Saturday, 9 May 2015

Stick or Twist Bonus: The Mania of Wrestlemania

Just to show how behind I am with my blog - this was meant to be a little extra for Wrestlemania season. This year's show is in the books, and I thought it was really entertaining, so much better than I could have hoped given the dreadful build up. Although there were some issues in how well the "old timers" were booked that we're only really seeing the company pay the price for now.

Anyway, I still thought this documentary was worth covering. It's become quite a curio and revolves around one of my favourite Wrestlemanias, XIX. If you've seen the show you'll probably remember Jerry Lawler wearing out JR mentioning the cameras there filming "Wrestlemania The Movie". Here's the result - a documentary chronicling the behind the scenes prep and the featured matches of the show. Safe to say it was one of the more hectic run ins to the show in history. It only saw release as part of the Wrestlemania XX DVD set (more on that soon) and I don't even know if it's on WWE Network. Let's see what it throws up...

  • The narrator is WWE Hall of Famer Jesse "The Body" Ventura and he does an awesome job, his instantly recognisable voice adding great gravitas to what he's describing. He starts by trying to capture the allure of the ring - "Once inside these ropes, a moment can last for a lifetime." There's so much cool backstage footage as he talks up the reward for success and price of failure (with footage of the injured Stone Cold and Kurt Angle). "For some it's the culmination of a lifelong dream, and for at least one, the dream will end."
  • The superstars arrive at the venue, Seattle's Safeco Field, to check it out. Limp Bizkit are warming up too. Triple H calls the guys group of brothers, and hilariously when he mentions "you get that one brother you don't really like that much" the footage cuts to Hulk Hogan! H says it's emotional seeing guys he was in the trenches with "winding down" (Austin, Rock, Shawn, Taker).

  • Undertaker is profiled next. So cool seeing him break kayfabe. Fred Durst asks him "You ready to rock?" after rehearsals, and we cut to Taker waiting on his bike at the Gorilla position while Limp Bizkit perform his theme. He says everyone raises their game for Mania and he contemplated retiring(!) but still has passion. "Where else can you punch somebody in the head and get away with it?" Incidentally, The Rock was right - Taker does get a "funny feeling" riding his bike to the ring!
  • Speaking of Rock, his Hollywood ascension is brought up next. Ventura describes him as "torn between his new passion and his first love". Rock likes having no stunt doubles in WWE. However, Vince says he never quite was Stone Cold as we get a sizzle reel of his career. Austin says 110% "it's still real to me dammit!". "I just wanted to be a wrestler, but I wanted to be the top guy."
  • Steve walked out the prior year, and not just due to poor creative - it was his neck and his marriage to Debra failing. After divorcing he was anxious to return, and we see him hug Angle as JR says he wanted to make things right. "I'm not even supposed to get knocked down... I didn't tell anybody about my problems because I'm Stone Cold Steve Austin, I'm not supposed to get hurt." He admits Mania XIX will be his last match but hasn't told the locker room ("Really, who cares?") and understands he's just a cog in a machine. "I can't be that guy any more". He's worried about not getting hurt or stinking up the joint. Hours later he was urgently taken to hospital. JR: "Stone Cold thought he'd come to Seattle to die."
  • HBK is next. They mention his back injury in '98 forcing him away and coming back a new person. "Before my work was my life... now my work is my work and my life is my life." We see highlights of his match with Jericho and it was a classic. Shawn says how awesome it is to be back post match. We see him shake hands with Earl Hebner (and not Hogan haha).
Awesome watercolour by Rob Schamberger
  • Now they cover Brock Lesnar vs Kurt Angle. Lesnar went to Safeco to "be at one with the arena" and "got the big wind knocked out of me". He's from Webster South Dakota, population of just 1,952! "Sometimes I lay in bed thinking that God put me on this Earth to be a professional wrestler." They run through his amateur accolades and segue to Kurt and his gold medal.
  • Angle didn't understand WWE at first but after watching Raw one night he realised they were performers as well as athletes. He reckons Brock is jealous of his accomplishments, then brings up his neck injury and postponing surgery to compete at Mania. He's debating whether he's doing the right thing for his daughter, who he's cradling. "It's worth it now, but I do want to be able to play with my daughter when I retire."
  • Come the morning of Mania, Austin was STILL hospitalised! Stress, energy drinks and coffee nearly caused a heart attack, but he eventually checked out. JR: "I knew he was gonna work the match come hell or high water." They contrast Rock and Austin arriving at the arena: Rock with his family, happy and relaxed, Austin with JR, pensive. Austin bumped into Y2J, congratulating him on his match. Jericho: "Be safe Steve". JR knew it'd be his last match and couldn't tell anyone, although you could tell something was going on from his commentary. We see Rock record his prematch promo and the two bumping into each other at Gorilla - Rock with his headphones on, Steve in his shitty XFL jersey.
  • Austin reckons Rock knows this is his last match too, and for once he's looking forward to the end of the match rather than the actual match. We see highlights, and the film cameras make Austin's walk to the ring look epic. Rock steals his vest and they steal each other's finishers. JR: "The rattlesnake refuses to die." Rock wins after three Rock Bottoms in a row. Steve looked in agony taking all three. Rock made a point to sit and talk to Austin in ring and shoved Earl Hebner out of the way so he couldn't hear ha! Rock is coy discussing what he said but Steve is more forthcoming - "He said he loved me." He calls Rock a friend in a business where you don't have many friends. Rock concurs. There's great footage of Austin on his own winding down in the locker room post match... then Rock walks in closing the door behind him.
  • Another study in contrast that day - Angle nervously pondering "what if?", Lesnar seemingly calm. "If there ain't pressure then there ain't worth living or breathin' ". Hunter agrees with Brock - he's already a big thing, not just "The Next Big Thing" but there's no second string Kurt Angle either. Angle wishes he was wrestling someone like Hunter as Lesnar doesn't know his own strength. "I'd rather die in that ring than give it up because I can't do it any more when I know I can." Y2J doesn't know if he can bare to watch. Brock was worried even touching Kurt. Again, the cameras do a great job of capturing the impact of everything the guys do in the ring.
  • Of course the most infamous spot is Brock's failed Shooting Star Press attempt. It looks bad, and made Brock concussed. Kurt: "I thought he was paralysed... I said 'Brock, talk to me.' He just said 'yeah yeah yeah'... We're in trouble." Everything in Brock's head was echoing. How he managed to do another F-5 to finish the match I'll never know. Angle went to shake his hand and thank him and no-one was home. Brock didn't know what was going on, and we see people desperately try attending to him backstage, trying to put a neck brace on to screams of "Get the fuck off me!" Ric Flair is glad he spent so long neck bridging in the amateurs - "that would have killed a regular guy" - and he wouldn't have tried it at 24 or 54! Lesnar talks through what he saw during the move. When he saw Kurt's singlet he thought he was ok but didn't get enough spin. It was the only thing he'd change about the match and thought Kurt got out safe...
  • ...but it turns out Angle went into shock. He was upset and angry post match, even asking for the camera to be turned off. He got chills and trembles. His then wife Karen was visibly upset. "In my mind looking at him all I was thinking was 'this is not worth it'." Come April 10th, we see him waiting on surgery. The doctor asks him not to work out after he's out of surgery, making Kurt a sad panda. "OK... tomorrow?" There are two discs sticking in his spinal chord and he needs painkillers every day to get through it. They outline the alternative surgery he'll go through in an effort to comeback within months. After clips of the surgery we see the doctor inform Kurt's family it went "Beautiful, no problems". Kurt calls it a miracle and feels relieved (but hungover!).
  • In closing, Jesse goes over the sacred ground of Mania and how the experience of living the dream is what makes the event special.


As well as a little feature on Jesse recording his narration for the show, there are two "deleted scenes" highlighting two other matches from the night, sadly without Jesse narrating.

  • Triple H vs Booker T - Triple H calls performing the ultimate drug and Flair puts over his passion. They cut to a pensive Booker and then go over his rough upbringing - his mother dying, having no running water, being jailed for robbery. Jesus. He's jacked to be at Mania and never imagined he'd make it. "How did I get here?" H says Book has all the tools and while he's not Stone Cold he could be if he becomes consistent and removes doubt from people's minds. We see them square off in the match, Book telling Hunter "Your punk ass in trouble". Book wants to make people go "Did you see what Booker T did tonight?" Cue highlights of H's beautiful Indian Deathlock and Booker busting out the Harlem Hangover. Thankfully they edit the finish so we don't have to relive Triple H taking forever to pin Booker after the Pedigree. Post match Book admits he contemplated retiring(!) but "the job ain't finished".

  • Hulk Hogan vs Mr. McMahon - Naturally they have to dub over "Voodoo Child" when showing Hogan's entrance. The talking heads are great here. Taker: "I know how I'd like to see it go." Kurt: "It's like a 20 year marriage and a 20 year divorce." GREAT sign in the crowd - "20 years in the faking." Hogan says he didn't do this by himself and Vince needs to acknowledge that he didn't either. Interestingly while Vince says with so much history between them he's not sensitive to one particular thing, Hogan brings up the federal trial over steroid distribution: "All I had to do was tell the truth and Vince McMahon wouldn't go to prison for 17-20 years... he was not who they said he was." After arriving with his son and Jimmy Hart, Hulk gets some acupuncture on his back, so we get an unnecessary shot at his thong-shaped tan line! Hulk: "Guys are in the back, playing on their computers or something... they'll be on this table someday." Both men bring up "testosterone" as far as "accidents"/shooting on each other in ring. Hogan: "If he makes the mistake of even putting his finger on the trigger I'm pulling mine." Highlights of the match are shown - lots of chair shots and YOOUU! pointing. interestingly Roddy Piper's interference is edited out. Post match, when asked "Any regrets?", Vince says he wish he could do the match over again. Shane waves off the cameras as Vince walks with a towel over his head, while Triple H marks out over the "HEEEEERE'S JOHNNY!" spot when Vince got the pipe.


Overall I recommend this show. There's so much great footage of backstage, and the higher grade cameras really make the in ring and ringside action look great. There's some interesting insight into guys you don't hear talk much nowadays (Brock, Taker) and the biggest struggles of the event (Angle and Austin working hurt, Austin's secret retirement and hospitalisation, Brock's concussion). The hazing of Hulk Hogan was hilarious, and I actually found the coverage of his match with Vince in the extras one of the most fascinating parts of the presentation. Track this down however you can.