I grew up with pro-wrestling. AS a young child, I remember fondly watching WWF every weekend and seeing colorful characters like Jake the Snake Roberts and The Big Bossman. In the early 90s, my love of wrestling had grown to where I would follow things pretty closely; when the mid 90s hit, there wasn't a week that passed that I didn't watch every WWF and WCW program on the air. The WWF Attitude Era was must see TV for me; Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock were favorites; on the WCW front, I was torn between the now, led by a heel Hulk Hogan (in my opinion one of the best moves in his career) and the embodiment of old school wrestling, Ric Flair. WWF would prove the victor by keeping things exciting and unpredictable, by as the early 00s rolled around, Vince McMahon had bought his competition, WCW and ECW, and things would never be the same.
I quickly lost my love for watching the sport and felt things would never be the same. In early 2006, I happened across Raw on TV and decided to see how far things had changed. I was happy to see the storylines had slightly improved, there were still performers giving it their all, but it was still a shadow of its heyday. I casually follow the WWE, mostly for the brief moments were true athleticism is allowed to shine, but rarely do I see much that reminds me of the "good old days." Is it because I'm now an adult and I'm finally seeing how childish the business has always been? I don't think so.
"The Greatest Stars of the 90s" should have been two hours of pure bliss for such a huge fan of that era of pro-wrestling. Unfortunately, the program serves as little more than a two-hour primer for newcomers to the business. Each star profiled is given a ten-minute segment and it quickly becomes obvious a lot of the interview footage has been culled from other sources. This is most obvious when Chris Jericho speaks as he still has his long hair; he cut it short nearly two to three years ago. While it was a load of fun seeing the highlights of many of these stars (especially Sting and Scott Hall), it left me wanting to seek out the individual discs dedicated to other stars such as Bret Hart and The Rock. Noticeably and puzzlingly absent is any major coverage of ECW. In the intro, it's established that ECW was considered a major force alongside WCW and WWF, but aside from that mention and a few minutes detailing Paul Heyman and Mick Foley, ECW goes unmentioned. Fans of this brand most likely already have the fantastic "Rise and Fall of ECW" disc though, but the false advertising is worth noting.
My other major gripe is the editing on the disc. I'm not talking about the scratch logo being blurred, I'm talking about finger gestured blurred and words as minor as "ass" being bleeped. I understand the WWE's move to becoming more family friendly, but it's a well known fact that most of the 90s era was far from this. Oddly, the discs are all branded with a TV-14 rating with warnings for Language, Suggestive Dialogue, and Violence, while the outer package says it's a TV-PG program with only warnings for Violence. I suspect the edits were last minute decisions and someone forgot to update the disc art. While it's not a deal breaker in terms of the program being a success, it is extremely annoying, especially when Stone Cold Steve Austin is profiled.
When it was all over, I did feel moderately entertained, despite the whole two hours flying by way too quickly. Unfortunately, the content is not deep enough to entice me to watch the program again. However, for any fans that missed this era of wrestling, it's a great place to start.
The program was presented in 1.33:1 aspect ratio and the quality of footage varies from sub par to above average. A lot of the early 90s footage definitely shows its age and is not that crisp, while the bright flashy colors of the late 90s tends to show flaws in the transfer such as compression artifacts and edge enhancement.
The English Dolby Stereo track is more than adequate for this program. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand, and when in-ring footage is shown, despite sounding a bit tinny at times, is more than acceptable.
What saves this set from a simple rental recommendation are the bonus features. Rounding out Disc 1 are a collection of various vignettes and interview segments from WWF programming. The highlight here is the reformation of The Hart Foundation, which kicked off one of the all time great feuds of the 90s. Disc 2 and Disc 3 are actually what I'd consider to be the heart and soul of this set. Each disc is filled with matches stretching the entire decade and even crossing over to some WCW programming. While many of these matches are available in other collections, as highlights of the 90s, the overlap is okay in my book. The cream of the crop are easily Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart at Wrestlemania X, Sting vs. Vader at WCW Slamboree 94, and Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker at Summerslam 98. I was instantly drawn into the drama of nearly all the matches featured and a rush of good memories came back, reminding me why I was a fan for so many years. In total, there are about six and a half to seven hours of bonus material.
While the brief, abridged trip down memory lane was fun, the main program is one of the weaker efforts I've seen from the WWE. Major fans will likely feel the same way about Disc 1, but like me, will love every second of the latter two discs. Those unfamiliar with the era, will likely see the bonus matches as entertaining, but won't get to relive the fun memories associated with them. Recommended.