REVIEW – BY NEIL ROGERS
I remember when I was about 11 years old; my history teacher Mrs Mearden teaching my class about the Spanish Armada and telling us it was one of the biggest naval fleets ever assembled. At that point Ruth Gilpin, who was born and raised in Spain, put up her hand and told us that when she was taught the subject in Spain, that they were taught that it was a dozen or so old dilapidated ships and that “The English” had been lucky to win. My point being, in history, facts can be lost or changed over time with the victors putting their spin on things and the losers doing the same. Due to this simple fact of life, I expected that a lot of things mentioned in “The History of WWE: 50 Years of Sports Entertainment” to have to be taken with a pinch of salt. I am pleased to say that I didn’t find that to be the case.
When tasked with reviewing this WWE release I was expecting something similar to “The History of The World Heavyweight Championship” from 2009, which I hadn’t been particularly impressed with at the time, however I am glad to report that I was wrong. The two hour documentary covers most of the important events over the company’s history, both good and bad. It begins discussing the North East territory that would go on to become known as WWWF, WWF and eventually WWE. It then discusses at length Bruno Sammartino’s legendary title reign and his importance in raising professional wrestling’s profile. At approximately the 25 minute mark Vincent Kennedy McMahon is introduced and his aggressive expansion and takeover of the other territories is discussed frankly by Jack Briscoe, Gerald Briscoe, Pat Patterson, Linda McMahon and others. All four give a similar description of Vince offering to buyout other promoters before muscling them out of their own territory when they declined. At the half hour mark Hulk Hogan is introduced and WWE employees past and present wax lyrical about what he did for the company and how great a champion he was. As Hogan is talked about more throughout the feature than anyone else without the surname McMahon, it led me to consider if this could possibly be a hint to his return to the WWE in the future?
After the ‘Rock and Wrestling’ era is discussed, the feature moves to the 90s. I was surprised that the steroid scandal was mentioned in such detail, including the plan to hire Jerry Jarrett to stand in if Vince had of been incarcerated. At the hour mark the feature moved onto the introduction of Monday Night Raw and explores the Monday Night Wars as well as the massive boom in the popularity of pro wrestling at this point in time; some which hasn’t been repeated since. The much talked about ‘Montreal Screwjob’ is revisited before the ‘Attitude Era’ is discussed in length. I had (thankfully) forgotten about both Naked Mideon and the incident where Kaientai attempted to cut of Val Venis’ genitals, however seeing these incidents again made me chuckle and become nostalgic towards the wrestling moments of my childhood.
The last 30minutes of the documentary seem rushed with the brand split/extension covered in only a few minutes before the WWE’s charitable and other non-wrestling activities discussed.
As with all WWE releases there is an impressive selection of matches included. The quality of these range from the legendary Andre/Hogan clash from WrestleMania 3 which, although poor as a ‘pure’ wrestling bout, is a brilliant example of a crowd being drawn into a genuine spectacle (similar to the Rock/Hogan bout from WrestleMania 18) to the underwhelming match between Umaga and Bobby Lashley in the “Battle of the Billionaires” from WrestleMania 23.
To me the strength of this DVD is the fact that nothing is taboo as even the most controversial aspects of WWE’s history are discussed; including Owen Hart’s tragic death and the aforementioned steroid scandal. They also clearly acknowledge Vince McMahon Jnr’s poor treatment of Bret Hart prior to the Screwjob, in relation to him wanting to back out of the lucrative 20 year contract that he was offered not long before. The contributions of some superstars who are no longer with us are often avoided here, due to the sensitivity of their deaths I cannot see how their inclusion could have been handled in an appropriate way.
It is a shame that some hugely important performers’ contributions to WWE’s history are skimmed over, with very little time being offered to cover stars such as The Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Triple H along with more recent stars CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. As mentioned earlier the lion’s share of non-McMahon family airtime is given to Hulk Hogan, who could easily have had his time halved and still had adequate time to document just how much he revolutionised the WWF and the world of professional wrestling during a very impressionable time in the business.
There are several things that I many would have liked to see included in the documentary but it is understandable that a significant amount of the 50 year history had to be left out given the obvious time constraints. Even if the documentary was doubled to four hours I still feel there would be events that couldn’t be included. Due to the reasonably straight forward approach to the company history, my rating for “The History of WWE: 50 Year of Sports Entertainment” is 8/10.
Grab your copy of The History of WWE: 50 Years of Sports Entertainment HERE.