Coming into this set, I didn’t know too much about Mid-South Wrestling. I had heard of Bill Watts, and I knew that the territory existed, but I wasn’t aware of much more than that. I was hoping that this release would give me a nice crash course about the history of the company, and that I would get a few fun matches as well. I’ve always enjoyed watching DVDs that give a nice overview of wrestling history. A great example is the Wrestling Gold set I discussed earlier this year. This reminded me a lot of Wrestling Gold. While you don’t get too many classic matches, the DVD flows very nicely, and you learn a ton of wrestling history.
Discs 1 and 2 of the DVD each run a little under 2 hours, and Disc 3 runs around 2 hours, 10 minutes. The DVD is rated TV-14.
The style of this DVD is very similar to the Madison Square Garden release from a few weeks ago, but the success is wildly different. We get introductory interviews and historical pieces before most of the segments and matches, most of which focus on a particular storyline or superstar. The video packages are very well put together. I didn’t know much about Mid-South Wrestling, but I feel like I have a solid understanding of the company after watching these segments. They are also organized smartly. You get interviews before nearly every match, and the segments related to that match are grouped with it. Yet again, WWE reached out to the perfect subjects for interviews. Everyone you want to hear from is featured: JR, Bill Watts, Ted DiBiase, Magnum TA, “Dr. Death”, Michael Hayes & Buddy Roberts, just to name a few. There really aren’t any complaints I have about these segments. They run a nice length without overstaying their welcome, and are both informative and interesting.
Again, like MSG, there is debate on whether or not this would have been better off as a documentary with bonus matches. It’s not possible to answer that question, but what I can say is that the format chosen works very nicely. I enjoyed hearing a discussion about a particular wrestler or segment, and then seeing that match in full. It gave the set as a whole a nice flow; I was able to watch this DVD in relatively few sittings. I have no doubt that this would have worked as a documentary as well, but I don’t know for sure if that actually would have made for a better choice. Based on the amount of material in the interviews, the doc probably wouldn’t have been all that long (which no doubt would earn some automatic criticism from a good number of DVD collectors) and may have been a bit disjointed. While it may not have been your first choice, this format works out very well.
Ted DiBiase Vs. Paul Orndorff (Mid-South Wrestling, 12/81) – ** 1/4
Even though this match is short, it is very technically sound. This is about as exciting as a match can get when given so little time.
Andre the Giant, Dusty Rhodes, & Junkyard Dog Vs. Afa, Sika, & Big Cat Ernie Ladd (Mid-South Wrestling, 1/82) – * 1/2
This match must be seen just for that amazing good guy team. For some reason, the match itself feels a bit awkward, though. I think this has to do with the fact that a lot of the wrestlers in the match were so limited in the ring. Fortunately, the match is kept short, which helps make it fun anyway.
North American & Mid-South Tag Team Championship No Disqualification Match: Junkyard Dog &Mr. Olympia Vs. Ted DiBiase & Matt Borne (Mid-South Wrestling, 10/82) – ***
This is the infamous “gorilla suit” match that leads to the formation of the Rat Pack. It’s an exciting tag team match with some strong psychology from the bad guys. A great post-match promo with the Rat Pack is included as well.
Coal Miner’s Glove Steel Cage Tuxedo Loser Leaves Town Match: “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan Vs. Ted DiBiase (Mid-South Wrestling, 3/85) – *** 3/4
This reminded me a lot of the Magnum TA/Tully Blanchard cage match (although it’s not nearly as good). The two competitors clearly hate each other, and are doing anything in their power to destroy each other. Duggan is great as a good guy, and DiBiase plays a wonderful heel. The perfect way to blow off a feud.
Mid-South Wrestling Tag Team Championship Match: Ted DiBiase & Matt Borne Vs. Andre the Giant & Tony Atlas (Mid-South Wrestling, 2/83) – * 3/4
Nothing special here. As expected, the match ends in a bit of disarray (Andre didn’t lose cleanly too often). Another match with interesting talent involved; that’s the draw.
Magnum TA & Mr. Wrestling II Vs. The Midnight Express (Mid-South Wrestilng, 3/84) – ** 1/2
Another fun tag match with a memorable ending. Magnum & Mr. Wrestling played well off the Midnight Express (until that ending at least). The added stipulation to this match was that the losing team would be able to whip the losing team 5 times with a belt. The post-match is fully included.
North American Championship Match: Mr. Wrestling II Vs. Magnum TA (Mid-South Wrestling, 5/84) – **
For the ending to such a big feud, I wish this match had gone on a little bit longer. It was enjoyable while it lasted, but there was a little something missing. This match also has pretty poor video quality.
Ghetto Street Fight: Junkyard Dog Vs. “Hacksaw” Butch Reed – * 3/4
This match lives up to the “street fight” name a little too well. It felt like I was watching a legitimate fight, which at times got a bit tiresome. I would have preferred a bit more storytelling, like the Duggan/DiBiase match.
Mid-South Tag Team Championship No Disqualification Match: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express Vs. The Midnight Express (5/84) – ***
As opposed to most other matches between these teams, this one didn’t follow the formula I mentioned in the match below. This helped make the match a little more exciting, to add on top of the chemistry these teams always have.
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express Vs. The Midnight Express (Jim Cornette in a Straight Jacket) – ** 1/2
My guess is that this is very similar to the formula that most matches followed between these two teams. The Midnights beat down one of the RnR guys for a very long time before they can finally make the tag, leading up to the end of the match. The men are very good in their roles, but it’s hard to not be a bit bored by the formula.
Shawn Michaels Vs. Ted DiBiase (Mid-South Wrestling, 12/84) – N/A
A short squash match. The ONLY reason this was included was so Shawn Michaels’ name could be included on the back of the box to help sales.
NWA Championship Match: Ric Flair Vs. Terry Taylor (Mid-South Wrestling, 6/85) – *** 1/2
A textbook Ric Flair match. If you like that style of match, you are going to enjoy this one as well. It goes about 40 minutes, but it never feels all that stagnant. The video quality and lighting leave a bit to be desired.
Mid-South TV Championship Match: The Snowman Vs. Jake Roberts (Mid-South Wrestling, 6/85) – **
The spectacle surrounding this match, with Muhammad Ali at ringside, is fun, but the match itself is pretty boring. The Snowman is as generic a wrestler as you can get, and as much as Jake tries, there is no way to get any charisma out of him.
NWA Championship Match: Ric Flair Vs. Ted DiBiase (Mid-South Wrestling, 11/85) – *** 1/4
It’s tough to call this a match as opposed to a segment, but when the actual match begins, it’s great. The drama keeps you on the edge of your seat, even if you already know how it’s going to end. A very entertaining segment overall.
Rob Ricksteiner Vs. Nick Patrick – *
This was long enough that I wouldn’t call it a true squash, but it’s a showcase match for the future Rick Steiner. He looks pretty good here, and it’s funny to see a young, pre-referee Nick Patrick as his opponent.
The Bladerunners Vs. John O’Reilly & Ken Massey (UWF, 3/86) – N/A
A short squash match, but I feel like the wrestling oddity that is the Bladerunners needed to be included. It’s strange for a lost-in-history tag team to feature two future superstars, but you’ve got that here.
UWF Championship Match: Terry Gordy Vs. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan (UWF, 8/86) – ***
Solid big man match. It doesn’t do anything too revolutionary, but it’s a lot of fun to watch. Another example of how great Duggan is as a fan favorite, and Gordy plays off of that well.
Lumberjack Match: Ted DiBiase & “Dr. Death” Steve Williams Vs. Michael PS Hayes & Buddy Roberts (UWF, 9/86) – * 3/4
This match started out solidly, but it ends out of nowhere, in a way similar to the Sopranos finale. For that reason, it’s hard to really evaluate this as a match.
UWF Championship Match: Terry Gordy Vs. “Dr. Death” Steve Williams (UWF, 9/86) – ** 3/4
This match had a very similar style to the Gordy/Hacksaw match, but didn’t come together nearly as nicely. This may be because of Williams’s limitations in the ring. It is still a solid match, though.
UWF Championship Match: One Man Gang Vs. Big Bubba Rogers (UWF, 6/87) – ** 1/4
A fairly typical ultra-heavyweight style match. Both men are fairly agile for their size, but this match mostly plays up the fact that these are two behemoths going at it. Therefore, it is fairly slowly paced. It isn’t too slow, though, and you should stay entertained throughout.
UWF Championship Match: “Dr. Death” Steve Williams Vs. Big Bubba Rogers (UWF, 7/87) – N/A
This match is joined in progress. It’s a nice way to close out the DVD, even if we don’t get to see the whole thing.
I’m going to put this pretty simply: this is my favorite DVD release from WWE since CM Punk: Best in the World. There isn’t anything bad about it at all. The segments are very informative, and the new interviews are pretty insightful as well. The goal of the DVD was to provide a nice overview of Mid-South Wrestling for someone who has no idea what Mid-South is; they succeeded there, no question. If anyone has any complaints about the informational segments, I’d be curious to hear them. I’m pretty hard pressed to come up with any. Usually, my big complaint for sets like this is that not enough of these segments are included. Fortunately, we were given one before almost every match here. A few matches were grouped together that are very thematically similar, but I can’t fault them for that choice.
The matches were probably my biggest concern going into this DVD. Since most of the matches are about 30 years old, I was concerned that a lot of them would feel really dated like most WWF shows from that era. Shockingly, this wasn’t really the case. The matches were a lot of fun almost across the board, with a few little gems that really stood out. A lot of these matches were taken from Mid-South’s old syndicated TV show. Because of this, the matches tend to be pretty short. In the case of this DVD, that was a big blessing in disguise. Since the matches go short, none of them get dull, which is a potential issue for matches from that era (like we saw on the MSG DVD). The only long match is the Flair/Taylor match, and if you enjoy Flair matches, you probably are going to enjoy that one. In terms of the in-ring product, Mid-South felt ahead of its time, almost like it was the ROH or PWG of its day.
I didn’t speak too much about the in-ring segments that are scattered throughout the DVD, but they really helped flesh things out. In general, each of these moments is tied to a match that you are about to watch, which helps flesh out the feud. It gives the match a lot more impact to newer fans. Plus, you get to see interviews from some guys who were great on the mic, like DiBiase.
I think my thoughts on the DVD are pretty clear. Whether you are normally a fan of old school wrestling or not, I really do think this DVD is for everyone. It’s nice to see some rare footage released from the vault. I always enjoy watching this old stuff with a less-than-perfect video/audio quality; it makes it feel like I’m watching something that shouldn’t exist any more. I’m definitely leaving this DVD a Mid-South fan. Mark should be swinging in soon for some thoughts on the Blu-ray extras, but leave us your thoughts on the DVD or Blu-ray in the comments below.