting and for years people were rooting for him and he's probably reached the peak of his career. John Heidenreich was touted as a can't-miss from this period, but one can see the issues already present in his life. He has repeated setbacks from wrecking his car to breaking his hand, but gets a developmental deal in the end. Mikey Henderson's hardships are standard for undersized workers, but they pull in some material from his personal life that add a different twist. Drzan McBee's story is distinct due to her gender, faith and husband (American Gladiator Malibu). Overall, this seems like an honest depiction of how difficult it is to break into the pro-wrestling business. However, the landscape is much different than it was here, so the ladder is even higher to the top.

The Bad
One could definitely knock this as a run-of-the-mill documentary about pro-wrestling that is simply to ride the wave of popularity of that time. At the time, it was good, but every channel had some feature on pro-wrestling from A&E to MTV, but few were exceptional. This touched upon the big time, independent and even backyard wrestling. The latter part was as worthless as backyard wrestling itself. The overall feel of this is and was positive, however one could certainly be saddened thinking about how far pro-wrestling has fallen, how the WWF/WWE developmental system has shriveled up and how the independent scene is so depleted.

The Rating: ***1/4


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Icons of Wrestling: Pepper Gomez

Director: Dale & Claude Barnes
Distributor: TWC (The Wrestling Channel)
Released: 1/06
Featured Talent
Bonnie Gomez, Pepper Gomez, Dr. Mike Lano, Jim Melby, Paul Vachon, Jimmy Valiant

The Good
This series selected an interesting variety of talent to feature and Pepper Gomez is one of those curiosities. A top babyface in several territories with a great look, decent talent and great fire, Gomez is one of those legends who are certainly overlooked for some reason. This mini-documentary focuses largely on his life story with the pro-wrestling being part of the story. It talks about his childhood, the “Pepper” nickname, his time in the US Navy and how he broke in to pro-wrestling in the first part of this. Then it delves into his wives and family and eventually his health problems. The real strength of this is Mike Lano and Jim Melby explaining his strengths as a performer and essentially his legacy in pro-wrestling.

The Bad
This series loves to do convoluted historical tie-ins and here we have the development of the talkie and how that was the time when Pepper Gomez was b orn. It is a strange setup. The real flaw of this is two-fold it lacks a strong explanation of Gomez’s legacy and it only features two matches to showcase his ringwork. One match is a tag match from his prime, which is okay, but the other is a battle with Dick the Bruiser when he was nearing retirement due to physical ailments. This featurette is not wholly bad, but it is perhaps the least interesting from the “Icons” series.

The Rating: **3/4

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

 Straight Shootin' with Jim Cornette - Konnan

The Good
Talk about the odd couple of odd couples.  Here is Jim Cornette, 40-something, Southern-style rasslin' performer and historian paired with lucha libre legend and former WCW and TNA undercarder Konnan.  How do these two communicate?  Very well actually.  Cornette, while not a lucha expert, shows that he's done his homework and directs Konnan through an interview respectfully and with his unique appeal.  Konnan, in sharp contrast to his on-screen persona, is well-spoken, thoughtful and insightful, so that he is able to work well with Corny.  I don't think this worked as good as Konnan and Bryan Alvarez or even Dave Meltzer, but there was something unique here that is undeniable.  Cornette pulls in his own experiences of Nick Gulas using Mexicans on the cheap, Vince McMahon working with Antonio Pena and WCW not knowing how to introduce and properly book distinct stars to get thoughts out of Konnan that you've never heard before.  He shared for the first time, according to him, the fact that he had to go back to "hustling on the streets" in between his WCW and NWA-TNA runs, which was a big shock.  Overall, I went in expecting a train-wreck of sorts, but got a gem of sorts instead.

The Bad
Like I said and as you'd expect, Jim Cornette is no lucha libre historian or even regular connoisseur, so his perspectives are limited in a way.  He and Konnan have a good rapport, but this is lacking in comparison to Corny with Bill Watts, Percy Pringle, Bobby Heenan, etc.  I actually think Konnan works better with Meltzer because he knows that Dave knows his stuff, even though Dave lacks Cornette's interviewing savvy.  Konnan seems to hold back some as a result and while it makes for a different type of Konnan interview, it is not necessarily better.  In some ways it is worse because he does not go into as much detail, Cornette is inconsistent in follow-up questions and something just seems amiss.

The Rating: ****