Documentary Review: The Sheik (2014)

Release Date: April 26th, 2014 (Hot Docs International Documentary Festival – Canada)
Directed by: Igal Hecht
Written by: Jian Magen, Jake Neiman, Igal Hecht
Music by: Michael Hanson
Cast: Khosrow Vaziri “The Iron Sheik”, Mick Foley, Seth Green, Jack Black, Bret Hart, Jimmy Hart, Hulk Hogan, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Bob Orton Sr., Bruce Pritchard, Jake Roberts, Jim Ross, Ron Simmons, Koko B. Ware, The Nasty Boys

Magen Boys Entertainment, Big Media, Chutzpa Productions, 95 Minutes

Review:

This film was one of the rare documentaries that I actually got to see in the theater. I think I saw it around 2016, as a small indie theater near me hosted a screening. I was pretty captivated by it and always wanted to watch it again. Since it’s been about five years, I figured I’d revisit it and review it.

I’ve reviewed several wrestler biographical documentaries but most of them don’t match the overall quality of this film. It actually looks like a budget went into it, as it’s really competently shot, edited and brings in some real heavy-hitters for the talking head interviews.

The great cast assembled in this could also be due to the film’s subject, Khosrow Vaziri a.k.a. The Iron Sheik, as he is legitimately a beloved legend who would influence not just many iconic wrestlers but also people from other fields within the larger entertainment sphere.

This film really delves into the Sheik’s backstory and the stuff about his early life is truly fascinating and impressive. It discusses his major accomplishments in the sport of amateur wrestling, why he left Iran for America and then how he adjusted to life in the States and a new career as a professional wrestler, once he moved to Minnesota and found Vern Gagne’s AWA (American Wrestling Association) territory.

We see Sheik come up through the ranks and then eventually make his way to the WWF (World Wrestling Federation) where he reached superstardom after winning the World Championship from Bob Backlund and then helped launch the career of Hulk Hogan, arguably the biggest star in professional wrestling history.

There is a dark side to this story too and that’s where the documentary becomes both compelling and heartbreaking. We see The Sheik struggle with drugs and alcohol and how it has a severely adverse effect on his family life and life in general. That’s not to say that this doesn’t have a happy ending but seeing Sheik at his worst is really difficult, especially for a long-time fan like myself.

This documentary tells a great story, though. While a lot of this may seem all too familiar with the biographical documentaries on other wrestling legends from The Sheik’s generation, this one just tells its story really well. Sheik has infectious charisma and it’s on full display, here, making this one of the best character pieces of its type.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other biographical wrestling documentaries. Many have been reviewed on this site, already.

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: ‘Inside Out: How Corporate America Destroyed Professional Wrestling’ by Ole Anderson, Scott Teal

I’ve heard people reference this book for eons and I’ve heard the stories about how Ole Anderson was a cantankerous jerk but also had a great mind for the wrestling business. All of that made me want to read his book and I’m glad that I finally did.

This is both parts a biography and Ole’s view on the wrestling business and how it evolved into something much different and from his viewpoint, became un-repairable.

I liked this quite a bit. Ole is a smart guy and an opinionated one. Even if I don’t agree with every opinion, he made the case for his points-of-view really well and made his stances very clear.

Out of all the stuff I’ve read recently on old school territory wrestling, this is one of the better books.

Frankly, it made me wish that Ole was still involved in the business and it also made me wish that he’d do more shoot interviews. I loved watching the guy on my television when I was a kid and all that personality and attitude still exists.

The book shows you that the man isn’t too different from the personality that we all saw on the TV.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling biographies and books on the history of the business from the territory era.

Documentary Review: WWE Chronicle: Shinsuke Nakamura (2018)

Release Date: April 8th, 2018
Cast: Shinsuke Nakamura, Triple H, various

WWE, 37 Minutes

Review:

I was hoping for more out of this but WWE’s modern documentaries are really a mixed bag, as sometimes they just throw shit together because they need content for their streaming network.

Being a big fan of Shinsuke Nakamura, I hoped this would go more into the man and his career.

Granted, WWE won’t show his New Japan stuff or even really acknowledge it because they like to pretend that no other wrestling exists outside of their own sphere.

Anyway, this follows Nakamura from the time he won the 2018 Royal Rumble up to his match for the World Championship at Wrestlemania, a few months later.

This isn’t as insightful as one would hope and it kind of just randomly checks in on him and lets him talk for a minute or two before cutting to something else. Sadly, I never felt like they really let you know the guy but WWE also has a poor track record of dealing with language barriers, even though Nakamura is pretty damn good at English.

I don’t know, it was cool seeing him being featured in his own documentary; I just wish that WWE would’ve given a shit.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other modern documentaries made for the WWE Network.

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.