Book Review: ‘The Last Outlaw’ by Stan Hansen & Scott Teal

Well, this was a hell of an entertaining book but then Stan Hansen was an entertaining person when he was a wrestler. After reading this, he’s also very personable and well spoken, at least on paper.

I enjoyed this immensely and it’s one of the best professional wrestling biographies that I’ve ever read.

I’ve always liked Hansen and his place in the history of professional wrestling.

One thing this book did well, though, was talking about his early life before football and his long career in the ring. This part of most wrestling biographies is usually the weakest but Hansen kept my attention from cover-to-cover and his childhood life came across as interesting.

However, everything still picks up greatly when he starts getting into his wrestling career. Since he’s a guy that spent time in territories all over the United States and then spent extensive time in Japan, working with just about everyone in the business, Hansen has a lot to say about himself, lots of other people and all the places he’s been.

I liked this book a lot and it’s pretty damn high on the list of my favorite professional wrestling books.

Rating: 9/10

Documentary Review: The Authentic Untold Story ECW (2016)

Release Date: November 21st, 2016
Cast: Corey Graves (host), The Dudley Boyz, Tazz, Paul Heyman, Tommy Dreamer

WWE, 47 Minutes

Review:

I wasn’t sure what this was when I fired it up on the WWE Network but then I immediately realized that I had already seen it back when it aired.

It’s not a traditional documentary, as much as it is a one-off interview show with a panel of ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) legends talking about their time in the promotion back in the ’90s and very early ’00s.

Overall, for old school ECW fans, this was a worthwhile watch that felt pretty honest and unfiltered. It features the Dudley Boyz, Tazz, Tommy Dreamer and ECW boss, Paul Heyman.

Each guy told stories about the heyday of ECW and went through a bunch of topics.

This is kind of a nice followup watch to the WWE’s superb documentary, The Rise and Fall of ECW.

However, for those who aren’t familiar with ECW and don’t already have a love for it, this probably doesn’t offer up much that would be considered engaging or entertaining. Although, if you’re a fan of wrestling history, you’ll probably find this interesting, regardless of your feelings on ECW.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other WWE Network exclusives and documentaries.

Book Review: ‘The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams’ by Greg Oliver & Steven Johnson

I’ve heard good things about this book series from several of the people on the old school wrestling podcasts I listen to regularly.

That being said, I really wanted to check this one out first, as I’m a massive fan of old school tag team wrestling because it’s an art that seems lost in the modern era and because so many of the legendary tag teams were just too cool for f’n school.

This does a great job of providing mini-biographies on the greatest teams the sport of wrestling has ever seen up to the early ’00s. It covers all the different eras going back to the beginning of tag team wrestling.

The book is well organized, well researched and it discusses the teams and the wrestling stars with great care.

All in all, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I especially liked it because I don’t think tag teams get enough love.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other books from this series, as well as other historical wrestling books.

Vids I Dig 367: Chris Van Vliet: Bubba Ray Dudley Interview

From Chris Van Vliet’s YouTube description: Bully Ray (Bubba Ray Dudley) chats with Chris Van Vliet from his home in New York and they cover absolutely everything from his almost 30 year wrestling career. He talks about starting out in ECW with a character that wasn’t set up for success, pitching the idea to Paul Heyman of teaming with D-Von to form the Dudley Boyz, being part of the first TLC match in WWE, what his favorite TLC match was, putting Mae Young through a table, leaving WWE and going to TNA as Team 3-D, breaking away from D-Von to have a singles career that led to him becoming the 2-time TNA World Champion, the idea he had for the finish of the Sting vs. Jeff Hardy match at Victory Road 2011, Eric Bischoff coming up with the idea for him to be the leader of the Aces and Eights, his thoughts on Moose as the TNA Champion, Tessa Blanchard as the Impact Wrestling World Champion, which one of them he’d rather have a match with, his future plans and much, much more!

Documentary Review: Forever Hardcore: The Documentary (2005)

Release Date: February 15th, 2005
Directed by: Jeremy Borash
Cast: Terry Funk, Konnan, Sabu, Shane Douglas, Francine, The Sandman, Tod Gordon, The Blue Meanie, Axl Rotten, Raven, Jerry Lynn, Joey Styles, Terry Taylor, Pitbull Gary Wolf, New Jack

Big Vision Entertainment, 128 Minutes

Review:

In concept, Forever Hardcore should be the better documentary than WWE’s The Rise and Fall of ECW.

Reason being, it doesn’t need to have the WWE slant on history, which all their documentaries have because for some reason, Vince McMahon likes to put his personal influence into everything his company commercially releases to the world.

However, this doesn’t live up to the hype that it had when it was coming out.

I definitely enjoy the interviews and insight of all the people involved but the editing and overall narrative felt choppy and disjointed.

Additionally, this didn’t get as many people as the WWE release and it didn’t really give a comprehensive history of the ECW promotion with the depth and detail of Rise and Fall. Plus, it wasn’t as organized in how it presented the story.

This is still a good companion piece to the better documentary, though. It gives different perspectives from people that the WWE didn’t bother to interview or those who chose not to participate in that one because of their own reasons and preferences.

The real highlight of this, for me at least, was Terry Funk. He sat out of WWE’s piece and saved his stories for this one. It was also cool hearing Sabu actually speak and give his two cents on the angles and history that he was directly involved in.

For die hard ECW fans, this is definitely worth checking out. For the casual fan, it probably won’t mean much.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: WWE’s documentary The Rise and Fall of ECW.

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: Beyond the Mat (1999)

Release Date: October 22nd, 1999 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Barry W. Blaustein
Written by: Barry W. Blaustein
Music by: Nathan Barr
Cast: Mick Foley, Terry Funk, Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, New Jack, Paul Heyman, Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon, Darren Drozdov, Jim Ross, Jim Cornette, Dennis Stamp, Tony Jones, Mike Modest, Roland Alexander, Dave Meltzer, Chyna, Spike Dudley, Koko B. Ware, Jesse Ventura

Universal Family and Home Entertainment, Imagine Entertainment, Lions Gate Films, 102 Minutes, 108 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“I could never get over the fact that guys could beat the crap out of each other in the ring, and be friendly outside of it. Some of Terry’s most famous matches were against a man twenty years his junior: Mick Foley. Over the years, Mick and Terry had traveled the world, setting each other on fire, tossing each other into barbed wire. Yet outside the ring, they were truly at peace with one another.” – Barry W. Blaustein

Considered to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest wrestling documentary of all-time, it’s almost a crime that this wasn’t, at the very least, nominated for an Academy Award. Watching this all these years later, it still holds up and is damn compelling, top to bottom.

Beyond the Mat is intriguing on just about every level and every story featured in this documentary is well told, well presented and edited into the larger tapestry so neatly that I feel as if this would be a great watch even for those who aren’t all that interested in professional wrestling.

One of the most engaging things about it is that it really shows you the behind the scenes stuff from the WWF corporate offices, as well as what goes down backstage during a massive, flagship pay-per-view event. In this case, the film features the main event of the 1999 Royal Rumble, a brutal “I Quit” match between Mick Foley and The Rock.

That being said, it does feel like some parts of this documentary are heavily sensationalized, like the reactions of Foley’s wife and small kids during the Royal Rumble match. Of course the kids are going to cry when the mother is freaking out in an over the top way when she knows the cameras are on her. I’m not saying that it wasn’t a legitimate reaction but it was definitely captured and then sold to the audience as something much worse than it needed to be.

While it is obvious that this wanted to pull the wool over Vince McMahon’s eyes, initially, it’s fine in that it wanted to expose the darker sides of the business. Those darker sides exist, especially back then, and showing the underbelly beyond the lights and pageantry is why this probably did a lot more good than bad in how the business has evolved and tried to improve over the years since this came out.

Ultimately, this isn’t perfect but it’s damn entertaining.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other professional wrestling documentaries, most notably Wrestling With Shadows.

Documentary Review: The Rise and Fall of ECW (2004)

Also known as: The Rise+Fall of ECW (stylized on DVD box art)
Release Date: November 14th, 2004
Directed by: Kevin Dunn
Written by: Paul Heyman
Cast: Paul Heyman, Eric Bischoff, Vince McMahon, Taz, Chris Jericho, Jerry Lawler, The Dudley Boyz, Tommy Dreamer, Rob Van Dam, Spike Dudley, Lance Storm, Ron Buffone, Dawn Marie, Rhino, Stevie Richards, Rey Misterio Jr.

WWE, 170 Minutes

Review:

I remember buying and watching this documentary the day that it came out. I haven’t seen it since but looking at it all these years later, it’s especially cool because it was made just three years after the demise of Extreme Championship Wrestling, so everything discussed here is still really fresh in everyone’s memory.

ECW is the promotion that got me back into wrestling when I was high school aged. At the time, I had outgrown WWF, as it remained cheesy, goofy and gimmicky. Plus, WCW was in a weird state of change, which eventually led to a better product for awhile. However, in ECW, I found a promotion that was much more adult, much more extreme and yet, featured some of the best wrestling on the planet.

I used to go to the shows when they traveled down to Florida from their home base of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Going to those shows gave me some of the best professional wrestling memories of my life. Still, to this day, my experiences from going to ECW shows hasn’t been matched. But I was also impressionable, it was the ’90s and edgy boi shit was the male youth culture of the time.

This documentary is nearly three hours but it covers just about everything that happened in ECW from the beginning up until it all fell apart. The stories shared are pretty great and give you several different perspectives.

For wrestling fans, especially in regards to the historical side of the business, this is a must watch. In fact, this documentary was such a massive success that it pushed WWE into resurrecting ECW for a short time. Granted, that version was nothing like the original but two of the three pay-per-views were quite good.

Overall, this is a damn cool documentary that doesn’t feel nearly as long as it is because the subject matter is interesting and the interviews are informative and help paint the picture well.

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