Monday, April 28, 2014

Warrior Week on WWE Network

I have debated on how or if I am going to cover WWE Network on the blog. I still plan on covering at least one backlog wrestling video release from my collection each month, but I have been watching a decent amount of WWE's streaming Internet channel/app that launched in February. They have every single PPV from the history of WWE, WCW and ECW on demand. They also have a constantly growing library of classic episodes of RAW, WCCW and ECW Hardcore TV. I have not had too much time for the classics but have been keeping up with new episodes of WWE's minor league promotion, NXT and their other weekly show that usually has a standout match every week on Main Event. I also love their original series shows like WWE Countdown, which is pretty self explanatory but still well produced and worth checking out (make sure to watch Best Bluders!), and Wrestlemania Rewind, which is a mini documentary about a classic Wrestlemania match, and proceeds to show the match in its entirety.

So yeah, I have had my hands full with the network since it launched. But they did a special programming week last week to honor the Ultimate Warrior when he suddenly passed away, just three days after getting inducted into their hall of fame. They aired several specials on him throughout the week to celebrate his career. While the Warrior has been quite outspoken and made quite outrageous remarks this last decade in various public forums, these specials primarily focus about his career in the ring, not outside of it.

I was never a hardcore Ultimate Warrior fan. I always rooted for lesser popular wrestlers, and my favorite wrestler back then was The Big Boss Man. I proudly wore my Big Boss Man sneakers to school and adored my action figure of him. I remember during my elementary school days, there was always a vocal group of Hulk Hogan fans, and another usually louder group of Ultimate Warrior fans. I get why kids dug the Warrior back then. He screamed all types of crazy nonsense in his promos, and the only words I made out of them were "rocket ship" and of course kids like rocket ships! He sported the neon tassels and the neon face paint he was decked out in were hip at the time, and he had a catchy metal entrance song that he did his trademark bum rush to the ring with, so yeah he was loaded with charisma and fans ate it up for a couple years. I guess I just was not drinking the Warrior kool-aid back then. I do remember enjoying his matches at Wrestlemania VI & VII quite a bit. Those were probably my only really good memories of him, but watching these specials on WWE Network was kind of a nice way to reflect back on the highs and lows of his career, and a good way to erase the stench from that hate-filled DVD WWE put out about him in 2005.

The first special I watched was a Wrestlemania Rewind focusing on his classic match with Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania VI. I remember originally watching this when I was six or seven and thinking it was the best match of all time, leagues better from what I was use to getting from these two at the time. Nearly 25 years later, and this match still holds up nicely! It is certainly no technical mat classic, but the crowd is electric, and totally invested throughout and the match tells a great story from beginning to end, and is landmark in a way because it was the first and one of the few times we ever saw Hulk Hogan in his Hulkamania days lose cleanly in the middle of the ring.

Another series of shows on WWE Network is Legends of Wrestling that originally started on WWE's 24/7 on demand channel from several years ago where five random past legends will gather and talk shop and smoke cigars. They are fun to watch as the wrestlers usually let loose and talk openly about the business in a way you do not usually see on most WWE television. They still periodically make these, and have a lot of past installments up on the WWE Network, and they released a new one about Ultimate Warrior featuring Booker T, Sgt. Slaughter, Ted Dibiase and was moderated by Josh Matthews. You can tell almost everyone on the panel was pretty reserved about Warrior's career and tried not to praise him too much while mostly dancing around the stuff that earned him his controversial reputation. There are a few interesting anecdotes shared about the Warrior here, and a few genuine moments where you can tell the wrestlers feel terrible about losing another one of their brothers at an early age, but a part of me could not help but tell one or two of these guys did not want to be on this panel.

Up next is a hour of random matches taken from the recently released, Ultimate Collection that hit DVD and BluRay last month. It features several Warrior matches, and new to this added in on the WWE Network are brief testimonials from about a dozen past and present WWE superstars in between matches paying homage to Warrior's career. There is not a lot to Warrior matches, but the selection here was entertaining to watch for the most part as it features an early squash match against Barry Horowitz, a good match in his longtime feud against Rick Rude, a surprisingly good bout from Japan against Ted Dibiase, and an entertaining debacle against Andre the Giant from Saturday Night's Main Event.

The final special was a hour long documentary about the career of the Warrior, with the backdrop being Wrestlemania XXX weekend from last month. This is kind of a noteworthy feature as we get interviews from Sting for the first time ever on WWE television. Sting teamed with Warrior in his early days in his career and has lots to share about him, as do many others as the documentary quickly goes through his career, while mixing in current day clips of him interacting backstage with the current stars of the roster and legends he met again behind the scenes during Wrestlemania XXX weekend. This documentary portrays Warrior's in ring career in a much more positive light than the 2005 DVD, and while it occasionally touches on his in ring weaknesses and his career controversies, it is not the feature length theme this time around. This special is quite well made, and if you can somehow manage to just focus on his career and not his outrageous, hurtful comments he made this past 10 to 15 years outside of the ring, than this is a good, heartfelt watch and a touching tribute on his career on WWE's part.

Part of me wishes WWE did acknowledge that Warrior was, well, kind of bonkers in his public forum comments, but WWE seemed driven to keep these specials focusing on his wrestling career. For what it is worth, I did get the feeling that Wrestlemania XXX weekend was going to be the first step of quite a few that was a rebuilding process in Warrior's career, which I was hoping would lead to some kind of apology from him and learning from his outlandish ramblings throughout the 2000s. I will echo what some superstars said on this commentary and it seemed like Warrior was at peace with himself, or at least in the early stages of burying the hatchet and trying to seek redemption from his controversial in and out of the ring actions. I have no idea how long these specials will be on the WWE Network, or if they plan on putting them on some kind of rotation, but I hope they do release all four of these as some kind of home video compilation as it was a fond way to remember the good he brought to the industry.

Past Wrestling Blogs

Legends of Mid South Wrestling
RoH Supercard of Honor V
WWE Wrestlemania 28
WWE Wrestlemania 29

No comments:

Post a Comment