The Wrestling Review Corner
The History of WWE: 50 Years of Sports Entertainment
Thanks for checking out another review here on The Real Mid Card. You’ll note that the piece I’m looking at today doesn’t have the words “Rise and Fall” in the title. This film may be a bit self-horn tooting but rightly so in my opinion. Vince McMahon came from nowhere and dominated the entire world of professional wrestling. He didn’t let ego take control, make foolish mistakes and go out of business. Some people may not like it, but he deserves credit for that. This movie gives him that, in an abundance. Let’s take a closer look at The History of WWE: 50 Years of Sports Entertainment.
This one goes all the way back to the 1950s, which might be the earliest period of wrestling I’ve learned about in a documentary. Because of this, the interviewees were changed up significantly. Having now reconciled with the company, it was great to see Bruno Sammartino giving his thoughts. A lot of the regulars were featured as always, but we got to see some unfamiliar faces. It takes you from the very start of the promotion and looks at the pivotal roles of Bruno, Backlund and Andre respectively. Particular attention is paid to Andre The Giant, who is widely accepted as the most recognisable wrestling celebrity in history.
I got to learn a lot more about Vince’s takeover and well documented cable conquest. You get to hear of the remaining dinosaur promoters who refused to sell up and eventually went broke. Is that McMahon’s fault? I think not. Gerald Brisco speaks of how he and his brother did sell up Georgia Championship Wrestling and made an agreement with the boss. That’s why they have done well from the business since then. Nonetheless, there was a lot of friction at the time towards Vince and any wrestlers who worked with him.
Of course, there is a substantial amount of time dedicated to Hulk Hogan and the role he played as the hand-picked babyface for Vince’s revolution. He had gained a lot of mainstream exposure since his appearance in Rocky 3, and the boss wasn’t stupid. He used him as the spearhead to dominate the business. Hulk wouldn’t be anything without the WWE, and vice versa. It was, and potentially still could be, a very important relationship in wrestling history.
The invention of Wrestlemania is focused on. The stand alone documentary about the history of Mania is a corker itself. Expect a review of that pretty soon! One interesting fact that I didn’t know about the first incarnation of the Showcase of the Immortals, is that the future star of the time Bret Hart was on that card. The Wrestlemania 3 attendance record breaking event with Hogan and Andre was of course touched on.
I did not know that Saturday Night’s Main Event came from Saturday Night Live and was shown on network television in it’s place every couple of weeks. What a partnership that must have been! No wonder they penetrated mainstream culture so much.
It was great to see Jake Roberts back in good health giving his opinions on a WWE production. He was questioned about the whole steroid trial and the dramas of that time. They delved fairly deep into those dark times, when the turncoats were running out of the door or turning on and testifying against their boss. The good side of all this was the new blood that came out of it in the 90s: Bret Hart, Undertaker, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Yokozuna, Mick Foley, Steve Austin, The Rock, etc. When they sum up this progression like that, it really shows how staggering an era it was for talent.
The start of the revolutionary weekly TV show Monday Night Raw and it’s development was covered very well. This was unheard of until WCW brought Nitro into the mix and the famous wars began. Of course, more ship jumping followed. The Montreal Screwjob was given the appropriate amount of time, given the movies that have already been made about it. Vince Russo gave his two cents, by spewing them out with his increasingly annoying voice! This looked like the death-nail for the company at that time (losing Bret), but the best heel in the history of the business – Mr. McMahon – was born from that situation, and you could say that character saved the company.
The iconic and revolutionary Attitude Era was portrayed as a period of pushing the envelope in the face of competition, which it certainly was. Despite the huge success of the period, all was not great during this time, and so we got the poignant opinions of everyone on the tragic death of Owen Hart. Guys like Jim Ross, Chris Jericho and his own brother Bret gave some really insightful and emotional views on the whole thing. This part kind of choked me up a bit, I have to admit. The beginning of Smackdown was covered at length. It may seem like a boring B-Show now, but at that time, it was exciting and fresh, and represented a new frontier for the company. It’s crazy to imagine that we were treated to two equally good and equally important shows back then. Take a hint from the past!
The publicly traded company era began and spawned new revenue streams, like books. The victory over WCW brought with it media libraries and intellectual property from WCW and ECW. The company just went from strength to strength. The brand extension and drafts continued to add a fresh air to the product. I really miss those early days of Raw versus Smackdown. It got very stale in the end, but it was great at first, especially with Ric Flair as General Manager of Raw.
The icons of the 00s are given their due respect: Randy Orton, Edge, Batista, John Cena, etc. These guys took the torch and became the backbone of the company for that decade. The PG era was next up, and as you can imagine, only the positives were touched on. That’s not exactly surprising. Daniel Bryan, CM Punk and Bret Hart acknowledge that John Cena deserves a lot of respect and credit, for being the hero he is inside and outside of the ring. He is certainly our generation’s answer to Bruno, Hogan and Austin.
I learned that the WWE has been doing community outreach and charitable stuff for a long time. It is just much more known these days, with the whole Make-a-Wish thing. Since Wrestlemania 17, the event has been a stadium only affair, and that’s a terrific success story in itself. After Andre The Giant died, the Hall of Fame began and it has become more and more significant with each year. WWE films started after Hogan’s movie No Holds Barred in the 80s, but since the opening of WWE Studios, these projects have increased in number and quality. It’s crazy to really think about how much success they have had, and on how many different levels and fronts they seem to operate now.
The HD era (which I have never really contemplated) was discussed some, explaining the technological evolution which guys on the crew have been adapting to for decades. It was cool to hear the opinions of some of those unsung heroes in the plain black t-shirts. The use of internet and social media may be annoying a lot of the time, but it didn’t stop them from talking it up in this movie, as you would expect.
The past will be forever alive thanks to WWE’s campaign to buy up media libraries and create WWE classics. The future is also looking bright. NXT is a better show than Smackdown half the time these days, and the new performance centre can only mean good things in terms of the talent pool available.
Vince McMahon is illustrated as a 24/7 workaholic, even now at his age. He gets all the plaudits that he deserves for all the work he has put in over the decades. The boss is also sure to praise those close to him who really helped make his vision a reality. The most successful family business in history is still going strong today, and I for one am very happy to say that. I’ve always been a WWF/E guy, and that’s where my allegiances will continue to lie. Unless something legitimately comes along to challenge them, they will be recognised as the best and so they should. TNA isn’t in the same universe (pop at TNA).
This was a really good one, just for the interest value if nothing else. It was at times touching, thoughtful and emotional. However, for the most part, I give it such a high rating because I flat out loved seeing the chronology of WWE played out before my eyes. I was reminded of so many great wrestlers, matches and moments. It was like reliving everything positive about the company’s history and everything I utterly enjoyed, in a kind of two hour video medley. If you’re a WWE fan, watch this movie. Young or old, you will be left entertained and educated. That’s all you should ask for from a wrestling documentary.
Thanks for reading,