Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Rise and Fall of WCW - Part 1

So the fine folks at the WWE finally released a DVD on their top competitor in the 1990’s, WCW. I had my reservations when this was first announced that the documentary wouldn’t be overly truthful and a lot of things probably wouldn’t get looked at in detail. I also expected a documentary that would rival “The Rise and Fall of ECW” as one of the best they’ve ever done. While I won’t reveal my thoughts yet, let me just say that I was really looking forward to this DVD. Since I sorely miss WCW, I plan on covering this DVD set in three different posts, one for each disc, as sort of a tribute to WCW to go along with the “Creepier by the Dozen” articles coming in October. There are also some bonus segments on the first disc which I will simply score with an “Up” or “Down” depending on whether I liked it or not.

Depending on your level of wrestling expertise, this was either a colossal failure on a basic introduction. For me, it fell in the “colossal failure” category. First we start with a history of Jim Crockett Promotions and how they got started. Next, we’re fed some stuff about Georgia Championship Wrestling and Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, of which they actually included footage of GCW. Ok, that’s all good. However, once the documentary hit the topic of what’s known as “Black Saturday”, the waters became a little murky. The DVD claimed that Vince McMahon bought the time slot of World Championship Wrestling from Jim Crockett himself, when in reality, the time slot was actually purchased from Georgia Championship Wrestling. It was never explained how Crockett Promotions “re-acquired” the time slot. Covered with some detail was how Crockett expanded out of the south and how it caused him to go broke. No mention was made of his purchase of Bill Watts’ UWF promotion or the angle they ran with it. It was mentioned, however, that Crockett had to sell to Turner to make ends meet. David Crockett mentioned how he didn’t want to sell.

Let’s talk about Jim Herd in reality for a little bit. In reality, Jim Herd was a former executive at Pizza Hut who had no knowledge of wrestling whatsoever. However, his most infamous debacle is never mentioned at all, period. That would be the contract disputes with Ric Flair that led to Flair jumping to the WWF with the World Title. No mention was made about Flair showing up on WWF television with the title nor how Herd caught so much hell from everyone involved that a lawsuit was filed to recover the World Title belt. Nay was anything mentioned from the disaster known as the 1991 Great American Bash (of which I’ve covered in detail on this very blog) or anything else from 1991. After the brief Jim Herd discussion is over, the talk turns to the Bill Watts tenure. Wait … wasn’t there somebody in between Herd and Watts? Oh yeah, Kip Frye … who was barely mentioned at all. The Watts era was covered in some detail, with Watts himself commenting on a few items. Rant and rave all you want about how Bill Watts took WCW backwards but, according to him, he took a company that was losing about $3 millon a year and turned it around to the point where it only lost $300,000.

Talk then turns to Eric Bischoff, with Mike Graham dropping some knowledge on us. Graham came across as someone who was completely full of himself and took credit for most everything, when in reality, he barely amounted to a popcorn fart. He claimed it was his idea to run 12 pay-per-views a year and to eliminate the popular Clash of the Champions specials. This totally contradicts Eric Bischoff’s comments in the Monday Night War DVD where he stated that he decided to move increase the pay-per-view schedule to compete with the WWF. Bischoff appeared on this DVD in clips from other DVDs, since he didn’t want to be involved with it at all. From here, the history stays on the right path. Topics covered include the debut of Hulk Hogan, the debut of Monday Nitro, and the birth of the n.W.o among other things. Basically, it was everything that you could predict that would be covered in a history of WCW DVD and it was everything that’s been covered and talked about multiple times over. In a complete shocker, someone finally admits that the n.W.o. angle was stolen from the New Japan vs. UWFi angle from 1995. Goldberg was also discussed, as were the cruiserweights (who Goldberg himself put over on the DVD, but at the time (97-98) he didn’t give two shits about them). Celebrity involvement is another topic that was covered in great detail. How much in detail was it covered? They spent ten minutes talking about how Jay Leno put Hollywood Hogan in an armbar. Seriously WWE, you though Jay Leno was more important than how WCW fucked over Ric Flair in 1991?

I’ve mentioned topics they they actually included in this DVD, but the laundry list of important topics that were skipped over is mind-boggling. Basically there was zero mention of Starrcade ’97, or how the Hogan/Sting finish got royally fucked up. Also no mention of Bret Hart jumping to WCW or the man who was actually responsible for killing the company, Jamie Kellner. You cannot accurately talk about the demise of WCW without just mentioning Kellner and how, with one fell swoop, he canceled all wrestling programming on TNT and TBS. It’s noted in this DVD that the demise started at Halloween Havoc 1998, when the pay-per-view went 30 minutes over its alloted window, cutting off about 90 seconds into the Goldberg/DDP match. Other mistakes that are mentioned is Nash beating Goldberg and the infamous “finger poke of doom” title change on the January 4, 1999 episode of Nitro. It’s convieniently left out that that’s the same broadcast that Tony Schiavone buried Mick Foley on commentary by making his “butts in the seats” comment. Bischoff getting the boot wasn’t really covered but the arrival of Vince Russo was. The major issue that was glossed over was the angle at Bash at the Beach 2000 where Russo did the work-shoot angle with Hogan and Jarrett. It’s only covered briefly and today’s WWE fan, who had no previous knowledge of the incident, would most likely be utterly confused by the issue. I liked the fact that there were some comments from Dr. Harvey Schiller, who was the president of Turner Sports during WCW’s heyday. I found his comments intriguing although I couldn’t tell you about a single one he had.

The documentary as a whole runs just over an hour and 40 minutes. That’s not nearly enough time to cover all the important aspects of WCW’s history and the mark that it left on the business. You’ll notice that there is very little mention of either Sting or Ric Flair on the DVD. Flair is mentioned in the early parts when Jim Crockett Promotions is eventually completely forgotten about. I can understand why Sting was never mentioned, he works for TNA. It’s also never mentioned that Bischoff had a deal in place in January 2001 to buy the company until the plug was pulled on TV. For a complete and accurate description of the inner workings and the history of the company, I would highly recommend reading The Death of WCW by Bryan Alvarez and R.D. Reynolds. The book covers WCW’s history in depth and exactly what caused the company to collapse. What was the final nail in the coffin of WCW? Was it Russo’s shoddy booking? Was it Kellner pulling the plug on wrestling? It’s neither of those. The final nail in the coffin of WCW may very well be this documentary.

Bonus Features (“Up” means good, “Down” means bad.)

Lost in Cleveland – Down
This was basically Dusty trying to defend the “Lost in Cleveland” vignettes that featured Cactus Jack as an escapee from a mental hospital. Nothing of any substance is said. The reporter in the vignettes looks ridiculous and very out of place. Dusty says that these aired during the Jim Herd era but if my memory serves me correctly, these aired in 1993 after Vader knocked Jack senseless on an episode of Saturday Night.

Bill Watts Defends Himself – Down
This is Watts defending the fact that he’s not a racist as many in the business have claimed he is. He starts off by noting that he didn’t get fired from WCW, that he had already quit before they were going to force him out. He notes that his track record of using blacks in prominent positions speaks for itself. Not much here that can’t be found on the two shoots he did with Cornette a few years ago.

Spam Man – Down
Dr. Harvey Schiller (still not sure what he’s a doctor of) tries to explain the origin of a character they were going to call “Spam Man”, as a deal with Hormel, the makers of Spam. Needless to say, Hormel vetoed it. Probably a good thing because I sure wouldn’t have wanted to see anyone wrestling in a Spam costume.

The Origin of Goldberg – Up
This is probably the only thing in the extras that will get positive marks. I found this somewhat interesting that he said he was trying to come up with a catchphrase at a restaurant and the waitress said “Who’s next?” and that was it. One thing that wasn’t right about this was they confused 80’s star Manny Fernandez with a jobber of the same name. There wasn’t much meat to this but it was decent.

Bischoff Gives Away Raw Results – Down
Clips of McMahon and Bischoff talking about Bischoff giving away the Raw results. Not much to this either. Bischoff said in hindsight it was a bad thing to do but I’m sure he’s still proud he did it.

Well, that’s it for the first disc. The next part will start covering the matches and that’s still to come.

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