Saturday, April 2, 2011

World's Greatest Wrestling Managers

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

Featured Talent
Captain Lou Albano, Steve Austin, Shelton Benjamin, Gerald Brisco, John Cena, Michael Cole, Bob Costas, Ted Dibiase, Danny Doring, Howard Finkel, Mick Foley, Todd Grisham, Jimmy Hart, Bobby Heenan, Hulk Hogan, Iron Shiek, Ken Kennedy, Jerry Lawler, Steve Lombardi, Theodore Long, Chris Masters, Stephanie McMahon, Vince McMahon, Shawn Michaels, Gene Okerland, Bob Orton Jr., Pat Patterson, Roddy Piper, Bruce Pritchard, William Regal, Road Warrior Animal, The Rock, Jim Ross, Terri Runnels, Sharmell, Arnold Skaaland, Sgt. Slaughter, Trish Stratus, Joey Styles, Tazz, Triple H, Nikolai Volkoff, Harvey Whippleman

The Good
The WWE's expansive pro-wrestling library is something that are always trying to market. Who can forget all those Coliseum Video releases from back in the 80s with some pretty strange themes. This is a takeoff on that tradition and it is not without the campiness of those releases from over twenty years ago. Vince McMahon has the sharpest and best insight in this and it is one that is so often missing from his comments on WWE documentaries. He concisely explains a manager's job and is pretty blunt about the strengths and weaknesses of the managers covered here. It seemed not-so-surprising that female managers/valets are put over strongly as that is the norm in the WWE nowadays. The argument against female managers has been that it is not so easy when it is time for them to get their comeuppance and there is simply not the big payoff in the end. Although that argument is not stated here, it is certainly demonstrated and it should make a fan watching scratch their heads about current WWE “managers”. Particular highlights were demonstrating the mic skills of numerous managers, including Freddie Blassie, Bobby Heenan and Jim Cornette. It was also curious that the legacy of Sunny was fairly covered. The Paul Bearer transformation from Percy Pringle is also great to see because it is so unique. There are some neat questions posed, whether or not a manager needs to be/have been a worker, being the best one. This DVD pretty much delivers what you'd expect and it is fine, well-edited piece.

The Bad
The title is grossly misleading because this does not exactly cover non-WWF/WWE managers and worse yet it ignores the past of many of them. A short list of great managers who are not mentioned or even shown here - Saul Weingeroff, Gary Hart, Skandor Akbar, Sir Oliver Humperdink, Dr. Ken Ramey, Lord Alfred Hayes, J.C. Dykes, Professor Boris Malenko, Eddie Creatchman, Precious, George “Crybaby” Cannon and Robert Fuller. Now several of those people they simply don't have footage of, but others are just sad omissions. If they wanted to keep this purely WWWF/WWF/WWE managers than they should have done that. The idea that Freddie Blassie was the “first” manager is laughably ignorant because there were some legends (see above) that predated him. Seriously, they included Arnold Skaaland (a road agent) and left out even people like Slick, Mr. Fuji and Harvey Whippleman who while not the best were certainly superior to Skaaland. The commentaries from talent are largely good, although there is the usual kayfabe and Jerry Brisco nonsense and some horrendous decisions on what to wear for taped interviews. Todd Grisham, the host, only detracts from this and is given some stupid material to segue between segments. For extras, they have some matches that are largely dull and some promos and angles that are largely great. This may sound like a scathing or nit-picky review, but this DVD certainly has its flaws and a follow-up seems unlikely, which is sad. Hopefully Greg Oliver and Stephen Johnston have a PWHOF Managers book in the wings.

The Rating: ***1/2

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Road Warriors [RF Video Shoot Interview]

The Good
I have to feel a little nostalgic about this one because this was the first shoot interview I ever heard and it was one of RF Video's earliest non-ECW shoots. I remember stumbling across RF Video's kiosk at Franklin Mills in PA and leaving with this as well as some All Japan. I was definitely impressed as this is an impressive interview. Hawk is over-the-top in calling Vince McMahon the most evil man ever and comes across as bitter and angry. Even Animal, typically considered the level-headed one, is angry in talking about being misused in their two WWF runs. I thought the WWE's Road Warriors DVD was much more organized and better produced, but this had the raw emotion and lacked the WWE revisionist history, so in many ways in was preferable. Listening to them wax nostalgic about killing everyone in Georgia and how over they were when they came to the WWF is one thing, but hearing them bury the New Age Outlaws, Bill Watts and others for being inept is another. The cutting honesty here is pretty incredible.

The Bad
I remember when I first watched through this over a decade ago, being blown away by it all. It had the stories right from the wrestlers themselves. It was full of anger and honesty. It was even supplemented with matches I'd never seen before. But when it was all over, I kind of felt like "I paid X amount of money for this?" because once you've listened to a shoot interview, it has drastically reduced playback value, so you feel a tad ripped off. I would say the exception lies in shoots that are just above-and-beyond entertaining or exceptionally insightful to the business. This was neither. The Road Warriors totally believe their own hype and while they were huge stars for the better part of a decade, they simply could not offer the same goods in `99, despite what they say here. I would give this high marks for its uniqueness and historical relevance, it also has the advantages of including someone who has since passed away, but this is not the best shoot interview.

The Rating: ****1/2

Sunday, March 27, 2011

YouTube Project Update
In 2006, I setup my Youtube account, mostly as a way to favorite and follow pro-wrestling content on this growing medium.  The following year, I decided to upload all the videos that my friend and associate Brandon Thurston had put together so masterfully five years earlier.  I noticed that these videos, the Antonio Inoki "Hurt" video in particular, were getting a lot of hits.  In my mind, I saw this a potential avenue for driving traffic to my website.  It was not until the summer of 2009, that I decided to do something.  Originally, I was inspired by Karl Stern's bumpers, so I tried making a purely audio bumper.  This became the original first segment of my Mid-Atlantic & Georgia video, which ironically someone ended up using as a bumper.  I eventually, decided to combine my fledging skills with iMovie and Garage Band with my concept of territorial videos to promote my site's re-tooling.  I focused a lot of time on them because they were well-received and noticeably bumped up my hits.  

Youtube - The Rebirth of the Territories
As for the content, almost all the audio and video comes from Youtube itself.  Partially because of the ease, partially because I want people to be able to seek out something that might interest them.  The pictures come from any number of places, so attributing them would be a challenge.  I have a very liberal view of copyright and feel that I'm doing nothing but promoting pro-wrestling in general and encouraging the nostalgia and interest that many long-time fans have.  Youtube is, in my honest opinion, the greatest thing that has happened to pro-wrestling in a long time.  It allows people to easily and freely access a wide variety of products that they would not otherwise see.  While I commend the WWE for its 24/7 channel, its many documentaries and DVD collections, I think having pro-wrestling filtered through their lens has many drawbacks.  Youtube provides a more democratic market, where things that would never come to light can be shared with the masses.  The WWE was actively stopping users who uploaded "their content," but they've both eased up on that and started sharing more themselves.

Loose Ends
I had laid out a plan to do 18 videos in December of 2009, 15 months later, I've done 15 (including substantially adding to one) and I've added some along the way.  I would love to finish the remaining 4-5 that I have planned by the end of 2011.  Some I have begun collecting pieces, while others I have nothing except ideas.  As I am publishing on Youtube, I am realizing different limitations and so I am going to start including my videos on with more detailed information and links where they apply.  I would like to thank all those people who have viewed and enjoyed my videos and sent along such positive feedback.  I've gotten many messages from pro-wrestler's children over the years and many have shared nice comments and that is always highly encouraging.  I hope I can continue to please everyone with my future offerings.