WWE – True Giants (Cert 15)
2 Discs Blu-ray / 3 Discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 108 minutes approx
Pro-wrestling has always been the domain of the big man, be it in the old territory days when the occasional super sized worker would make for a special attraction to today where certain promoters won’t look at you if you aren’t over 6’4 and 280 lbs of solid muscle! This latest release from WWE Home Video collates some of literally the biggest wrestlers of all time for our appreciation, although the word “giant” is being applied somewhat liberally for some of the names included here.
When talking giants we of course refer to those men who hover around and over the 7 foot mark and while there have been a few over the years they still remain a unique attraction even today. Unfortunately the number of them who could actually wrestle is almost negligible but as long as jaws drop when they walk into the building their job is done. Others make their mark from being simply huge in bulk (or fat if you want to get really technical) and that is the criterion applied for many of the names being featured here.
Told via five minute potted history pieces by either the wrestlers themselves or an advocate, we take a lot at the familiar names (Andre, Big Show, John Studd, Giant Gonzalez, etc) and a few from the past that newer fans may not be aware of (Ernie Ladd, Haystacks Calhoun). There are a couple of noticeable omissions which make the head scratch – I’m not talking Mighty Joe Thunder, Uncle Elmer, Giant Baba, Bruiser Brody, Ron Reese, Mabel/Viscera, Tyler “Nitron/Big Sky” Maine, Kurrgan or even Giant Silva but Kane and the Undertaker! No, really!
The biggest thing when listening to the stories is to take them with a pinch of salt, as they are a mix of fact and kayfabe. As we know heights and weights have been exaggerated since time immemorial in wrestling so when you hear the measurements being discussed with an apparent clear conscience and conviction, they are merely keeping up the pretences.
Many will know that the biggest embellishment is afforded to the legendary Andre The Giant who was billed as 7’4 or 7’5 yet was only 6’ 10” (I saw “only”…). This was exposed in a match included in the extras when he was stood next to Ernie Ladd, a legit 6’9, and was practically the same height! Elsewhere Harvey Whippleman maintains that 7’7” Jorge “EL Gigante” Gonzalez was 8 feet tall while King Kong Bundy contradicts himself in two archive promos, describing himself as 6’4 in one and 6’6 in another (he was around 6’3 for the record).
The most egregious claim comes from Ken Patera who represents John Studd. He talks about how Studd was obsessed with being bigger than Andre and worked hard, trained, ate and “other stuff” (human growth hormones) to get as big as him. Patera claims Studd as a result managed to grow from 6’8” to 6’ 11”! I’m no scientist or nutritionist but is it really possible for a thirty plus year old man to do that through training? Studd was in fact 6’7” and presumably wore lifts in his boots too, but when he is barely taller than 6’5” Hulk Hogan (see their match in the extras) and a good couple of inches shorter than Andre, no way was Studd ever 6’ 11!
Unfortunately it doesn’t end there as everyone’s favourite squeegee brandishing, promo botching psycho Sid Vicious claims that he became WWF champ in 1996 because he worked his way to the top and the booking plans were changed accordingly. The truth is that Shawn Michaels refused to put Vader over for the title at Summerslam so they went with Sid instead. Sid’s infamous leg break is discussed but the footage is never shown which may be a blessing for the squeamish out there.
The Usos are on hand to discuss their Uncle Rodney aka Yokozuna, confused and perplexed at how everyone was led to believe this rotund Samoan was Japanese! They also bragged about going to school after Yoko was crowned WWF Champ at Wrestlemania 9, somehow ignoring the fact he dropped he belt to Hogan mere minutes later! Ah well, let them have their moment.
In the main programme the aforementioned names are joined by the likes of Gorilla Monsoon (Pat Patterson tries to convince us the infamous showdown with Muhammad Ali was a shoot! Yeah right!), Kevin Nash, Vader (the pictures of him as a youngster are unbelievable), Mark Henry, One Man Gang (who hated the Akeem gimmick and so he should) and Great Khali while a few more deserving faces are found in the Blu-ray only extras, Bam Bam Bigelow, Earthquake, Kamala and Abdullah The Butcher. These last two fall into the “bulky” category I alluded to earlier.
As ever the interviews are buttressed by a fine selection of matches from the archives and old school fans are rewarded with some real gems which may not be high on wrestling quality but are fascinating slices of history. Seeing the huge Gorilla Monson flying about the ring is quite something while one has to laugh at the youngster sleeping away during a heated match with Ernie Ladd vs Kerry Von Erich! Conversely we are reminded of the debacle that was One Man Gang vs El Gigante from the hideous Great American Bash 1991 and his clumsy clash against the Undertaker at Summerslam 93 as Giant Gonzalez.
If this release proves anything it is that bigger isn’t necessarily better in pro-wrestling yet we remain in awe of those rare specimens who are genetically blessed to grow to extraordinary sizes. They may not be able to work but seeing a 6 footer being towered over by a giant is a spectacle fans will never tire of.
Perhaps not the most exhilarating release in terms of in-ring action, True Giants is a fascinating and affectionate tribute to the big men who made their mark in this whacky world known as pro-wrestling!
English SDH Subtitles
Blu Ray Only:
Abdullah the Butcher
Bam Bam Bigelow
Giant Paintings by Rob Schamberger
ESPN Championship Wrestling – October 1985 – AWA World Title Match – Rick Martel (c) vs. Kamala
WCCW – June 1986 – Abdullah the Butcher vs. Skip Young
WWF Royal Rumble – January 1993 – Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Big Boss Man
Madison Square Garden – November 1990 – Earthquake vs. Hulk Hogan
Worcester, MA – July 1992 – WWF Tag Title Match – Money Inc. (c) vs Natural Disasters
Rating – ****
Man In Black