You can sit there and tell me how Ring of Honor is better for seeing pure technical wrestlers at their finest. Or that New Japan Pro is the real destination viewing for ‘true’ wrestling fans. And I might not disagree with you on either point. But you know what? I don’t care.
I’m a Vince McMahon guy.
Even when WCW was trashing WWE in the Monday Night War ratings every week and had convinced most of WWE’s top stars to jump ship and earn more money over there I didn’t care. WCW never meant much to me growing up. They always felt like the Tesco Value WWE. Sure it’ll do the trick and hell, close your eyes and concentrate hard enough and I’m sure you can tell yourself it tastes the same. But it’s fucking not. WWE always stood head and shoulders above the rest. Even at their worst – and boy can their worst be a stinkfest – it just felt like complacency rather than ineptitude or lack of quality. WWE were always my team. Sometimes your team sucks. Sometimes the best players leave. Sometimes the new ones are awful. But you stick by them. Because they are your team. And WWE are my team. Because I’m a Vince McMahon guy.
In The History Of WWE 3 DVD set we get a well produced and comprehensive documentary that covers not just the highs – the Madison Square Garden classics, the 80’s wrestling boom, the Attitude era and the best of the modern day – but also the lows. You would think that a documentary promoting how great WWE can be would just focus on the plentiful positives over their 50 year history. But they dedicate a lengthy chapter to the early 90s steroids scandal that caused almost irreparable damage to the wrestling industry, with surprisingly honest commentary from Linda and Stephanie McMahon on the effects that the trial had not only on the company but on their family.
There is a chapter regarding the accidental death of Owen Hart, who fell to his death when the zip-line he was using to enter the ring broke. Ringside commentator Jim Ross talks stoically about being given the news that Owen had died around thirty seconds before he was expected to go back live on-air. Watching the footage back really puts a lump in your throat, which then becomes almost impossible to fight as they show short clips of a young Edge and Mick Foley talking about Owen. If you see Edge talk about him and fail to shed a single tear then I’m pretty sure you are just the worst kind of person.
But as well as darkness there is plenty of light because, guess what non-wrestling fans – us fans think wrestling is fucking brilliant fun. It makes us smile and cheer and throw things at the telly and complain on the internet and buy t-shirts that we probably won’t end up wearing in public (unless they finally stop giving Dolph Ziggler the kind of colour-schemes only worn by serial seat-sniffers in Aiya Napa). We know wrestling can be camp and daft at times but so many of the best things in life are. The documentary takes us back to the time when wrestling really broke through to the mainstream in the early 80’s with Hulkamania, Saturday Night’s Main Event and the numerous brightly coloured products stamped with the WWE (then WWF) logo that appeared in shops the world over. We are reminded of when the WWE put out a pop album called Piledriver, which is summed up by John Cena’s fantastic quote “I remember the Piledriver album. It was…….odd”.
This documentary really does cover a hell of a lot of history without revisionism or bias (well, okay maybe a little of the latter). It’s got to be up there with the best documentaries that WWE has produced and, as a fan, you get to the end with a smile on your face and a real sense of satisfaction. Seriously, I can’t say enough good things about this documentary.
The other two discs are made up of classic matches and moments in WWE history, as you’d expect. Some of those moments are better left in the past, to be honest. Of course the classic ‘Austin 3:16’ promo needed to be seen again. But his match with Jake The Snake Roberts that preceded it really doesn’t. There’s Hogan vs Andre The Giant from Wrestlemania III for what feels like the billionth time. Yes it was a ‘major event’ but it wasn’t exactly much of a match. Why not put Randy Savage vs Ricky Steamboat from the same event on there? There is the first ever Royal Rumble which is, to put it bluntly, terrible. Everyone complaining about this year’s Rumble should be forced to watch this furnace of turds on a loop for eternity until they’re bloody grateful for what they’ve got.
But despite these disappointments the majority of matches/moments makes for great viewing. Bruno Sammartino vs Superstar Billy Graham at Madison Square Garden back in 1977 features a crowd that seem permanently elated to be watching the wrestling. They greet even basic moves like bear hugs with the kind of pop you only see these days if you moonsault off the top of a ladder that’s balanced on top of a cage. There’s Vince McMahon’s brilliantly long-winded and over the top promo to announce that he’s bought out WCW, the already legendary CM Punk ‘pipebomb’ promo (even now after about fifty viewings this promo still gives me goosebumps). There is the Montreal Screwjob match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels (if you don’t know the story of this match I suggest getting on Google right away).
Finally – and quite brilliantly – the entire box set finishes with CM Punk vs John Cena from Raw back in February of last year. You’d think that ending on a match from one of the weekly shows would be an odd move – after all, most people just remember the classic matches at pay-per-views. Well, this match is PPV classic quality and then some. It is a middle finger and a lump of phlegm in the face of those that claim that Cena ‘can’t wrestle’ and is yet more evidence, as if it were needed, that CM Punk is one of the greatest heels that the wrestling business has ever seen. The match is pure poetry and I could watch these two wrestle over and over and never get bored. In an ideal world I’d be typing this in March 2014 with CM Punk still sitting on top as the number 1 heel in the business but I guess some things aren’t meant to be…
Overall I’ve been pretty damn happy with this box set. The great outweighs the good, which outweighs the bad. It’s not perfect but it’s three discs of WWE wrestling, which is as close to perfect as it gets for me. But then I would say that. Because I’m a Vince McMahon guy.
God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.