Review written by forum member MegaHentai.
Publisher: WWE Home Video
Length: 9 hrs
Audio: Dolby Digital English
Release Date: August 25, 2009
MSRP: $34.95 US
- interesting story covered
- interviews with legends of the business
- plentiful, valuable bonus features
- heavily biased
- surprising omissions
- time wasted on axe-grinding
- shallow coverage
In the mid-1990s, professional wrestling was the hottest thing on cable television. This was mostly due to an all-out war between the two biggest companies in the business: WCW (World Championship Wrestling, owned by Time Warner) and the WWF (World Wrestling Federation, owned by Vince McMahon, now called WWE). At the height of the war, WCW was doing especially well for itself — it became a household name, dominated its adversary in the ratings for over a year and a half, made hundreds of millions of dollars, and nearly drove the WWF into bankruptcy.
Just three years later, WCW was dead, sold to the WWF in a fire sale for a mere $4 million.
The story of WCW’s demise is one that should be studied by any wrestling fan, of course, but also by anyone with a general interest (or a job) in the entertainment business. It is an object lesson in what happens when a cultural product is placed in the hands of executives who neither understand nor appreciate it, when some of the talent is given too much creative freedom while others are given none at all, and when fans are treated as a nuisance or ignored altogether. It’s a story that remains relevant today; WWE’s main competitor, TNA (Total Nonstop Action), seems determined to make as many of the same mistakes that killed WCW as they possibly can these days.
However, if you are not yet familiar with this story, The Rise & Fall of WCW is probably not the best place to learn about it. History, as the saying goes, is written by the conquerors — in this case WWE, who produced and released this DVD. For that reason alone, the documentary cannot help but be heavily spun in WWE’s favour.
Many important factors are either glossed over or ignored completely. There is, for example, surprisingly little mention of Vince Russo, the booker (i.e. scriptwriter) whose work was so thoroughly rejected by WCW fans that the company lost $60 million in the one year of his employ. The title reign of David Arquette, possibly the single biggest error in judgment the company ever made, is likewise underplayed. And there is, of course, no mention of how thoroughly WWE botched the “Invasion” storyline upon their purchase of WCW, one which should have been a license to print money.
Wrestler Jeff Jarrett receives about as much coverage as Russo and Arquette do. In Jarrett’s case, however, it’s far too much, as Jarrett was never a major player in the company and most fans do not even recall that he was its champion at one point. He is trashed for one reason in this doc: at the time it was made, Jarrett was in command of TNA. This kind of petty axe-grinding is common in wrestling, but does nothing to improve this DVD.
The documentary is not without some merit. It features many exclusive interviews with the men behind WCW at various points in its history, such as Bill Watts and Dr. Harvey Schiller, who offer up inside information and new perspectives. For the most part, though, The Rise & Fall of WCW is content to skim the surface of these events without digging any deeper than it has to.
As with most WWE DVDs, the set is packed with bonuses. It contains two full discs of important matches from WCW’s history. Most of them are truly outstanding, probably worth the purchase price by themselves. There are also some interesting snippets of interviews covering such subjects as the marketing of Bill Goldberg and Eric Bischoff’s controversial practice of giving away spoilers of WWE shows on live television.
While some of the footage in this documentary is 20 years old or more, the overall show looks and sounds fine. It’s doubtful that any of the classic matches in the Bonus Features were cleaned up for this release, but they too are acceptable by current standards.
The set uses a gatefold Digipak with an insert listing the disc contents.
The Rise & Fall of WCW tells a fascinating story, but never really sinks its teeth into it. The definitive work on this series of events has already been written: The Death of WCW, by Bryan Alvarez and R. D. Reynolds. This DVD makes an excellent companion to the book, but should not be considered an acceptable substitute for it.
Review written by forum member MegaHentai.