There is one very important thing to remember when looking at “The History of WWE: 50 Years of Sports Entertainment” Blu-ray – this is not a history of the wrestlers who have competed in the WWE, but the actual history of the company itself. When looked at in that manner, it touches all the bases and does a great job at presenting how the company went from a smaller regional promotion to the biggest professional wrestling company of all time.
The documentary that is on the first disc checks in at about two hours and starts with the story of how the WWE originally broke away from the National Wrestling Alliance and formed the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF). With Verne Gagne taking the title off of “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers, the WWWE under the leadership of Vince McMahon Sr., started their new upstart promotion with Rogers as their champion.
We see how the politics worked back then and how McMahon tried to unsuccessfully hide the fact that Rogers lost his original title so they could start with him as the reigning champion. It didn’t work as the wrestling magazines of the time still reported his loss, but the WWWF quickly bounced back thanks to the star power of Bruno Sammartino, the man who took the title off of Rogers.
We then see how Sammartino built the WWWF into a promotion that was easily competitive with the NWA and AWA and built the foundation for what would become a global phenomenon. It was not easy, but the WWWF was located in New York, which gave them more mainstream publicity than promotions down south.
The real kickoff point for the WWWF came when Vince McMahon decided he wanted to buy the company from his dad. It was not easy, as Vince and Linda McMahon operated their base out of their home, where Sgt. Slaughter remembers that their office was the bedroom where the bed was littered with documents. Linda remembered how they signed a deal to make payments to Vince’s dad, but if they ever missed a payment, they would lose the company and all the money they paid in.
However, the two had a plan and Vince was able to build the WWE into a success with the early highlights being his invention of Hulk Hogan and Wrestlemania. A lot of time is taken to talk about how Vince built his company, including how he worked behind the scenes as a director, acting out what his wrestlers would do before they cut their promos. It was something I had not thought as much about when it comes to Vince’s hands on approach to running his company.
They also touched on the PPV expansion and the success of “Saturday Night’s Main Event” bringing in even more money to help Vince and the WWE become self sufficient.
It is also nice to see that the documentary did not skip over more controversial aspects as the steroid trial is discussed in great detail, including interviews with Jake Roberts, Jim Duggan and Roddy Piper all admitting that WWE stars used steroids at one time or another.
It then launches into the Monday Night Wars and showed how WCW was able to take the advantage before finally losing out to the WWE in the end. We get a look at the Montreal Screw Job and the start of the Attitude Era.
There is also a nice touching look at the death of Owen Hart and a discussion with a number of the people looking back at this moment, with Linda McMahon calling it the worst period in WWE history.
The documentary kind of loses focus at the end, skipping around from the brand extension to the stadium appearances, the Hall of Fame, the WWE movies and a look at the technological advances that will ensure the WWE remains relevant in the future. It seems like the producers knew this was not quite as interesting and just gave us a cliff notes version to finish off the “The History of WWE: 50 Years of Sports Entertainment” Blu-ray.
What we got here was a fantastic look at the rise of WWE from a small company into one of the biggest entertainment industries in the world. Don’t go in looking for a lot on the individual stars and you will be impressed with the look at the building of an empire.
The first Blu-ray disc also includes two matches that were not part of the DVD release.
WrestleMania XXIV – March 30, 2008: Floyd “Money” Mayweather vs. Big Show – This match is nowhere near as bad as a lot of people remember, and the crowd was molten hot for the match. Mayweather picked up the win, but if you listen to the crowd, that was not the popular choice. (**)
WrestleMania 25 – April 5, 2009: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels – This was the first of back-to-back matches between Shawn and Undertaker and was a spectacular match with a ton of near falls. This was proof that these are two of the best performers in WWE history. (*****)