Full disclosure: This is actually a review of the Blu-Ray version, not the DVD. Apologies for any confusion/panic/riots this development may lead to, but I gots to be up front with you stupid marks.
When WWE set out to document the first 50 years of its existence, you had to know that there was no way they could get to everything. It would have been impossible to capture so many different moving parts in a mere two-hour documentary.
Instead, what you are left with is a fun, fast-paced look at the history of modern wrestling, albeit with WWE's spin all over the product. Not saying that's necessarily a good or bad thing - it is what it is.
Full credit to WWE for getting a wider-than-normal variety of speakers to tell this particular story. And it seems as though they went through several years of interview footage to make sure as many wrestlers as possible were heard from.
I'm sure I am missing a ton, but the talking heads here include: Captain Lou Albano, Animal, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Bob Backlund, Batista, Michelle Beadle, Eric Bischoff, Paul Bearer, "Classy" Freddie Blassie, Gerald and Jack Brisco, John Cena, Tony Chimel, Michael Cole, Sean "Puffy" Combs, Basil DeVito, "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase, J.J. Dillon, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Dick Ebersol, Edge, The Fabulous Moolah, Howard Finkel, Ric Flair, Mick Foley, Mr. Fuji, Stan Hansen, Bret "Hit Man" Hart, Michael Hayes, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, Paul Heyman, Hulk Hogan, The Honky Tonk Man, Chris Jericho, Rocky Johnson, S.D. "Special Delivery" Jones, Kid Rock, Ivan Koloff, Blackjack Lanza, Jerry "The King" Lawler, Lex Luger, Linda McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, Vince McMahon, Shawn Michaels, Blackjack Mulligan, Magnificent Muraco, Kevin Nash, Mean Gene Okerlund, Randy Orton, Ozzy Obsourne, Diamond Dallas Page, Ken Patera, Pat Patterson, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, CM Punk, Harley Race, Dusty Rhodes, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, The Rock, Jim Ross, Vince Russo, Stu Saks, Bruno Sammartino, Sensational Sherri, Sgt. Slaughter, "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka, George "The Animal" Steele, Trish Stratus, Triple H, Mike Tyson, The Undertaker, Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, Jimmy Valiant, Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon, Koko B. Ware, Mark Yeaton, Mae Young and Larry Zbysko.
Phew... where was I?
The documentary hits on several major points in WWE history, such as the company's beginnings, Bruno Sammartino, the 70's, Bob Backlund, Hulk Hogan, the Rock 'n' Wrestling era, the steroid trial, Monday Night Raw, the Attitude era, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Owen Hart's death, SmackDown, the PG era, John Cena, WrestleMania, the WWE Hall of Fame and the company's future.
At least two of those sections (steroids and Owen Hart) were delivered with more candor than has typically been presented by WWE. For example, they use a clip from a press conference where McMahon in 1989 suggests that less than a year earlier, half his active roster was on steroids. Clips from Donahue and other non-WWF material are also shown for certain events, which makes the documentary looks (purposely so) less refined and as a result, more legit.
Bonus features on the Blu-Ray version includes stories from old-timers, Linda McMahon, a pair of WWE superfans and some other mostly-skippable fodder. It would have been great if they could have gone above and beyond in this section, given the sheer amount of talent that contributed to this project.
The match selection is where things get strange. Don't get me wrong; I understand that WWE has already presented its biggest and most important matches on DVD before now. But the collection that follows is... random, to say the least.
I understand the inclusion of old standards such as Hogan vs. Andre The Giant (presented this time from a different camera angle and no commentary), Rock vs. Hogan, Punk vs. Cena, Hart vs. Michaels and Sammartino vs. Superstar Billy Graham , as well as angles such as Austin and Tyson, Vince buying WCW and the Punk pipe bomb.
But Koko B. Ware vs. Yokozuna (the first match ever on Raw)? The 1988 Royal Rumble? Bobby Lashley vs. Umaga? And even stranger, a six-man tag featuring Cena, Batista and Rey Mysterio vs. Jericho, Orton and The Big Show (Tribute to the Troops) seems a mite out of place on this otherwise stellar collection.
Additionally, the Blu-Ray version includes Undertaker vs. Michaels (WrestleMania 25) and, from a year earlier, Big Show vs. Floyd "Money" Mayweather. WTF? Having said that, I actually enjoyed re-watching Show-Mayweather a lot more than I did initially. It just seems like a strange inclusion when you have so many other historical bouts. How about something from Saturday Night's Main Event? Or something featuring Randy "Macho Man" Savage or The Ultimate Warrior?
Overall, this is a fun collection and the documentary is definitely worth two hours of your time. Do you need the DVD (or Blu Ray) and it's seemingly "throw a dart at the board" method of match selection? I doubt it. In that case, you may want to wait for the doc to hit Netflix or the WWE Network.
The History of WWE
50 Years of Sports Entertainment