Documentary Review: I Never Quit: The Magnum T.A. Story (2016)

Release Date: October 14th, 2016
Directed by: Michael Elliot
Cast: Magnum T.A., Bill Apter, Dave Meltzer, Jim Ross, Ricky Morton, Tully Blanchard, Nikita Koloff, George South, Jimmy Valiant, various

Highspots, Ellbow Productions, 92 Minutes

Review:

When I was a kid, just really getting into wrestling, Magnum T.A. was a pretty big f’n deal. I loved the guy regardless of my allegiance to the heels. I think a lot of that had to due with his association with Dusty Rhodes, one of the few babyfaces I gave a pass to, but Magnum was still a great talent and commanded attention when he spoke and when he fought in the ring.

This guy was a supernova of charisma and talent but sadly, a car crash ended his career before he even reached his peak.

I remember when I first heard about this tragedy and even though I was a little kid, it was a punch to the gut.

In later years, as I learned more about what other wrestlers thought about how great this guy would have been, it became a much sadder story, as the wrestling industry could’ve really used Magnum during one of its lowest eras, the early ’90s.

It was really nice seeing this documentary though, as I learned that the man has weathered the storm about as well as one could. He’s got a pretty positive and good outlook on life and the business he was once a huge part of. Frankly, he’s still involved in different ways and he makes appearances to this day.

But I really liked hearing his story from his own words, as well as the words of his closest peers and his mother. Ultimately, this made me appreciate Magnum T.A. more than I had before.

If you remember the guy or just have a love of old school wrestling, this is definitely worth looking at.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries put out by Highspots and Ellbow Productions.

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.

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.

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.

Book Review: ‘Slobberknocker: My Life in Wrestling’ by Jim Ross, Paul O’Brien, Scott E. Williams

Man, this was just a damn good read, through and through.

Good Ol’ JR tells us his life story from his youth, to his first gig in the wrestling business and through all the companies he worked for from the ’70s and up until the ’00s.

What makes this so good is that it is very much just Jim Ross talking in his own words. While there are co-authors on the book, these are Ross’ personal stories and they are told with that certain panache that is very much JR. Fans of the man’s work over the years probably understand what I mean by that.

While this is about his own personal journey through life and the wrestling business, it actually gets more intimate and more personal than I was expecting and as a longtime admirer of Jim Ross, it’s really neat getting this close to the guy, as he’s been front and center in my family’s living room for decades.

Everything in this book is interesting, as he had a full life and never seemed to live a dull chapter. But the fact of the matter is, Jim Ross came up with hard work and a burning desire to be a part of the business he fell in love with as a kid. He hustled and shoved his foot through the door with a certain youthful moxie that says a lot about his character and his drive. And ultimately, it paid off for Ross, as he has now spent decades in front of the camera and behind the scenes for massive companies.

I really liked the early sections of the book that dealt with how he eventually won over Cowboy Bill Watts and got to be an important part of Watts’ Mid-South empire. But honestly, the whole book is engaging as hell and sucks you in.

I really took my time with this book, more so than I normally do, as it hooked me early and kept my attention throughout. There isn’t really a low point and it just made me like and respect the man even more.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: JR’s upcoming book Under the Black Hat, as well as other wrestling biographies and books about the business side of things.

Book Review: ‘Death of the Territories: Expansion, Betrayal and the War That Changed Pro Wrestling Forever’ by Tim Hornbaker

There have been countless books that have talked about wrestling territories and their collapse due to the emerging monster that was Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation. However, none of the books I’ve ever read were as good and comprehensive as this one.

I think the main reason this is the best book I’ve read on the subject is because it’s not told from one perspective or about one promotion and its own woes against the WWF juggernaut. This book just lays out the facts, tells its tales and covers every territory under the sun.

This looks into every territory, from all angles and gives a ton of info and history while moving through the late ’70s and the entire ’80s. It’s comprehensive as hell and doesn’t seem to have any bias one way or the other. It helps set this apart from the wrestling book pack, as many are written with an axe to grind or with just one version of a story.

The subject matter here is fascinating, whether one is a wrestling fan or they just like to read about businesses and industries during times of major change.

Death of the Territories was superb, well researched, well presented and honestly, it makes me wish someone would make a documentary on all of this and do it the same justice.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other books on wrestling history. In fact, there are a lot of really good ones that have come out in recent years.