Documentary Review: Bruiser Brody: Wrestling’s Last Rebel (2017)

Release Date: 2017
Cast: Bruiser Brody (archive footage), Gerald Brisco, Bill Apter, Bob Armstrong, Kevin Sullivan, Jim Ross, Dave Meltzer, Abdullah the Butcher, Jimmy Hart, J.J. Dillon, Bill DeMott, Stan Hansen, Tony Atlas, various

Highpsots, 110 Minutes

Review:

I loaded up on a bunch of documentaries from Highspots due to not having much else to do during the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve run some great sales on their site, so it’s allowed me to grab a lot of the films and collections that I’ve wanted to own for quite awhile.

Being that I love Bruiser Brody, at least the stuff I’ve seen over the years since my tape trading days, I was stoked to see a beefy documentary about the guy. There is a great Dark Side of the Ring episode about his death but this here, is pretty much his full story, as it talks about his early life, his family and his career as a whole.

Like all the Highspots documentaries that I’ve seen, this features a ton of talking head interviews with Brody’s friends and colleagues. Many of these were taken from various shoot interviews over the years but they are well edited and form a good, energetic narrative.

There are also segments and narration by his widow, which add a lot of context to who the man was outside of the ring while also shedding more light on his tragic end.

For fans of old school wrestling, especially of the territories at their height, this is a cool film to dive into. Brody was primarily an indie wrestler that worked just about everywhere, touching a lot of people be they co-workers or fans.

This also comes as a three disc set with two other discs chock full of bonus material and some matches.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries by Highspots.

Documentary Review: Championship Wrestling From Florida: The Story of Wrestling In the Sunshine State (2019)

Release Date: June, 2019
Cast: most courtesy of archive footage: Dusty Rhodes, Mike Graham, Gerald Brisco, Austin Idol, Kevin Sullivan, Gary Hart, Steve Keirn, Brian Blair, Bob Armstrong, Terry Funk, Ron Bass, Ricky Steamboat, JJ Dillon, Superstar Billy Graham, Black Bart, various

Highspots, 95 Minutes

Review:

Growing up in Florida and not too far from Tampa and Miami, I actually went to see Championship Wrestling From Florida shows fairly often. Since my dad knew some people within the promotion, I got to experience what it was like backstage as a kid. That being said, I always had a soft spot for this wrestling organization from almost day one.

Knowing what I’ve known for years, it’s great to see that someone finally made a documentary about this, as it was a top territory, made superstars and was actually a bit ahead of its time in how it developed and presented its talent.

While this isn’t a WWE documentary, it is well produced so my hat goes off to Highspots and frankly, I’m glad I have a slew of other documentaries to watch from them now.

This dives pretty deep into the history of the promotion, as well as professional wrestling in the State of Florida. It also goes into the tragedy surrounding the Graham Family, who ran the business. But ultimately, it sheds a lot of light on how those behind this organization were trailblazers in a very different era of the professional wrestling business.

The documentary is mostly told through the words of the people who were there in talking head interviews. Some of these were newer interviews but a lot of the footage was taken from older shoot interviews, as some of the people featured, aren’t with us anymore.

I loved the hell out of this and I’m sure I will revisit it again in the future.

Also, if you buy the two-disc set on Highspots, you also get a bonus DVD with two and a half hours of matches and footage from Championship Wrestling From Florida.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries put out by Highspots and Ellbow Productions.

Documentary Review: Harley Race: The Greatest Wrestler On God’s Green Earth (2014)

Release Date: 2014
Cast: Harley Race, Ric Flair, Terry Funk, Jim Cornette, various

Ellbow Productions, Highspots, 112 Minutes

Review:

I’m not 100 percent sure on whether or not this came out in 2014 but that’s the earliest date I saw attached to a trailer with pre-order info. Also, it’s hard to get all the credit details, as this doesn’t even have an IMDb page or really anything more than just the title and running time.

Anyway, I got this, along with three other wrestling documentary/compilation box sets from Highspots. The shipping was lightning fast, which was great considering all the COVID-19 shenanigans. So while I’m mostly self-quarantining, Highspots’ quick turnaround was able to ensure that I wouldn’t be bored, at least for one weekend.

As for the documentary, itself, it was a pretty engaging piece. But look, I’ve always loved the hell out of Harley Race ever since I met him as a kid and saw him in the ring, growing up in NWA country. So I might be somewhat biased but he’s an interesting guy that had a tremendous career in the professional wrestling business.

This documentary is also special in that a lot of it just features Harley talking about his life and career. Other greats also chime in like Ric Flair, Terry Funk, Jim Cornette and many more but the absolute highlight of this is hearing Harley talk about Harley in his own words.

This also covers a lot of ground but as I said, this guy had a legendary career that spanned decades and multiple federations.

I also found this refreshing in that it didn’t play like a big budget WWE style documentary with quick, careful edits and a sort of agenda behind it. This actually plays more like a Ken Burns style documentary in that it is slow but it’s also really informative and builds up a sort of romantic affinity for the wrestling business during the intriguing territory era.

Plus, this comes with a second disc full of matches and other moments.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on wrestling legends.

Documentary Review: American Grindhouse (2010)

Release Date: March 13th, 2010 (SXSW)
Directed by: Elijah Drenner
Written by: Elijah Drenner, Calum Waddell
Music by: Jason Brandt
Cast: Robert Forster (narrator), Eddie Muller, John Landis, Joe Dante, Herschell Gordon Lewis, William Lustig, Lewis Teague, David Hess, Jack Hill, Fred Williamson, Larry Cohen, Jonathan Kaplan, various

Lux Digital Pictures, End Films, 80 Minutes

Review:

This was a cool documentary but the title may be a bit misleading, as it isn’t specifically just about grindhouse pictures. It actually goes much deeper than that and discusses the history of exploitation film in general, going back as far as the Pre-Code Era and explaining what that was, how it ended and then how films evolved in the aftermath.

The best part about this documentary is that it interviewed so many great creators that were all a part of exploitation filmmaking, as well as also bringing in several experts on the subject. I especially liked seeing Eddie Muller in this, as I mostly only see him involved in things specifically about classic film-noir.

American Grindhouse also gets extra points because it was narrated by the great Robert Forster.

In addition to all that, this documentary featured an absolute fuck ton of movies from all eras and it definitely increased my list of films I need to review, pretty exponentially.

This was well organized, well presented and gave me a lot of insight. Mind you, I say that as someone that is pretty well versed on the subject matter.

American Grindhouse was in my queue for far too long. I didn’t think that I would think highly of it, as documentaries like this are a dime a dozen. However, this one is far ahead of the pack and it impressed me and actually re-energized my love for this type of cinema.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Machete Maidens Unleashed, Corman’s World, Electric Boogaloo, etc.

TV Review: Dark Side of the Ring (2019- )

Original Run: April 10th, 2019 – current
Created by: Evan Husney, Jason Eisener
Directed by: Jason Eisener
Cast: Chris Jericho, Mick Foley, Jim Cornette, Vince Russo, Jim Ross, various

Vice Media, Crave, 6 Episodes (so far), 43 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I wasn’t sure what to think about this series when I first heard about it. Wrestling documentaries are a dime a dozen and most of them are produced with an agenda in mind.

However, after watching the first season, I really thought that this was the best series of documentaries on the darker side of the wrestling business. Every episode felt well researched, well presented and very fair.

Interviews with the participants may be contradictory in some aspects but they are presented in a way that allows the audience to come to their own conclusion without any sort of agenda seeping in from the filmmakers or producers.

That being said, I was really impressed by this series and I went into it thinking that it’d just be more of the same and a little too “sensationalist cable TV”, if you know what I mean.

Hats off to the guys behind this series, Evan Husney and Jason Eisener, as they’ve created seriously compelling television in an era where compelling television rarely exists.

All of the first season episodes pulled me in and didn’t let go. Even the episodes I thought might be redundant like the ones surrounding the Von Erich family and Gino Hernandez gave me a fresh perspective on both of those stories, even though WWE did a pretty good documentary that covered those tales, a decade and a half ago.

Top to bottom, this series is great and I’m really excited at delving into season two, which features episodes on the Chris Benoit and Owen Hart tragedies. It’ll be interesting to see how these guys handle those episodes but after season one, I’m pretty confident that they’ll do those stories justice.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries but this show is hard to top.

Documentary Review: A Future WWE: The FCW Story (2020)

Release Date: March 8th, 2020
Cast: Sasha Banks, Brie Bella, Nikki Bella, Gerald Brisco, Charlotte Flair, Steve Keirn, Triple H, Seth Rollins, Bayley, Natalya, Baron Corbin, Corey Graves, Tom Prichard, Dusty Rhodes, Gordon Solie (archive footage)

WWE, 79 Minutes

Review:

This wasn’t a documentary I ever expected to see but I’m glad WWE made it, as it really showcases a lot of the modern stars that started a few years before NXT became WWE’s developmental brand.

Also, being that I’m from Florida and that this promotion was an homage to Championship Wrestling from Florida, which I grew up with, gave FCW a special place in my fanboy heart.

For those that don’t know, Florida Championship Wrestling was where WWE sent their young talent in an effort to teach them WWE’s style of the business. It was owned and ran by veteran, Steve Keirn, and also had other ring veterans on staff to teach these kids how to work and how to excel.

This was a neat piece on FCW simply because it interviewed several of the well-known stars that worked there. It allowed them to give insight into the company, their education and their earliest career struggles and accomplishments.

However, like all WWE produced documentaries, this felt like it was a fairly one-sided story and take on the subject matter. Obviously, it doesn’t talk to those who failed and only focuses on the success stories. Some of the failed talents are mentioned but they weren’t given this platform to talk about their experience.

For the most part, this was still engaging and entertaining and it was nice seeing this small part of WWE’s history get showcased.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other WWE behind the scenes style documentaries and their reality series Breaking Ground.

Documentary Review: The Triumph and Tragedy of World Class Championship Wrestling (2007)

Release Date: December 11th, 2007
Directed by: Vince McMahon
Cast: Skandor Akbar, Gary Hart, Jerry Lawler, Shawn Michaels, Buddy Roberts, Michael P.S. Hayes, Kevin Von Erich

WWE, 111 Minutes

Review:

For those who don’t know the story of the Von Erich family, it is one of the most tragic tales in the professional wrestling industry.

This documentary, put out by WWE back in 2007, doesn’t just focus on the bad times, it also focuses on the family’s success and how they built up one of the most popular wrestling territories in the pre-WWF global era.

This examines how World Class Championship Wrestling came to be, how it was run and why the sons of the owner became the company’s top babyface stars.

However, it does take a dark turn as you get deeper into the story and are taken through a series of tragedies that tore the family and their business apart.

In spite of all the doom and gloom, this does a fine job of making you appreciate the product that the Von Erichs produced, as well as giving you a real appreciation of their passion for the business and their legacy in it.

If you have the DVD set of this, you also get six or seven hours of full matches from WCCW. That, in and of itself, is definitely worth its weight in gold.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other WWE documentaries on the legacies of past wrestling promotions.