Documentary Review: Memphis Heat: The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin’ (2011)

Release Date: October 1st, 2011
Directed by: Chad Schaffer
Music by: Doug Easley, Adam Woodard
Cast: Jerry Lawler, Jimmy Hart, Jerry Jarrett, Bill Dundee, Sputnik Monroe, Jackie Fargo, Rocky Johnson, Jimmy Valiant, Andy Kaufman (archive footage), Hulk Hogan (archive footage)

Off the Top Rope Productions, 91 Minutes

Review:

For those who pay close attention to what is posted here at Talking Pulp, you know that I’ve watched and reviewed a lot of wrestling documentaries, as of late. I’ve got to say, this is one of the better ones I’ve seen over the last few months and it caught me by surprise with how good it is.

While I’m a fan of the old school wrestling that came out of Memphis in the ’70s and ’80s, it wasn’t something that I had easy access to until I became a tape trader in the ’90s, even then, I still didn’t have the appreciation for it that I would over time. Seeing this though, that appreciation has truly magnified.

Lately, as a Memphis fan, I’ve been really fortunate due to what I’ve learned from this film, as well as the Kentucky Fried Wrasslin’ podcast by Scott Bowden and Brian Last. Unfortunately, Scott recently passed away and it was hard not thinking about him while watching this film.

But man, Memphis Heat is solid through and through and it really gets into the history of the territory, covering as much as it possbily can in just 91 minutes. Frankly, I could’ve watched a thirteen episode documentary television series on this and still wanted more.

It gave me a lot more context into the stars and the stories that I already loved while cultivating my passion for the wrestling business in a new way. While I’ve always appreciated great legends like Jerry Lawler and Jimmy Hart, this really made me fall in love with their work. It also gave me a better understanding of the Memphis wrasslin’ style, the culture around the territory and just how incredible it must have been to see these shows live.

For old school wrestling aficionados, I’d say that Memphis Heat is a must own and I’m sure that I will watch it again much sooner rather than later.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries you can find on Highspots.

Vids I Dig 340: The 6:05 Superpodcast: Lance Russell Special

Taken from Arcadian Vanguard’s YouTube description: The 6:05 Superpodcast looks back on the life and career of Lance Russell, the greatest pro wrestling announcer of all time, with this special episode. The Great Brian Last is joined by former Memphis manager, and the man behind Kentucky Fried Rasslin’, Scott Bowden, for this tribute to Lance, with many voices lending their thoughts and memories!

TV Review: Wrestling Gold (2001)

Original Run: April 24th, 2001 (DVD Box Set)
Cast: Jim Cornette, Dave Meltzer, Jerry Lawler, Randy Savage, Terry Funk, various

VCI Video, 5 Episodes, 105-130 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

This is a box set of five different DVD releases by VCI Video from 2001. I believe this is the full set of the DVDs that they put out. You can still get this on Amazon but I bought mine off of Jim Cornette’s website, as he still has some and he’ll actually sign them for you.

The five DVDs are all co-hosted by Jim Cornette and Dave Meltzer, as they give their two cents on each of the dozens of matches presented, providing historical context and a lot of the behind the scenes stories that led to certain matches.

Most of the original commentary tracks from these various matches are still there but sometimes Cornette and Meltzer have to fill in the blanks.

This collection doesn’t just focus on one territory from back in the day, it covers a lot of ground actually and showcases great matches, primarily from the early-to-mid ’80s.

There is a lot of stuff from Memphis and Texas on here and each match typically features one or more wrestlers that made it big in the WWF or NWA. This is packed full of wrestling stars, mostly in the early stages of their career. But this is also cool to see, as many of the larger guys or guys who got banged up, actually show you what they were capable of before their bodies started to suffer.

I was pretty ecstatic to get my hands on this, just because I love the territory days and seeing wrestlers before Vince McMahon got a hold of them. But I wasn’t prepared for how much I’d appreciate and cherish this collection.

For old school wrestling lovers, this is a must own! In fact, it inspired me to track down other collections and sets of old school territory matches from this era.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling compilations of the territories in the ’70s and ’80s.

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.

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.

Documentary Review: The Spectacular Legacy of the AWA (2006)

Release Date: November 21st, 2006
Directed by: Kevin Dunn
Cast: Eric Bischoff, Nick Bockwinkle, Jim Brunzell, Greg Gagne, Verne Gagne, “Superstar” Billy Graham, Mike Graham, Bobby Heenan, Larry Hennig, Hulk Hogan, Jack Lanza, Jerry Lawler, Vince McMahon, Baron Von Raschke, Dusty Rhodes, Michael Hayes, Bob Windham

WWE, 109 Minutes

Review:

I was too young to experience the American Wrestling Association in its heyday. However, I was old enough to see how well its talent did on a larger, worldwide stage once Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation became a global phenomenon in the mid-’80s. A lot of the WWF’s success was built off of the talent that established themselves in Verne Gagne’s AWA.

Being produced by WWE, one might think that this has a slant to it and while that may be true to some degree, it features interviews with a ton of people from both sides of the conversation. Although, it does mostly feature talent that has worked for both, which makes this feel more honest.

Plus, this includes Verne Gagne and Greg Gagne talking about all the events that led to the fall of the AWA from their perspective. And I guess the coolest thing about this is that it lets Verne talk about it pretty candidly. Sadly, just a few years after this, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Vince McMahon gives his perspective too, which is interesting, especially coming off of all the tales that were told in this documentary.

I think the whole thing is a highpoint though, as it goes through the history of the AWA, discusses its biggest stars and ultimately, how they left and how they contributed to the wrestling business overall.

By the end of this, you leave with a clear understanding that the professional wrestling landscape would have been vastly different if not for the existence and the legacy of the American Wrestling Association.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other WWE historical documentaries.

 

Documentary Review: Andre the Giant (2018)

Release Date: April 10th, 2018
Directed by: Jason Hehir
Music by: Rudy Chung, Justin T. Feldman
Cast: Andre the Giant (archive footage), Hulk Hogan, Vince McMahon, Rob Reiner, Billy Crystal, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robin Wright, Cary Elwes, Ric Flair, Jerry Lawler, Shane McMahon, Gene Okerlund, Pat Patterson, Tim White

Bill Simmons Media Group, HBO, WWE, 85 Minutes

Review:

I was anticipating this since I first heard about it’s production a while ago. Then, once I saw the trailer, I was really stoked.

I have seen a lot of documentaries about professional wrestling but they have mostly been the ones put out by WWE. Sure, those have great production values and even greater stories but I’m always skeptical about WWE releases due to their history of showing a lot of bias. Go back and look at their hit piece called The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior if you don’t believe me. In fact, WWE has sort of ignored that that film even exists after mending their relationship with the Ultimate Warrior and his family.

HBO put together and released this documentary on the legendary Andre Roussimoff a.k.a. Andre the Giant. So that alone puts it in higher regard than WWE’s own productions.

While it does follow his wrestling career, it was nice seeing some of the focus being put on his short acting career, as this documentary interviews those who worked on The Princess Bride with him: Rob Reiner, Billy Crystal, Cary Elwes and Robin Wright. It also showcases his childhood and his family but not as much as I would’ve liked.

Strangely, the film also features Hulk Hogan a lot. I get that they needed to foreshadow the importance of their epic WrestleMania III main event match but it seemed as if the Hogan material was distracting from Andre’s story. Granted, Andre was still the primary focus. Also, Hogan is a well known bullshitter that likes to present revisionist history. I had to kind of take what he was saying about his and Andre’s relationship with a grain of salt.

Negatives aside, this was still well done and it painted a picture of a man that was really a gentle giant. Sure, he would use his size to his advantage but ultimately, Andre was sort of a sweetheart that sadly suffered from a lot of physical, as well as emotional, pain.

But more than anything else, he was a man that was beloved by many.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: The recent Ric Flair 30 For 30 documentary by ESPN.