Saturday, June 11, 2011

Jim Powers [RF Video Shoot Interview]

The Good
Sometimes a whole lot of honesty comes from an unexpected source. For the same reason that Jim Wilson's Chokehold was good, this shoot interview with former WWF and WCW undercarder Jim Powers is good. Both were good athletes with potential, both squandered underneath, both blame politics and even homosexuality and both are quite honest about the dirty world they lived in. Jim Powers, however, was generally liked by his peers and was by no means a rabble-rouser. He is also much more straightforward about his own abilities, dependencies and legacy. While I went into to this expecting nothing special, it ended up being very enjoyable. Powers ran with some rebellious types and was able to shed light on characters like the Ultimate Warrior (whom he calls "Jimbo"), Kerry Von Erich and Paul Roma. He is also as up-front about drug use and abuse as anyone this side of Jake Roberts. His views on steroids - "they work!" He even goes into such detail about his and his buddies' daily pill-popping, needle-poking and line-snorting that he takes a second to acknowledge his daughter might here this and than continues. His views on the matter are very well thought-through and although I don't agree with living that lifestyle, he certainly explains how it was practically essential. This was unlike many others.

The Bad
Who is Jim Powers? I don't mean to bury the guy, but a career of jobbing at the worst and being a middle-of-road guy at best does not exactly make you a great shoot interview candidate. Jim Powers' greatest strengths are whom he ran with, what he saw and remembers and how honest he is about it all. Does he really dish the dirt? Not to the extent that he seems bitter and makes those old buddies look bad, but he definitely does not the WWF any favors in terms of PR. What Jim Powers lacks in star power, main event experience, booking knowledge and psychology sense, he makes up for in being in the right place at the right time and being alive and aware in an era that wants to ask him about it.

The Rating: ****

Bruno Sammartino [RF Video Shoot Interview]

The Good
Eric Gargiulo's RF Video shoot interviews are so hit-or-miss. While I tend to think he is significantly better than Rob Feinstein, he is not as good as a number of other interviewers. This shoot interview goes nearly three hours and the advantage that Gargiulo has here is that he has interviewed Bruno Sammartino more times on his Pro Wrestling Radio show than anyone, so he has a good rapport with Bruno and knows which stories to get him to tell, which issues will make him bristle and probably which questions to avoid. That being said, Bruno is one of those people whose interviews I will always listen to because he is well-spoken, he is honest and he has a legacy that is second-to-none. Gargiulo is pretty familiar with Bruno's history, so he is able to direct things coherently and chronologically. The story of his journey from a sickly child hiding from the SS in the Italian mountains to a weightlifting standout and eventually one of the biggest drawing cards of all-time is remarkable. He goes into being blackballed early in his career, building a legacy in Toronto that led to his New York City return and all the amazing feuds and people he rubbed shoulders with over the years. Bruno has a million stories and he shares some of the best ones here.

The Bad
Interestingly, I would say if you can only listen to one Bruno Sammartino interview, I'd listen to this one. Although I personally prefer his shoot with Jim Cornette, this was a little more comprehensive. However, if you've heard a lot of interviews with Bruno (and he has definitely done a lot), you might find a lot of this redundant. It seems like Gargiulo's intent was to get that career overview interview while making sure Bruno tells some of his best stories along the way. This is the standard RF Video shoot in many ways.

The Rating:  ****1/2

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Secrets of the Ring - Dusty Rhodes

The Good
Gabe Sapolsky sits down with Dusty Rhodes (this was while he was working with NWA-TNA) and they go through his journal, specifically the year of 1987. If you love Dusty, I cannot imagine you would not enjoy this. He is a toned down version of his "American Dream" character and delivers so many of those "Rhodeisms" that it spices things up. They talk briefly about building things to this high-point in Jim Crockett Promotions. Dusty talks about his jump from Florida, his promotion of Starcade and how that changed, his relationship with Jim Crockett (and other big wigs in the business) and they go over some of the turmoil that followed JCP's decline. The crux of this is going through the year, picking out some key shows, talking about Dusty's booking psychology, the UWF merger and JCP's expansion and they discuss the talent. If you want to know about how the War Games, the Great American Bash tours, the Crockett Cup and other JCP standards came to be, this is the place to hear about them. Why did Ronnie Garvin get pushed so hard? Why did Nikita Koloff "replace" Magnum TA after TA's car wreck? How could he successfully run two and three shows every night? Why did Dusty not push the UWF talent harder and try to work an interpromotional feud? Dusty has some great answers and especially as it concerns that last question. If you look at the history of interpromotional feuds, there is a trend. Sometimes the invaders are put over strong (Poffos in Memphis, The Outsiders & nWo in WCW, UWFi contingency in New Japan) and business spikes, but ultimately the whole things cools off ad transitioning to the next big thing can be hard as it is kind of "hotshot" type angle. Sometimes the in-coming crew is buried (WCW/ECW talent in WWF being the most infamous example). Dusty explains why he, as the booker, could not justify pushing these outsiders over the talent that he'd been up and down the road with. He felt he gave the in-coming stars chances and several delivered Steve Williams, Big Bubba and, of course, Sting. However, some of them like Eddie Gilbert, Terry Taylor and others did not. I cannot say I entirely agree with his stance and feel like that missed opportunity probably did JCP more harm than good, but I think his defense is reasonable.

The Bad
Dusty Rhodes is such a hit-or-miss person for me. He is someone who I can pop for when he does his schtick, I thought he had some great ideas in Crockett and 1993 WCW, I would crack up at his color commentary and thought the WWE Documentary on him was great, however his book was unimpressive, his RF Video shoot was lackluster, his matches and booking were awful at times and he has kind of become a cartoon character and his serious side seems to have retired years ago. This shoot is a great concept and it has some great content, however I would say I was a bit disappointed. I don't know if it was the lack of depth in his notes, Gabe's lack of digging or Dusty's lack of communication skills (hard to believe, considering he was one of the greatest promos ever), but this shoot interview was not the masterpiece I would have hoped for.

The Rating: ***3/4

Sunday, June 5, 2011


Director: n/a
Distributor: Altux Films Production
Released: 1978?

Talent Featured
Iron Shiek, Jerry Oates, Bull Ramos, Dutch Savage, Jimmy Snuka, Jesse Ventura, The Von Steigers

The Good
An interesting little look at Portland wrestling in 1978 that is kind of just a hodgepodge of clips of matches, candid comments from fans and wrestlers and some actual promos as well. While there is not commentary on things, clearly this was edited to portray pro-wrestling in certain way. While the "fakeness" of the sport seems to be a focal point (and it would continue to be so for another twenty years), there is not really an effort to "expose" the business. The fans are clearly believers and while some look crazy for getting so angry at the heels, the ones they interview seem normal enough. The grandma who talks about making shortbread for Johnny Eagles is a classic stereotypical pro-wrestling fan, so are the toothless old man, insane lady in the front row (who cusses out one of the Von Steigers), the crazed nerdy guy and stern blue collar-looking guy. Pro-wrestling was a very different product then and its core fan base was very different as well. An interesting little glimpse into pro-wrestling of an era gone by.

The Bad
While this has some cool footage from an underexposed territory, this is nothing spectacular in the day of YouTube. I think the featuring of Dutch Savage and Bull Ramos is the most significant as those two have scarce footage floating around. This was very short, offered no real commentary and was kind of incomplete in terms of portraying the angles going on. Personally, I cannot validate watching much current "wrestling," when there is so much great stuff from yesteryear that is readily available and free on YouTube. This might not be the best example of an amazing gem, but it is certainly something that is neat to watch once and not have to go through some of the transactions that many went through in the tape trading era for something so mediocre.

The Rating: ***1/2