Saturday, April 7, 2018

Wrestlemania 33 & WWE 2017 Hall of Fame

Happy Wrestlemania weekend everyone! It is time for my annual entry covering the previous year’s Wrestlemania (WM) just in time for the new one. I could not cut it any closer this year as I did my best to cruise through the BluRay and just finished re-watching WM33 yesterday! This is the best and worst time to be a wrestling fan! WWE puts on its biggest show of the year, as well as a packed NXT TakeOver event and Hall of Fame (HoF) ceremony that same weekend. Most other American independent promotions also try and capitalize on that event and the staggering global amount of fans it attracts each year by putting on their own packed cards that same weekend in the same region. I did that loop once in 2012 and caught the Hall of Fame, Axxess, two indy shows and Wrestlemania 28 to finish it off. It was amazing and exhausting at the same time….and I would not want it any other way.

I find myself double-thinking that mantra this year however because WWE consistently extends the length of the Hall of Fame and WM lineups each year. It gets to the point where for the first time in the annual BluRay WM/HoF combo release that they could not fit the entire event on the BluRay. Going back to almost all the WM and DVD releases, they have always included the kickoff/pre-show matches as bonus features, and this is the first time they omitted them all entirely, and I am stunned because there were some standout kickoff matches this year. I am also a fan of the annual ‘red carpet’ interview pre-show for the Hall of Fame the WWE Network has been doing for a few years now and wish they would include those also, but instead I found myself watching the red carpet and kickoff show matches on the WWE Network instead. WWE should just bite the bullet and make this a 3-disc BluRay to fit everything in for the physical copy because who knows if the WWE Network will always be available.

To add the salt in those wounds, this is the first WWE Home Video release in quite some time that does not have subtitles. That is not a big deal for the matches, but I always take advantage of subtitles for documentaries and dialogue-heavy features like the Hall of Fame where some talent can be a little tricky to interpret, and I am disappointed to see it not included for the WM33 BluRay. Speaking of the Hall of Fame, it was an impressive class for 2017, one I would say eclipsed the 2016 class. DDP kicked off the class after a great induction from Eric Bishoff who recounted their classic bar fight story and how their friendship evolved from that and DDP’s one-of-a-kind heart for the business. DDP had a well-earned lengthy speech recounting stories and giving props to the many who helped him along the way. It went a lot like this incredibly in-depth ‘letter to himself’ DDP wrote a few months ago I highly suggest everyone makes time to read.

The Rock ‘n Roll Express induction was fascinating for all the right and wrong reasons. Jim Cornette inducted them and he made his first public WWE appearance in about a dozen years and no one knew what the infamous firecracker would say since his controversial firing. He gave a fitting induction however detailing the RnRE origins and their legendary rivalry with the Midnight Express. Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson were a hoot to watch primarily because Morton kept losing it throughout his speech and he would randomly bust into gyrations to the crowd’s delight. Ricky Steamboat inducted Rick Rude next. Steamboat gave a to-the-point induction and Rude’s family posthumously accepted. Rude’s son is charismatic and well-spoken and gave a great impression of the ravishing one to punctuate his career!

Natalya gave a tremendous recap of her friendship with who she inducted next in Beth Phoenix. Beth’s speech I hate to admit tested our patience as it went on with memories of Molly Holly and many other WWE women and of course fun tales with Santino. Dana Warrior presented the 3rd annual ‘Warrior’ award. At this point she is incredibly charismatic and affable and is nailing these inductions. She was the Warrior’s rocket fuel. She presented the award this year to former college football player Eric Legrand, who gave a heartwarming speech chronicling his life-crippling injury struggles and triumphs as well as some of his favorite wrestling memories in a feel-good moment. The third annual ‘Legacy’ montage of inductions was presented this year, and like previous years WWE nailed the cadence of the production of paying homage to the greats of wrestling’s pioneers. 2017’s class featured Haystacks Calhoun, Judy Grable, Luther Lindsay, Bearcat Wright, Farmer Burns, Riki Dozan, June Beyers, Toots Mondt and Jerry Graham.

The Teddy Long induction was the most light-hearted induction of the night. APA inducted Teddy and told amusing anecdotes about how cheap Teddy was when traveling with and went on for serious props on the racial walls he broke down. Long breezed through his career highlights and I especially got a kick how he recounted his first time as a referee. He had a fantastic close with his trademark ‘holla holla’ and ‘tag team match’ announcements and boogeying himself off stage like only he can. Kurt Angle closed the HoF after a masterfully delivered induction by John Cena. Angle wonderfully hits the highlights of his WWE career and encouraged WWE’s stars of today to take chances on their character like he did. Angle was terrific when he finished off his speech with a perfect rendition of singing ‘Sexy Kurt’ and chugging down a couple jugs of milk! 2017’s class is easily one of the best start-to-finish Hall of Fame ceremonies put on by WWE.

If you are still with me, please bear with me for the…..-cue Daniel Bryan-ULTIMATE THRILL RIDE…-/cue-…that was WM33. With only a couple weeks before WM33, on RAW and Smackdown, they started labeling WM33 as ‘the Ultimate Thrill Ride’ and got that tagline in at least a few times every five minutes (seriously!) to the point of it being ridiculous and where Daniel Bryan was straight up riffing on it days before the show to indicate he feels our pain. On ‘Mania day we found out why and that was because WWE constructed an elaborate rollercoaster entrance set and an epic rollercoaster-ride themed video montage introducing the show. The set looks fabulous and as another beloved theme park owner once said, WWE ‘spared no expense’ and put together a bangin’ entrance set that grew more magnificent as the evening grew dark and it dazzled us as it lit up the Orlando sky like no other rollercoaster before it.

Like I detested in the intro, the BluRay does not include the pre-show matches this year, and the only extra is one of the amusing Total Bellas spoofs Miz and Maryse put together hyping their match. WWE actually puts some legit hype into the kickoff matches for WM, because, well, it is freaking Wrestlemania! So I went to the WWE Network (alternatively WWE has the whole kickoff show up for free on YouTube)and re-watched the kickoff matches there like I did for the HoF red carpet intro show. You should too because there is a must-see cruiserweight title bout there between Austin Aries and Neville. The two hold nothing back and got the crowd red hot from the get go because the duo simply clicked as they delivered a ton of great spots like a dead-lift german, Frankensteiner and a 450 splash! Eventually Neville successfully defended the gold with his Red Arrow.

The Andre the Giant Battle Royal was next and at the time a red-hot Braun Strowman seemed like the odds-on favorite but after a flurry of early eliminations he eventually got ganged up on and eliminated. Surprisingly, it came down to Killian Dane, a pre-mega push Jinder Mahal and Mojo Rawley as the final entrants. We soon found out why when WWE capitalized on Rawley’s real life friendship with NFL Superstar Rob Gronkowski to get him involved in the match by charging Mahal and Rawley then eliminating him for the upset victory. Dean Ambrose successfully defended his Intercontinental Title in the final kickoff show match in a decent bout with Baron Corbin that saw a couple good near-falls, but nothing too noteworthy otherwise. One last kickoff show aside, and I am glad to report WM33 will be the sixth and final time the Usos fought in the pre-show during the battle royal here because they are finally, as of this writing, booked on the main card of WM34.

I forgot New Day were the hosts for WM33 and must give them kudos for their Final Fantasy-inspired gear and ice cream cart (complete with chocobo head and moogles) they strolled out to the ring to. AJ Styles/Shane McMahon was the official opening match of the main card. The match was better than I remembered. They stuck to primarily mat wrestling for most of the match, and AJ got a damn good wrestling effort out of Shane with a lot of good exchanges between the two. Shane eventually went to his vintage weapon spots with the garbage can coast-to-coast and then lived up to his crazy high-risk standards by missing AJ with his elbow splash through the announcer’s table and shortly thereafter missing an impressive-looking Shooting Star Press. Styles soon capitalized with a Phenomenal Forearm for the victory.

Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens then clashed next for the US Title after their longtime friendship came to an end during the appropriately titled ‘Festival of Friendship’ ceremony on RAW. The two put together an awesome move-for-move, counter-for-counter match that saw Owens victorious after a powerbomb on the ring apron. Bayley’s doomed RAW Women’s title reign was defended next in a fatal four way elimination match against Nia Jax, Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair. Charlotte’s corkscrew moonsault was the highlight of this encounter. With it being an elimination match it felt too short for the chapters it was trying to tell, and it easily could have borrowed several minutes from the crazy long Triple H/Rollins match later on to flesh it out some more. Eventually Bayley still reigned as champ after pinning Charlotte with a Macho Man elbow drop.

The RAW Tag Team Title Ladders match transpired next with Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows defending against Cesaro & Sheamus and Enzo & Cass until the New Day interrupted and introduced a surprise fourth entrant, the returning Hardy Boyz to a huge reaction! I recall hearing a lot of buzz behind-the-scenes that the Hardyz were between contracts and I still popped big for their return! The two big moments in this match was The Bar combining for ’30 Clubs/30 Swing Rotations’ to a much appreciated reaction from the crowd and Jeff Hardy going ultra high-risk like only he can by crushing Cesaro through a tall ladder with a Swanton bomb and Matt Hardy capitalizing from the carnage to grab the titles and become new tag team champs in a thrilling high-spot endeavor from everyone involved.

I never thought Cena would face Miz again in another WM after their infamous WM27 effort, but here we are with real-life couple’s colliding whenCena and Nikki Bella squared off against Miz and Maryse for revenge after they shamed them with their stellar ‘Total Bellas’ satires. Miz was a riot and in rare form playing to the ardent fan’s approval with his uncharacteristic dominance over Cena in the early minutes. I think we all knew the ‘super-Cena’ comeback was inevitable, however this match was a catalyst for the much-rumored Cena wedding proposal to Nikki after the match. A double Attitude Adjustment/Rack Attack finished off Miz and Maryse and if you have not already, click the link above to see the classic Cena proposal after the match. I read this delightful recap of WM33 from a SBnation reporter who never watched wrestling before that resulted in a truly fascinating read from a fresh perspective, and her candid thoughts on this match are what stuck with me the most.

Triple H battled Seth Rollins next, and many wondered if Seth was going to be available for this match after coming off a recent knee injury several weeks prior. Triple H’s yearly overproduced WM entrance featured him and Steph coming out in a huge Harley and dawning biker gear. I quipped to my friend prior to the match and inadvertently set him off when I stated Steph looked kind of cute in her ‘Mania attire, and my friend would have none of my compliments to Steph and promptly chastised me! I will give props to Seth for roughing it out in this near half-hour long match that could have easily shaved off several minutes, especially since the first half was Triple H primarily working over Seth’s knee. Yes, Hunter busted out his much-feared Indian Deathlock of DOOM for WM33….multiple times! The crowd was tolerant thankfully, and they got back into it after some awesome near falls after Hunter’s Pedigree and Seth’s Phoenix Splash. The finish sees Steph accidentally taking a nasty spill for the second year in a row, and Seth then capitalizing with his own Pedigree for the win.

It was after the prolonged Seth/Hunter match when my friend and I paused the livestream on the WWE Network at the time just to go out and get some air and gather our bearings again because at that point in WM33 we were sitting for nearly five hours straight. We were in dire need of a recharge, and so were the live crowd because that was when Pitbull sang a medley for WWE’s equivalent of a Super Bowl halftime show. Unfortunately we all had to come back to a WWE Title match no one wanted to see with Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt. I did like the build to this match with Orton being ‘undercover’ in the Wyatt Family faction for nearly a half a year before finally stabbing Wyatt in the back. Wyatt’s underwhelming WWE Title reign came to an end in this awkward matchup where WWE instead wanted it to be a showpiece for more goofy hocus pocus effects from Wyatt where random images of gross bugs and insects appeared on the mat to ‘spook’ Orton (and the ref!) off his game. It eventually proved not to help, as Orton mercifully ended this dull, laborious match with what else but a RKO FROM OUTTTA NOWHERE to become the new WWE champion.

A very well-produced video package narrated by Paul Heyman with the theme of a fairytale set the stage for Brock Lesnar and Bill Goldberg facing off for the Universal Title next. I am still bewildered that a rematch of the disastrous WM20 bout between these two wound up nearly stealing the show 13 years later. It was because WWE did a superb job booking the feud on the second go-around and that half year build set the stage perfectly for why this match outperformed anyone’s expectations. Goldberg and Lesnar delivered with a five minute slugfest where the two kicked out of nonstop signature moves from each other before Goldberg eventually fell to 10 German Suplexes and an F5 from Lesnar! Lesnar’s superhero-esque leap over Goldberg’s spear attempt was also a sight to behold! Lesnar continues to hold the Universal title to this day, and if all goes according to conjecture, his year-long title reign will end tomorrow before he departs back to UFC.

The Smackdown Women’s title six pack challenge was the penultimate match for this ULTIMATE THRILL RIDE. Alexa Bliss defended against Mickie James, Naomi, Carmella, Becky Lynch and Natalya. The story for this was Naomi’s quest to come back after vacating the title from an injury and win the title in her hometown of Orlando. She did just that after several minutes, of nicely paced, nonstop action with most of the ladies hitting their signature moves before Naomi made Bliss tap out. Regrettably, Naomi went on to have THE worst Smackdown Women’s Title reign in its history due to the awful rivalry she had with Lana over the summer while the rest of the division tore it up in much-talked about ladder matches.

The 13th, yes, 13th and headlining match of WM33 featured Roman Reigns taking on the Undertaker. I recall a lot of loose talk at the time feeling this would be Undertaker’s final match with many reports of his overall day-to-day athletic shape being a struggle to keep up with (Undertaker has since had a hip replacement since WM33). Roman Reigns is easily the most hated man in wrestling among core wrestling fans, and none of them wanted to see Roman become the second individual to best the ‘Dead Man’ at ‘Mania. Surprisingly, this late into the show, the crowd was still with it and it heavily favored ‘Taker. As much as I did not want to admit it, this was the first time at WM where Roman felt like he belonged as a top guy, and it was fascinating reliving the crowd reject most of his offense as he weathered a Last Ride and Tombstone from ‘Taker. ‘Taker looked worse for wear as the match went along to the point that it looked like he was shot full of adrenaline and Cortisone to get through the first half looking like old school ‘Taker while he would ultimately get through the second half hobbling through it as Roman assaulted him with an avalanche of nonstop Superman Punches and Spears before a fourth spear finally finished off the Undertaker.

There was an eerie post-match moment after Roman left and the camera hung on ‘Taker while he recovered and put on his iconic trench coat and hat and took in one more moment before ever-so-gently folding his gear back up and laying it in the ring before departing as to indicate this would be the final time we would see the Undertaker compete in the squared circle. I remember getting goosebumps from that unforgettable moment, and it concluded what was easily the most memorable ending in WM history. I still detest Roman Reigns being WWE’s ‘the guy,’ but the day after WM33 on RAW he cut a classic five word promo that took several minutes to say as he embraced the crowd dumping on him for several minutes before he spouted ‘this is my yard now’ and walked out on his accord. With those five words, Roman made it apparent he realized his full potential and that he finally lived up to WWE’s expectations of him as a big money headliner.

Of the 10 matches on the actual WM33 BluRay, half of them are must-see material and most of the rest are passable as I would say there was not anything awful to the point of skipping over, minus perhaps the first several minutes of Hunter/Seth. I still think it is ridiculous the preshow matches are not on here and that there are no subtitles at all, especially considering how the hall of fame has no action and is 100% dialogue. The collector in me has to have a physical installment of every WM, and if you are the same way, then go ahead and pick this up. However, if you are not a collector and want the full experience, just watch this on the WWE Network instead with the pre-show matches and at least having the option of subtitles there.

Past Wrestling Blogs

Best of WCW Clash of Champions
Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 2
Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 3
Biggest Knuckleheads
Bobby The Brain Heenan
Daniel Bryan: Just Say Yes Yes Yes
DDP: Positively Living
Dusty Rhodes WWE Network Specials
ECW Unreleased: Vol 1
ECW Unreleased: Vol 2
ECW Unreleased: Vol 3
For All Mankind
Goldberg: The Ultimate Collection
Its Good to Be the King: The Jerry Lawler Story
The Kliq Rules
Ladies and Gentlemen My Name is Paul Heyman
Legends of Mid South Wrestling
Macho Man: The Randy Savage Story
Memphis Heat
NXT Greatest Matches Vol 1
OMG Vol 2: Top 50 Incidents in WCW History
OMG Vol 3: Top 50 Incidents in ECW History
Owen: Hart of Gold
RoH Supercard of Honor 2010-Present
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
Sting: Into the Light
Straight to the Top: Money in the Bank Anthology
Superstar Collection: Zach Ryder
TNA Lockdown 2005-2016
Top 50 Superstars of All Time
Tough Enough: Million Dollar Season
True Giants
Ultimate Fan Pack: Roman Reigns
Ultimate Warrior: Always Believe
War Games: WCWs Most Notorious Matches
Warrior Week on WWE Network
Wrestlemania 3: Championship Edition
Wrestlemania 28-Present
The Wrestler (2008)
Wrestling Road Diaries Too
Wrestling Road Diaries Three: Funny Equals Money
Wrestlings Greatest Factions
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2015
WWE Network Original Specials Second Half 2015
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2016
WWE Network Original Specials Second Half 2016
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2017

Monday, March 26, 2018

Wonder Woman

If you recall my review for Batman V Superman, I was one of the few critics who legitimately enjoyed the film. I noticed friends and critics I follow who detested that movie. One of the few things about BvS that received nearly universal approval is Wonder Woman’s introduction to the DC Cinematic Universe. Gal Gadot absolutely nailed the part, and I vividly recall when she dawned the iconic Wonder Woman costume accompanied by her badass, thunderous theme song late in the film a fellow filmgoer near me letting out an audible, super-fan ‘yeah!’ That film was the perfect appetizer to set up her feature-length, lead starring debut in 2017’s Wonder Woman (trailer).

I do not recall reading much of the Wonder Woman comics over the years other than seeing her in a handful of JLA issues I read over the years. I have vague memories of catching a few re-runs of the classic Lynda Carter TV show off cable when I was a kiddo, and also Wonder Woman’s guest appearances on the awesome animated DC cartoons that ran from the early ‘90s to the mid-00s. I had a basic knowledge of her origin and her powers, but having her reintroduced in BvS was a great refresher of what to expect in this film.

I do know that the original comic’s origin had her kicking Nazi butt much like Captain America. They tweaked her origin for the film by having her debut toward the end of World War I instead exactly 100 years earlier. There is a nicely done opening sequence of Diana growing up on the mysterious island consisting of the all-female warrior race of Amazons. One day a British spy, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash lands near the island and Diana rescues him, but a German fleet is right on Steve’s tail and Amazons and Germans wage war. Steve catches Diana up to speed on WWI events, and Diana is convinced Ares, the God of War is corrupting the minds of the Germans and convinces Steve to take her to Europe to find Ares and destroy him, thus ending his corruption of the Germans and bringing peace.

Diana’s conviction that Ares is behind World War I is adorable, and I ate up her affable culture shock to the European conventions of the time such as dancing and ice cream. Eventually, Diana and Steve find out the dreaded German General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) is about to unleash a deadly chemical attack and round up a team of Steve’s former running mates to stop him. Steve’s team consists of Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui), The Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) and Charlie (Ewen Bremner). They are all well casted and naturally all play well off each other as they provide support to Diana’s and Steve’s quest to stop Ludendorff. Pine and Gadot have the best chemistry of the entire cast, and by the end of the movie, much like the first Captain America film it had me despondent that this is the only film we will see these two pair off in before the sequels presumably jump to modern times.

The ‘money’ scene in this film is when Wonder Woman cannot take witnessing the pain and suffering in the trenches no more and heroically charges headfirst into no man’s land against a barrage of German gunfire. Watching Diana and her team proceed to eradicate an entire enemy squadron is such a powerful rush that it easily ranks as one of my top action moments in all of superhero films. If you have not seen this film yet, then by all means please click on that link to the scene and max out your speakers/headphones and prepare to be blown away! Eventually Diana and company have a final confrontation with Ludendorff that stunned me with a twist I did not see coming. Best of all, the twist makes sense and the filmmakers pull off some spectacular CG to make it all come together for a dramatic final clash to close off one of the best superhero movies, bar-none from start to finish.

Speaking of CG, I had fun joking with my dad about how good the CG was in the film. My dad is way more of a comic book buff than I am and read a nearly everything Marvel and DC put out from the late 60s until the early 90s so naturally I had to pick his brain to see if Wonder Woman did the comic justice. He went on about how there was no Rex the Wonder Dog or invisible plane. I retorted by stating the CG was so good that he could not spot the invisible plane; invisible cars in films are a whole other story however.

The BluRay is stacked with just over two hours of extra features, and all but a couple of them are worthy of consumption! There is one moment in the bloopers package that popped out to me when the cast erupted into giggles and director Patty Jenkins rushed the set and worked some kind of bizarre hand motion/trance voodoo magic to get the cast quickly focused again and not waste precious filming time. Of the six behind-the-scenes features I would recommend Director’s Vision and Crafting the Wonder as the two must-see features. Patty Jenkins breaks down five key scenes in Director’s Vision and spends about 25 minutes dissecting them and how they relate to the comic and updating it to modern conventions. Crafting the Wonder is a thorough 16-minute piece on how the Wonder Woman film came to be, how Gadot perfected the character and how Jenkins mastered the nuances of cinematography throughout the film.

If you cannot tell already, I absolutely loved this film. I went back and forth in my best of rankings between Wonder Woman and Logan as my favorite film of 2017. It is easily in the top tier of the pyramid of superhero films. I cannot gush about it anymore, so if you are hung up about the DC side of superhero films, at least go out of your way to see just this one and you will not regret it. There were a lot of rumblings among film enthusiasts about the state of the DC films after the polarizing results of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, but Wonder Woman gave the DC Cinematic Universe a much need boost to salvage it. Justice League stirred up the pot again several months later, but that is a story for a future blog!

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

3
12 Angry Men (1957)
12 Rounds 3: Lockdown
21 Jump Street
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Atari: Game Over
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Batman: The Killing Joke
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
Bounty Hunters
Cabin in the Woods
Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Christmas Eve
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Clint Eastwood 11-pack Special
The Condemned 2
Countdown
Creed
Deck the Halls
The Eliminators
Dirty Work
Faster
Fast and Furious I-VIII
Field of Dreams
Fight Club
The Fighter
For Love of the Game
Good Will Hunting
Gravity
Guardians of the Galaxy
Hercules: Reborn
Hitman
Ink
Joy Ride 1 & 2
The Interrogation
Interstellar
Jobs
Man of Steel
Man on the Moon
Marine 3-5
Mortal Kombat
National Treasure
National Treasure: Book of Secrets
The Replacements
Reservoir Dogs
Rocky I-VII
Running Films Part 1
Running Films Part 2
San Andreas
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Shoot em Up
Steve Jobs
Source Code
Star Trek I-XIII
Take Me Home Tonight
TMNT
The Tooth Fairy 1 & 2
UHF
Veronica Mars
The War
Wild
The Wrestler (2008)
X-Men: Days of Future Past

Friday, March 23, 2018

Lockdown 2007

Welcome to the third installment of my march through all of TNA/GFW/Impact Wrestling’s Lockdown PPVs that ran from 2005-2016. As I like to start these off, let’s see how Impact has evolved over the previous year. Going into April 2007, they now have WWE Hall of Famer and current RAW GM, Kurt Angle on its roster. Vince Russo is back on the TNA booking team for the first of many Lockdowns to come. We were in the midst of the ‘PCS’ Paparazzi Championship Series where Kevin Nash took several X-Division guys and put them through early-NXT-type challenges and made buddies with them all in the end in a fun set of sketches to look back on and see how they helped add some depth to previously vanilla X-Division stars. Some major teams have now split up with Team Canada and America’s Most Wanted no longer together. This is the final Lockdown during the ‘one-hour adrenaline rush’ era of Impact, as Spike made the show a two hour program in the proceeding fall. With that added hour they immediately debuted its ‘Knockouts’ division, and the seeds for that are seen here with more women on the roster compared to a year prior, and 2007 seeing the first women’s match in Lockdown history.

This is one of the first TNA/Impact PPV’s to leave the Impact Zone in Orlando, and started a new trend for the promotion where they would try and have at least a few of their ‘marquee’ PPVs in bigger markets. This change in venue is immediately noticeable as Lockdown 2007 emanates from a much bigger venue in St. Louis, Missouri. The Impact Zone is a nice studio setting for the weekly TV show that TNA has made tremendous strides in making it look bigger than it actually is, but them bringing their PPVs to a legit arena gives them a more big time feel.

The pre-show match is included in the extras and features Vodoo Kin Mafia (AKA James Gang, AKA New Age Outlaws) taking on Christy Hemme’s mysterious team called Serontonin. I completely forgot about Serontonin until now, and looking back at them they remind me an awful lot of Sanity in NXT. Hemme’s first foray into managing did not go well as Serontonin were not long for the company, and Hemme would find a modicum of success managing the Rock ‘n Rave Infection, who I kid you not came down to the ring jamming out on Guitar Hero guitars! Voodoo Kin Mafia was Russo’s 4th-wall breaking makeover of the James Gang, whose only purpose seemed to intentionally point out the absurd booking of DX concurrently taking place in WWE. The match was a forgettable quick little bout on the preshow with Kip pinning Havik with The One and Only. Other extras on the DVD are a photo gallery that I took pics with my phone of for the blog here, thus the lack of quality (sorry….kind of) and a nice 12-minute montage of footage of TNA stars signing autographs at its Fan Fest the day before.

I loved the longtime TNA PPV voiceover guy, Barry Scott! His voice brings an intangible grandeur to every event he introduces and he does it once again here promising this Lockdown will bring blood and terror! There was no blood in the 5-Man Xscape match opener for the X-Division title. Like past years, eliminations happen by pins and submissions until it is down to the last two where escape from cage determines the winner. This year’s contestants were Sonjay Dutt, Alex Shelley, Shark Boy, ‘Black Machismo’ Jay Lethal and defending champ, Chris Sabin. Kevin Nash and the PCS was responsible for Jay Lethal doing a Macho Man impression he kept up for a few years in TNA because it was damn good Macho Man impression and was responsible for the only good Ric Flair moment in his TNA run. The X-Division delivered in this match with a ton of killer spots that all connected. Shelley and Sabin teamed up for a hearty part of the match and gelled well together and I could see this match being the catalyst for them starting to team up shortly after this PPV and form the Motor City Machine Guns. Eventually it came down to Lethal and Sabin, and Sabin successfully defended the belt after Lethal got his foot stuck in the cage in a heck of an opener.

Former Team Canada members collide next when Robert Roode took on Petey Williams. This had the storyline of Williams trying to help out another former Team Canada member, Eric Young, who was tricked into signing paperwork to become Robert Roode’s property. Young tries to help Petey out, but it backfires and Roode lands the Payoff/Perfect Plex for the win. The first women’s Lockdown bout transpired next with Gail Kim taking on Jacquelyn/Miss Jackie Moore. Jackie is teaming with James Storm and both have an awesome theme that has not crossed my mind in awhile and was a hoot to relive. The two stepped up and had a killer match that started off with an outside brawl before slugging it out in the six sides of steel. Kim got the pin after a splash from the top of the cage.

Good ‘ol Mr. Bob Backlund had a fun cup of coffee in TNA at this time. He would usually be seen in the background coming out of commercial behind the announcers doing the Harvard Step Test all show long for no apparent rhyme or reason. TNA! TNA! This regrettably stopped when he became involved in Senshi and Austin Starr’s feud and was the guest referee. In case you forgot, Austin Starr was TNA’s reimagining of Austin Aries as a modern day Jesse Ventura. Senshi got a sneaky roll-up win after he took advantage of Starr arguing with Backlund.

When I was eight I must have watched the Wrestlemania VII blindfold match on Colisseum Videotape between Rick Martel and Jake Roberts countless times. 8-year-old Dale absolutely ate it up! That is how you do a blindfold match! How you do not do a blindfold match is how TNA executed it here between former America’s Most Wanted teammates Chris Harris and James Storm. The ref loosely tied the masks on both men, and both masks repeatedly fell off several times throughout. ‘Someone Stop This’ was an audible chant throughout the bout. It mercifully concluded when Storm cheated and peaked from under the mask to see Harris’s position and superkicked him for the pin. I made it clear on this blog before my love for WWE’s OMG video series, and when WWE ultimately buys out TNA/Impact and gets their video library, this blindfold match is easily a top tier contender for TNA’s OMG/Worst of moments. It is worth noting Harris and Storm would rebound from this in a match of the year contender a few months later at Sacrifice 2007.

The next match saw Christopher Daniels taking on Jerry Lynn. Daniels is trying some new gimmickry with his persona at this time by having spooky face paint around one of his eyes…..I do not believe this lasted long and I eagerly anticipate filling you all full of delicious, spicy, great tasting curry soon when Daniels debuts Curry Man in a year or two! The match was nothing too special, and eventually had a couple nice spots in the final moments before Daniels won with his Last Rites finisher. LAX and a wheelchaired-bounded Konnan cut a promo on Team 3D next. Konnan is essentially retired at this point as a lifetime of leg injuries caught up with him and he is now only managing LAX.

Compared to the previous two Lockdowns, it is a achievement and a half that the 2007 edition did not see bloodshed until the eight match on the card when Team 3D faced LAX in a electrified cage match. You read that right, whenever wrestlers would touch the cage, they would get shocked, complete with zany PA sound effects and flashing arena lights and gratuitous overselling from D-Von who got Border Tossed by Hernandez into the cage and bled buckets all over the mat. The crowd did not respond well to this gimmicked warfare and appropriately chanted ‘bullshit’ and ‘fire Russo’ in response. Poor Hernandez got around the electricity by climbing up the cage with special leather gloves and boots he conjured from out of nowhere, but his attempt at putting Team 3D away with a splash through a table backfired when D-Von rolled out of the way, and then Homicide stumbling into the 3D move spelled victory for Team 3D in another match worthy of making the elusive ‘Top 50 OMG TNA Moments’ list.

Throughout this PPV between matches there were regular backstage updates from the members on both sides of the Lethal Lockdown main event. It was the usual bru-ha-ha of whether certain team members could be trusted. Jeff Jarrett was making his TNA return after a several month sabbatical and joined up on Kurt Angle’s side of heroes consisting of Rhino, Samoa Joe and Sting and they all were unsure of Jarrett’s loyalty. Christian Cage was on top of his game at this point in his TNA run as NWA World Champ and leader of his faction with Tomko and AJ Styles who was now rocking a full-out southern hick character. Joining them in Lethal Lockdown were Abyss, and TNA newcomer, ‘Big Poppa Pump’ Scott Steiner. If you though Steiner was unpredictable on the mic before, then checkout this montage past the 14 minute mark to see his best TNA lines where Scott truly was unfiltered.

I always liked the Lethal Lockdown matches, which had nearly the exact same rules as War Games, except the roof lowered after the 10th and final competitor entered and they left a gap at the top encouraging wrestlers to crawl on top of the roof which was filled with weapons. It kind of got congested with just one ring when more stars entered the fray, but eventually almost all made it to the outside once Rhino speared Tomko out of the cage in an impressive moment. Seeing Scotty Steiner bust out a Frankensteiner for the first time in ages also had me popping big. There was the requisite Pyramid Suplex spot towards the end of the match, and the most eye-opening spot featured Angle punching AJ off the top of the cage onto a bunch of awaiting wrestlers to catch him. Rhino is the second and surprisingly last combatant to bleed for the night, which is shockingly low compared to past years. The ending saw Jarrett truly being a good guy and helping out his team when he ka-bonged Abyss with a guitar filled with, what else, but tacks so Sting could get the pin. Minus a couple lulls in the middle where it seemed the guys were killing time waiting for the next person to come out, this was a crazy, yet fun match complete with the good kind of overbooking nonsense that I can sink my teeth into. Ambitious stunts, tack-filled weapon spots, and a good dose of creativity made this a great closer to the show.

As stated in previous entries, the one hour Impact era of TNA is probably my favorite period in the promotion’s history because they managed to make use of a huge roster in an hour. Even when Vince Russo returned and started up his notorious booking decisions again, it was still a fun show to watch and TNA had to keep the show moving so no segment overstayed its welcome. There is some cringe-worthy booking from Russo in the forms of Storm/Harris and 3D/LAX matches that should be skipped over by all means. However, Lockdown 2007 still captures that great feeling of this era of TNA I dug at the time with several great feuds and matches that stepped up and delivered. Definitely go out of your way to check out the Xscape, Miss Jackie/Gail Kim and Lethal Lockdown matches that made this show. It will be interesting to see where TNA is at in 2008’s Lockdown with Russo fully invested into the booking and a Knockouts Division in place.

Past Wrestling Blogs

Best of WCW Clash of Champions
Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 2
Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 3
Biggest Knuckleheads
Bobby The Brain Heenan
Daniel Bryan: Just Say Yes Yes Yes
DDP: Positively Living
Dusty Rhodes WWE Network Specials
ECW Unreleased: Vol 1
ECW Unreleased: Vol 2
ECW Unreleased: Vol 3
For All Mankind
Goldberg: The Ultimate Collection
Its Good to Be the King: The Jerry Lawler Story
The Kliq Rules
Ladies and Gentlemen My Name is Paul Heyman
Legends of Mid South Wrestling
Macho Man: The Randy Savage Story
Memphis Heat
NXT Greatest Matches Vol 1
OMG Vol 2: Top 50 Incidents in WCW History
OMG Vol 3: Top 50 Incidents in ECW History
Owen: Hart of Gold
RoH Supercard of Honor 2010-Present
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
Sting: Into the Light
Straight to the Top: Money in the Bank Anthology
Superstar Collection: Zach Ryder
TNA Lockdown 2005-2016
Top 50 Superstars of All Time
Tough Enough: Million Dollar Season
True Giants
Ultimate Fan Pack: Roman Reigns
Ultimate Warrior: Always Believe
War Games: WCWs Most Notorious Matches
Warrior Week on WWE Network
Wrestlemania 3: Championship Edition
Wrestlemania 28-Present
The Wrestler (2008)
Wrestling Road Diaries Too
Wrestling Road Diaries Three: Funny Equals Money
Wrestlings Greatest Factions
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2015
WWE Network Original Specials Second Half 2015
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2016
WWE Network Original Specials Second Half 2016
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2017

Monday, March 12, 2018

Reservoir Dogs

Quentin Tarantino is one of my all time favorite directors. Minus the Kill Bill films, I have loved all of his work. He is possibly the only director to master the art of dialogue in absurdly lengthy conversations that last far longer than they have any right to be. That would ordinarily be a turnoff in most films, but Tarantino somehow finds a way to make his dialogue so engrossing and descriptive that I cannot help but get sucked in as his cast delivers his finely tuned lines. This lead to me upgrading several of his films to BluRay and I am finally getting around to watching them. Today I am covering his 1992 debut feature film, Reservoir Dogs (trailer).

Reservoir Dogs is a heist movie without showing the heist. The film is all about the before and after the heist, and the film kicks off with the crew having coffee at a diner and talking shop before it jumps ahead to after the heist which did not go down according to plan and the crew eventually meeting up and debating on what went wrong with many flashbacks introducing the robbers and setting up the big job.

Quentin must have made some solid connections because he had a hell of a cast going into his first film with such a small budget. The criminals all go by codenames. Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) and Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) are the core henchmen. There are a couple more crew members who have smaller roles with Quentin Tarantino himself as Mr. Brown and Eddie Bunker as Mr. Blue. This ragtag bunch is assembled by Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) and his son ‘Nice Guy’ Eddie (Chris Penn). Not a single one of these cast members underperform and Quentin got the absolute best out of all of them.

As mentioned above, the film does not show the actual heist, but there are a couple fleeting moments of action when the film flashes back to show Mr. Pink escaping the cops and later Mr. Orange and Mr. White evading capture from the boys in blue. The bulk of the film, roughly two-thirds I would approximate, takes place at the rendezvous point in an abandoned building. Watching the gang dissect how everything went astray and eventually point fingers at each other before everything reaches a boiling point in the climatic finale had me hooked until the screen cut to black. There are countless great exchanges between the cast in here, and compared to Quentin’s other films they will seem brief in comparison before he went all in on mastering the dialogue that eventually won him two screenplay Oscars. Speaking of brief, this is Quentin’s shortest film, which clocks in at just over 90 minutes. I had to do a double take at the playback counter on my TV when watching it again because I am so use to most of his other films going far over two hours.

I recall watching Reservoir Dogs for the first time trying to put everything together and hoping they would eventually show the actual heist, but in hindsight and on this repeat viewing I get why Tarantino did not, and that is because the crew are incredibly effective at painting a picture of how the plan went to hell and back. I also recall the film having an amazing soundtrack. Before Guardians of the Galaxy dazzled us with its eclectic 70s soundtrack, Reservoir Dogs brought its own curated 70s mix to the forefront, with the cast plugging multiple times their love for the fictional local 70s radio block, ‘K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the 70s.’ To this day, probably 15-16 years after I originally saw it, I still think of this film whenever I hear ‘Stuck in the Middle With You’ on the radio thanks to Michael Madsen’s diabolical torture scene.

The film has a great HD transfer on the BluRay, which is a 15th anniversary edition. Unfortunately, this anniversary edition is not all that packed with extras. I would have loved a commentary track, but Tarantino is notorious for not providing any commentaries for his own films. There are 12 minutes of deleted scenes worth going out of your way to see as they fill some minor holes from the film and provide some extra background on Mr. Orange. There are only two other extras. Profiling Reservoir Dogs is a seven minute piece profiling the primary criminals and is not worth your time. Playing Fast and Loose is worth checking out though, as it is a 15 minute compilation of interviews with film critics who praise Quentin for his pioneering filmmaking and other aspects of the film. I recall the original DVD I owned of this was packed with extra features and I am perplexed why they did not at least carry those over for the BluRay.

In a way, this is kind of the anti-heist movie, and I would not want it any other way! Tarantino gets by not showing the heist because of how damn good he is at crafting dialogue that had me feeling for every character on screen and how the aftermath of the heist was mesmerizing from start to finish. I am bummed about the lack of extras for such a landmark film, and on top of an anniversary edition too, but that is sour grapes in the grand scheme of things. Tarantino’s films are not for everyone as I spoken to some over the years who cannot tolerate his style of filmmaking, but if you dug his other films and have somehow eluded yourself from seeing his first, or you have not seen any and just want to chance something different then please give Reservoir Dogs a chance!

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

3
12 Angry Men (1957)
12 Rounds 3: Lockdown
21 Jump Street
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Atari: Game Over
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Batman: The Killing Joke
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
Bounty Hunters
Cabin in the Woods
Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Christmas Eve
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Clint Eastwood 11-pack Special
The Condemned 2
Countdown
Creed
Deck the Halls
The Eliminators
Dirty Work
Faster
Fast and Furious I-VIII
Field of Dreams
Fight Club
The Fighter
For Love of the Game
Good Will Hunting
Gravity
Guardians of the Galaxy
Hercules: Reborn
Hitman
Ink
Joy Ride 1 & 2
The Interrogation
Interstellar
Jobs
Man of Steel
Man on the Moon
Marine 3-5
Mortal Kombat
National Treasure
National Treasure: Book of Secrets
The Replacements
Rocky I-VII
Running Films Part 1
Running Films Part 2
San Andreas
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Shoot em Up
Steve Jobs
Source Code
Star Trek I-XIII
Take Me Home Tonight
TMNT
The Tooth Fairy 1 & 2
UHF
Veronica Mars
The War
Wild
The Wrestler (2008)
X-Men: Days of Future Past

Thursday, March 8, 2018

NXT Greatest Matches Volume 1

The original NXT that aired from 2010-2012 was a laughingstock of a ‘reality competition’ show filled with goofy challenges and awful gags. NXT’s re-launch as the new developmental territory for WWE in 2012 eviscerated all those bad early NXT memories. Since then, especially once the WWE Network debuted in 2014 and NXT introduced its PPV-esque, TakeOver specials, NXT has evolved into a unique third brand of the WWE. Triple H has been behind it since 2012, and he formed NXT today into something that feels like WWE’s take on a premiere indie promotion like Ring of Honor where the product is treated more sports-like and there is less of the mind-boggling ‘sports entertainment’ hijinx that sneaks onto core WWE programming each week.

I feel it is necessary to clue those in who may be unfamiliar with the buzz about NXT among ardent wrestling fans. NXT has a consistently fresh roster because the average NXT star is only on the roster for 1-2 years before getting ‘the call’ to move up to the main WWE roster or let go from the company all together. The talent regularly steps up to deliver big matches and moments on countless occasions that stand out in a special way because NXT is taped in front of a studio audience that has a more intimate feel than the big, showpiece sports arenas the average RAW and Smackdown emanates from. Best of all, the weekly NXT show on WWE Network is a swift one hour, and not the two-to-three hour slogs that the main roster programs can be toil to persevere through sometimes. In 2016 WWE released a DVD/BluRay collecting the best of the first four years of the new NXT through 2015, so let us take a look at NXT Greatest Matches: Volume 1 (trailer).

Volume 1 collects 18 matches, with five more upping the tally to 23 on the BluRay release. There is no feature-length documentary, but instead after every couple of matches there are 2-3 minute clips of new interviews from NXT stars and Triple H talking about pivotal moments in NXT history. These add up to a little under a half hour and cover the major moments such as how Triple H shaped the new NXT, debuting the first TakeOver on the WWE Network, NXT bringing a new focus on women’s wrestling, moving TakeOver to a big arena like the Barclays Center and lots of love for Dusty Rhodes when it came time to discuss the passing of ‘the oak’ of NXT. These are the essential bullet points I would like covered of NXT history, but a big part of me feels a little short-changed because I could easily see how WWE could have interviewed many more past and present NXT talent and made a far more comprehensive documentary.

I like most of the 18 core matches of the collection. Other than a handful of matches as extra features on other WWE home videos I have never seen much of the first two years of the new NXT, and there are eight matches from that era in Volume 1. It kicks off with a pre-3MB Jinder Mahal taking on a pre-Shield Seth Rollins to crown the first NXT champion in an electric moment that capped off with Dusty Rhodes presenting Rollins with the NXT Championship. From this era we also saw Paige winning the first NXT Women’s title in a tournament final against Emma. There is a reason why Emma was constantly mentioning her and Paige were the real beginning of the Women’s Evolution of WWE, and this match proves her point.

There are a couple awesome Cesaro matches from this era on here too from back when he had a first name! There is an absolutely tremendous 2-out-of-3 falls match with Cesaro and Sami Zayn that will likely be the first and only time I see someone tap out to….a basic headlock…seriously, and it looked damn convincing too! That Sami Zayn is a master salesman! Cesaro also has a superb technical/strong style showcase match with William Regal in what is essentially his retirement match where Regal gets his own Flair/Michaels Wrestlemania XXIV moment in a emotional sendoff for the Brit!

There is a solid 2013 match on here with Chris Jericho making a guest appearance on NXT taking on Bray Wyatt, but it is ruined with obnoxious commentary from Brad Maddox. Speaking of commentary, it is rare to have the same pairing of announcers in two matches straight as there is a revolving door of announcers throughout. Pre-Network era announcers are primarily William Regal and Jim Ross, but others like Brad Maddox occasionally join in. Throughout this collection NXT announcers are shuffled in and out such as Alex Riley, Renee Young, Rich Brennan, Byron Saxton, Jason Albert and Corey Graves.

As expected, a lot of classic TakeOver matches are on here. The main event of the first TakeOver with Neville winning the NXT Title from Bo Dallas in a ladder match is on here. Charlotte Flair winning the Women’s title in a tournament final against Natalya that featured both Ric Flair and Bret Hart at ringside to add extra notoriety is also a must-see. Volume 1 goes out of its way to show the story of Sami Zayn’s chase for NXT gold throughout and it pays off big with his title match in a Takeover special against Neville in a monumental match in this collection, which also has an equally monumental angle playing out afterwards with a debuting Kevin Owens.

As much as I loved the Paige/Emma and Charlotte/Natalya title matches, the standout women’s match in this collection is the TakeOver match between Sasha Banks and Bayley. It was a great crowning moment of Bayley’s multi-year growth over NXT history and her chase for NXT gold nearly ran parallel to Sami Zayn’s, and I recall that match living up to the hype. I was surprised their TakeOver Iron Man rematch somehow surpassed it and am dismayed that it did not make the cut for Volume 1, but I guess that is what…wait a sec, I just did some research and am flabbergasted that match is not in Volume 2 either. Screw it, here is a link to it, now make haste and check out the greatest women’s match in NXT history!

The collection winds down with two Kevin Owens TakeOver matches, where he wins the title from Zayn in a bout with a brutal finish and defending it against Finn Balor at the unique WWE Network-exclusive Beast in the East event in Japan. The final match features the finals of the first Dusty Rhodes tag team tournament which features a lot of solid old-school tag team wrestling fundamentals that were not that common in the tag team scene in recent decades until The Revival brought it back a couple years ago.

Most of Volume 1’s five BluRay exclusive matches are worth watching. It starts off with CM Punk teaming up with Seth Rollins to take on Cesaro and Kassius Ohno it what will likely be the only time we see the Kings of Wrestling team up on WWE television. We have a reminder that current RAW & SmackDown announcer Corey Graves was once a wrestler on here with his grudge match against former partner Neville. Charlotte and Sasha have a highly competitive match on here from when Charlotte cashed in her rematch clause for the Women’s title. Finally, Apollo Crews and Tyler Breeze have a surprisingly good match on here from a TakeOver special I have long forgotten about. There were a lot of intense sequences in here the duo pulled off flawlessly and this match is easily better than anything we have seen from both Breeze and Crews on the main roster.

Wrestling fans that are use to sticking to the main roster programming have been missing out big time if they have not been keeping up with NXT. NXT Greatest Matches Volume 1 is the perfect way to catch up to see how far their favorites have come. I got a lot out of this too from the eight matches that I did not see from before NXT was on the WWE Network, with the addition of a couple of bonus dark matches that were never before televised. My only main gripe is the lack of a fully featured documentary, but the interspersed interview clips are a sufficient compromise. I did pick up the follow up NXT home video WWE released last year, so be on the lookout for an entry for that too later this year!

Past Wrestling Blogs

Best of WCW Clash of Champions
Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 2
Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 3
Biggest Knuckleheads
Bobby The Brain Heenan
Daniel Bryan: Just Say Yes Yes Yes
DDP: Positively Living
Dusty Rhodes WWE Network Specials
ECW Unreleased: Vol 1
ECW Unreleased: Vol 2
ECW Unreleased: Vol 3
For All Mankind
Goldberg: The Ultimate Collection
Its Good to Be the King: The Jerry Lawler Story
The Kliq Rules
Ladies and Gentlemen My Name is Paul Heyman
Legends of Mid South Wrestling
Macho Man: The Randy Savage Story
Memphis Heat
OMG Vol 2: Top 50 Incidents in WCW History
OMG Vol 3: Top 50 Incidents in ECW History
Owen: Hart of Gold
RoH Supercard of Honor 2010-Present
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
Sting: Into the Light
Straight to the Top: Money in the Bank Anthology
Superstar Collection: Zach Ryder
TNA Lockdown 2005-Present
Top 50 Superstars of All Time
Tough Enough: Million Dollar Season
True Giants
Ultimate Fan Pack: Roman Reigns
Ultimate Warrior: Always Believe
War Games: WCWs Most Notorious Matches
Warrior Week on WWE Network
Wrestlemania 3: Championship Edition
Wrestlemania 28-Present
The Wrestler (2008)
Wrestling Road Diaries Too
Wrestling Road Diaries Three: Funny Equals Money
Wrestlings Greatest Factions
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2015
WWE Network Original Specials Second Half 2015
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2016
WWE Network Original Specials Second Half 2016
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2017

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Vietnam War

Ken Burns is renowned for being one of the most acclaimed documentarians of our time. He has made countless award-winning films on a diverse range of themes such as national parks, jazz, baseball and the Civil War. His latest project was his most ambitious yet and premiered last year on PBS as a 10-part special simply titled, The Vietnam War (trailer) and came out on DVD shortly thereafter. Each part is not your average 30-60 minute telecast, but instead a 1 ½ to 2 hour long feature. Tallying it up including the extras and the set is nearly 20 hours all together. That would seem like a chore to get through, but Burns is such a master of his craft I was invested 100% before the end of the first part and even with my crazy schedule I was able to get through the whole series in just over two weeks.

Going into this series I knew the broad strokes from history classes and what I gleamed off other media over the years and how it was the only primary war America lost. This was my first time taking in the minutia of all the major and minor details that happened before, during and after the war. As expected, I came out of it with a much deeper perspective of the war and learned countless new things from all the endless amounts of reference photos, journals, audio tapes and interviews presented here.

The Vietnam War states from the beginning it is not taking a side, but primarily presenting both sides as an observer. Each of the 10 parts is on its own DVD. The first DVD covers the 100 years leading up to the war, and the final DVD is the aftermath of the war in the past 40+ years. Each of the 8 DVDs in-between has a thorough breakdown of each year of the war. The first part was mostly an eye opener of material I either never knew of or long forgotten where it chronicles Vietnam being occupied by France for nearly 100 years before finally finishing off part one by successfully driving France out.

I recalled hearing how Kennedy first started America’s involvement in Vietnam, but never knew much about the scope of it, and was really fascinated how he first sent thousands of American ‘advisors’ to assist with South Vietnam’s military before Lyndon Johnson escalated it with air strikes and eventually sending in hundreds of thousands of combat troops. Parts three through six feature how Johnson handles the war while dealing with increasing protests on the American homefront. Parts seven through nine feature Richard Nixon taking over during the height of American involvement in the war and how a majority of America was against the war and returning veterans during his time in office. Eventually the film’s ninth part features Nixon getting his gradual removal of troops approved in Vietnam, and the 10th part is how the North obliterated South Vietnam in the next couple of years and how Vietnam and American veterans have existed ever since.

Again, this is not just the American point-of-view, as there are a plethora of Americans as well as North & South Vietnamese interviewed throughout. While a lot of time is focused on the reaction to the war in America, ample time is also given to the North Vietnam perspective with how Ho Chi Minh and eventually his successor, Le Duan’s military tactics and their off and on assistance from communist allies China and Soviet Union. I am surprised Burns’ team tracked down so many Vietnam veterans. In the behind-the-scenes extras, the crew said Vietnam veterans were initially trepid going into the interviews, but then eased and opened up once they realized how the interview unfolded.

There are too many poignant moments from the interviews to recount in their entirety, but many of them paint a vivid picture, and combined with brilliant use of reference photos and a mesmerizing score from Atticus Ross & Trent Reznor that only helped accentuate their tales. There are quite a few descriptive stories of being in the midst of ‘the shit’ and how PoWs were treated on both sides of the battlefield. John Musgraves’ interviews really popped out to me from his harrowing battlefield experiences to coming home and eventually joining the protestors and throwing out his medals he earned overseas.

Three scenes that especially stood out for me was on one episode, members of a veteran’s family are interviewed off-and-on throughout and they eventually come to the moment they learn of their family member’s death and they made sure I felt it along with them. On the flipside of that is PoW survivor Hal Kushner, who was one of the longest Prisoners of War throughout Vietnam. He is featured in nearly every episode with updates from his PoW tenure, and you really feel for him after several years of captivity when he explains the sensation of finally coming back home to America. Finally, the scene dedicated to how the Vietnam War Memorial came to be and footage of veterans and family members coming to visit and talking about their experiences there shook me up in such a profound way I cannot even begin to describe it. It made me deeply regret not making it out to that memorial when I was in DC several years ago.

Apart from being moved from a lot of these candid interviews, the history nut in me was soaking in all the tidbits about the war that were new to me after viewing The Vietnam War. A few of the many new-to-me events of the war featured here that resonated with me were the ‘Pinkville Massacre’ where American troops went rogue and killed innocent Vietnamese civilians, the concept of ‘fragging’ military superiors who were not in favor among the lower ranks, the deadly protests at Kent State and South Vietnamese civilians being sentenced to re-education camps for up to 18 years after the unification of Vietnam.

With all ten parts of the main feature approximately tallying up to 18 hours, it felt like the Ken Burns’ team could have went double that. For such a long war, there were at least a couple times on each part where I felt a certain scene or moment could have been expounded upon or went into another angle. This is not a bad thing because eventually the crew had to pick which topics deserved more time than other and I can only imagine the hours of material that got left on the cutting room floor. The first and final discs of the set contain the extra features. The first disc has about an hour of extras, and the main one to check out there is the making of special that is nearly 40 minutes long where the crew breaks down how they tracked down all their reference material and interview subjects and why they went with the Vietnam War as their next documentary.

The final disc has 45 minutes of extras and there are two features I highly recommend. Fellow Warriors is 20 minutes of footage from a military veterans’ support group suffering from PTSD and the whole thing took me to another level listening to the veterans explain what they are going through and how they are coping with PTSD. Captured Spy & American Interrogator is an 11 minute piece with the highest ranking North Vietnam PoW and a CIA interrogator detail their multi-year relationship and a few moments from their interrogations that made me feel they could make a unforgettable movie from their perspective coming out of it.

I give the highest of recommendations to The Vietnam War regardless of if you are a history nut, war buff, documentary fan or just seeking out top shelf television. It is quite an investment of time to get through, but if a person with a busy everyday life like myself got so invested into it that I made time and sacrificed sleep to power through it in a couple of weeks, then I am positive you can too!

Past TV/Web Series Blogs

2013-14 TV Season Recap
2014-15 TV Season Recap
2015-16 TV Season Recap
2016-17 TV Season Recap
Adventures of Briscoe County Jr: The Complete Series
Angry Videogame Nerd Volumes 7-9
Mortal Kombat: Legacy - Season 1
OJ: Made in America: 30 for 30
RedvsBlue - Seasons 1-13
Roseanne – Seasons 1-9
Seinfeld Final Season
Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle
Superheroes: Pioneers of Television