I'm firmly convinced that when it comes to professional wrestling, if you can sit down and talk to one of the old-timers, someone who came up in the business anywhere from the '70s to the early '90s, and gave them a chance to reminisce, the stories you'd hear about guys who you liked growing up would probably have you fall out of your chair, dying from laughter. And when Vince McMahon underwent the project of buying up the old competition's video libraries a few years ago, the upside became WWE 24/7. The On Demand video service has resulted in memorable viewing for some, discovering matches they might not have been familiar with, and for others it's given them a chance to find out what all the hubbub was over guys like Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes and other legends.
On the 24/7 service, there is periodically a roundtable discussion which airs that is titled Legends of Wrestling, where former wrestlers (who are now WWE employees) discuss some of the figures from their era, and discuss any personal anecdotes for the world to enjoy in hourlong discussions. Helmed by WWE announcer Jim Ross, those sessions are released on home video as part of individual compilations, based on specific wrestlers or, in the case of the third disc on the set, guys who the panel loved to hate. The first roundtable features Ross' broadcast partner Jerry Lawler, Michael Hayes, Pat Patterson, Rhodes and Mike Graham, who was part of the Graham family based in the Florida territory of the '70s and '80s. On the first disc, they talk about Lawler and the Junkyard Dog. As a bonus, matches from each are included. The matches on the Lawler/JYD disc are:
Jerry Lawler & Jimmy Valiant vs. Kerry Von Erich & Michael Hayes (January 22, 1989)
Jerry Lawler vs. Owen Hart (Wrestling Challenge - July 6, 1993)
Jerry Lawler vs. Roddy Piper (King of the Ring - June 19, 1994)
Jerry Lawler vs. Bret Hart (In Your House - May 14, 1995)
Jerry Lawler vs. Bret Hart (King of the Ring "Kiss My Foot Match" - June 25, 1995)
Jerry Lawler vs. Marty Garner (July 8, 1996)
Junkyard Dog & Sgt. Slaughter vs. Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff (November 10, 1984)
Greg Valentine vs. Junkyard Dog (WrestleMania WWE Intercontinental Title Match - March 31, 1985)
Junkyard Dog vs. "Macho Man" Randy Savage (Wrestling Classic - November 7, 1985)
Junkyard Dog vs. Adrian Adonis (Saturday Night's Main Event - March 1, 1986)
Junkyard Dog vs. "King" Harley Race (Saturday Night's Main Event - January 3, 1987)
Junkyard Dog vs. "King" Harley Race (WrestleMania III "Loser Must Bow" - March 29, 1987)
Now, it hard to see how you can talk about Lawler or JYD in large part because one of the parties is on the roundtable while the other unfortunately died in a car crash some years ago, but there is much fond reminiscing about many of the participants' times working with either, and working in the Louisiana and Memphis territories. Hayes recalls a time with the Fabulous Freebirds (the tag team he worked with) that fans would bring water pistols filled with pipe cleaner and would use them. Considering some of the talkers on that panel, more could have been flushed out of them. And the match selection seems disappointing. Lawler and JYD were idols in their territories; having pre-WWE footage of them would have been excellent, instead of picking out duplicates among a half dozen matches for each.
The panel returns for another disc, where they talk about Flair and Sgt. Slaughter. The talk is livelier, particularly when recalling Flair and his antics in the '80s, because Rhodes was around him a lot. Patterson helped bring Slaughter to the WWE, and while there aren't many good stories about him, the panel all speak of his time in the ring and now out (as a WWE agent) with much respect and fondness. There are also matches here too, and they include:
Sgt. Slaughter vs. Mike Rotundo (May 12, 1982)
Sgt. Slaughter vs. Bob Backlund (Texas Death Match - September 24, 1983)
Sgt. Slaughter vs. Iron Sheik (April 23, 1984)
Sgt. Slaughter vs. Col. DeBeers (AWA SuperClash III "Boot Camp Match" - December 13, 1988)
Ric Flair vs. Lex Luger (Starrcade - December 26, 1988)
Ric Flair & Sting vs. Terry Funk & The Great Muta (Halloween Havoc - October 28, 1989)
Ric Flair vs. Curt Hennig (October 11, 1999)
Again, the main frustration is match selection. The Flair-Luger match can be found on the Starrcade compilation DVD that was just released, but a tag match with Sting and a decade-old match with Hennig? The boys in the vault could have done better. The same case could be made for the Slaughter matches, as that match with Backlund didn't feel like his best, plus you've got a blood-soaked grudge match with him and Patterson that could have been thrown in there in the place of the match between Slaughter and a pre-IRS Mike Rotundo.
The third disc is the most entertaining of the bunch, and it's called Heatseekers. Its focus is on boys from recent years who didn't do anything to really ingratiate themselves to others, and thus are either out of work or working the independents. Lawler, Hayes and Patterson return, but Mick Foley and former WCW head Eric Bischoff replace Rhodes and Graham. There are some good stories and impressions about guys like Luger, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, along with others like Goldberg. Ross, who was the target of the infamous Vince Russo/Ed Ferrara "Oklahoma" character of WCW lore, might still take it understandably raw (no pun intended), but within the context of the business, the "everyone who's in front of the camera should be prepared to take it" defense seems to be justifiable. And yes, there are matches on this disc as well, and the listing is:
The Freebirds vs. Ron Shaw, Rene Goulet & Charlie Fulton (August 4, 1984)
Lex Luger & Barry Windham vs. Tully Blanchard & Arn Anderson (Clash of the Champions - March 27, 1988)
Midnight Express vs. The Original Midnight Express (ChiTown Rumbles "Loser Leaves Town" - February 20, 1989)
Lex Luger vs. Michael Hayes (Wrestlewar - May 7, 1989)
Scott Hall vs. Goldberg (July 6, 1998)
Scott Hall vs. Kevin Nash (Halloween Havoc - October 25, 1998)
Vince Russo vs. Booker T (September 25, 2000)
Buff Bagwell vs. Roddy Piper (Bash at the Beach - July 11, 1999)
Now while this particular disc is kind of fun, you can tell that the participants here (and on every disc) seem a little restrained. It's clear that with enough beer (or rubbing alcohol, as my friend suggested) and with the cameras turned off, they could really let loose on some of their topics. That's one of the reasons why the Foley and Flair books sold as they did; they seemed to be frank and honest with those who bought the book. At an hour apiece, you can still smell the diplomacy on the panels. No wait, that was the cigar smoke.
Full frame video, which wasn't a surprise. And the older matches are kept in good condition too. Or at least as good as can be expected. The prints aren't pristine or anything; they apparently were well-kept videotapes that made the transfer to DVD. Bully to you Greenwich.
All the disc have 5.1 Dolby Digital audio which is slightly wasted. It sounds more like a 6-channel stereo track than anything, and only comes through on the slightly recent matches (and panel discussions). It wasn't an impressive sonic effort.
Aside from the matches? Nothing.
While I'm all for someone seeing the WWE go daring, the stories from those involved are daring in a PG-13 kind of way. I'd hope one day that there's some sort of amnesty issued by the McMahons so that some of their old roster can unleash on what could be some great stories about legends of the past. As one who's familiar with the business, the content and match selections make it difficult to recommend buying this, but renting it for entertainment's sake might be fun.