Judge Patrick Naugle's first pet—a fat gray hamster—was named Captain Lou Albano.
"Let's get ready to WREEEEEEEEEEEEEEESTLE!"
Where were you when the WWF's main event, WrestleMania, took place on March 31st, 1985? Were you a Hulkamaniac? A King Kong Bundy fan? How about 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper? No matter your allegiance, the one thing you'll recall is the sheer thrill of the event. Announcer/wrestler/promoter Vince McMahon staged one of the biggest extravaganzas in the sporting world (or entertainment world, deciding on your point of view) and brought out the industry's biggest stars. As the years rolled on McMahon's vision grew legendary with the inclusion of not only famous wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Undertaker, The Rock and Triple H, but also famous faces from the sports and entertainment world including William "The Refrigerator" Perry, mogul Donald Trump and musicians like Liberace, Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin. The True Story of WrestleMania is your backstage pass to every body-slam and choke hold in one of the history's greatest staged bonanzas. Hear all about how WrestleMania came to be from the people who were there from the start and learn about all the rivalries, blood, sweat and tears that went into making Wrestlmania a must-see event around the globe!
As a kid who grew up in the golden age of the WWF, I've got a life long affinity for the sport of professional wrestling. True, I haven't followed the sport for almost two decades and couldn't tell you the difference between Batista and Eddie Guerrero if my life depended on it. What I can tell you that when I was in junior high I owned a 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper T-shirt that said "Hot Rod" on it and there wasn't a moment when I didn't feel immense geek pride as I roamed the hallways in the single coolest article of clothing ever conceived. In case you are wondering, you guessed correctly: I was a late bloomer on the dating scene.
Whenever these wrestling documentaries pass through my hands, I'm always a bit thrilled to sit down and relive a few moments—however brief—from my childhood that is now slowly receding into the rearview of my life. Here is the fascinating thing about these WWE/WWF documentaries—while they are informative and interesting, they are also unbelievably self congratulatory. It seems like there isn't a minute that passes where someone doesn't come on camera to tell you how awesome Vince McMahon is, or how life changing these WrestleMania events were to everyone on the planet and possibly beyond. While I'm sure someone somewhere had their lives changed, I'm not so sure history will be as kind to the WWE and it's larger-than-life wrestling characters (while I have nostalgia for the '80s, I don't think they'll really be remembered 100 years from now). That being said, there may always be a place in the world for large beefy men slapping the snot out of each other—how else will little troubled boys get the aggressions out of their system?
The True Story of WrestleMania chronologically hops around a bit (the editing here almost feels haphazard) as it gives viewers an inside glimpse at how WrestleMania came to be and what the participants thought of it. Again, a lot of time is spent on discussing just how freaking awesome the WWF was for booking such enormous venues like the Silverdome and Madison Square Gardens for past WrestleMania events. While this documentary spends a bit too much time patting itself on the back, I have to admit that at its peak WrestleMania was a huge event (that you could only watch on closed circuit TV, which was before the advent of Pay-Per-View) and is certainly worth an in-depth analysis—just maybe not by the company the produced them. I feel an independent company or filmmaker would have provided a slightly more balanced look at this phenomenon than what viewers are given here.
This documentary spends a good deal of time on some of the biggest matches of all time, including Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant, Ricky "Steamboat" Dragon vs. "The Macho Man" Randy Savage and Hogan's return to the rink against Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Fake or not, these matches are thrilling to behold for the shear athleticism of its participants—to see a man like Andre the Giant (often known as 'The 8th Wonder of the World') wrestle anyone is a feat unto itself. Many of the participants (including secondary wrestlers like Ted "The Million Dollar Man" DiBiase and Jerry Lawler) reminisce about their times at WrestleMania and what the sport has meant to them. You really get the impression these guys love the sport and are glad to have been a part of its rough and extensive history.
If you're a fan of Wrestling or just pop culture, The True Story of WrestleMania is an easy recommendation. This isn't a perfect presentation (the main flaws being a lack of impartiality), but what it does include will make you long for the days of pretending like your parent's couches are the turnbuckle as you soar onto your best friend as George "The Animal" Steele.
The three-disc set's transfer is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The transfer is a give and take affair—the newly produced interviews look great (as does footage of the more recent WrestleMania), but the older footage often looks grainy and rough (with a heavy VHS quality). Since this program chronicles an event now over 25 year old it should be expected that some of the video quality just won't look fantastic. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. The sound mix suffers the same fate as the transfer—at times the sound has a rough feel to it due to the archival nature of the film. Other moments it's clear as a bell. The transfer and the soundtrack are a mixed bag on both ends, but that shouldn't deter you if you're a life long wrestling fan.
The True Story of WrestleMania is a three disc set that includes the main feature on disc one, plus eleven pulse pounding bonus matches from the history of WrestleMania. The matches (spread over two discs) included are as follows:
1. Hulk Hogan & Mr. T vs. Roddy Piper & Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff (1985)
2. Randy "Macho Man" Savage vs. Ricky "Steamboat" Dragon (1987)
3. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant (1987)
4. Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy "Macho Man" Savage (1991)
5. Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels (1994)
6. Shawn Michaels vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (1998)
7. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. Edge & Christian (2000)
8. Shane McMahon vs. Mr. McMahon (2001)
9. The Rock vs. Hollywood Hogam (2002)
10.) Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesner (2003)
11.) John Cena v. Triple H (2006)
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