Back when Nirvana and Pearl Jam were hitting the charts, wrestling went through an evolution. Gone were the Big Daddy-esque colourful characters, as they began to be replaced with darker and, frankly, cooler characters.
The 1990s in wrestling was great time; it was a time when WWE and WCW went head to head in the ‘Monday Night Wars’ and we had the birth of the extreme and attitude eras. It was grunge, rock and roll, spectacle and merchandise, all wrapped up as a huge corporate money-making machine courtesy of the likes of Vince Russo, Ted Turner, Jim Crockett, Eric Bischoff and, of course, Vince McMahon.
The focal point of the 90s was the emergence of wrestling superstars, and while the 1980s had the iconic Hulk Hogan, the 90s had a plethora of superstars to choose from. And it is these colourful characters that this three disc set focuses on.
The first disc in the collection is really a biography disc. Hosted by former WWE superstar/commentator Taz (who has recently jumped ship to TNA) the disc is presented in vignettes of video montages and commentary from other wrestlers and wrestling pundits about the stars and wrestling business of the 1990s. Focusing on the big stars, the disc has profiles of around fifteen superstars ranging from Brett Hart to Stone Cold to The Rock with other famous (and not so famous) stars each getting around ten minute pieces each.
Overall, this is a great way to become reacquainted with some of these characters and you get to see the evolution and first appearances of some of the best known names in the business. HHH, for example, did not start out as the leather jacket Motorhead-loving hardcore champion he is today, but rather as a fake blue-blood aristocrat. Even the biggest names, such as The Rock, had shaky beginnings with very big 90s hair, tassels and over the top colourful entrances.
One of the interesting things on the disc is that is doesn’t just concentrate on the WWE. Back in the 90s there were two rival wrestling companies, WWE and WCW. However, around 2000, Vince McMahon bought out his rival, merging the two brands. Not only did he get the talent on the roster, but also the company’s back catalogue, meaning that discs contain footage from both promotions and, luckily, on this disc we get profiles of Kevin Nash and Scott Hall’s time in WCW, as well as a good look at Sting and Ric Flair’s time in the promotion.
Having all this archive footage is great, as the great and good from across the decade are commented on. However, there are also some good vignettes about those stars who didn’t quite make it. A section focuses on the likes of Max Moon, The Goon, The Berserker, Glacier, and the Shockmaster, all embarrassing and all rather funny (check out the Shockmaster’s entrance).
While not really ‘extra’ discs in the usual sense, the other two discs that come with set are a collection of various matches from the era. Although some good matches are picked, again from both WWE and WCW, watching them out of context of the ‘story’ means that the matches do not have as much impact as they should have. However, with around fifteen or so matches there will be something to grab your attention, with the range of content spanning from early matches of The Rock and HHH, Bret Hart and Shawn Michael’s feuding, Sting vs. the monster Vader and more.
Even if the wrestling doesn’t grab you as much as it should, what is fascinating is to see how time passes quickly: everything, from the music and the hair to the attire and fashion, has changed. Was it twenty years ago that plaid shirts, round sunglasses and Doc Martins were in? That makes me feel old. Additionally, it also shows you how wrestling has changed both in pace and matches but, more importantly, budget and production values. Huge video screens, pyros and entrance videos are all commonplace now and its interesting to see how much budget is now spent on the spectacle of wrestling compared to just fifteen or ten years ago.
Overall, this is a great three disc set, aimed at both long time fans and fans just getting into ‘sports entertainment’. Like all WWE releases, it’s very well produced, packed with content and extras (extra matches, commentary and such) and gives a great insight into the world (well from the glossy, business point of view) of wrestling.
WWE: Greatest Stars of the 90s is out now