Saturday, January 21, 2017

Original Midnight Express [RF Video Shoot Interview]

The Good
Dennis Condrey is one of those great shoot interviews that needs much more attention than he has received, Randy Rose had a solid career and has gone under the radar and these two had a successful pair of runs as the Midnight Express. This seems like a can't-miss shoot interview. It certainly is enjoyable as Condrey is his usual self and Rose inserts some good comments and they cover some irregularly covered periods and places. Condrey really runs the show and if you've never heard him before, you've got to catch this one. Randy Rose, despite sounding remarkably like Shawn Michaels, is a good storyteller and when he gets rolling shows me that he'd be a worthwhile shoot interview as a solo. I've heard Condrey with a variety of different people and this was as good as any of those and even though he repeated a handful of stories (a couple which Cornette tells often as well), it was a fun piece of business.

The Bad
I get a kick out of this one because it was done during the same week as the Continental Shoot Series interview that Dennis Condrey did and that shoot was so much better than this one. Condrey is a great solo interview, but for some reason people always partner him up with people and it just is not as excellent. Randy Rose seems like he'd be very interesting on his own, but much like their tag team he seems to be playing second fiddle. One of my huge pet peeves of shoots is when people are put together and it detracts from the potential quality. Jim Cornette interviewing Dennis Condrey would rule the world, but this RF production was simply a letdown for what it should have been. There is also is the ever-present issue of poor research as the focus seems to shift away from this version of the team to the Condrey/Eaton incarnation unnecessarily and does dig deep enough into the team's first run.

The Rating: ****

Monday, January 16, 2017

Don Muraco [RF Video Shoot Interview]

The Good
Don Muraco is one of pro-wrestling's greatest heels and that run came after years of being a great babyface in the mold of Jack Brisco. Here, he shoots with RF Video in one of their earliest interviews and he really delivers. This was back when they traveled to interview folks in their homes and the relaxed atmosphere, the different feel (although at the time there weren't really many other shoots out there) and the length of the interviews make this a different kind of entity that is in many way preferable to their current shoots in hotels with the giant RF Video banner and even better video and audio quality. Muraco, infamous for leaving a territory to go back home to surf, has to be more relaxed and perhaps more honest in his own Hawaiian home. As for the content of this, it is great. Rock-N-Wrestling era fans will probably be satisfied with Muraco's thoughts on that era, how things changed from the WWF period before that and what the whole atmosphere of non-stop travel, drugs and working does to a man. He was honest about his own steroid use (and how couldn't he be when you look at his body's change in the late 80s) and is pretty frank about other individuals. Outside of that era, Muraco talks about his early years touring around from the Pacific Northwest and the AWA to Florida and San Francisco. He has fond memories of many people and angles, so he doesn't come across as bitter in the least. Although it was brief, I really dug his reflections on Hawaiian wrestling. It is such an overlooked place and it was so unique in its day that any recollections are appreciated, especially since few of those stars remain. The highlight of this had to be listening to Don Muraco talk about the WWF era right before the national push. His feuds with Jimmy Snuka, Bob Backlund and Pedro Morales are legendary and I loved listening to him reflect on that un-romanticized period of WWF history (it was no surprise that KFC brought him in for their 1983 WWF Timeline shoot). I went to the RF Video website recently and noticed the people pictured at the top were people who are big stars or majorly controversial and Don Muraco's face stuck out. Now I can understand why he was included - he's a fantastic interview.

The Bad
RF Video traveled to Hawaii and didn't secure interviews with the various legends of the island? Curtis Iaukea (who has since passed away)? Lord James Blears? Ed Francis? I sometimes feel like RF Video was kind of short-sighted in there early shoot interviews. They at least interview seemingly anyone and everyone now, but they tend to limit themselves to convention attendees and more modern performers. Perhaps they tried, but after hearing Rob Feinstein's own shoot, it seems like he and Doug Gentry were flying by the seat of their pants with these early shoots. It just makes me sad because it seems like their work is so important to preserving aspects of pro-wrestling's history, but they seem more into the bottom-line than that dimension of it. Although I guess Gary Cubeta and 57Talk would be the flipside and their free content, while amazing, was plagued with server issues and grumpy bosses. Now moving past that tirade to my actual gripes about this shoot interview. Feinstein's lack of product knowledge was just glaring here as it occasionally is. It's as if he has certain people attributed to certain times and places and he just name-drops. Sometimes that works out well, sometimes it is disastrous as people who don't fit in are mentioned, people are brought up out of context and others are left out entirely. I kind of expect that going in, but it always annoys me because it definitely detracts from the quality.

The Rating: ****1/2