It’s probably not all that hard to have mixed feelings about Vince McMahon.
The guy is clearly not a positive role model in many aspects, and with each controversial, unnecessary or just plain wrong move he makes on behalf of World Wrestling Entertainment, his “creative genius” label is tarnished a little bit more.
On the other hand, if it weren’t for him, who knows if there would even be this level of interest in wrestling any more; hell, I’d argue that this website and many of your favorite wrestlers wouldn’t ever have existed, if not for Vinnie Mac.
So I was genuinely excited when I heard this DVD was coming out. Sure, it’s going to be a puff piece, considering the source, but at least the subject is an interesting one that warrants a healthy amount of debate.
I’m focusing for this review on the biography portion, as opposed to the matches that are included here (though I’ll touch on them a bit later).
We open with a montage of Vince McMahon stroking his own ego, baring his ass and firing various people. Give him a world of credit; if nothing else, he’s one of the best heels in wrestling history, and his longevity in the character is quite fascinating, actually.
The narrator asks us if Vince McMahon is a family man or a tyrant? They only revisit this theme about 16 separate times throughout the video. Then they explain how Vince was the third in a generation of wrestling/boxing promoters, and Vince recalls how he became an announcer for his father’s promotion (the World Wide Wrestling Federation) without having any experience.
Eric Bischoff is the first person to join the DVD extension of the “Kiss My Ass Club,” discussing how wrestling was made up of regional territories in the early 1980’s. A map graphic is used to show where, for example, Verne Gagne’s AWA was based, Roy Shire’s San Francisco territory, Fritz Von Erich’s WCCW, and even Al Tomko’s All-Star Wrestling.
Ha! My memories of All-Star (a Vancouver-based promotion) were glorified jobbers like Tomko (no relation to Tyson), Mauro Renaldo (whom the commentator always referred to as “Moron Retardo”) and The Frog (Yes - The Frog). What a lame little company that was….
Bischoff tells us how McMahon revolutionized the industry, as you’d expect him to say. Then we see Greg Gagne bitching about how Vince bankrupted his father’s company. I almost wonder if THAT’S the real reason buddy was fired - it does seem to coincide with this DVD release.
Credit is given to Hulk Hogan for being Vince’s flagship star in the WWF. It’s funny to watch videos and see, depending on WWE’s collective mood, whether or not they thank Hogan for his contributions. Sgt. Slaughter tells us how “Vince McMahon screwed everybody” among the regional promoters. If Sarge gets canned next, I’m convinced Vince hadn’t watched the video until recently.
McMahon tells us how he went to each territorial promoter and offered to buy them out once he took over his father’s company. All of them laughed at him and declined the offer. Vince calls most of them lazy, working maybe two days a week in the front office, and shows no remorse for eventually driving them all out of business. JBL and Jimmy Hart kiss McMahon’s ass for doing so.
Our first bit of public-relations spin is shown, when Vince and Shane McMahon portray the purchase of Georgia Championship Wrestling as a masterstroke. Of course, they never mention the deluge of angry phone calls on WTBS. Ted Turner is portrayed as the villain who wanted a piece of the WWF, and was denied in court. And of course, Vince walks away the better man, bowing out gracefully of his Turner deal.
Then, for some reason, we fast-forward, like, 15 years to the start of the Monday Night War. Um, how about some more on the first few WrestleManias, or Saturday Night’s Main Event, or Rock ‘n’ Wrestling? I know I’m a big 80’s buff and not everyone shares that view, but geez we’ve seen the Nitro vs. Raw shit a thousand times on these DVD’s. I already KNOW about how WWF stars were wooed away by Ted Turner’s millions, forcing Vince to fight dirty and win the ratings war.
Show, Bischoff, JBL, Shane and others recall the Monday Night War era. Trust me, if you really want to know more about this period, check out the DVD of the same name; it’s very well done and worth watching.
Speaking of overplayed segments, we then go to the Bret Hart-Montreal incident, showing people how the evil Mr. McMahon character was born out of that series of events. Show, Bischoff, Stephanie, Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, Shawn Michaels, Bruce Pritchard, Edge and some guy named Triple H all back up this point.
Hilariously, Big Show is used this time as the designated “Bret should get over it” source - who the hell are you to argue this point? Next they’re going to have The Frog give his side of the story... Shane tells us how Vince was “conflicted” and even offered Bret a free punch in the locker room.
Look, for the record, I support Vince in his position, even though I don’t agree with the way it was executed. Still, how many times do we need to hear this story again?
We then recall the Austin vs. McMahon feud. Again, we’ve heard this story a zillion times before, but I just love this storyline so damn much that it’s hard to complain. Vince tells us that he’s really “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Wow, would that make Austin the real Vince McMahon? Deeeeeep.
JBL, Show, Stephanie, JR, Austin, Kurt Angle, Triple H, Jerry Brisco, Edge, William Regal and others explain that the Mr. McMahon character is how Vince is in real life with the volume turned way up. He must be a blast at Thanksgiving dinners. “If you want the drumstick, quite frankly, you can KISS MY ASS for it!”
It’s a shame they didn’t interview Mick Foley for any of this, because his comments about his boss in “Foley Is Good” sum it up quite nicely: He’d rather shareholders of WWE Inc. got to see the real Vince McMahon instead of the character.
Vince reveals that his wrestling hero was Dr. Jerry Graham. Triple H weighs in and says that if Vince had ever been an active competitor, he would have been Ric Flair, simply because of the “larger than life” character that went along with that.
We finally get a healthy dose of honesty, as Edge, Triple H and even John Cena suggest that Vince isn’t a very good in-ring competitor (“I think he has a list of moves that’s maybe one move long - a nice stiff punch,” Cena says). Triple H comes up with the funniest line, saying that Vince “fancies himself as Lou Thesz or something out there, but he doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing.”
JR continues with the truth streak, admitting that it would be unlikely that anything WWE does will ever replicate Austin-McMahon. Now if they’d only stop TRYING to replicate it with different people, we’d be set…
Next, they discuss the company’s initial public offering in 1999 and Vince describes this as an opportunity for them to be “open, honest and above board about everything you do.” He wanted the American public to have a piece of WWE - yeah, right. Look, while it’s true that WWE is subject to more scrutiny now than it ever was from an accounting and corporate governance standpoint, the public owns such a small portion of the stock. It’s not as though someone can overthrow the McMahons by buying enough shares - that’s not even an option. JBL gives a more plausible reason for the IPO - Vince wanted to make WWE more credible in the public’s eyes.
Speaking of which… WWE gives itself a pat on the back for the charity and public-service work they do. Personally, I think they do so much stuff that the media overlooks (between entertaining the troops, Make A Wish Foundation, the voting initiative, hurricane relief, etc.) that they should be allowed to toot their own horn here if they so desire.
Vince then went on and tackled the world of professional football with this “XFL” thing you may have heard of. The concept is defended by Vince and… well, no one else, really. Okay, fine, Bischoff chimes in with his two cents, but he might as well be listed as “professional asskisser” by this point in the video.
Joey Styles points out, quite rightly, that the first thing you saw on XFL television was a promo by The Rock, followed by Vince himself strutting onto the field. He also takes a shot at the “strippers” that were used as cheerleaders.
We next discuss the infamous Bob Costas interview, and how Vince’s temper often gets the best of him. Costas stops short of suggesting the whole thing was a work, but does admit that McMahon called him the next day to patch things up.
This segues back into more of the “Mr. McMahon vs. Vince McMahon” debate, and eventually… Katie Vick. Vince actually calls this vignette - which as you may recall, featured a masked Triple H simulating sex with a dead body -- “high comedy”, although The Rock (in an interview from several years ago on the set of The Rundown), Linda McMahon and Styles disagree.
Then it’s time for probably the most interesting segment on the DVD - a look at the McMahon family (and no, I’m not being sarcastic). Angle discusses the television show “Hogan Knows Best” and suggests there ought to be a show about the McMahons. Uh, Kurt - you ever hear of Monday Night Raw?
We are told that, despite the character he plays on television, he’s actually a very caring family man (hey, they should have written that “Ricky Steamboat - he’s a family man” theme song for Vince!). He would use every resource he has to protect his family, and would personally stop anyone who tried to hurt them, to which Triple H remarks “trust me - I’ve heard that threat before.”
Wait a minute, are they… acknowledging the real-life marriage of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon? YES! I strongly believe this is where they need to go on television, instead of coyly hinting at it, and THEN you have one hell of an angle (“That damn DX; one of them is my son-in-law!”).
Vince said he wanted Stephanie to date “someone like Triple H” because of the guy’s work ethic (and probably his man-stache). Thank goodness he didn’t suggest, say, Umaga.
In what I find to be a hilarious comment, Stephanie recalls that after they began secretly dating for a while, Vince turned to his daughter and, in her words, said “So, how long have you and Triple H been dating?” HE ACTUALLY CALLED HIM ‘TRIPLE H’??? That floors me, if it’s true. That would be like going to a (real) wedding and hearing “Do you, Fabulous Moolah, take this man, The Boogeyman, to be your lawfully-wedded husband?”
Anyways… after they began dating, Vince wanted them to stop because of the potential “political implications it could have in the business”. Really? Wow, that never occurred to me…
Triple H (which is apparently what his wife calls him in private) thinks Vince was just testing him to see if he would defy his future father-in-law. Vince confirmed as much.
In the “Well, duh” moment of the night, Stephanie suggests that “I think he really gets enjoyment out of seeing his family on television.” Glad someone does. Shane comes in as a close second, questioning why Vince would ever want to bring Linda in on the storylines. On the other hand, there was the incident where Stephanie slapped Linda during an angle in 2000, which both parties seem to regret. While it’s hard to tell for sure, I DO get that the impression that the family is a lot closer than they let on.
Much like it does invariably on television, the McMahon family segment goes on far too long. Still, the “shoot” comments are worth the price of admission.
This leads into the “Vince is a letch” theme, and clips of Vince making out with virtually every diva on the roster. The “Trish Stratus barking like a dog” clip is brought out, which Trish justifies as a “necessary moment for what we were creating in the story.” Let’s see if she says the same thing a few months from now, now that she’s retired from WWE…Vince is at least honest about this element of his character, saying that he loves hot women. Shane, Stephanie and even Trish show their discomfort with some of his actions, even as a storyline.
We then move on to WWE’s 2001 purchase of WCW. Again, watch The Monday Night War for a better look at this. Bischoff, Lawler and a haggard-looking Dusty Rhodes say that the wrestling business is worse off without legitimate competiton. They’re SO getting fired for saying that.
We take a special look at Vince versus Shane at WrestleMania X-7, which to its credit, was a great brawl and overbooked to perfection. Vince loved beating up his child. Hmmm….
Next, we go to the Kiss My Ass Club, with Vince justifying it as a way to make his character more over-the-top than ever. Regal, the first inductee into the prestigious organization, called it an “honor”. Wow, what an asskisser…. oh, right. JR, Shane and Michaels are less charitable about their inductions.
Then we go to the Brand Extension, which should have probably gone right after the WCW purchase, but then this has all been largely in chronological order. Lawler, Pritchard and others say that Raw and SmackDown may not have created the ‘competition’ McMahon was hoping for. Others disagree, pointing out the long-term benefits of the concept.
This leads into the 2002 departure of Steve Austin, mostly recycled from an old episode of WWE Confidential and from Austin’s DVD. Nothing much new here, though I’m a little surprised they did so much on this one departure.
They then dedicate a segment to Eric Bischoff’s hiring as the General Manager of Raw, and all the usual suspects weigh in on why it was done. You know, Bischoff was so great as a heel character, I’m glad they’re putting him to such great use as his WWE contract expires…. you know, by kissing ass on DVD’s and that kind of thing. Sad. Stephanie summed it up best when she said that Vince told her “What great revenge, now that this asshole is going to work for me.”
From here, we move onto the Hogan vs. McMahon match. Hogan weighs in with a few (years-old) comments, and the rest of this segment are clips from the WrestleMania 19 pre-match vignette.
An odd segment is shown next, detailing McMahon’s mini-feud with Zack Gowen.A quick diversion through Vince’s induction into the Madison Square Garden Walk of Fame (shown recently on Raw) segues into his feud with his daughter. Damn, I thought that was just a bad dream I had a few years back - that shit actually happened? You’d think that the entire McMahon family would have backed Vince on this move, but not so much. You see, it was six days before Stephanie’s wedding and I can’t really blame her for not wanting a black eye in her wedding photos. Linda threatened to kill Vince if he “so much as left a mark on her.”
Speaking of exploiting family members… Vince wanted to (seriously) put his daughter’s wedding on pay-per-view. Forget the bad taste and all that - who the hell would pay money to see this??? “If Stef would have let him webcast the birth of our child, he’d have a camera right in there,” quipped Triple H. The second time Steph nixed one of Vince’s ideas? Vince wanted to be the storyline father of her child. Yeah, you read that right. I’m not sure what upside that would have had, per se, but there you go.When that idea failed, Vince came up with a much more sensible alternative: Shane would be the father. You’d hope that, because they revealed that little nugget on the DVD, it means that the whole idea has been dropped, though I’m skeptical.
Then they focus on what an incredible performer Vince is, and how, one day, he’s going to get seriously hurt out there. Strangely enough, that’s just what happened at the 2005 Royal Rumble, when he ran out during the finish of the Rumble match and tore both his quadriceps.They delve into this, with Vince using the old “I’d been sitting in the gorilla position all night” excuse for not being limber enough. Hell, I recently injured myself at a movie theater (during a wrestling PPV, no less) when my brother sneak attacked me and I felt pain shoot through when I stood up. Thus, I can totally relate to Vinnie Mac. But Shane uses this as an opportunity to describe how stubborn his old man is, and his reluctance to get help worsened his injury.
Another funny Triple H moment is how Vince wanted to recover from surgery quicker than his son in law did (who had torn just the one quad himself a few years prior) and how “he’ll probably brag about it on this video.” Sure enough, Vince is there, seconds later, showing how much of a tough guy he is. JR and others tell us that Vince doesn’t like sleep, illness or injury.
YOU’RE FIRRRRRRRRRRRRRRED! That’s right; an entire segment is dedicated to the employees - in storyline and in real life - that Vinnie Mac has shitcanned. Pritchard, JR, Slaughter, Michaels, Matt Hardy and others recall how they were sacked (with the infamous “Dr. Hiney” vignette thrown in for good measure).
Vince says, even though he doesn’t get “Mr. McMahon” type joy out of it, he’ll always do what is best for the business. Vince is also a patriot, in case you hadn’t heard. Against the backdrop of his recent visit to Afghanistan, JBL tells us the story of a man who lives the American Dream. And no, not Dusty Rhodes.
We then look at the Michaels-McMahon feud that, seemingly, has been going on for thirty-five years now. This segues into talk of McMahonism, which is criticized by… uh, Les Thatcher? What an odd choice. Brother Love would have been much more fitting.
We take a look at Vince McMahon the grandfather and how much he enjoys that role, although he doesn’t act like the normal 60 year-old man. GEE, YA THINK? They show a clip of Vince making a very emotional speech - possibly at Triple H and Stephanie’s wedding - giving advice on living life to the fullest. See, this stuff I find tremendously interesting.
Vince is next shown in the gym, while helpful key words about his personality (“Integrity. Dedication. Perfection. Vitality. Passion. Bulletproof.”) are flashed across the screen. It looks like a vignette for a new wrestler. The fact that he’s twice as big as most of his wrestlers doesn’t hurt, either.
A final look at what makes Vince McMahon successful, what drives him, and the differences between the man and the character, end this sucker. And clocking in at LEAST 3 hours, it’s about time.
Don’t get me wrong - this DVD has a lot of redeeming qualities, but you want to take it in during more than one sitting.
And along those lines, I promised I’d get into the actual matches, so I will… very briefly. Hell, I’ve working on this review for several hours now. If the biography doesn’t intrigue you, chances are the matches won’t, either:
Mr. McMahon vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (April 13, 1998, Monday Night Raw): This is the match that started it all. True, the match ends in a screwjob finish with the timely interference of one Dude Love, but the storytelling here is incredible.
Mr. McMahon vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (Feb. 14, 1999, St. Valentine’s Day Massacre): A tremendous, tremendous cage match, in terms of energy, atmosphere and a handful of well-choreographed bumps. As Austin himself has put it, the fact that McMahon would jump from the top of a cage shows how interested he is in promoting his own product.
Mr. McMahon and Shane McMahon vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (June 27, 1999, King of the Ring): This is the infamous “Who raised the briefcase?” ladder match. Some great bumps here, especially with numerous ladders being used as part of the set. Still, the owner vs. employee storyline is starting to wear thin by this point.
Mr. McMahon vs. Triple H (December 12, 1999, Armageddon): This was the match where Stephanie turned on her father, not the Madison Square Garden bout from just recently. A brutal match, especially with one shot involving some sort of machine gun, but certainly not the best brawl you’ve ever seen. My favorite moment? Hearing HHH’s pre-Motorhead theme music (“Our Time”).
Mr. McMahon vs. Shane McMahon (March 30, 2001, WrestleMania X-7): As I mentioned earlier, between the WCW purchase, Mick Foley as referee, Linda McMahon in a wheelchair at ringside and Trish and Stephanie, this match was just a wee bit overbooked. Shane O’ Mac gives a special shout-out to “the young lions in WCW” who are sitting in a skybox, looking disinterested. They would get theirs soon enough. Muhuhahahahaha! Anyways, some terrific spots in here, particularly for two non-wrestlers.
Mr. McMahon vs. Ric Flair (January 20, 2002, Royal Rumble): Remember when these two were dueling owners? Yeah, me neither. This is a street fight, with Flair’s kids getting involved at one point. It was also Flair’s first match in about a year. Actually, I’m surprised they didn’t just hold off on this until WrestleMania (not that Flair’s feud with The Undertaker wasn’t decent). Not a great match, but still interesting to watch.
Mr. McMahon vs. Hulk Hogan (March 30, 2003, WrestleMania XIX): Given the storyline build-up, I was hoping this would come off a little better, but I suppose you have to recognize each guy’s limitations. The random interference by a pregnant Rowdy Roddy Piper, though, is priceless.
Mr. McMahon vs. Stephanie McMahon (October 19, 2003, No Mercy): Did you know this is the first-ever Father-Daughter No Holds Barred I Quit match? I thought for sure it would have been the third of fourth. Sable is in Vince’s corner, while Linda is in Stephanie’s. Just a dreadful affair, and I can’t believe anyone would want to commemorate this on a DVD.
Mr. McMahon vs. The Undertaker (November 16, 2003, Survivor Series): This is a “Buried Alive” match that sees interference from Kane. Vince is acting utterly insane here, and it does bother me that he’s able to look so strong against Taker, when so few other actual wrestlers are ever afforded the same opportunity. Notable because of the killer bladejob Vince does early on.There are also a handful of deleted scenes on the first disc worth watching, most notably stories about McMahon’s real-life competitive nature and his skirmish with a motorcycle.
Overall, is this a DVD worth owning? I think so. As I said, you won’t want to take this in all in one sitting, but it’s a generous collection of half-shoot, half-work comments and at three or four memorable matches to boot.