Previously reviewed DVDs and videos:
Jeff Jarrett: King Of The Mountain WWE Legends Of Wrestling Twist Of Fate: The Matt & Jeff Hardy Story Triple H: The King Of Kings The Triumph and Tragedy of World Class Championship Wrestling FMW King of the Death Match JCW Volume 3 King Kong Bundy: The Missing Matches Before They Were Famous FMW Ring Of Torture Andre The Giant IndieMania (3PW, ROH, UPW, FMW) Pro Wrestling's Ultimate Insiders: Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara The Road Warriors Compilation Tape Extravaganza~! The Definitive Guide to Mick Foley on DVD Cheating Death, Stealing Life: The Eddie Guerrero Story A Guide To ECW On DVD TNA Best Of The Bloodiest Brawls Vol. 1 McMahon The Best Of CM Punk (In Full Impact Pro) Born To Controversy: The Roddy Piper Story Brian Pillman: Loose Cannon The Spectacular Legacy Of The AWA WWE Unauthorized
Imagine you're going to be stranded on a desert island and you can only take 10 wrestling DVDs with you. Which ones would you choose?
Granted, that scenario is a little farfetched. I mean, if you had time to scour through your DVD collection (or possibly head to your local FYE and buy them), chances are pretty good you could also stop somewhere along the way to equip yourself with things that would be slightly more useful on a desert island, such as food, clothing, or hell.... even a raft.
But this is MY scenario - deal with it.
I don't know which DVDs you'd choose, but for my money, here are ten that are worth checking out. Especially if you find yourself marooned with a fully-functioned DVD player and television set for some reason.
In no particular order:
The Best of Raw 15th Anniversary
Notice I didn't point you to Raw X (10th Anniversary), one of the worst wrestling specials -- and as a result, DVDs -- of all time. No, this is actually a generous look at the highlights of WWE's flagship television show from 1993 to 2008.
Sure, most of the matches are clipped, and it's light on the in-ring action for a three-disc set, but where else are you going to find classic moments from Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mr. Perfect, Mick Foley, Ric Flair, Sable, Hulk Hogan, Edge, Bobby Heenan, Bret Hart, Razor Ramon, Triple H, Trish Stratus, The Undertaker, John Cena, Vader, Shawn Michaels, Vince McMahon and hundreds of others, in one DVD collection?
(Also highly recommended, if you can track them down... The Best Of Raw Volumes 1 and 2. The DVDs haven't been in circulation for years, but a lot of great moments and matches from the WWF Attitude Era.)
Beyond The Mat: Ringside Special Edition
Arguably the best documentary ever made about wrestling (I say "arguably" because I know some people that prefer the more historically-significant Wrestling With Shadows). From the intimate looks at Terry Funk, Jake Roberts and Mick Foley to the light humor provided by Roland "Sleazy Promoter" Alexander and Dennis "I'm Not Booked" Stamp, this doc has the proverbial "something for everyone".
If you last saw the film during its theatrical release, or even if its been a few years... it may be worth your while to check it out again. The "Ringside Special Edition" has exclusive footage of Jesse Ventura and Foley, swapping wrestling tales and dining with director Barry Blaustein. Plus the commentary track featuring Blaustein and Funk is quite revealing.
I know, I know... a two-disc DVD set focused solely on Vincent Kennedy McMahon doesn't sound all that appealing. But I wouldn't count this one out.
A fairly comprehensive documentary, it's certainly biased at times, with various lackeys and employees joining a certain club, figuratively speaking. Yet at the same time, you have everyone from Jim Ross to Shawn Michaels, and from Joey Styles to Stephanie McMahon, knocking the man who signs their paycheck. The DVD doesn't make Vinnie Mac out to be a saint, so there's at least a smidgen of balance attempted here.
There are nine or ten Mr. McMahon matches on here as well -- none of them, surprisingly, all that bad. But the real meat of this DVD is the documentary, which tries to answer the question "Is the storyline Vince McMahon the same as the real-life Vince McMahon?"
Mick Foley's Greatest Hits and Misses
There are actually quite a few DVD collections dedicated to Mrs. Foley's Baby Boy (one in particular, The Best Of Cactus Jack in ECW, is worth tracking down on Amazon or eBay). But this one, Foley's final DVD set while in WWE, includes a healthy amount of footage from Smoky Mountain Wrestling, ECW, WCW and WWE.
In addition to more than a dozen matches, the collection is full of vignettes, promos, backstage skits and footage from Foley's WWF debut (as the jobber "Jack Foley" against The British Bulldogs). There's also a limited "Hardcore" edition out there that contains a third disc of classic matches that took place after Foley "retired" against superstars such as Ric Flair, Edge and Randy Orton.
Pro Wrestling's Ultimate Insiders: Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara
This one may seem surprising, given the handful of well-intentioned potshots I've taken at Wade Keller over the years. But giving full credit where credit is due - he does an excellent job hosting this shoot interview, and the result is rather impressive.
Everyone has an opinion on Russo and Ferrara, who have lent their creative juices to the WWF, WCW, and are now working together again in TNA. This was probably the first opportunity for them to take literally hours to discuss what really happened. Whether you agree or disagree with their opinions, they were part of the biggest boom in wrestling history, and it's interesting to hear their takes.
I dislike watching most shoot videos because of the single-camera, bland interviewer approach, but this three-disc set seems to make the hours of interview fly by. Plus, you have actual footage of Russo and Ferrara booking a California indy show, which in itself is interesting.
Born To Controversy: The Roddy Piper Story
I'm biased, because Piper is one of my two or three all-time favorites. But even getting that out of the way, WWE hasn't produced many documentary-style DVDs that are this spot-on while covering such a huge body of work.
The thing I find most interesting about Piper is that no two of his matches are all that alike. His work includes full-out brawls with Greg Valentine, formulaic hero-villian matches with Hulk Hogan, technical matches with Bret Hart, and even comedy matches against Adrian Adonis. There are about 15 matches here, each quite unique.
An alternate title for this set could have been "How To Cut A Wrestling Promo" because, really, watching this should give prospective wrestlers all the tools they need to be a master on the microphone. There's a full disc of classic Piper's Pit promos (including some held in the ring at MSG that just drew a tremendous amount of heat).
The Rise And Fall Of ECW
WWE has done some tremendous (albeit biased) work with their ever-expanding video library to tell the stories of promotions such as the AWA, World Class and WCW. But this one clearly outshines all of the others.
A big part reason why is Paul Heyman. It's difficult to tell the story of a trailblazing promotion without the trailblazer himself. The fact that Heyman is essentially uncensored and able to shoot on people such as Eric Bischoff (who was a WWE employee at the time) is a bonus.
On top of that, you have a healthy number of ECW alumni commenting on the promotion from their perspective, such as Heyman, Tommy Dreamer, Tazz, The Dudley Boyz, Chris Jericho, Rey Mysterio, Mick Foley and Lance Storm, plus seven classic ECW matches to boot.
Forever Hardcore (Director's Cut)
On the other hand, you have this ECW documentary, produced by TNA's Jeremy Borash. While they came up against some huge hurdles -- a complete lack of ECW footage, no access to Heyman and many other big ECW names (because they were under WWE contract at the time), and the fact that they weren't even allowed to even SAY the acronym "ECW" -- this documentary worked through that, and the result is an excellent companion disc to The Rise and Fall of ECW. If you watch both of these DVD sets in a row; you'll have a pretty good idea of what ECW was and why it was so influential.
The people they do interview, including Raven, Shane Douglas, Sabu, Joey Styles, Tod Gordon, Sandman, Francine, New Jack and Terry Funk, come up with some excellent stories about their time with "extreme wrestling". Plus you have a handful of ECW-like matches (taken, I believe, from XPW) on the Director's Cut version that makes it worth buying the extra disc.
Nature Boy Ric Flair: The Definitive Collection
I had trouble choosing between this DVD set and The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection, which came out a few years before this one. Both have a great selection of matches, but this one also has a documentary.
The story itself is similar to Flair's To Be The Man, an excellent book that makes sense as a documentary, complete with commentary from Arn Anderson, Rick Steamboat, Dusty Rhodes, Triple H, JJ Dillon and others.
On top of that, there a dozen really good matches against guys like Sting, Kerry Von Erich, Roddy Piper and, of course, his retirement match against Shawn Michaels. What's not to love?
The Monday Night War
History is written by the winners, and nowhere is that more true than on this DVD set. Because Vince McMahon won said war, he was given the opportunity (and had all the necessary footage) to re-tell the story of wrestling's hottest period ever.
Is it too WWE-biased? A little, but its not like they didn't give WCW their due. Everyone from Eric Bischoff to Big Show to Ric Flair and Eddie Guerrero represent the WCW "side", while Jim Ross, Vince McMahon, Steve Austin and Gerry Brisco are among those representing the World Wrestling Federation's efforts.
The collection of matches on here leaves something to be desired (as much as The Legion of Doom vs. D-Generation X sounds like an intergenerational dream match, it's really not), but you're really paying for the documentary here. A lot of this material is also present in the recent Rise and Fall of WCW DVD, although I feel this focuses more on the actual competition between the two promotions.
Hey - let me know what YOU think. What 10 wrestling DVD's would you list as your must-have ones? Share your thoughts in Canadian Bulldog's Pound on the Insanity Forums!
Canadian Bulldog is a borderline journalist who writes weekly for World Wrestling Insanity and has published his own book of nutty prank e-mails to wrestlers. He can be reached at email@example.com or followed at http://twitter.com/canadianbulldog