WWE’s new DVD feature The True Story of WrestleMania is due for release this coming Tuesday. We recently posted exclusive photos of it, and now comes the review which is amongst the first in the world!
As usual with the multi-disc WWE DVDs the packaging artwork looks great, from the archive photo of a young Vince McMahon on the cover to the montage of stand out Mania moments on the inside. WWE has also decided to print the content listing by the discs for this one. Whether that was due to our petition or not we don’t yet know but either way it’s good news.
New interviews conducted with WWE personalities for the DVD to provide a commentary are with Vince McMahon, Chris Jericho, Big Show, John Cena, Edge, Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio, Sgt. Slaughter, Gerald Briscoe, Gene Okerlund, Jerry Lawler and Ted DiBiase (sr).
There are also archive interviews (conducted for The Mania of WrestleMania by the looks of it) with Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. Good line up!
Welcome to WrestleMania…
We start with an introduction to WrestleMania showing stand out moments over the years like HBK/Bret, Rock/Hogan, Taker/HBK then on to the fan reaction when getting their hands on Wrestlemania tickets. Following this you have various superstars giving their take on how massive a spectacle Mania is. Edge says it’s like Christmas and Vince says it’s something that never can be forgotten. Short intro to begin but to the point!
The feature kicks off talking about wrestling in the 80s and it’s territories. We hear Vince wanted to go national and international with it, though his dad never knew it. It shows Hogan’s career prior to Wrestlemania then onto the “rock and wrestling” era in WWE with involvement from Cyndi Lauper and Mr. T amongst others, and the relationship they had with MTV. The media footage here is a good watch and shows how wrestling really was turning into pop culture at that point. Mania comes off the back off this, capitalising on the new audiences and we hear the planning to have their shows culminate with one big extravaganza made up of a hybrid of celebrities and wrestling personalities. Interesting here Gene Okerlund saying the name WrestleMania came about from the phrase “Beatlemania”. Yeah, I didn’t know that.
The documentary shifts to the success of the Hulk Hogan/Mr T pairing. A past Hogan interview talks about how he felt the WrestleMania move would piss everybody off and he may not be able to work again if Mania was a failure. It explains the plans to air it on CCTV, shown in arenas and there’s some footage of Vince talking about it backstage that I’ve never seen before. Vince looks back on it as a “huge gamble”, whilst Lawler says wrestling purists probably frowned upon it but nobody could deny buzz it created. Vince said numbers came in after WrestleMania 1 and it was made a success from 1 million people watching on CCTV. Rock remembers seeing highlights of wrestling on the news after the event which hadn’t happened before.
Continuing the spectacle…
Mania 2 on April 7 1986 comes about due to the success of the first. It runs through the set up, how it was spread over 3 sites and that many involved thought it couldn’t work. Vince talks about how the technology involved with that even now would be a push but back then was a huge feat, and “lady luck” played a big part for him again. In interviews here you get to see some behind the scenes footage before and after them which were all new to me. This event was still a CCTV event due to the fan demand to come back and watch it. The doc has some insight into Pittsburgh’s feed not working on the night.
WrestleMania 3 now, discussing breaking the attendance record in the Silverdome selling out 90,000+ tickets. It’s shown as more of a “Super Bowl” happening with the celebrity toned down. Hogan/Andre is regarded as the selling point by those involved, rather than the celebs. In here we see Moonsoon/Hayes doing an interview at the event with a little bit of off-camera footage before it, great to see. Cena talks his whole family watching the event, and others reminisce about the whole buzz of the fans on the day. Then we get Vince getting emotional about feeling his father’s presence as he got into the ring that night, which is touching.
Vince, Briscoe say here that Hogan was scared to death about getting in the ring with Andre because he didn’t know how he’d react. It’s admitted by Hogan too, saying he couldn’t eat before it with nerves. Big Show talks the feat of Hogan slamming Andre and that he always thought Andre would win the match. Various personalities, mainly Vince and Triple H, say how the moment was more about Andre and his performance that night. Jericho gives his views on WM3 and that the stand out match that night was Savage/Steamboat which most influenced his own career, many others agree on sheer performance level.
Jumps 20 years on to WrestleMania 23 at Ford Field now, which is a little strange but trying to show how Aretha Franklin performed at both WM3 and WM23. Whilst on the topic, it shows the hype of “Battle of the Billionaires” created and we learnt of the respect between Vince McMahon and Donald Trump. Trump says it was Vince’s idea and he set it up so there was huge attention to it all over the country. I’m liking the ringside film footage here showing Vince getting his head shaved from another perspective. Jumping back, keeping on the theme of Trump’s involvement with WrestleMania, it now covers WrestleMania 4 at Trump Plaza. The talking point here is that it was exclusively on PPV for the first time and the demand for it led to bringing Mania back there the following year for WM5.
Hogan goes international…
First time going international for WM6, at the SkyDome. Talks Hogan/Warrior build up with Warriror taking the title and being very emotional over it. There’s another jumps here to WM18 since it was also in the SkyDome, 12 years on with Hogan stealing the show again. Nice ringside film footage shown of X8 and Triple H and Jericho talk about making their case for not wanting to follow Rock/Hogan in the build up to the event but being told the title must be put first. Now the documentary focuses on Hogan’s impact on the success of WrestleMania over the years which is fitting and well deserved – Jericho says Hulk built Mania and we wouldn’t have it now without him, Okerlund says he meant huge box office ratings.
We’re on to WM7 now with Slaughter talking how much heat he had in his heel role, to the point of death threats to he, Vince and their families. Talks moving the event to a different arena for security concerns and shows the Slaughter/Hogan match. Moving on to WM8 it focuses on Ric Flair’s involvement, and the change of decision from Flair/Hogan as the main event. Okerlund says this event was only “so so”.
For WM9 there is lots of behind the scenes footage of the creation and build to the event due to a film crew documenting it at the time and to my knowledge it’s the first time it’s been seen. This is a fantastic watch showing the comradery between the wrestlers, and at one point shows Vince dancing to the music behind the curtain, before Shawn Michaels went out there to wrestle. On to WM10 and they’re back to MSG for the ten year anniversary – Vince says the name MSG is unequalled in terms of arenas and still to this day holds a special meaning to WWE.
Staying on this topic the documentary moves to WrestleMania 20 and there’s a whole lot of new film/ringside footage shown of the event which really brings it to life and makes me want these WrestleMania events released again entirely in this style! Jericho agrees WM30 should be at the Garden, and every tenth thereafter. You can see Benoit for a split second when HBK is doing a moonsault on to he and Triple H but I mean SPLIT second. There is no one match focused on, just a few clips like of the Eddie/Angle match, and the main event is not discussed.
Never seen before…
The fan experience Mania brought in recent years is showcased now such as Axxess and Hall of Fame. Okerlund says Hall of Fame being on that weekend makes it prestigious with the old timers amongst the top stars of today.
Now to WM11, and the focus is on the Lawrence Taylor/Bam Bam Bigelow build up. Vince says it was risky to putting “LT”, a non WWE performer in the main event but his athleticism spoke for itself, he gives credit to Bam Bam Bigelow for making it work. This is somewhat interesting to hear about. Theres talk now of by 1996 for WM12 there was a lot of pressure on WWE coming from WCW with stars jumping ship, and that it was truly special to see the hour long match between HBK & Bret entertaining the fans throughout.
Austin era has begun…
Very quickly we’re on to WM13 and again WCW is talked about due to dominating in ratings, but Stone Cold Steve Austin is introduced and his match with Bret Hart in a completely different style than seen before. Vince feels it was the starting point to his career success and increased global popularity for WWE. Various stars talk about Stone Cold meaning a rebirth for WrestleMania, Jericho say’s he “saved” the event and others talk how he was taking over Hogan’s spot before him. Nice respect.
On now to a look at the Stone Cold/Mike Tyson interactions in the run up to WrestleMania 14 bringing huge media attention. Insight into how they paid out an unthinkable amount of cash to bring Tyson in, which many felt wasn’t the right thing to do, but Vince proved it was worth it in the long term to increase awareness in the brand. Stuff like this I wasn’t aware of so found it entertaining to listen to. Austin’s match with HBK, Tyson involved, is discussed as the kick off the Attitude Era. Seems to a be a few new ringside shots of this event too that I don’t think I’ve seen before, nice touch.
The new millenium…
After covering the different celebrity involvement at WrestleMania over the years, the feature moves on to WrestleMania 15 and quickly shows Austin beating The Rock for the championship. Ok, no feud mentioned? After that we’re on to WrestleMania 16 and again only one match is covered, this time the Triangle Ladder Match between E&C, Hardyz & Dudleyz. Edge comments on the risks they took to deliver such a match, “raising the bar too high”, and that’s it for the year 2000’s addition in this documentary.
WrestleMania 17 gets slightly better treatment than the previous two, talking about the 67,000 Astrodome attendance record and showing some clips of the action. Edge talks about his infamous spear to Jeff Hardy off the ladder, Rock/Austin is shown very briefly and it ends with Sheamus suggesting HHH/Taker that night stole the show. That event surely deserves more than a minute’s discussion and it certainly was about Rock/Austin to me!
WrestleMania 19 from Seattle has more attention in the documentary, and specifically focuses on Austin’s last WrestleMania match and HBK/Jericho being a show stealer. The footage here looks superb as it’s largely taken from The Mania of WrestleMania, which was a great “movie style” behind the scenes look at the event and can be found on the WM20 DVD set. Jericho has new comments on his match with Michaels for this part and feels he hadn’t accomplished his goal of stealing the show at the event until this match and knows it will live on forever because of it taking place at a WrestleMania. So far Jericho is really increasing the value of this documentary.
From here we see a video package of all the infamous Shawn Michaels moments at WrestleMania in it’s history. His comments on this DVD are all from The Mania of WrestleMania probably due to how that was shot being perfect for Blu-ray and that he talked about WM in depth for that feature. You have Triple H, Jericho, John Cena and Randy Orton talking about his performances over the years in this section. Cena hopes he won’t forget WM23. Wasn’t there some controversy there about Shawn not being so happy with the match?
Maximising the spectacle…
WrestleMania 20 is talked about for the second time, now in terms of being held in New York at MSG, then WM21 at the Staples Centre, on to WM22 at the Allstate Arena in Chicago. It talks about Vince making the call that after WM22 in Chicago WrestleMania should go back to stadiums every year thereafter. The superstars generally agree that the stadiums do WrestleMania better justice, but talk about how it’s harder to hear the crowd reaction due to the sheer size. Cena prefers the smaller buildings because of how he hears the crowd. Jericho thinks it should be in stadiums regardless so the experience is shared by 70,000+ people. That’s a bit selfish John!
WrestleMania 21 went “Hollywood” and it’s covered in more depth at this point. They show the movie vignettes and it focuses on the MITB match, revealing that Jericho and the lead writer of Raw came up with the concept. At last we find out that really wasn’t made up when Jericho said that on TV! This new ringside footage here of the MITB match from WM21 and later events looks awesome. All of this is a big reason we all gotta watch this on Blu-ray. After this we’ve got various WWE superstars talking about stand out WrestleMania matches including Orton, where it shows what looks to be new footage of him at WM20. Then on to a video package of Cena’s impact on WrestleMania with the stars reflecting on his best performances, like WrestleMania 23. All of this was great to look back on.
Mania is coming…
The next section was very interesting to me since I attended Wrestlemania 24 in person, telling how the decision was made to hold WrestleMania 24 in the Cirtrus Bowl in Orlando and revealing that it was originally planned to be in the small Amway arena (where Raw was the next night). It shows how WWE transforms the aging Citrus Bowl into a fantastic looking venue fit for Mania, that few would have thought possible. I thought it looked good inside and that was thanks to WWE. For this event it looks at the buzz created by having Floyd Mayweather face Big Show, nothing else. Strange no mention of Flair’s “retirement” match and apart from the arena discussion this part is very short.
Quite a lot of backstage footage shown now as the documentary talks about how the stars prep and train for the spectacle. We’re up to WrestleMania 25 as it discusses the first encounter between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. Jericho calls it the best match of all time, Triple H and Orton say they shouldn’t have followed it, others say it was the culmination of 20 years of top performances throughout two of the greatest careers in WWE. The general consensus given here by the personalities is that match will never be topped in the future. I agree.
Undertaker’s impact on WrestleMania and his never-to-be-duplicated streak is focused upon now and how the show has almost become his own, with the streak perhaps now overshadowing any other match on the show. Most stars think it will never be broken, Vince isn’t sure, whilst Jericho feels Taker probably hopes somebody comes along in a position to beat him at the event. I wouldn’t like to be the one making that decision.
The 2 hour documentary finishes up talking about the future of WrestleMania in terms of the commercial and brand aspect, cities bidding on it like they do the Olympics, attendance records and fan following. Vince says he hardly looks back on the past, just tries to outdo himself every year once the previous Mania is complete. The personalities involved in the DVD give their take on the atmosphere and intangible “magic” a WrestleMania brings and it’s even speculated that one day WrestleMania may just be held on the Moon!
This is a great watch. Not a lot of other ways to say it. If you’ve followed WWE and WrestleMania over the years then you’ll love this. It remains interesting for the whole 2 hours and they’ve done a great job at presenting all of the footage in a way that can only leave you appreciating the spectacle and history of WrestleMania. I watched the DVD edition for this review but I can already tell that the documentary on the Blu-ray version will really come to life due to film footage they’ve used throughout, and even for past interviews they’ve made sure to take them largely from their “HD ready” documentary produced in the past.
By no means is it perfect though, there’s room for improvement. For one I feel it should have covered each WrestleMania event in more depth rather than do so for only a selection of them and then fill in time talking about celebrities, arenas or focus on individual superstars. The three events of WrestleMania 15-17 come to mind as all being covered in about 10 minutes which doesn’t seem right at all. Perhaps it could have stuck to chronilogical order a little better rather than shoot back and forth in time but honestly I didn’t have a problem with that because they only jumped ahead when it was relevant to the previous section, like WM10 to WM20.
Back to a positive, it’s not guilty like Top 50 Superstars was of having too much John Cena commentating throughout the feature but instead it’s Vince, Jericho, Edge and other veterans at the forefront of discussion. Also rather than try to dismiss Hulk Hogan’s impact on WrestleMania over the years or remove emphasis on him, he’s featured quite heavily throughout the documentary along with useful interview pieces from him. I found it interesting also that they had WWE employees and other stakeholders (besides the superstars we know) commenting on stories attached to the event and what it takes to build WresleMania each year.
The DVD (or Blu-ray) is worth buying for this main feature, as even though it’s not perfect it will most likely thoroughly entertain you all the way through and be one documentary you’ll want to watch again in the future. You also get 11+ WrestleMania matches to go along with it.