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History of WWE: 50 Years of Sports Entertainment, The (Blu-ray Review)

23 Dec, 2013 By: John Latchem

$29.93 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray
Not rated.

This 50th anniversary retrospective of World Wrestling Entertainment is probably best suited for casual fans of professional wrestling. Non-fans won’t give a rip about it and hardcore fans are likely to gripe about what the show glosses over (not that any type of fanboy demo is the easiest audience to please in the first place).

But for casual fans, those who might have followed America’s favorite fake sport as a kid and kept an eye on the latest developments from time to time, or those who follow it now but don’t take it too seriously, the documentary does a good job putting the evolution of the biggest company in the history of pro-wrestling in a (generally) proper context, while providing some fond (and not-so-fond) memories along the way.

The WWE has had an inconsistent track record when it comes to its in-house documentaries. For the longest time they would feature a host guiding viewers through some wrestler’s life story, or a cheesy framing device with awful dialogue to introduce classic matches. The last few years, the WWE has adopted the Ken Burns style pairing narration with old photographs and retrospective interviews, and the results have been much more effective, especially as the company has been more willing to dig deeper into its own dark chapters.

Some of these, admittedly, are unavoidable. One of the strengths of the show is the way it outlines the territorial system of the old-school wrestling circuit, before Vince McMahon bought out his father’s promotion and took it national in the 1980s. Interestingly enough, for a movie about the history of the company the narrative whitewashes over its actual origin — purportedly rooted in a dispute between the elder McMahon and the National Wrestling Alliance over who should hold the title belt.

Then there are the steroid scandals, and incidents such as the infamous Montreal Screwjob and the death of Owen Hart that the movie covers in detail but not with much depth, treating them more as unfortunate events along the way (not that anyone associated with the company would be expected to dig into those events in any hard-hitting manner).

Still, the movie knows how to turn on the nostalgia, and letting the unmistakable voice of Keith David guide viewers down memory lane certainly doesn’t hurt in that regard.

The Blu-ray includes a few deleted scenes featuring stories about the McMahons that were cut from the main program. As with most WWE videos, the Blu-ray includes a ton of historic matches, with the one likely to garner the most interest being the controversial Montreal Screwjob match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels from the 1997 Survivor Series.

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