In the interests of full disclosure: Jeff Jarrett isn't one of my favorite wrestlers; not even close, actually.
Though he's always been a decent, reliable worker, I can count on one hand the number of his matches that I really loved (including, believe it or not, his "Good Housekeeping" match with Chyna). Combine that with the fact that I, like many people, have been on an anti-TNA wave for some time now, and may you may be wondering why the hell I chose to review this DVD collection?
The fact of the matter is, I respect the hell out of Jarrett. Whether you love TNA, hate TNA or are largely indifferent to TNA, you have to give him major props for what he's accomplished in a relatively short period of time. I remember when he and his father were starting up the promotion - not a single person said the idea could be successful (Jarrett says as much on this DVD).
Yet, here we are some seven years later and TNA is still around. They're on a recognized television network and do a very good touring business. They have a decent roster, largely based on well-known names but with a handful of future stars, too. They have monthly pay-per-views, merchandise, action figures, video games and most of the other things WWE does. If you can separate that from your thoughts on the creative end of the product, you have to admit that they've accomplished quite a bit.
And that's why I find Jarrett so interesting. He's kind of the polar opposite of Paul Heyman: not great at storytelling (or at least, he has the wrong team in place), but a phenomenal businessman doing things many wannabe promoters only dream accomplishing about in today's wrestling environment.
This collection is set up in a documentary format, similar to that of Kurt Angle: Champion (and possibly others; these, along with The History of TNA Year 1 are the only TNA documentary-style DVD's I currently own). There are a few minutes of interviews centered on a segment of Jarrett's career, followed by one of his TNA matches (all shown in chronological order), followed another interview segment, and so on.
Personally, I prefer WWE's standard format, because they (more often that not) run the interview/story segments first and then present the matches as extras. It makes little sense for Jarrett to be talking about, say, his stint as "Double J" in the World Wrestling Federation, and then cutting away to a match with A.J. Styles. This isn't a real dealbreaker or anything, just a tad frustrating.
A wide variety of people (though mostly current TNA employees) are called in to comment about the company's founder, including Mick Foley, The Harris Twins, Jim Cornette, Bob Ryder, Scott Steiner, Jeremy Borash, Kurt Angle, Dixie Carter, B.G. James, Vince Russo, Booker T, Sting and singer Sawyer Brown.
The only person I half-expected to see that didn't make an appearance was Jeff's father Jerry Jarrett, simply because he was so instrumental in both his son's career and the creation of TNA. That said, I remember reading that there may have been a falling out between the two at one point, if that means anything.
As one of the few people who's been featured in TNA since its inception, it's interesting to see how the "flavor" and look of the promotion has changed over the years, from the Nashville days with ridiculous amounts of outside interference and low-rent strippers dancing in cages, to the current product with a six-sided ring and decent production values. One difference throughout the evolution of this DVD is that you hear both Mike Tenay and Don West improve noticeably. Not that I'm a huge fan of either guy, but they were atrocious in the early days of the TNA Asylum.
Moving back to the documentary portion (hey, TNA jumps back and forth in between the two parts; why can't I?), quite a bit of ground is covered over four discs, from Jarrett's earliest days as a scrawny teenager in Memphis, to stints in Texas, the WWF and WCW, to the formation of TNA, to their attempted wooing of Hulk Hogan, to the loss of his wife Jill Jarrett two years ago.
Speaking of the latter, you can dislike Jeff all you want as a wrestling heel, but it's hard not to get choked up hearing about the special relationship he had with his wife, and how he literally put his life on hold to support her in her battle with cancer. The impression one gets is that Jarrett has always been the very definition of a family man, so this loss (which I believe happened on the anniversary of the death of his tag team partner Owen Hart) has to be particularly heartbreaking.
In terms of controversial interviews, there really aren't a lot (or, at least, not as much as I was led to believe watching the YouTube trailers several months back). Jarrett is suprisingly charitable towards Vince McMahon and others who have buried him publicly in the past. This isn't to say there aren't a few nuggets here and there, but I'll stay away from spoiler territory in this space.
The match collection is lengthy (and at four discs, it had better be) although your mileage may vary. Granted, they didn't have access to any of his WWE or WCW matches, so that has to hurt.
Some of the early NWA-TNA matches are poorly booked and laughable, while others later in his career are -- to be frank -- kind of on the dull side. Did the world need to see Jarrett teaming up with The Road Warriors and Dusty Rhodes to face Vince Russo, Low-Ki, Christopher Daniels and Elix Skipper? Was a throwaway TV match against Hacksaw Jim Duggan really all that necessary? I realize they had to limit most of this to their own video library, but nobody was forcing them to make a four-disc collection, either.
With that out of the way, I'd like to point out a few of my personal favorites:
Jeff Jarrett vs. Raven (2003): The first "big" World Title bout in TNA's history delivered (and a young Mickie James is in Raven's corner), and is one of the better hardcore-style matches of that era in either promotion.
Jeff Jarrett vs. Jeff Hardy (2004): It's hard to remember Hardy's first tour of TNA, but this was a decent, well-worked title bout from the company's first (or one of the first) three-hour pay-per-views.
Jarrett, Scott Steiner, Chris Harris and James Storm vs. Sting, AJ Styles, Ron Killings and Rhino (2006): I'd never seen this "Lethal Lockdown" match previously, but it's actually the closest thing you're ever going to get to a recreation of War Games. Plus, there are several brilliant spots, mostly involving AJ.
Jarrett vs. Samoa Joe (2006): This was actually a cool concept in which 18 random fans at ringside (not sure if they were plants or not; hard to tell) were allowed to whip Jarrett with a leather strap. The gimmick sells itself, although I'm thinking Joe is the one guy on the roster who wouldn't need this kind of a stipulation. Also, non-title for the main event of a PPV? Fail!
Jarrett vs. Sting (2006): One of the last TNA PPV's I've ordered to date, and my purchase was mostly because it marked the non-wrestling debut of Kurt Angle. Still, both these guys brought it for a really good grudge match.
Jarrett, Kurt Angle, Samoa Joe, Rhino and Sting vs. Christian Cage, AJ Styles, Scott Steiner, Abyss and Tomko (2007): Another "Lethal Lockdown" match here, and admittedly this was one hell of a lineup. The only issue is that many of the spots were IDENTICAL to the previous year's LL match.
As a bonus, the fourth disc includes five matches from the old CWA promotion in Memphis, which are rarities if nothing else (As an aside, if TNA were smart, they'd procure the rest of that library before WWE gets their hands on it, and make a buck or two on "TNA Presents Memphis Classics" DVD's now that they already have a distribution network.
Are the old matches any good? Honestly, they weren't a selling point for me. If you're a big Jarrett fan and want to see him as a scrawny referee circa 1986, or are itching to see what Jerry Lawler and Cactus Jack looked like two decades ago, then you may appreciate this. Otherwise, it's fairly low-quality stuff and hardly a "must-see".
As for the overall collection itself, I'd be hard-pressed not to recommend it. Jarrett comes across as a positive-thinking, inspirational guy, and there's truly no better person than him to create an alternative wrestling group. His stories are interesting, and the match collection is kind of a brief history of TNA in itself.So do yourselves a favor and pick up a copy of Jeff Jarrett: King Of The Mountain. Or at least smash a guitar over your friend's head and swipe their copy, slapnuts.
King of the Mountain