History Of WWE – 50 Years Of Sports Entertainment (Cert 15)
2 Disc Blu-ray / 3 Disc DVD (Distributor: Freemantle Media) Running Time: 120 minutes approx.
2013 is the fiftieth anniversary for a number of events: The assassination of John F. Kennedy; the debut of Doctor Who; the Profumo Affair; the Beatles scoring their first UK number one single and in the Northeast area of the United States a wrestling promoter named Vincent J. McMahon and his partner Joseph “Toots” Mondt broke away from the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and went out on their own, renaming their Capitol Wrestling promotion the World Wide Wrestling Federation, which in 1979 became the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and finally, after a disagreement with the other WWF (the World Wildlife Fund), World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) in 2002.
It seemed like the WWE had forgotten this important anniversary but along comes this documentary to tell the story of how a regular wrestling territory became a global brand that revolutionised the business and made wrestling a more acceptable form of entertainment within the mainstream. Two hours doesn’t appear to be long enough in which to compress fifty years of events so it is no surprised that while the key milestones developments are featured, some are glossed over while others are dropped completely. Restrictions aside, this potted history is as comprehensive as we are going to get but the more learned viewers will need to remember that this is a WWE release thus little things like objectivity are often light on the ground.
With a long line-up of contributors via new or archived interviews, the complete story is told starting with Roderick James “Jess” McMahon the boxing promoter in the 1920’s. We move on to how his son Vincent J. took over the reigns and started booking wrestling (Toots Mondt, who was originally a partner of Jess McMahon, is not even mentioned) forming Capital Wrestling and doing well in New York and the surrounding areas. 1963 is the year that Vince Sr. decided to go it alone from the NWA and carve his own path in the wrestling world with Nature Boy Buddy Rogers as their inaugural champion until health issues forced him to drop the belt to a popular Italian-American fireplug named Bruno Sammartino. The rest as they say…
It’s interesting to note that the full story behind the break away from the NWA is explained in a Blu-ray extra and not in the main feature but at least they acknowledged it. From then on the story rockets through the next few phases until we get to the 1980’s and Vince Jr’s purchasing of the company, the birth of Hulkamania, the buyout of the other territories (sadly no Ole Anderson interview – that would have been awesome!), the creation of Wrestlemania, the PPV era, the Monday Night Wars, the Attitude Era, Montreal, the tragic death of Owen Hart, WWE becoming a publicly traded company and to where we are today with John Cena polarising audiences.
That is a lot to cover so plenty has been left out – Black Saturday (probably just as well after the mendacious account of it on the McMahon DVD a few years back), the WBF, the XFL, Smackdown records, WWF New York, etc – while surprisingly the infamous steroid trial of the early 1990’s is featured. With some candour, interviews from Linda and Stephanie McMahon tell the story from the personal perspective, along with admissions from various wrestlers about using steroids. Vince himself is not interviewed for this presentation but numerous interviews from the period appear to give his side of the story. Even though he was acquitted one can’t help but feel the whole segment was designed to engender complete sympathy for Vince and paint him as a white than white hero.
So, who else do we hear from? Bruno Sammartino, Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, Roddy Piper, Ted DiBiase, Triple H, Jake Roberts, Jim Duggan, Jack Brisco, fabulous Moolah, Freddy Blassie, Rocky Johnson, The Rock, John Cena, Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Pat Patterson, Ric Flair, Jimmy Valiant, Harley Race, Bob Backlund, George Steele, Jim Ross, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mike Tyson, Sgt. Slaughter, Mr Fuji, Ivan Koloff, Trish Stratus, and many more. Pretty much everyone has nothing but glowing praise for Vince Jr. as a wonderful human being or a genius while his father is spoken of in even loftier terms.
As usual there is slight braggadocio touch to the proceedings, as RAW’s longevity and record breaking episode count is celebrated along with claims of WWE being the most consistently profitable force on PPV (I can see UFC fans screaming at their screens at that one) and other plaudits intent on promoting Vince Jr’s apparent Midas touch (although as pointed out earlier his many non-wrestling failures are conveniently omitted), so have a pillar of salt handy as you will need it.
Aside from the documentary you get an assortment of matches from various points in the company’s history – some of which are interesting choices to say the least – the oldest being the Sammartino vs Billy Graham title change from 1997 to Cena vs CM Punk from RAW earlier this year. While Hogan vs Andre from WM III is included again, this time it is the footage from the stadium hard camera; basically there is just one shot and no commentary. It doesn’t make the match any better but it’s different I suppose.
Cynicism aside the WWE is a global juggernaut and it goes without saying that most of us got into wrestling through watching the old WWF product, even if we did migrate to the likes of WCW, ECW, Japan, Lucha Libre, ROH, TNA as a result. This release is a fine celebration of everything the company has achieved in its fifty year existence and like it or not, it will no doubt still be around in another fifty years.
Happy 50th Birthday WWE!
German & French Language
Reporting the News
Jimmy Valiant on Vince Sr.
Wrestlemania XXIV 30th March, 2008 – Floyd “Money” Mayweather vs. Big Show
Wrestlemania 25 5th April, 2009 – The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
Rating – ****
Man In Black