Saturday, April 25, 2009

Review of Greatest Wrestling Stars of the 90's

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

- A Tale of Two Cities

The 1990's was a strange time for professional wrestling. As the decade began, most of the territories were out of business, WCW was running on fumes, and the WWF was at the tail end of the momentum from the Rock and Wrestling Era. By the end of the decade, wrestling was bigger than ever with the WWF, ECW, and WCW doing record-setting business. Now, the WWE takes a look at the men and women who transformed the industry and helped bring about the most successful period in its history.

For many fans, the 1990's was the time to be a wrestling fan. Recently I've had the opportunity to do book signings for Wrestling's Greatest Moments. It's fun because it's a chance to talk with fellow fans. I am constantly amazed at the number of people cut their teeth on professional wrestling during the 1990's. Regardless of whether they watch wrestling now or don't, they still have fond memories of people like Sting, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Rock, and The Undertaker. Regardless of whether or not they're still fans, these performers have left a lasting impression on many people.

Greatest Wrestling Stars of the 90's provides a look at many of the top WWF and WCW Superstars from the past decade on a two hour documentary along with seven hours of matches showcasing the talent. Most of the profiles are short; similar to the kind you see at the WWE's annual Hall of Fame ceremony. While the profiles aren't long, there are a lot of Superstars profiled. This DVD is more of a sampler platter of big names from the 90's with fans having the option to see more detailed bios on the individual DVD's the WWE has put out over the last decade.

Like any "best of" package, there will be debates over who made the cut and who didn't. The biggest names missing have to be Bill Goldberg, Vader, and Sid Vicious. Goldberg's exclusion is an interesting one. While his period of fame in the 90's was short, it was at the level of a supernova. His absence from the DVD is likely more to do with the way he left the WWE (and buried the company following his departure) than with his importance. In the case of Vader, it's hard to say why he wasn't listed. He was a top star in WCW during the first half of the decade and a featured performer in the WWF (even though it's hard to qualify his tenure there as a success). In Sid Vicious' case, who can say what. Sid was never a consistent player but his look and size kept him in the spotlight throughout the 1990's.

ECW fans will likely be furious that no one from ECW made the grade. Although ECW never made it to the same level as WCW or the WWF, its contribution to the business' resurgence is undeniable and I've always maintained that without ECW, there would have been no Attitude Era. Paul Heyman's vision of wrestling energized a moribund product and it's impossible to deny the contributions of wrestlers such as Shane Douglas, Raven, and Sandman. They may not have attained superstardom in the WWF or WCW but their work inspired the revolution that brought WCW and the WWE to new heights. Although ECW (and Paul Heyman) is acknowledged, the DVD pays lip service to the land of extreme, acknowledging stars who passed through ECW and went on to fame in the WWE like Steve Austin and Mick Foley but ignoring people who deserve recognition.

The DVD's other flaw is that the documentary features way too much recycled material from previous DVD's. There are way too many interviews you've seen before on previous DVD's and not enough fresh interviews. Worse yet, the stuff that is new is largely interviews with CM Punk and John Morrison and the documentary gives them way too much to share their thoughts on the Superstars they grew up watching. CM Punk takes a cheap shot at Lex Luger on the DVD while Morrison delivers his lines as if he's a prisoner in an Al-Qaeda video. It's a definite weakness in the documentary feature.

Despite these weaknesses, the DVD is a great stroll down memory lane, taking you back to some great times in wrestling and reminding you how many great wrestlers there were. You also begin to realize how fleeting fame can be. In the case of former wrestler Lex Luger, it's downright astonishing. Watching the DVD, it was interesting to be reminded of just how big a star Lex Luger was (both physically and in the business). Luger never seemed to break through to superstardom like Hogan, Austin, or the Rock (as the DVD mentions several times) but he was a top star nonetheless. He's one of those guys who was so big at one point and now he's little more than a footnote in wrestling.

While the DVD is about the top stars of the 90's, it's also a lesson in how you build up a company. Watching the DVD, you can't help noticing how many stars were made during the 1990's. Time after time, you see established stars putting over newcomers, creating a fresh crop of main eventers. Both WCW and the WWF built up an impressive roster (especially the WWF which found most of its main eventers gone after talent raids by WCW's Eric Bischoff) during the 1990's. It's a time-tested formula but one that WCW failed to continue following (part of the reason the company eventually folded) and one the WWE apparently forgot about until recently.

Fans of the Attitude Era should dig this DVD. It's a fun-filled trip down memory lane. While you're not going to learn anything new about the stars, you will remember what made you such a fan during this time. Personally, it's hard to beat nine hours of wrestling for $20.00. WWE Home Video has got to the point where I'd much rather lay down a Jackson for a DVD than two for a PPV. Even with a phoned in documentary and the absence of ECW's top stars, this is one worth picking up.

No comments: