Warrior: The Ultimate Legend
No, this isn't an actual DVD review, per se. But I figure there's a decent chance it may be turned into one some day. Besides, I've reviewed a couple of videotapes and even a Blu-Ray in this section... so I'd have to say this falls under the category of "close enough"
Warrior: The Ultimate Legend is one of the first documentaries on a first-run basis on the WWE Network and given the extremely quick turnaround time, I'm extremely impressed with how well this particular production turned out.
For the uninitiated, this documentary follows Warrior around for what turned out to literally be his last few days on earth. While we'll probably never know what the footage was originally intended for (given they just released a Warrior match collection a few weeks prior, probably not a DVD), it's amazing that the WWE production crew had everything they needed to put together a comprehensive story.
The story is Warrior's biography and a look at his wrestling career, set against a backdrop of him returning to WWE for the first time in 18 years. The producers even had the presence of mind to find Warrior driving up to WWE headquarters last month to get his thoughts before meeting with Triple H. Warrior was seeking closure on what had been a rocky relationship with the company (and notably Vince McMahon), so you see him somewhat tenous as his vehicle descends upon Titan Towers.
Unlike 2005's The Self-Destruction of The Ultimate Warrior DVD, this doc sets out to a much more balanced and positive piece - though to be fair, it would be tough to have a LESS balanced and positive piece than that particular episode).
We begin the narrative with Warrior's beginnings as an aspiring chiropractor and bodybuilder, which leads him to wrestling through the fledgling Powerteam U.S.A. gimmick in California. Eventually, the four-person squad boils down to two, with Warrior and Sting moving to the Mid-South territory as The Blade Runners.
To comment about this period are Warrior, then-manager Zeb Colter (Dutch Mantel) and making his first WWE-filmed appearance ever, Steve "Sting" Borden. I have to say, it's unusual to see him appear with such little fanfare, but I can absolutely understand why it was done.
From his Texas stint as Dingo Warrior to his eventual debut in the World Wrestling Federation, a variety of WWE performers, legends and management weigh in on his time in the spotlight, including Vince McMahon, John Cena, Hulk Hogan, Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, Jim Ross, Batista, Sgt. Slaughter, Cesaro, Kofi Kingston and Dean Ambrose. Pretty much the usual WWE DVD commentary crowd, but hey, after the appearance of Sting and given how quickly this project was completed, it's very hard to complain.
What's so incredible about this documentary is that tells a few different stories. Sure, there's the overall biography and once again, it's head and shoulders above what was produced nearly a decade ago. But then you have the twin stories of his fall from grace within the company and his search for redemption - lots of powerful stuff.
Amazingly, WWE does an about-face on the Self-Destruction DVD, more or less admitting that it could have been a tad more balanced (of course, the clips of people badmouthing Warrior are from the likes of Bruce Pritchard and Bobby Heenan - not exactly current employees who can defend their comments in 2014).
Having said that, we get a very deep look at the issues between Hogan and Warrior (minus the comments Warrior once made about Hogan's ex-wife). You even see footage of lawyers taking a deposition of Hogan, where The Hulkster has to defend comments he made in the first DVD!
Come the eve of the 2014 Hall of Fame (and it seems very strange talking in a historical context about something that happened a few weeks ago), Triple H asked Hogan not to even talk to Warrior until after the HOF was over so as not to bring up bad blood. But a day later, backstage at Mania, Hogan felt compelled (no doubt motivated by a camera that was documenting the whole exchange) to make peace with The Warrior.
Regardless of whether the moment was staged or spontaneous, Hogan apologies to his former rival, even going so far as to say he loves him and how proud of him he is. It makes for a nice moment, and while we'll never know whether Warrior truly got closure from the brief moment, it certainly appeared that way.
That wasn't even the most touching reunion of the show! Warrior's strained relationship with Vince is explained in detail, mostly a copy of what went down in Self-Destruction but with Warrior balancing out the story this time. So during the stage rehearsal for the HOF, Warrior meets up with Vince for the first time since the bad blood began. It's awkward but passable conversation (and again, it's quite obvious that the cameras are capturing every word that's spoken between the two).
But by the time of the HOF ceremony itself, Warrior gives Vince a present - a inscribed copy of "The Little Engine That Could", which apparently holds a deep meaning in their past relationship (semi-related, Sgt. Slaughter stops by backstage and gives Warrior a gift-wrapped potato; can't imagine what that would signify). Vince is seen beaming at the gift, and even reading the inscription, and you get the sense that their relationship has immediately improved.
The night after on Raw, Warrior meets up with Vince again and the two share a hug (the one captured on Twitter by Stephanie). Vince then recalls that it might be the last time Warrior was ever photographed with someone and immediately begins tearing up.
Now, many people consider Vince McMahon the second coming of Satan, and I'm sure there are stories to back that up, too. But even giventheir past history, it's hard to believe that the raw emotion he showed here (as did others, for that matter) is anything but genuine.
Add to that the closing moments of the documentary - following Warrior's "obituary" promo on Raw that has to be one of the most timely events -- not just in wrestling, but in all of celebrity -- you have Warrior's two daughters interviewed backstage, explaining not only how important this weekend was to their father, but how important their father is to them. As Warrior exits the arena and prepares to go in the car to the airport, you find yourself saddened, almost warning him of what would happen not even 24 hours later.
And this is really the interesting paradox of this DVD. Did Warrior get along with everyone in wrestling? Absolutely not, and more perhaps than others in the business, he certainly rubbed people the wrong way at times. But at the end of the day, he was a very good person to his family, a great attraction, a wrestler who was very good for business..... and in death, he's remembered more for the good than the bad.
That's probably the direction that Self-Destruction should have gone in.