Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Spectacular Legacy of the AWA DVD

The first disc was a near two-hour look at Verne Gagne and the promotion itself. Like most documentaries that WWE does, it was very well done. The one complaint I have with this particular one was that the background music was a little loud at points and I couldn’t make out what people were saying sometimes. Aside from that, the doc contains interviews with such AWA notables like Verne Gagne, Greg Gagne, Nick Bockwinkle, Larry “The Ax” Hennig, Eric Bischoff, and Hulk Hogan, along with comments from Vince, Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, and others. There were also some interesting parts such as Bischoff saying that he had nothing to do with the infamous Team Challenge Series (to which he is credited in many books), Vince not recalling exactly how Hogan came back to the WWE after leaving AWA, and Hogan talking about contract disputes. There aren’t any matches on the first disc but the extras consist of some candid comments by Bockwinkle and some miscellaneous promos such as Mad Dog Vachon building a pine box. Enough blabbing … let’s get on to disc two and the matches!

1) Nick Bockwinkle & Ray Stevens vs. The High Flyers (uncut) – 6 – I think I rated this as high as I did mainly because I was so enthusiastic to watch this DVD. This was the match were Bockwinkle and Stevens introduced Bobby Heenan as their manager. It’s also a TV match from 1971 which makes it one of the oldest matches that WWE has ever released on DVD. The Flyers were the team of Greg Gagne and Jim Brunzell. Stevens and Bockwinkle made the Flyers work hard and the result was a good match.

2) Verne Gagne vs. Baron von Rashcke – 5 – Like a few of the early matches on the Dusty Rhodes DVD, this was back when they used film to record the matches. I’m not sure what caused me to rate it as high as I did. Perhaps it was the fact that it was Gagne and Baron beating the crap out of each other for the eight minutes this ran. That’s good enough for me.

3) Pat Patterson & Ray Stevens vs. Billy Robinson & Frankie Hill (uncut) – 5 – Unlike the match he was featured in on the Dusty DVD, Robinson’s star didn’t shine quite as bright here. I couldn’t tell Patterson and Stevens apart during the match (yes, they looked that much alike) and I thought that Hill was Wahoo McDaniel at first. Formalities aside, this was another well done tag match.

4) Verne Gagne & Mad Dog Vachon vs. Jesse Ventura & Adrian Adonis – 2 – Now we get into the stuff that’s clipped. While I admire Ventura’s contributions to wrestling while he was an announcer, his contributions as an active wrestler left a lot to be desired. Adonis never really did much for me either. This may have looked good on paper but the result was slow and prodding and the finish was a mess. I have to agree with Jessie when he said that Mad Dog looked more like a neutered puppy.

5) Verne Gagne vs. Nick Bockwinkle – 3 – Gagne does a promo with Mean Gene in a studio before the match about the importance of the date May 10th. This was Gagne’s retirement match and he beats Bockwinkle to win the AWA title in his last match. Not much to this one and pretty much a standard early 80s style of wrestling.

6) Jesse Ventura & Adrian Adonis vs. The High Flyers – 3 – I have a comment for Ventura … overselling is not good! He did a super oversell of a wishbone and sold a phantom dropkick like he was shot. This hurts a little thing called credibilty. There wasn’t much to the match itself either.

7) Hulk Hogan vs. Nick Bockwinkle – 2 – I believe that this match is on the spankin’ new Hogan DVD in its entirety, but don’t quote me on it. Heenan throws a foreign object into Bockwinkle but Hogan grabs it and nails Bockwinkle. He gets the cover and there’s a new champion until a graphic comes up and explains that how two days later the title was given back to Bockwinkle.

8) Jesse Ventura vs. Baron von Rashcke – 1 – Sure this offered up two legends but that’s about the only nice thing I can say about it. The rest of it was just as bad as I envisioned.

9) Hulk Hogan vs. Mr. Saito & Mr. Hatori – Handicap Match – 0 – Why the hell was this even included on the DVD?!! It wasn’t even a handicap match! All that was shown was the closing moments of a Hogan/Saito match and then a ref bump and tons of interference by Hatori (who was on the outside and not even a legal participant) and David Schultz.

10) The Legion of Doom vs. Larry “The Ax” Hennig, Curt Hennig, & The Crusher – 3 – Glad to see the Crusher made the cut on this one. L.O.D. is not just Hawk & Animal here but it’s their manager Paul Ellering as well. I couldn’t really make out much of what was going on due to the clip job but from what I saw, I didn’t care for it much.

11) The Midnight Rockers vs. Buddy Rose & Doug Somers – Cage Match (uncut) – 5 – This was a bloodbath. Sherri was screaming bloody murder at ringside when Somers and Rose were getting hammered. There were several huge bumps into the cage and the crowd was way into it. The after match brawl was pretty intense as well. It was fun watching this and seeing Michaels before he hit the big time.

12) Curt Hennig vs. Nick Bockwinkle (uncut) – 6 – This was quite possibly the best match on this DVD. It was 25 minutes of good solid back and forth techinical wrestling until Zbyszko got involved with the finish. The only huge bump was Hennig taking a nasty spill onto the floor and whacking his head on the rail. Zbyszko loitered at ringside throughout the whole match and took away from the importance of the match at times. The finish saw Zbyszko handing Hennig a mysterious object with which he nailed Bockwinkle upside the head for the pin. The post match antics really took down the rating for me for what was otherwise an enjoyable match.

13) Jerry Lawler vs. Kerry Von Erich (uncut) – 5 – First off, I lost a little bit of respect for Von Erich here. You can clearly see him reach into his ring robe and blade his underarm and then toss the evidence before the fucking match even starts. He actually does this twice because apparently he didn’t get it right the first try. The damn referee spent too much time checking on Von Erich’s eye instead of counting the fall or checking Lawler when he was in a hold. Von Erich ends up bleeding so badly above his eye that the referee stops the match. A good match aside from the problems with the ref.

Overall Thoughts:
The documentary was good but the match selection left a little bit to be desired. I would've liked to have seen more complete matches instead of five minute clips of stuff. Still, if you are a fan of old school wrestling then I would recommend picking this up. Not so much for the bonus matches but for the documentary about a federation that many have forgotten and few know the story of.

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