Thursday, January 17, 2013

Wrestling Treasures On DVD & Blu-Ray...Just Not Enough!

DVD and Blu-Ray were two of the best gifts ever to come to wrestling fans.  Instant access to matches in the best possible quality.  Full length documentaries about your favorite stars.  Collections of matches from many of the all-time greats.  The question is, have these releases lived up to expectation?  After all, the kingpin of these releases owns virtually every piece of classic wrestling footage known to be available.

Most fans have been very pleased with the offerings of the past ten years.  Well-produced profiles on many of the industry's greats have earned loads of praise from even the most jaded of fans.  Although the occasional cry of "revisionist history" is heard regarding these releases, the productions have done well for the most part.  Much of the discussion has surrounded the choices of matches released in these new formats.

Thanks to these releases, the days of watching some of the best remembered matches in history on multi-generation VHS copies is long over.  To see these matches in the best quality possible is a real treat, one especially deserving of the only sport that thrives upon repeat viewing.  The problem begins for the fans who want a bit more than the famous main events and stars of the past.  This fanbase wants full releases of television episodes from any of the various promotions that WWE owns the film library of.  They also want previously unreleased footage and full unedited events from any era in the history of the game.

The truth is that WWE is a business and only wants to release what will sell.  The fanbase that wants these rarer matches isn't as big as the market that will eat up release after release of John Cena, CM Punk, and The Rock.  A certain price point must also be considered.  If the company were to release "season" sets of various wrestling programs of the past, retail prices would be astronomical and simply not be profitable to WWE.

To WWE's credit, more and more of the "rarer" matches are beginning to see the light.  The upcoming "Bret Hart: The Dungeon Collection" set will include a plethora of lesser known bouts from The Hitman's career including matches from Stampede Wrestling.  And although the matches themselves are hardly rare, WWE will once again dive into a fan favorite topic from the past, the legendary War Games.  Slated to be hosted by Dusty Rhodes, the War Games set has been long demanded by fans.  Seeing as that the War Games matches have been conspicuously omitted from past sets where they would've fit in, the announcement of this release comes as a small, but otherwise welcome, surprise.

War Games and some rarer Hart stuff?  Great.  But there are ways that WWE can make some money and appease the fans who want some really rare stuff all at the same time.  In the past several years Warner Bros. has taken a look at their properties and began The Warner Archive Collection.  These releases are movies and television properties that are actually produced upon purchase.  While they're just as nice and attractive as a release purchased in a brick-and-mortar store, these are properties that Warner feels would not produce numbers big enough to warrant a full blown release.  Warner makes a profit.  Fans get the films that they want.  Everybody wins.  With the known record of the WWE marketing machine, I'm shocked that they haven't at least tried out this route.  Video on-demand does not count.

Personally, I would love to see things that have never been released anywhere.  Period.  Absolutely never before seen aside from the people who were there.  My number one release in this category?  A simple title.  One that Craig DeGeorge introduced to the WWF fans of the 1980's on a Coliseum Video:

"The Dark Match." 

If you're reading this blog, you should know what a dark match is.  If you don't, it's very simple.  A dark match is a match held before a show that is going to be taped and/or televised.  In some cases they're used to try out new talent and gimmicks.  Otherwise they can be used to test the television equipment or simply warm up the crowd.  Other times dark match "main events" are used to give the live audience a big match before ending the night.  To me, dark matches have always been one of the most appealing parts of attending a live taping.

Keeping with WWE's tremendous archiving habits going years back, it's safe to assume that many dark matches still exist.  I would begin with the "missing" dark matches of WrestleMania.  Aside from a few photos, nothing has been seen of 'Mania dark matches featuring Paul Roma vs The Brooklyn Brawler (VI), Koko B. Ware vs The Brooklyn Brawler (VII), The Bushwhackers vs The Beverly Brothers (VIII), El Matador vs Papa Shango (IX), and The Heavenly Bodies vs The Bushwhackers (X).  Mat classics?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Regardless of that, any true fan of the classic era of WrestleMania should be chomping at the bit to see these matches.  Dark matches from other pay-per-views of the era would also be welcome, as would the three SummerSlam '92 matches that were only seen in America on Prime Time Wrestling.

No room for a release like that?  No problem.  It's time for another WrestleMania Anthology.  Now that "WWF" is allowed to be uttered in classic footage according to the never-ending "F" controversy, it's time for a re-release.  The DVD WrestleMania releases also omitted many themes that WWE seemed to think that they didn't have the rights to at the time but now have no issue releasing.  Why not throw these dark matches on as extras?

WWE Home Video is doing a great job and is one facet of the company that truly seems to try and appeal to every type of fan.  They wouldn't have won The 2011 J\/\/ Award for Best Product Line if they weren't!  All that I'm asking for is...let us see the...dark!


Loneman1 said...

I'm still waiting on the next installment of the Survivor Series Anthology first I was thinking the reason behind not releasing it was because of the whole Montreal screwjob deal, but since that has already been officially released on the blu-ray of Bret vs Shawn, I really don't see the holdup now.

J\/\/ said...

There was talk that it had to do with Benoit, but that all occurred over a year before the entire SummerSlam Anthology was released, so that's not it.

Loneman1 said...

Hmm, didn't even think of that angle, but as you mentioned I guess that wasn't the case. I was just looking through the new WWE Encyclopedia and noticed that is a pretty decent sized area of Benoit. Dunno why that kinda caught me off guard, but thought that was interesting. I guess even though they never speak about him, that would have been a pretty glaring omission on their part for that book.

Anonymous said...

i'm very satisfied with everything that is officially available, it is already a huge media library to collect if you want every release, but yes we as fans always want more offcourse ! There is still a lot of stuff that could be released, that untill that day comes, we can only get "illegally" from buying dvd traders that have rare footage. i used to do that for many years but i quit doing that, i liked the footage but i felt like i was wasting money on worthless stuff since a dvd-r that somebody burned has no resale value or any real value anyway, a few years ago i decided t oquit dealing with dvd traders and only stick to official dvd releases, so yes i am also still waiting for many things because i refuse to buy "worthless" selfmade dvd-r discs again :(

One of my biggest wishes is that wwe would finally start giving us full wcw ppv's instead of some compilations, the tagged claccis dvd format was such a perfect fit for that imo, such a shame they never capitalized on it that way by releasing wcw tagged classic with 2 ppv's on each set.