The History of WWE will be released this Tuesday on Blu-Ray and DVD. You can purchase the two disc Blu-Ray set at Amazon.com for $27.99 by clicking here, or the three disc DVD collection for $22.99 at Amazon at this link. I got to check out a copy of the DVD this past weekend, here is my review.
Overall, the two hour documentary is entertaining and never boring, although a lot of it is material that has been covered in other DVD collections. It does feature a lot of clips and archived interviews with Superstars from the past and present, as well as legends that are no longer with us. The Undertaker is featured several times speaking out of character, as is Paul Bearer. Some of the other legends interviewed include: George Skaaland, Hulk Hogan, JJ Dillon, Rocky Johnson, Ken Patera (who I didn't even recognize until I read the caption), Larry Zbysko, Jimmy Valiant, Chief Jay Strongbow, The Fabulous Moolah, George "The Animal" Steele, The Rock, Triple H, Gene Okerlund, Bruno Sammartino, Harley Race and many others.
The early history of the company is discussed, leading up to Vince Sr. splitting Capitol Championship Wrestling away from the NWA and starting the WWWF. Harley Race noted that a lot of people were unhappy with the rift. Buddy Rogers was crowned the organization's first World Champion, with Bruno Sammartino defeating him in 48 seconds to win the strap. Bruno talked about winning the title, while Mike Tyson and Triple H discussed Bruno's popularity at the time.
Next was the post-Bruno era with Bob Backlund winning the title and Andre the Giant becoming a mega-star. Ric Flair, Don Muraco and Ernie Ladd put over how popular Andre was. Ted DiBiase Sr. noted that Andre was a gentle giant, but that changed quickly if you got on his bad side.
Vince McMahon Jr. buying the company and going national was the next topic. Vince pretty much ending the territorial system was expectedly presented in a positive light, whereas later in the DVD, WCW raiding WWF talent in the 90s was presented with a negative tone. Gerald Brisco noted that he received death threats after selling Georgia Championship Wrestling to Vince. Linda McMahon credited the USA Network for helping WWE go national.
The Hulk Hogan era was discussed next. Hogan noted that his character helped make him a better person, and Freddie Blassie said that Vince and Hogan would not have gotten to where they have without each other. It would have been good here to hear more from Vince about Hogan's run.
From there, the first WrestleMania was profiled with The Rock recalling being so excited to watch it. Bret Hart said that he was worried that all this energy was going into this one show and wrestling would fade away after that. Linda McMahon noted that they found out that the night of the event that they broke even, and by the morning they were in the black.
Saturday Night's Main Event was featured next. NBC executive Dick Ebersole talked about bringing the show to NBC and replacing Saturday Night Live several times a year. Ebersole praised the talent, and noted that SNME would draw bigger ratings than SNL for five years. The Piledriver album was mentioned, which John Cena described as "odd" but fitting for the time. There was no mention of the first Wrestling Album. I was also surprised that there was no mention of the February 5, 1988 episode of The Main Event, which featured Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant and drew a 15.2 rating and 33 million viewers, which is still the most watched wrestling show in American pro wrestling history.
There was no mention of WrestleMania 2, which I found disappointing. It would have been interesting to hear about why it didn't work, the lessons learned and then lead into the next segment, which was WrestleMania III. Harley Race, Jim Duggan and Greg Valentine discussed the enormity of WrestleMania III, with John Cena noting that he had 30 people at his house for the show. Jake Roberts admitted to being starstruck by Alice Cooper, who was in his corner that night. Bobby Heenan noted that the main event between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant was the highlight of his career.
The steroid trial was covered, and I was surprised to see how much time was given to it. There was even footage shown of Dr. George Zahorian, who would provide a lot of wrestlers with steroids, at ringside during a WWF show. Stephanie McMahon noted that Vince had a talk with her about the trial, and it was difficult. Jake Roberts, Ted Dibiase Sr. and Jim Duggan discussed their own steroid use, and Dibiase noted that Vince never endorsed it. There was footage shown of The Ultimate Warrior and Rick Rude leaving the courtroom, with Warrior saying that Vince never told him to use steroids. A clip was shown of Vince discussing their steroid Testing, and it was noted that Jerry Jarrett was being brought in to fill in for Vince in case he had to go to jail. Vince was acquitted, steroid testing started and physiques changed, which was described as high profile and highly paid stars leaving the company.
The post-Hogan period was hard, and Undertaker admitted that those times were tough. Jim Ross called that period a reset, and that the company needed new stars. Triple H admitted that business was not good during that time. 'Taker noted that the investment in new stars during that period paid off.
Monday Night RAW was featured next, followed by Monday Nitro. This part of the DVD featured a lot of content featured on past releases. I was surprised to see the company admit to going through financial hardships during that point, and it was admitted that they couldn't honor some of their contracts, including Bret Hart's, which led to the Montreal screwjob. Again, most of the content here has been covered before. There was no mention of Bret punching out Vince after the incident, but rather it led directly to the Attitude Era and the boom period in the late 90's. Stephanie McMahon noted that her roommate, who was a kindergarten teacher, said that her students were imitating D-X, which was not good. Triple H called that era a "magical, magical time."
I was surprised to see the Owen Hart tragedy covered, which I don't recall ever seeing in a WWE release. Apparently WWE can use Owen's image again after settling the lawsuit with Owen's widow, Martha Hart, this past April. Linda called it the most awful night in the company's history. The Undertaker called the accident devastating, and said that it hurt Vince deeply, which was hard to see because Vince is a friend. They showed footage from the Over The Edge pay-per-view of Jim Ross announcing that Owen had died. Clips were shown from the tribute show on RAW the following night. Even though it's been almost 15 years, I still get emotional seeing that footage, but I am glad that WWE was able to put it in.
There was no mention of the deaths of Brian Pillman, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit, although Benoit was to be expected. Still, it would have been interesting to get the perspective of people within the company of that tragedy, and the bad publicity the company received for it, whether fairly or not.
WWE going public, launching SmackDown, purchasing WCW and ECW, purchasing video libraries, launching WWE Studios and moving to HD was also covered. The brand extension was also covered, and Cena credited the brand extension for getting called up. It's interesting to see how hot SmackDown was back in the day, and where it could be if they didn't spend years and years treating it as the "B" show, with the aftermath still being felt today.
The ending of the Attitude Era and the John Cena years was covered next. Paul Heyman praised Cena's work ethic, and CM Punk noted that Cena had a good message which resonated. Cena's charity work was profiled, and Cena noted that the company used to be very quiet about their charity work, but decided it would be better to mention it since they could raise more funds for the charities that way. WrestleMania expanding to stadiums and the Hall of Fame was also covered, as was the company opening the Performance Center earlier this year. Cena noted that with Vince having bought all the regional promotions, that there wasn't much of a talent pool to recruit from, which makes the Performance Center essential.
The closing 10-15 minutes seemed more like a promotional video for investors, as it featured talent discussing Vince McMahon being a mastermind and celebrities like Ozzy Osbourne, Kid Rock, Sean "Diddy" Combs and Arnold Schwarzenegger putting the company over.
There are six hours of matches and segments on the DVD, while the Blu-Ray also contains the Floyd Mayweather vs. Big Show match from Wrestlemania 24 and The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels bout from Wrestlemania 25. Matches are chosen more on their historical context as opposed to quality. John Cena vs. CM Punk from RAW earlier this year is the best match on the DVD set, but you do get matches that are milestones for the company and their biggest stars. You have the first Monday Night RAW match ever pitting Yokozuna vs. Koko B. Ware, the first ever televised Royal Rumble match, the entire Montreal screwjob, Steve Austin vs. Jake Roberts at King of the Ring (where Austin 3:16 was born), Bruno Sammartino losing the title to Superstar Billy Graham, Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant, The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 18 and more. The segments on the DVD include CM Punk's pipebomb, Vince McMahon announcing the purchase of WCW, the Mike Tyson and Steve Austin altercation on RAW and more. The Hogan - Andre match is hurt because the commentary with Jesse Ventura and Gorilla Monsoon has been removed completely, while Ventura's commentary for the Royal Rumble match was edited out with only Vince McMahon's remaining. This is due to Ventura successfully suing the company over royalties for his commentary on video releases, however in the past the company had replaced the commentary track with current talent.
Overall, the DVD is definitely worth a look, and is recommended for WWE fans to add to their collections. I give the DVD set a 3.5 / 5. Once again, you can purchase the two disc Blu-Ray set at Amazon.com for $27.99 by clicking here, or the three disc DVD collection for $22.99 at Amazon at this link.
Here is the complete listing for the DVD:
DISC 1 (Documentary)
Stars of the 70s
Saturday Night's Main Event
Monday Night RAW
Monday Night War
Tragedy in Kansas City
Hall of Fame
Securing the Future
WWE Championship Match
Bruno Sammartino vs. "Superstar" Billy Graham
Baltimore, MD * April 30, 1977
WWE Championship Match
Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant
WrestleMania III * March 29, 1987
Arena Camera - No Commentary
Royal Rumble Match
Royal Rumble * January 24, 1988
First Episode of Raw
Koko B. Ware vs. Yokozuna
Raw * January 11, 1993
King of the Ring Finals
Jake "The Snake" Roberts vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin
King of the Ring * June 23, 1996
WWE Championship Match
Bret "Hitman" Hart vs. Shawn Michaels
Survivor Series * November 9, 1997
Tyson and Austin!
RAW * January 19, 1998
WWE Championship Match
Triple H vs. The Rock
SmackDown * August 26, 1999
Mr. McMahon Announces the Purchase of WCW
RAW * March 26, 2001
The Rock vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan
WrestleMania X8 * March 17, 2002
Battle of the Billionaires – Hair vs. Hair Match
Bobby Lashley vs. Umaga
WrestleMania 23 * April 1, 2007
CM Punk Speaks His Mind
RAW * June 27, 2011
#1 Contender's Match for the WWE Championship
John Cena vs. CM Punk
RAW * February 25, 2013
Reporting the News
Jimmy Valiant on Vince Sr.
Floyd "Money" Mayweather vs. Big Show
WrestleMania XXIV * March 30, 2008
The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
WrestleMania 25 * April 5, 2009