wrestling / Video Reviews

The Name on the Marquee: The True Story of Wrestlemania

December 26, 2012 | Posted by Adam Nedeff
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The Name on the Marquee: The True Story of Wrestlemania  

-Like everything else on Netflix, this is just the documentary and no matches.

-Morgan Fauxman opens with a lot of hyperbole about spirit-rejuvenating spectacles and immortal-showcasing and calls Wrestlemania “a celebration of life.” I think the guy who wrote this made a bet with a co-worker about how far he could take it before Vince McMahon caught on and realized he was being made fun of.

-Assorted superstars talk about the meaning of Wrestlemania. Edge calls it a wrestler’s Christmas. Hulk talks about how Wrestlemania gets a bigger reaction than Britney Spears. Vince says Wrestlemania is something that you can never forget. Gene Okerlund gives us the smoky bars bullshit line.

-We get a 1984-or-so local news feature about Vince, and modern-day Vince explains the territory system and how he altered the business model.

-Hulk says an aspiring wrestler’s dream used to just be “I want to be a wrestler,” but Vince made the dream a little grander and more specific.

-Vince talks about the rock & wrestling connection and we get clips of the MTV specials.

-We get a soundbite from Jerry Lawler, of all people, talking about how great it was to see celebrities and WWE coming together. Yeah, I’m sure Jerry was thrilled at the time. We follow the talk of big-time celebrities with a clip of Mean Gene talking to Joe Piscopo.

-Vince says he came up with the idea for Wrestlemania during “the last vacation I ever took,” which I totally believe.

-Hulk says there was genuine fear that anybody who worked the Wrestlemania card would be blackballed from the territories, so if the event failed, your career was DONE.

-Vince manages to get the event a MESS of mainstream publicity.

-We get raw footage from a TV taping, with Vince telling Gene Okerlund to drive the point home that it’s closed circuit and not a free TV special. This company throws away nothing.

-They discuss closed circuit TV in detail and it gets really weird, as everybody basically says it was the first time wrestling had ever been done on closed circuit TV.

-Everything goes ridiculously well with Wrestlemania, and it there was a post-event party. Closed-circuit reps kept making phone calls to Vince during the party to let him know how things went, and…well…everyone partied harder and harder as the night went on.

-Wrestlemania 2: What the World Has Come To.

-Mean Gene thought Vince had lost his mind and Dick Ebersol basically says the company was still growing and Vince did the three-arenas-simultaneously thing way before everybody was actually ready for it.

-Wrestlemania 2 wasn’t a disaster; but even Vince admits to being technologically in over his head and says the company got INCREDIBLY lucky with that event.

-Another outtake, with Refrigerator Perry breaking up Gene Okerlund at the end of a promo.

-Perry, the football player, of all people, kayfabes while describing his elimination and his revenge against Big John Studd.

-Wrestlemania III rolls around. Basil DeVito says that by late January, there still hadn’t been a decision made about a venue. And then one day, during a television syndication convention, Vince suddenly just walks up to him and tells him it’s going to be at the Pontiac Silverdome, and they’re not going to wall off any of it. They’re actually going to try to sell out the entire building.

-Wrestlemania III had some celebrities, but it was the first time that Wrestlemania was promoted without really driving that point into the ground.

-They talk about the efforts toward making Wrestlemania III watchable for the fans in the Silverdome, like putting the ring on a large platform and surrounding the ring with projection screens.

-Gerry Brisco and Howard Finkel talk about how amazing it was to see fans tailgating for a wrestling card.

-Vince genuinely cries while talking about how much he wished his dad could have been there.

-Gene Okerlund talks about being the guy who got to go into the ring, grab the mike, and announce that a world record was set. Still amazed Vince didn’t just walk into the ring with his dick hanging out to do it himself.

-Did you know that Hulk Hogan wrestled Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania III?

-And apparently, this company even saves their 25-year-old iso cam footage, because they show Andre and Heenan leaving the ring from a camera angle that I’ve never seen before.

-Chris Jericho and Stu Saks of Pro Wrestling Illustrated talk about Steamboat-Savage.

-Did you know Stu Saks of Pro Wrestling Illustrated is a real guy?

-Gerald Brisco basically says the lesson of Savage-Steamboat is that even if you’re not in the main event, you should bust your ass anyway, because people STILL remember that match.

-Ted DiBiase remembers reading about the attendance record and marveling that once again, this Vince McMahon guy got pro wrestling on the front page of the newspaper.

-We leap ahead to Wrestlemania XXIII, built on the weirdest advertising campaign ever, when you think about it: “A celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the third one.”

-Soundbite from Donald Trump, who says that Vince is a great promoter AND a great businessman, which…are different, apparently.

-Vince McMahon calls Donald Trump a nice, humble man. Somebody check the seat of Vince’s pants, because if you view Donald Trump as “humble,” you must have an ivory tower growing directly out of your ass.

-Vince says with a grin that the wrong person got a haircut in that match. I have to agree because his hair grew back in a weird way and ever since, he’s looked like the world’s oldest 11-year-old.

-They discuss the entire Vince vs. Trump feud without mentioning either actual wrestler, which is funny and sad at the same time.

-We bounce back to Trump talking Vince into holding Wrestlemania IV in Atlantic City.

-Nobody had any confidence that a casino was the right venue, so they came up with the idea of a weekend of small events leading up to the show, and it worked so well that they’ve done it ever since.

-Ted DiBiase talks about how “unique” the tournament format was for the show. It was so unique that they never tried it again.

-They go back to Atlantic City the following year for Wrestlemania V. This is a good time to bring up the biggest “WTF?” of this entire documentary, which is that Donald Trump is wearing the same suit for every clip they show and even the modern-day interview soundbites.

-Wrestlemania VI is held at the SkyDome in Toronto.

-Let’s get sidetracked! I work in a job where I deal with a LOT of out-of-town visitors, and whenever I meet anyone from Ontario, I talk about the time my family spent a summer in Toronto and seeing the Skydome and completely geeking out when I saw a huge Hogan-Warrior poster in there to commemorate Wrestlemania VI. And everybody I meet makes it a point to say that they HATE the name “Rogers Centre” and one went so far as to tell me that nobody in Toronto even calls it that. “Real Canadians call it the Skydome,” he said. Anyone reading this from north of the border: Agree or disagree?

-Pat Patterson talks about walking into the locker room after the show and seeing Warrior cry because he was so happy about the opportunity he was getting.

-And we leap forward to Wrestlemania X8. Chris Jericho and HHH both say they begged Vince & his boys not to put their match on last and they insisted, “No, you’re the title match, you have to.” So of course, Hogan-Rock steals the show and the last match of the night DIES. Jericho says there’s a difference between being the last match and being the main event.

-Everyone sings the praise of Hulk Hogan. He was a box office draw, he was a ratings, and he was a Saturday morning cartoon. What more can you ask for in a main event guy?

-Slaughter watches Wrestlemania VI and writes Vince a letter basically begging for his job back and Vince calls him back and immediately tells him that he’s coming back as a heel and he’s going to feud with Hogan.

-That leads, of course, to Wrestlemania VII. They touch on how pissed off everybody was about the Gulf War exploitation and Slaughter talks about the death threats that he and Vince got.

-Hell freezes over as everyone touches on the plans to have 100,000+ fans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Kerwin Silfies gives the official “security threat” explanation, but even clarifies it in a way that suggests we shouldn’t believe it. And then Basil DeVito says straight up that they had only been able to sell 17,000 tickets when they decided to make the change. Kerwin Silfies notes that in a weird bit of serendipity, on the day of Wrestlemania VII, it was cold and rainy in Los Angeles.

-Onto Wrestlemania VIII, where every sane person in the world expects Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair to headline the show, and Gerald Brisco says that, for whatever reason, the house show run leading up to Wrestlemania was a disappointment, so they changed the show. Mean Gene calls the show “so-so,” noting that the event had all the right elements, but the whole didn’t meet the sum of the parts.

-Onto Wrestlemania IX, and here’s the amazing thing: the shittiest Wrestlemania provides the most interesting portion of the show. For reasons not explored, Vince had the cameras running the entire weekend and we get a kayfabe-free mess of backstage footage: Vince explaining to Shawn Michaels that crowd reactions sound diffrerent at outdoor shows and he shouldn’t let that throw him; Hulk greeting Giant Gonzales backstage, Vince rehearsing Lex Luger’s entrance himself…

-Kerwin Silfies briefly says that there were “political issues” leading to two title changes in the final five minutes of the show.

-Wrestlemania X rolls around and for some reason, they have Gene talking about the importance of the show even though he was long gone by that point.

-Not only was it an anniversary show, but it genuinely brought an end to one era in the company and began another.

-We bounce forward to Wrestlemania XX, which looked like it would also launch a new era, but then everybody involved either died or stayed exactly the same forever…Well, okay, they don’t say that.

-We touch on the Fan Axxess weekends, which really ballooned beginning with Wrestlemania X. I envy any kid who got to sit at a monitor and call a match next to Gorilla Monsoon.

-At Wrestlemania XX, they add the Hall of Fame ceremony, a grand annual spectacle in which the entire payroll comes together to pay respects to their predecessors while the fans sitting behind them absolutely refuse to shut the hell up. Seriously, am I the only one who hates the fucking crowds at the Hall of Fame ceremonies?

-Wrestlemania XI gets the WWF a lot of mainstream publicity at a time when the company REALLY needs it. The hype for this show was PHENOMENAL but the company was so deep in the shitter during 1995 that they couldn’t capitalize on it, and the entire world just walked away and forgot about wrestling again. And by the way, when you have a card with Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Owen Hart, and Bob Backlund, and the strongest match of the night is an NFL star in his first match, there’s something way the hell wrong.

-Okay, onto Wrestlemania XII, where Bret faces Shawn in the 1996 Armbar Classic, which Shawn wins with a final score of 21 armbars to Bret’s 19 armbars.

-Wrestlemania 13, where the company deems that the show isn’t even worthy of a Roman numeral, but Bret & Steve Austin have a mind-blowing match that Gerald Brisco puts over for reaching every audience. Old school fans, new fans, diehards and casual fans all had stuff to get into during that bout. Best of all, their next big thing shows for the second time (after Survivor Series ’96) that he can bring the goods for the big show.

-And that brings us to Wrestlemania XIV, where they come to the logical conclusion and put the belt on Austin. Vince spends a mint on Mike Tyson for mainstream attention, and this time he’s able to capitalize with a well-booked card involving good angles and a strong roster, so people who see it have a reason to want more.

-Every voice in Vince’s ear tells him that Tyson is a horrible idea, costing too much money for no return, and Vince ignores everybody and books Tyson anyway. When Vince is wrong, he’s wrong, but man, when that guy is right, he’s RIGHT.

-We get a montage of celebrities who appeared at Wrestlemania. Montage fails without Herb.

-Onto Wrestlemania XV; they show a quick clip of Austin vs. Rock and move on immediately. Good call.

-Wrestlemania 2000 has a star-making ladder match for the Hardyz, Edge, and Christian, and we blitz right on after that…

-Wrestlemania X7 has a rematch that ends up being more awesome…and they move on AGAIN! Oh, come on, Wrestlemania X7 is worth talking about in greater detail…

-Onto Wrestlemania XIX, where Austin wraps up his career with a match where he legit doesn’t have medical clearance. He talks about having a vest made for that night and that night only with “OMR” sewn onto it, meaning “One More Round.”

-Shawn reflects on his Wrestlemania career, from the Wrestlemania X ladder match to the Wristlockmania XII Ironman match. Great soundbite/visual coordination follows, with HHH talking about how Shawn steals the show with every match he’s ever had at Wrestlemania, and they emphasize that point with a clip of Shawn coming to the ring at Wrestlemania VI for his show-stealing tour de force with Orient Express.

-Onto Wrestlemania XXI at the Staples Center. They had already commited to Chicago for the following year, but Kerwin Silfies says that the day after Wrestlemania XXI, Vince handed down the edict: from now on, stadiums only.

-Interesting soundbites from John Cena and HHH, basically saying that, from a wrestler’s standpoint, smaller arenas are better because you hear reactions better and you can read the crowd more easily. Edge talks about Wrestlemania X7, where he was frustrated because he was giving the crowd everything he had and heard no response from them, and then watched the tape a few days later and realized that the crowd was losing their shit from bell to bell.

-Jericho talks about the origins of Money in the Bank and talks about matches like battle royals and four-ways that are booked just to give opportunities to as many people as possible.

-A nice run of soundbites from wrestlers sharing their strongest memories from their first Wrestlemanias.

-Cena montage.

-Random choice of discussion: the annual singing of “America the Beautiful,” because Vince thinks it’s a better song than the national anthem. Vince is right. Of all songs to choose for a national anthem, why a rememberance of being defeated by an onslaught of bombs set to a tune with absolutely no rhythm?

-Onto the discussion of live bands performing mini-concerts at Wrestlemania. Everybody in this documentary seems to like it more than me.

-Wrestlemania XXIV was supposed to be held in the 14,000-seat Amway Arena, which Vince & Kerwin agreed was going to look pretty lame, so they went to the Citrus Bowl, which is a dilapidated shithole, but they dressed it up real pretty for the big day. The theme to “This Week in Baseball” strikes up as everyone talks about how beautiful it looked. Kerwin reflects that dressing up the building was an unnecessary expense that they could have avoided by picking another venue, but it’s Wrestlemania, so why the hell not?

-We get a line of bullshit about how the world was talking about Floyd Mayweather vs. Big Show. No they weren’t.

-Wrestlemania 25 was a main event booking dream: the guy who never loses vs. the guy who has a twenty-year legacy of show-stealing. Taker wins and everybody weighs in what he means to the show. HHH speaks in favor of letting Taker retire with the streak unbroken. Everyone vows that nobody will ever come close to his streak, although once they find a next big thing—and actually STICK WITH HIM—they’d have a hell of a draw by having him be the guy who chases the streak. “Once upon a time, long ago, this guy went 20-0,” and then you build a match every year around the guy who’s, like, 8-0.

The 411: The hyperbole is a little nuts at some points and you can nitpick about what or who got left out, but it's hard to complain about what they're giving you. A nice retrospective told from a variety of points of view. Very well done.
411 Elite Award
Final Score:  9.8   [  Amazing ]  legend

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Adam Nedeff

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