11 August 2013

Jim Crockett Promotions documentary

It should be a good few weeks to be an old school wrestling fan, with the WWE Mid-South DVD coming soon and the recent release of the Jim Crockett Promotions DVD, "The Good Old Days." 

The Crockett DVD traces the history of the company from Jim Crockett Senior's founding the company through his death and the high and lows of the Jim Crockett Junior era, ending when the company being sold to Turner Broadcasting.

The participation of Jim Crockett Junior was an eleventh-hour addition to the documentary and his inclusion certainly elevates the credibility of the project, considering many of the key figures of the promotion were under WWE contract and not able to take part (Flair, Dusty and Steamboat to name three). 

The breadth of people that are interviewed were a Who's Who of the late Crockett Junior era: David and Jackie Crockett, Tully Blanchard, J.J. Dillon, Ole Anderson, Jim Cornette, the Rock and Roll Express, Ivan Koloff, Paul Jones, Jimmy Valiant, Baby Doll, referee Tommy Young, Ron Garvin and more. Of course, as you watch, you do wonder what happened to some of the others who were not part of the documentary: Nikita Koloff, Tony Schiavone, the Road Warriors and Paul Ellering, Barry Darsow, Manny Fernandez, Greg Valentine, Roddy Piper and more. DId they not want to participate? Are they under WWE Legends contract? Could the filmmakers not make a deal with them? In a podcast interview, the director Michael Elliott said people were paid for their interviews. 

Of course, the documentary is missing footage owned by WWE, which would include all the Mid-Atlantic and TBS television and pay-per-views. Fortunately, there is footage shot at house shows in Virginia shot by George Pantas from the late 1970s and early 1980s that is used as B-roll to play under  voice over footage.

It is great to hear a number of the old-time veterans to tell stories, some well-told tales but some new stories.  It's fun to hear J.J. Dillon to tell the story about the famous "make it good" angle when the Horsemen attacked Dusty Rhodes and explaining all the diegetic plot points that are usually missing from modern wrestling television shows. And would a Jim Crockett documentary be complete without clips of Ole Anderson curmudgeonly talking Vince McMahon and Ric Flair?

Most of all the wrestlers come off well, telling their stories. As someone who really had no great love of Paul Jones, the mid-1980s manager who was the only person to break Mr. Fuji's run as "worst manager" in the Wrestling Observer Awards, it is nice to see him as a down-to-earth guy sitting on a couch telling stories.  It's also a little jarring to not only hear Ivan Koloff speaking without a Russian accent, but also him discussing how he found religion late in life. 

The discussion of the end of Jim Crockett Promotions, simply titled "What Happened,"  is an interesting one, with some people wanting to blame Dusty for the company's downfall, while other seem to want to point the finger of Crockett's overwhelmed accountant.  This is where the absence of a new interview Dusty really would have been welcome (the documentary used footage from a previous shoot interview for Dusty clips), giving him an opportunity to refute his critics.  To his credit, Jim Crockett Junior said the buck stopped with him.

Any wrestling fan wishing to learn about the territory era of the business would be greatly served to pick up a copy of the DVD.  The set is three discs: the first containing the documentary; the other two full of extended interviews and other features.  The DVD can be ordered from Highspots.com.