Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The History of the WWE DVD Review

Being that in 2013, the WWE is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, it is fitting for the company to release a historical retrospective on the company. Thousands of wrestlers have worked for the company, performing even more matches over those fifty years, not including the Capitol time period. The WWE has many stories to re-live from its history and they shed light on most of them in this DVD package. One might expect a bit of a biased perspective coming from the WWE concerning the history of its own company, especially considering previous DVD biographies. This set is no different but that does not detract too much from the quality of this documentary. The bio fails to mention many of the failures of the WWE over the years though. That withstanding, using plenty of past wrestling footage and many interviews from wrestlers from many generations, the WWE has delivered a very enjoyable retrospective on the last fifty years of the company.

The documentary goes in chronological order for the topics, without deviating too much. It started with talk of the history of the McMahon family starting with Jess as a boxing promoter, followed by Vince Sr. being part of the NWA and then branching out to start the company that the WWE is today. This showed a few newspaper clippings talking about Jess and Vince Sr. with some historical pictures thrown in. Championship Wrestling from Washington was shown and the Dumont Network television deal was referenced. Personally, the beginning of this bio was my favorite as it showed plenty of great vintage footage that you will not see on a commercially released DVD set.

The next transition was to Bruno Sammartino and his defeat of Buddy Rogers in May 1963. Out of the whole feature, they spent more time on Bruno than any other wrestler. Many interviews from wrestlers of his era were shown, including Capt. Lou Albano, Arnold Skaaland, Ivan Koloff, and Stan Hansen, among others. Bruno was also interviewed for this set, and he told a story about how he drove a Rolls-Royce and because of that, everyone who saw him thought he and wrestling were larger than life. He spent a total of eleven years as the champ in the territory and sold-out Madison Square Garden nearly two-hundred times. That number being the usual exaggerated number they have been using this year, from the actual one-hundred and thirty or so sell-outs, if my numbers are correct (going by a September 2006 Wrestling Observer Newsletter issue). This was a perfect segue to talk of Madison Square Garden and its history with the company.

MSG was touted as being the most important venue in the world. Sgt. Slaughter mentioned that as a wrestler, one could not wait to be good enough to wrestle at MSG and for the WWE. New York was mentioned as being the biggest territory and that wrestlers made the most money in the territory. This was often true, depending on the era especially from 1984 until onward, excluding when WCW was doing better business than the company. The next piece of history was Bruno's loss of the WWWF Championship in 1977.

Bruno said that when he would go to the newsstand during his career, he would look at the wrestling magazines and see his picture on most of them. By April 1977, his career as a full-time wrestler was ending and his loss that month of the WWWF Title signified a change in the company. The bio failed to go into too much detail on the change besides showing little footage of Superstar Billy Graham. At least, a little more footage of Bob Backlund was shown and he was interviewed. They did not mention his long reign as champion. One major oversight, as well, was not referencing Graham at all. At this point, I realize that Billy Graham is not in the WWE's good graces but he remains an important figure in the history of the WWE. He certainly laid the foundation for Hulk Hogan's babyface character in the early 1980's and his career, in general.

Next up was a short piece on Andre The Giant and then television syndication. The documentary featured very little on Andre, which was surprising. They did go on to talk about him a little more later in the feature though. Sgt. Slaughter told a story about telling Vince Sr. he wanted use a tape of the Marine Corps Hymn for his entrance when he came to the territory. At first, Vince did not understand why he wanted him to play the tape but after Sarge told him it was for his entrance, he understood why. This transitioned into the WWE getting more star publicity and they showed the angle with Gorilla Monsoon giving the airplane spin to Muhammed Ali. After this was talk of the national expansion and Vince Jr. buying the company in 1982. It was said to be a breath of fresh air for the wrestling business. The WWE was mentioned as having a better show than other territories and competitors, and better ratings. Of course, that was not always the case when looking at history. Hulk Hogan was the big star of the expansion period and he was everywhere in the media. It was said that Hulk would not be Hulk without the WWE and vice-versa. He, along with ventures with MTV, helped launch WrestleMania in 1985.

WrestleMania was mentioned as being a big risk and they showed some footage of Hulk and Mr. T taping a segment, working out on the beach, which was interesting. S.D. Jones was even shown talking about WrestleMania. Dick Ebersol talked about the birth of Saturday Night's Main Event and how it did better ratings than Saturday Night Live, at times. Throughout the feature, Ebersol was shown numerous times, along with Basil Devito. Sadly, no sign of attorney Jerry McDevitt in the bio. Slaughter was back telling a story about meeting President Nixon on an airplane and Nixon saying he watched him sing the Pledge of Allegiance twice and how he made everyone in the room sing it on the spot that day. Merchandising was expanding, showing footage of Piledriver. Basil Devito then mentioned WrestleMania III and how he initially asked Vince how to do the seating for it and how the NBA did 40,000 fans in the Pontiac Silverdome for their All-Star Game. However, Vince wanted to break the attendance record. The ongoing theme of the documentary was how great and smart Vince McMahon is. The 93,000 attendance number was brought up and this segued into a piece on pay-per-view expansion and more shows.

The next transition was the steroid trial for Vince McMahon. Essentially, the bio skipped 1988-1992. There was lots of great footage for this though but it certainly gave one the impression that steroids were only being used for injury/health recovery in the business. Roddy Piper mentioned that he had to use them to rehab his body from his wrestling schedule, in order to feed his family. It was never really alluded to the fact that a certain image needed to be maintained, through the help of steroids, in order to get the best position on the show and with the company. Still, this segment is one of the best parts of the documentary. Steroid testing had depleted Vince's roster and he needed to make new stars, as a result.

The debut of Monday Night Raw and the subsequent heavy competition from World Championship Wrestling was referred to next. Vince had to create new stars like Bret Hart since WCW had signed away all his old talent. Plenty of great interviews were shown including Lex Luger, Eric Bischoff, and Vince Russo. Vince could not afford Bret Hart's contract and this led to the 1997 Montreal Screwjob. It was never really talked about how bad business had gotten for the company, up to that point. This led to the creation of the Mr. McMahon character and the ushering in of the Attitude Era and how wrestling being talked about everywhere. They talked about some of the biggest stars, specifically Steve Austin, The Rock, and Triple H.

Another interesting piece was on the death of Owen Hart in 1999. Jim Ross had some interesting things to say about being at ringside when Owen fell and how he had to make the call on-air about his death. Linda McMahon mentioned how she called Martha Hart to tell her she would try to help her in any way possible. Footage of the Raw episode the night after his death were shown. The debut of Smackdown, the company going public in 1999, and the WCW buy-out in 2001 were talked about but not in great length. Also, the brand split between Raw and Smackdown was referred to and how everyone got more television time, as a result. This led to the PG Era for the company and a small piece on John Cena and the charitable work of the WWE, in the past.

The spotlight was on WrestleMania returning to big venues in 2001 and the Hall of Fame. They talked a little more about Andre here and how he was the first Hall of Fame inductee. The creation of the WWE Film Studio was next up and subsequently, the transition to HD for the company. Also briefly talked about were the WWE's social media presence, the WWE Performance Center in Florida, and how Vince never stops. No one can create a star like him and he is the mastermind behind everything. The segments after Owen Hart's death were just modern pieces on how the WWE is so great and all the endeavors they have tried in the last few years.

As mentioned previously, the amount of wrestlers interviewed is vast. They interviewed almost anyone you can imagine including wrestlers, some celebrities, and a couple fans. Other notable interviews not previously mentioned include Mad Dog Vachon, Ernie Ladd, Jake Roberts, and both Blackjacks.

The WWE was made to look invincible, most of the time, as they apparently could do no wrong. This bio featured no mentions of the WBF, XFL, business declines, or WWF New York. Also, as mentioned, this does not go into Superstar Billy Graham, besides showing some decent footage on him. Macho Man Randy Savage was never mentioned and only shown in footage a handful of times. Not much was shown on the Ultimate Warrior either but he was more of a memorable character more than an important factor in the company's history in any way.

Overall, this piece is certainly worth checking out, if not for all the footage and interviews alone. It has some behind-the-scenes footage but I would have liked to have seen more, since what we got is pretty interesting. Most of the matches on the second and third discs of the set have been on previous DVD sets, although the February 25, 2013 John Cena/C.M. Punk match is featured, which is new. This is a very enjoyable and thorough documentary on the WWE. It has some revisionist history and omissions, along with lots of Vince praise but that is to be expected, I suppose. I would recommend this set, as it is one of the best bios the WWE has done yet.

Steve Viglio

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

WWWF January 17,1977-Madison Square Garden

This was Howard Finkel's debut at MSG. 

Baron Mikel Scicluna v. Pat Patterson-Ref Terry Terranova

Match was nothing special, mostly Pat working from the bottom. This was his MSG debut and he was billed as the North American Champion. It was also Pat's second match for Vince Sr. as he had only previously wrestled in August 1967 in San Francisco against Jim Osborne. That card looks to have been a Shire show with some New York guys sent to help out. Not sure if that was just a mistake in announcing him by Finkel on the title. Vince kept mentioning he was in contention for the United States Championship, alluding to the NWA San Francisco US Title that he had lost to Mr. Fuji around a year earlier. It certainly was not the WWF North American Title he won in 1979 that was referred to. The match was built around the fact that the Baron was hiding a foreign object. The match was back and forth, in a way, as Baron would be stomping on Pat for a while and Pat would get a quick hope spot and get shut down soon after. Baron got in a back drop and when he tried for a second, Patterson gave him a sunset flip and won. Baron attacked him after the match but Patterson fired back and Scicluna retreated.

Bruno Sammartino w/Arnold Skaaland & Larry Zbyszko v. Ken Patera w/Capt. Louis Albano-WWWF Championship-Ref:Danny Bartfield

This was a back-and-forth match with a pissed off Bruno towards the end. This was also Patera's first match in MSG. The fans were whistling at Patera as he disrobed. Captain Lou went at Bruno and got nailed and he ran to the back. Patera won a lock-up but Bruno followed up with a slam. Patera called for a test of strength and despite a small attempt at some shots, this stopped Bruno for a bit. Bruno's lower back was hurt and Patera knew it and targeted it with knees and elbows. Ken initiated some bearhugs that were stopped and Bruno was fired up. He hit a back drop after a corner mule kick and he mocked Patera with a biceps pose, which was great.
They both ended up on equal ground again with a lock-up with Bruno getting an arm drag in. This was countered into some elbows, a chin lock, and a full nelson attempt that was thwarted. Bruno was fired up again and Patera was bewildered. Bruno had a front face lock in but it was broken by the ropes and Patera followed up with several chokes and was close to getting disqualified. Bruno hit one of his numerous mule kicks and they began dueling on their knees with punches. Bruno won out and nailed some stomps to the head. Quickly, after an irish whip out of a headlock, they both were in a criss-cross and they collided sending Bruno to the floor. Patera followed as they brawled and Ken grabbed a chair and hit him in the back and got back in. Bruno was counted out for the win by Patera but they both still wanted to fight. Patera charged at him but was met with a kick and Ken left. This match set up some future matches between the two with four major matches held at Madison Square Garden, of which Patera only won this one. Check out their great blow-off to this feud in my write-up of August 29 show.

Billy White Wolf/Chief Jay Strongbow (WWWF Tag Champs) v. The Executioners (Big John Studd/Killer Kowalski)-WWWF Tag Team Championship-Ref:Danny Bartfield

The Executioners won the tag titles on May 11, 1976 but were stripped of the belts for foul play in a previous encounter with Chief Jay and Billy. The Executioners were disqualified after an October 5 match when a third Executioner (Nikolai Volkoff) interefered. Strongbow and White Wolf won the belts on December 7, 1976 in a tournament.

Not too unentertaining. I liked Studd and Kowalski a lot. They spent most of the time double teaming Billy and Jay. Kowalski did some great strikes off the top and middle rope. In fact, he went to the top a lot here. All four guys got in but Kowalski was knocked outside. Studd was hit with a running chop and lost the first pinfall.

Chief Jay got isolated really early in the second fall with lots of double teaming from the heels. At one point, he was in a double bearhug. Jay started to pull at Studd's mask and almost got it off. I am left to wonder if the fans in the territory knew who the Executioners were under the masks. Jay made the tag and Billy got no offense in at all. He got brought back into the heel corner and hit with a double slam and a pin.

Third fall started with another bearhug on White Wolf. He was not too bright in this match. He got pushed into the heel corner more and Kowalski hit a couple moves from the top. Billy managed an ugly sunset flip but could not win. Billy went behind Kowalski later as Jay nailed him, and he tripped over Billy and got pinned.


Ivan Putski v. Bruiser Brody-Ref:Terry Terranova

Not much to this match, just a lot of clubbering. Putski had Brody reeling with headlocks initially until Brody got some offense in. Brody hit an atomic drop out of a headlock to stop Putski. Later, they started hammering each other and were fighting in the corner. Terry Terranova warned them to stop but they did not and he disqualified both guys. There was never a blow-off for these two and Brody left the territory later in 1977, for the time being

Stan “The Man” Stasiak w/The Grand Wizard v. Bobo Brazil-Ref:???

Mostly striking and brawling for this one. Early on, Stasiak tried for the heart punch twice and failed. Neither guy had much of an advantage. They ended up fighting twice on the apron teasing a count-out both times. After the second attempt, Stan choked Brazil in the corner and would not break it and got disqualified.
Danny Bartfield
Terry Terranova
The whole card was not shown and here's the whole thing...

Jose Gonzalez fought Pete Sanchez to a draw
Doug Gilbert defeated Don Serrano
North American Champion Pat Patterson pinned Baron Mikel Scicluna with a sunset flip at 11:15; after the bout, Patterson cleared Scicluna from the ring after he had attacked hi from behind (Patterson's MSG debut)
Greg Gagne defeated Johnny Rodz
Tor Kamata & Nikolai Volkoff defeated Dominic DeNucci & Manuel Soto
Ken Patera defeated WWWF World Champion Bruno Sammartino (w/ Arnold Skaaland) via count-out at 19:54 after hitting Bruno with a chair as he was climbing onto the apron after they briefly fought on the floor; prior to the bout, Capt. Lou Albano escorted Patera to the ring and also Larry Zbyszko was introduced to the crowd as Bruno's protege, and that he would be wrestling at MSG on 2/7 against Executioner #1 (Patera's MSG debut)
WWWF Tag Team Champions Chief Jay Strongbow & Billy Whitewolf defeated the Executioners in a Best 2 out of 3 falls match, 2-1; fall #1: Strongbow scored the pin at 5:14 with a double chop to the chest; fall #2: Whitewolf was pinned at 4:55 following a double bodyslam and kneedrop; fall #3: Whitewolf scored the pin at 4:38 after Strongbow hit a shoulderblock, sending the Executioner falling backwards over Whitewolf, who was on his knees behind him
Ivan Putski fought Bruiser Brody to a double disqualification at 6:10 when both men ignored the referee and kept brawling in the corner
Bobo Brazil defeated Stan Stasiak via disqualification at the 5-minute mark when Stasiak refused to stop choking Brazil in the corner; prior to the bout, the Grand Wizard escorted Stasiak to ringside

Check @stevesgraps on Twitter for some unused pics and gifs.  Contact me at stevesgraps@yahoo.com with questions and I'll do my best to answer them. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Spotlight:Jim Osborne

I would like to do an extra part of my site by shedding some light on lesser known wrestlers and I figured I would start with Jim Osborne. Honestly, I just randomly picked a guy I did not know much about from some shows I was watching. I was watching a January 1977 MSG show with Pat Patterson and did some research on his WWWF/WWF history and noticed his first match was with Jim Osborne. So, I figured I would start with him. I did the best research I could on him and if anyone has anything to add please feel free to email me at stevesgraps@yahoo.com.

Jim wrestled under Jim Osborne, Red Osborne, Dr. X, and Double X. He worked San Francisco, Arizona, and Los Angeles, as well as GCW and the AWA. In the LA territory, Osborne tagged with Angelo Palazzoi against Pedro Morales and Mil Mascaras. Before leaving LA, he even defeated Mil Mascaras on July 17, 1968 and went to Northern California by 1969. Osborne wrestled as Jim Osborne for the AWA in 1970 and teamed with Dr. X Dick Beyer on occasion as Double X. Later on in the 70's, when he left Minnesota and Beyer left for Japan, Osborne wrestled for Leroy McGuirk and Tri-State as Dr. X.

Dr. X/Osborne fought Danny Hodge in Tulsa in the summer of 1972. At that time, X was unmasked by Hodge but Osborne put the mask back on in the future as if nothing had happened. X beat Hodge for the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Title in 1972 but lost it quickly back to Hodge. Hodge and X would go on to team for a match later that year in the territory. In January 1973, he was brought to Japan to team with Billy Red Lyons to play off Lyons' former team with Dick Beyer. After this, he left the Oklahoma area for a bit but returned in 1977-early 1978 for the territory wrestling guys like Dick Murdoch and Bill Watts. His finishing hold was the loaded boot to the face just like the original Dr. X Dick Beyer.

Osborne wrestled one match for Vince Sr. against Pat Patterson in San Francisco on August 12, 1967. This was Patterson's first match for the WWWF/WWF.

I was not able to find out if he is still alive and if anyone has any info on him, please contact me. I would like to continue to do more lesser-known bios of wrestlers who wrestled for the WWWF/WWF in the future.