The last couple of days I have been settling in, taking it easy, and watching the recently-released WWE-produced DVD “The Triumph and Tragedy of World Class Championship Wrestling.”
Now, before I get into the meat-and-potatoes of my thoughts on this 2-disc set, let me first preface everything by mentionning that I was never actually a fan of the World Class promotion. I attribute that mostly to the fact that during the promotions most innovative period, I did not have any access to their programming. My first taste of WCCW action came by way of the Canadian program “Pro Wrestling Plus,” which was broadcast on the Canadian sports cable station TSN. PWP was a Canadian version of the popular American show “Pro Wrestling This Week,” which showed highlights of wrestling from a variety of promotions around the world in a magazine format.
Regardless of whether or not I closely followed the company when I was younger, you cannot argue the huge contributions to the wrestling indusrty that WCCW made. Music videos, rock ‘n’ roll entrances, personality profiles, and hard-hitting action with wild stipulations. It has often been stated that ECW was just an updated version of World Class with a taste of FMW thrown in, which is a statement that can be long argued.
This WWE release comes on the heels of the company acquiring the videotape library of World Class shows that was owned by Kevin Von Erich. WWE didn’t hesitate to get their hands dirty, going through the footage to find some great clips, some going back to 1950′s.
It also holds the unfortunate position of coming after the independently-produced “Heroes of World Class” which was released just prior to the sale of the footage to WWE to critical acclaim.
If nothing else, the two documentaries compliment eachother, much like the WWE-produced “Rise and Fall of ECW” and the Jeremy Borash-produced “Forever Hardcore” do with telling a complete history of ECW.
The biggest plusses to the WWE documentary was the involvement of Michael Hayes, who as part of the Fabulous Freebirds was directly involved in perhaps the hottest period in company history, as well as Jimmy Garvin and Buddy Roberts (who are almost unrecognizable). Heroes of World Class, on the other hand, brings a completely diferent aspect to the impact of the company with in depth analysis from Mickey Grant, who played a major role in producing the televised product.
Stars that appeared in both presentations included Gary Hart (former manager and booker) and General Skandor Akbar (former WCCW manager).
The DVD extras are great, giving a pretty good overview of the type of action and stars that WCCW showcased. Especially great is the full-length version of the video of Jimmy Garvin and valet being forced to be farmhands for a day for David Von Erich. It’s important to note that while Garvin finds himself in funny and embarrasing situations, Von Erich never belittles him, almost giving the nefarious heel credit for being man enough to live up to match stipulations. Such subtlety is often lost these days, which ends up damaging the heels reputation.
Admittedly, it is impossible to go over the history of WCCW without covering the massive tragedies involved with the company. This is has almost been pushed as the main selling point of the DVD. Of all the Von Erich sons (Jackie, David, Kerry, Kevin, Chris, Mike), only one remains alive. All but one were involved with wrestling (Jackie died as a youngster). Von Erich patriarch Fritz Von Rich also passed away several years ago. Among the major headliners in the company, Gino Hernandez, Bruiser Brody, and Chris Adams all met with tragic ends. As a result, this is not exactly a happy-go-lucky program to view.
While the WWE program was an interesting show to watch, it has to be taken with a grain of salt. It is good, but there is the usual touch of WWE revisionist history applied. I would not recommend this DVD to anyone without encouraging them to sit down and watch Heroes of World Class in the same weekend. Doing so, I believe you will get a better, more balanced history of the company.
In the end, the WWE disc has all the bells and whistles you’d expect, with the big names lending their perspective (Triple H, Mick Foley, et al). Heroes, on the other hand, comes off as a labour of love produced by a passionate fan. The real story probably lies somewhere between to the two.