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GREAT WRESTLING DOCUMENTARIES, FINDING INTERNATIONAL WRESTLING BEFORE THE INTERNET, INVOKING ROMAN IN THE DEAN-SETH STORY AND MORE

By Mike Johnson on 2018-11-24 10:00:00

You ran the review of the Lucha Libre documentary yesterday.  I was wonder what other documentaries you think are great for viewing?

I am assuming you mean pro wrestling, so I'd suggest Wrestling with Shadows and it's quasi-sequel Survival of the Hitman, Beyond the Mat, Barbed Wire City, GLOW - The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, The Resurrection of Jake Roberts, Fake it So Real, GAEA Girls and Card Subject to Change.  That will give you a nice sampling of films that do a great job documenting different aspects of pro wrestling's world and the personalities involved.

You mentioned on an audio that fans today can find content so easy today.  It made me wonder how you found and watched international content?

I can remember very easily.  For lucha libre, the first thing I ever caught was AAA footage flipping through the channels and coming across Galavision.  I don't remember all the matches but the four characters that made an immediate impact were Fishman (because it was so a random, out of nowhere name and really, the ring announcement for Fishman is what made me stop and watch), Heavy Metal (who took amazing bumps), Konnan (because it was obvious he was like Hulk Hogan who just made an impact walking out and had the cool braids and costume) and Psicosis, who looked sort of like Jushin Liger.  I found it again and there was Blue Panther, Hijo del Santo, Rey Mysterio Jr., Octagon, etc.  I had very little understanding of what was truly going on with the rules but the dives and the minis and the costumers, loved all of it.  Until the major names went to WCW in the mid-1990s, it was an amazing product to follow at the time and I was lucky enough to attend the lone AAA event in NYC in 1994.   At the same time, CMLL didn't have any exposure in NYC on TV so I had no idea any of that even existed.  It was like AAA was the WWE of Mexico, which at the time it was.

With Japan, it was a little easier to learn about it, because WCW had guys like Hiroshi Hase, Jushin Liger, Kensuke Sakaki, etc. coming plus the PPVs from the Tokyo Dome.   I met a former promoter named Gordon Scozzari in 1992 and he had turned me onto the fact that there was a place in NYC called Tokyo Video that sort of existed at the time as a way for Japanese nationals who lived in NYC to be able to go and rent videotapes of programming from back home and they even carried pro wrestling.  I'll never be able to perfectly explain this, but basically I would go there  (and walking in it was like being the guy who walks into the saloon in a Western who obviously doesn't belong) and explain I was looking for New Japan and All Japan.  You rented the tapes and had to return them, so for a long time, I'd go to Manhattan, rent the tapes and return them - it would be 2 weeks of All Japan or New Japan TV, both of which at the time were so different from what I could watch in WWF or WCW at the time.  The place was obviously operating on the fringes and out of nowhere, one week, the place would be gone.  Sometimes you would figure out where they moved but then  eventually, they were gone forever.  I later found a grocery store in Greenwich Village that had a secret room where you could go and rent tapes until I discovered the tape trading world and dealers who, at the time, sold the content themselves because they had family sending content over.  It was a completely different .  In 1993, I went to my first wrestling convention and saw the Onita-Terry Funk explosion match playing on a dealers' table and was blown away.  I NEEDED THAT, so I purchased it and began diving more into buying stuff from dealers who were consistently getting the content and from there, it was onto tape trading and borrowing tapes from friends.  It was a different world then.

As far as European stuff, what little I could see was content that Gordon had imported over on PAL and had converted to VHS, which he had a big passion for as he always felt names like Dave Finley, Giant Haystacks and Danny Boy Collins could be massive stars in the States.  So, that was my first exposure to William Regal, Franz Schuuman, Robbie Brookside, Johnny Saint, etc.  I always wanted more access to it because I loved the matwork but Eurosport had canceled the wrestling content, so it was much harder to come by, at least in my experience, at the time.  Scozzari, who unfortunately has since passed away, had a big hand in me discovering a lot of names before they came to WWF or WCW or ECW and I am always thankful to him for that.

Today, stuff is streamed live and there are apps and social media that helps to get the content to viewers immediately and it amazes me, but I still sort of miss the excitement of working to track down the wrestlers you wanted to see.  It felt like more of an accomplishment of something unique, like you were in the know, but it’s a completely different world now with immediate gratification and that’s OK too.  If people find something they connect to, it doesn’t matter how they do it.

Why is WWE releasing best of NXT DVDs when everything is on the Network?

They have a certain number of DVDs they release a year and there’s an audience out there that still wants physical content to watch.  We hear from readers from time to time who want to own the Mae Young Classic footage on DVD.  WWE is just trying to create something they can market and sell.

Thoughts on the Roman Reigns illness being involved in the Dean-Seth story?

I didn’t like it at all.  To me, the average person watching WWE just wants to be lost in the story, just like I do watching Star Wars or a Marvel film.  The second Dean Ambrose mentioned Roman having to answer to the big guy upstairs, I feel like WWE took the audience out of the story.  To me, something like that is only going to remind someone who’s dealing with or has dealt with cancer or has someone they lost to cancer of their pain and their concern and their loss.  That’s the last thing someone watching pro wrestling probably wants.    The promo came just a few days after the anniversary of losing someone I was very close with to cancer, and it just made me sad.  Dean and Seth are great, and their feud has been great so far and the storyline in that episode where they finally built up to the fight was good , except for that one line.  But that one line, ugh.  I hated it and hope they don’t go back in that direction.

Thoughts on the Drake Maverick at Survivor Series?

It was GREAT!  No, not really.  I get that WWE likes to do sophomoric humor to add levity to their show at times.  I just wish they had done that with someone other than Maverick, who’s been the lone GM to be treated (at least until he peed his pants on TV) with some sort of dignity and respect.   I never want to see 205 Live treated as if it’s some goofy thing, and the last thing that brand needed was that.  So, in that regard, I didn’t like it, but given that Vince McMahon once peed his pants on TV, it’s not like a talent can say, “I don’t want to do this.”  If it was good for Vince….

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