Thursday, April 26, 2012

JWs Best Wrestling DVD Bets

Something that wrestling has in spades over all other sports is rewatchability.  Yes, there are sports fans who will watch highlight after highlight over and over again, but aside from the occasional old game shown for nostalgia or DVD sets of specific teams, sporting events are rarely watched over again the whole way through.

Wrestling does have the advantage in that it's more of an art form than a competition.  With many matches you may pick something out upon the fourth or fifth viewing that you never noticed before.  There may even be an instance where a match that didn't necessarily appeal to you on the first viewing eventually becomes one of your all-time favorites.

Then there are times when absolutely nothing beats sitting back with your favorite snack and beverage and taking in some classic wrestling matches.  With the advent of DVD over a decade ago, that notion has become easier than ever to put into play.

Although "sharing" (or stealing) content via online means has become the norm, DVDs (and Blu-Ray discs) are still highly collectible and a very viable form of wrestling memorabilia.  Many are very inexpensive and most of the greatest matches of the past thirty years are available in crisp and clear quality. 

I can remember when it was still possible for one person to own every wrestling DVD produced.  Even after the first wrestling DVD was released in the form of WrestleMania XV, it took a few years for the market to truly kick in.  Over a decade later and many more commercially released wrestling DVDs exist than were ever produced on VHS or any other format.

Although Blu-Ray has entered the genre, DVD is still the leading format for pro wrestling.  Like many other DVDs, prices have been reduced drastically making it possible for a fan to accumulate quite a collection without much money spent.

While WWE and TNA rule the roost as far as pay-per-view and wrestler biography DVD releases, other companies with access to matches unavailable to "the big two" have released some great wrestling DVD product as well.

One of my favorites is the "Warriors of Wrestling" 4-disc set released in 2005.  This DVD is a collection of the first season of shows from the American Wrestling Federation.  The AWF was a mid-1990s promotion that starred many former WWF and WCW stars like Tito Santana, Sgt. Slaughter, Bob Orton, Tony Atlas, and Greg Valentine just to name a few.

AWF matches featured a round system similar to boxing.  It was a novel idea in a time where wrestling was getting stale for some fans.  Although some of the content consists of squash matches, there are many gems here as well.  An AWF championship match between Santana and Orton which makes full use of the round system is intact and required viewing for fans of either legend.  Many promos are also included from many of wrestling's best mouths including the last regular managerial run of the legendary Sir Oliver Humperdink.

A "season" set of shows like that is something that WWF fans have been requesting for years.  Tired of the same old pay-per-view matches featured on release after release, many fans young and old would love to see full sets of shows such as Saturday Night's Main Event.

A few hidden treasures in WWE's vast DVD library are the "Legends of Wrestling" releases.  These six one-disc releases not only feature one of the early roundtable discussions previously exclusive to WWE On-Demand, but also a variety of matches focusing on the same topic as the discussion.  Matches from WWF, WCW, AWA, Mid-Atlantic, and more were included as extras with the majority never being released on DVD prior.  Although many retailers sold a boxed set of three of the releases, the other three were exclusive to Best Buy and are no longer available in stores.

Perhaps the most celebrated wrestling DVD collection to date is the Wrestling Gold set.  This five-disc collection runs over ten hours and has perhaps the widest array of matches not owned by WWE.  Originally released in 2001, the set retailed for over $60 and came in five separate "keep cases" bundled with an illustrated cardboard sleeve.  Although many fans forked over the money for this original version, the set was re-released several years later into one large case at a greatly reduced price.

If a fan wants to take a look at the wrestling territories of the '60s, '70s, and '80s, there is no better way than with Wrestling Gold.  Matches from just about every wrestling hotbed are included and is a fun mix of both tv and arena bouts.  Adding to the historic value of the set is the alternate commentary provided by Jim Cornette and the godfather of wrestling journalists, Dave Meltzer.  Although you'll want to hear some of the original commentary, especially that of Memphis legend Lance Russell, you need to watch the entire ten hours with Cornette and Meltzer first.  From historic facts and figures being recalled at lightning fast speed to the reaction of both men seeing many of these matches for the first time, the commentary is sometimes even more entertaining than the matches themselves.  From early matches of Shawn Michaels, Randy Savage, and Kerry Von Erich to invaluable rare footage of Bruno Sammartino, Dick the Bruiser, and The Sheik, there is absolutely something for everyone.  And if you're a fan of Memphis...I need say no more.

Following the success of the aforementioned set, Wrestling Gold did go on to produce four more DVDs under their banner.  Featuring footage from Smoky Mountain Wrestling and Ohio Valley Wrestling, these additional sets also featured insider commentary from Cornette and Meltzer.  Shown in very early matches are such names as John Cena, Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, Lance Storm, Batista, and Brock Lesnar.  The best of the four is a complete release of SMW's Night of Legends show featuring southern wrestling legends and then-up-and-comers.

Wrestling fans are lucky.  If the business should ever change so much that it is unrecognizable or fails completely, fans will always have hour upon hour of classic matches to treasure and enjoy.  Year after year, new fans can be introduced to the greatness of the past and that, perhaps, will give them an even greater appreciation of the squared circle and the men whose blood, sweat, and tears defined it.

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