Heroes of World Class Wrestling
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In 1983 World Class Championship Wrestling and its franchise stars, the Von Erich brothers, were known around the world. A small Dallas based promotion running out of a shack of a venue, the Sportatorium, World Class was one of the most syndicated television programs in America, making the Von Erichs household names. Run by legendary wrestler Fritz Von Erich, a.k.a. Jack Adkinsson, World Class made his oldest sons, Kevin, David and Kerry, three of hte biggest stars in the world of wrestling. Little did anyone know that just as the Von Erichs and World Class were reaching worldwide stardom they would begin a downfall that would cast a full eclipse on their meteoric rise to fame. Directed by Brian Harrison who, as a ten year old in 1983, watched on television as wrestling's world of staged combat between good and evil took a sharp turn into a surreal and tragic reality. Harrison heads to Texas to find his childhood hero, Kevin Adkisson, a.k.a. Kevin Von Erich, the oldest and sole surviving Von Erich brother. Harrison pays tribute to the prime years of this legendary era and its fallen stars.
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Who I was most impressed with was Kevin Von Erich himself. This man has had the proverbial "scars of time" roasted onto him yet he manages to see the positive in nearly everything. Through all that tragedy and the loss of his brothers and father, he manages to stay sane! I found him to be a very inspirational man. Definitely pay close attention to how he deals with all of what he's been through because if he can go through that and still stay strong, none of us have any excuse since most of us have never had to deal with that kind of tragedy.
I also liked the interviews with former ring announcer Mark Lawrence, III (who is now a minister), Gary Hart, ring commentator Bill Mercer and others that I remember from that era but can't think of their names at the moment. They provided great insight into the rise and fall of World Class as well as their views on the Von Erich family.
My disc came with two DVD's. On Disc 1, it has the main documentary plus nearly 30 minutes of deleted scenes from the film. One of the "deleted scenes" was a match between the late David Von Erich and the late "Freebird" Terry Gordy! The match was only about 2 minutes but it was wild and it does give you a glimpse into the talent of David and why he was being touted as the next NWA World Champion before his untimely death in 1984. Counting this added footage, there is really about 3 hours of footage on Disc 1 alone!
Disc 2 is interviews with various people about World Class Championship Wrestling. The main ones of interest are Jim Cornette and Bill Mercer but all the interviews total up 4 hours so you are really getting about 7 hours of footage with this set!
There are some things that are done better on this one than on WWE's "Triumph And Tragedy Of World Class Championship Wrestling." The deaths of Bruiser Brody, Gino Hernandez and Chris Adams are covered better here than they were on the WWE release (in fact, neither Brody's nor Adams' deaths are even brought up on their documentary). The Fabulous Freebirds, while given due credit for their part in WCCW's success, aren't as praised on here as in the WWE release (though they certainly weren't slammed in any case). Plus, the death of Fritz Von Erich is discussed in detail here too.
To give credit where its due, the WWE's version discusses the end of World Class in more detail than this release does (though "Heroes" does mention it as well as their union with the AWA).
Overall, I can't say enough good things about this documentary. My personal recommendation is to get both "Heroes Of World Class" & WWE's "The Triumph And Tragedy Of World Class Championship Wrestling" because what one of them lacks, the other fills the gaps. My fancy way of saying that between the two videos, you will have a near complete look at one of the best NWA territories and organizations ever in the 1980's! See it!
Director Brian Harrison (who is about my age and also became a fan of World Class as a kid watching the shows in syndication) has collected interviews with many important people like Kevin Von Erich, manager/producer Gary Hart, announcer Marc Lowrance (now a Methodist minister), the late "Gentleman" Chris Adams, Gen. Skandar Akbar, executive producer Mickey Grant, commentator/associate producer Bill Mercer, and referee David Manning who, I learned, was much more to World Class than just a referee. They talk about the innovative techniques they used to bring the wrestling action to life. Clips from some of the major feuds are shown including the Freebirds vs. the Von Erichs, Devastation Inc. vs. the Freebirds, the Von Erich/Chris Adams and Gino Hernandez feud, Jim Cornette and the Midnight Express vs. the Fantastics, Chris Adams vs. "Gorgeous" Jimmy Garvin, as well as clips from when Garvin had to be David Von Erich's valet.
Sadly, no story on World Class can be complete without covering the many tragedies that fell on the stars. The most poignant was the sudden death of David Von Erich. David Manning talks about having to break the news to Fritz. The funeral procession is described which demonstrates how important David was to the city of Dallas and not just Dallas wrestling. Kevin reminisces on growing up with David. Mike's toxic shock syndrome and later suicide is discussed as is Kerry's motorcycle accident and later suicide. The death of Gino Hernandez is covered. David Manning gives reasons why he suspects foul play. Gary Hart talks about Bruiser Brody's stabbing and the murder of Chris Adams. Chris Von Erich is also discussed. Another very poignant moment in the DVD is when Kevin talks about his father's behavior towards him after he was diagnosed with brain cancer.
The most interesting part of the documentary for me was when Kevin Von Erich visits the Sportatorium before it was torn down. He goes through the building and describes what it was like back in the day. It was a miserable dump as described on the bonus disc by Jim Cornette and Bill Mercer, but the producers and crew made it look like an awesome place to be. Unfortunately, the audio in the clip where Mickey Grant and Bill Mercer visit the Sportatorium is almost non-existent. Even with the volume turned up to the max, it can barely be heard.
The bonus disc offers many additional interviews. Manager Jim Cornette talks about the good ol' days and gives his frank opinion on the Von Erich brothers. He also gives a disgusting story about the grease trap for the fries at the Sportatorium. There is an interview with Pro Wrestling Torch's Wade Keller and Bruce Mitchell. Mitchell is critical of the documentary and thinks it glossed over Fritz Von Erich's treatment of his sons. Mitchell has a different take on David Von Erich's death. It is odd that a DVD will include an interview criticizing it. Mitchell is very critical of the Von Erichs in general. He also points out some story lines WCCW used to cover up or overshadow things that would be detrimental to the promotion. It is a very long interview but is worth checking out. He also mentions the Dingo Warrior (later to be the Ultimate Warrior) and it dawned on me that he was not covered in the documentary. An interview with DVD creator Brian Harrison and announcer Bill Mercer is included as well as trailers. My only criticism is that the wrestling clips that are placed between the interviews seem a little disjointed at times. For example, the Midnight Express clips seemed to be dropped in wherever as if they knew they needed to include them somewhere so they just plopped them in. They didn't flow well with the rest of the documentary. Also, I remember the World Class name coming to an end after a match involving Eric Embry, but nothing is mentioned of that. Otherwise, I recommend this DVD to anyone interested in the story behind World Class Championship Wrestling.
So when I first heard about this DVD-set about World Class, I was pretty thrilled. The documentary itself is full of old-footage as well as current appearances by all the well-known players from the World Class era(Kevin Von Erich, Skandar Akbar, Gary Hart, Bill Mercer, Marc Lawrence, etc).
As well made and imformative as the documentary was along with all the little extras, the downfall of this set will always be the fact that it contains no matches.
Still, for the historical value and Kevin Von Erich's last visit to a depleted Sportatorium, this DVD set is worth a try.