DVDs - VGames - Books DVD Review: Best of Confidential on Raw-Nitro, Bret, Snuka
Feb 22, 2003 - 9:36:00 PM
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By Tony Batalla, Torch Team Contributor
WWE Best of Confidential Vol. 1
WWE Home Video
Released on: January 25, 2003
by Tony Batalla, Torch Media Reviewer
WWE Confidential came to be when WWE decided to scrap the dismal production known as "WWE Excess," a typical recap show. Back in 2001, when Vince McMahon first acquired two hours of airtime for a late-night slot on TNN, many hoped it would be the launching pad for the rebirth of WCW, with its own show, retaining the WCW brand name. Titles like "Saturday Nitro" where thrown around, only to have "WWE Excess" brought to life, with sub-par, under 1.0 ratings, being its predictable and unsatisfactory impression.
"Excess" was replaced in 2002 when the brand split occurred and from it came "WWE Velocity," the Smackdown B-show, and "WWE Confidential," which promised to go behind the scenes and debuted strong with "Mean" Gene Okerlund making his return to WWE weekly broadcasts. However, "Confidential's" main purpose quickly became a place where Vince McMahon and company spun their tales of revisionist history/ Now, unable to maintain any "insider" quality from week to week, the show mostly been reduced to nothing more than comedy filler and Superstar home tours.
"The Best of Confidential" DVD began with some gratuitous plugs for other merchandise, including WWE's Diva's shoots, the European and Australian DVD releases, and the Anthology CD collection. But, it soon went into the "Confidential" format, with Gene behind a desk. I must admit, the theme song for "Confidential" ranks among one of my top favorites in recent years. I don't know why, it's just groovy in a cool sort of way.
The DVD went right into the Monday Night Wars, at least WWE's version of them. Clips of the debut Nitro in 1995 then Eric Bischoff and Vince McMahon hugging on the 7/15/02 Raw, Bischoff gave his comments the hug. "It was something I'd never have bet on," he remarked. McMahon added that he believed it was "the best thing for business" and let on that fifteen minutes prior to the hug, he had never met Eric Bischoff. Bischoff talked about the birth of Nitro saying it just "kinda happened" and he knew he could go live. Vince said there were "dirty tricks" being played, never saying exactly what, besides that Eric Bischoff gave away the results of pre-taped Raw's. Bischoff said it was "lousy" on his part but he didn't care and Vince said he took it "extremely personal."
Footage is shown from the 1/4/01 Raw and Nitro's, including Tony Schiavone giving away that Mick Foley was going to win the WWF Title as Mankind. Naturally, the footage included happens to be when the strategy backfired as more tuned in to watch Raw to watch that then what was one of the definitive signs of the downfall of the end for Nitro, the infamous "finger touch" job that Nash did to Hogan, after Nash had dethroned Goldberg weeks prior at Starrcade '98.
Vince said he felt he had a better product and wondered why people would watch "that crap," emphasizing crap. Jim Ross added the most insight, something which still holds true to this day and WWE sorely misses, in that Nitro "always gave WWE more motivation" to be better. Eric, always the businessman, finished up by saying the right things, not ruffling any feathers, parallel to his entire career.
Next, the DVD moves forward to the burial of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin after he walked out a second time on WWE last June. Footage is shown of Austin's controversial "Byte This" appearance when he said the creative was "piss poor," "pretty shitty" and said it could be a "hell of a lot better." He also let it be known that he wasn't happy. They don't include the comments that Brock Lesnar's gimmick was "pretty damn lame," but then again they never mention that his walk out had a lot to do with being asked to job to Lesnar unadvertised either.
Vince took a shot at Austin saying he was "reduced to making gold records instead of platinum" and Ross added it "wasn't the Stone Cold he knew" and by walking off Austin "made the biggest mistake of his professional career." Thankfully, Ross' comments relating Austin to "John Wayne turnin' yella" aren't included. Ross, put into a position where he had to back his company, still came off like such a worthless pawn with those statements.
Next, Kurt Angle revisited the camp where he trained for the 1996 Olympics and had a bit of fun in his first workout since then. Obviously, Angle is no longer planning an Olympic comeback in 2004, back the time, he was heavily weighing the decision. Anyway, Angle an example of everything that is right in the business. He's selfless, a man who loves both the sport of amateur and professional wrestling who has taken monumental strides to give it the kind of respect it is worthy of.
The DVD also pays tribute to Davey Boy Smith, with comments from his widow, Diana (which shall we say are a bit "softer" than those in her now banned book, "Under the Mat"), and William Regal who called the British Bulldogs "the greatest tag team in the history of wrestling." Undertaker added a bad English accent while telling of the pranks Smith used to pull. "Mean" Gene did mention that it was Smith's "personal demons" (the standard lingo for drugs) that finally caught up to him and caused his untimely death.
A tribute is also shown to Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka. Several WWE Superstars said that they remember him most for wrestling barefoot. "That was my gimmick and I loved it," Snuka said, despite recalling the several broken toes and sprained ankles he received over the years. Clips are shown from his famous dive at MSG as well as his return to MSG in 1996. Although touching, the Snuka interview is noteworthy because it's the very first time that someone associated with WWE/F has ever admitted to being addicted to drugs on an actual WWE/F broadcast. Snuka said he rehabbed from cocaine by himself, doing it for his family.
On a side note, I've been personally conflicted while viewing the Snuka tributes while bringing into consideration the entire "death cover up" story. For those unaware, in 1983, 23 year-old Nancy Argentino, Snuka's then girlfriend, was found dead in their motel room in Allentown, PA. Her skull was discovered to be fractured at the time of autopsy. Many found it suspect that Snuka was never indicted even though just three months prior to Argentino's death, Snuka had pleaded guilty to "violent felony assault with intent to cause injury" when police found Snuka and Argentino running naked down a motel hallway.
My personal conflict, is that while a fan of Snuka in my youth, and while what he accomplished in his run in the early '80s as a draw for WWF can't be taken away, nothing will ever change the fact that a young woman had her life ended some 20 years ago. Nothing will ever change the fact that her family never felt justice was served. Nothing will ever change the fact that Snuka's coke-addiction made his temper uncontrollable, and while not only the downfall of his career, ultimately led to the death of another human being. Sure, I was a Snuka fan and thanks in great part to the efforts of Mick Foley, Superfly's image flying through the air that night in MSG are pretty much a given in all wrestling fans' minds, the cold truth is that Snuka was not even a stable person during that time. But judging by the WWE tribute to him, he's a saint who rehabbed himself for the betterment of his family. The cold truth is that Vince McMahon, above anyone else, knows that a woman was robbed of her life twenty years ago, yet has made absolutely no acknowledgment of it whatsoever and has, for all intensive purposes, swept it under the rug without so much attention as a skirmish on an airplane. For all of McMahon's efforts to paint him as a loving role model, Snuka will go to the grave being the only one who knows the real truth, just as Nancy Argentino went to the grave 20 years ago. (For more information on the 1983 incident in Allentown, redirect yourself to Irvin Mushnick's eye-opening 1992 article: Superfly Snuka and the Groupie.
Next up, footage is shown from the 4/27/98 DX "invasion" of Nitro. After laughably saying that the plan was to "beat the shit out of WCW wrestlers," Triple H wisely states that is WCW were smart, they would have let DX drive its tank right up to the ring, because after all, would you rather watch that or the same old matches you've seen on Raw?
The part I was most looking forward to, exactly what brought down WCW, comes next with many wrestlers, including Booker T, Paul Wight, Hulk Hogan, and Chris Jericho all stating that it was, above all else, the guaranteed contracts. Bischoff contended that he had to "attract" talent somehow, and the guarantees were the only way he could. But, Booker countered that because of the lack of incentive, the top guys started to "walk through their matches." Eric said he knew it was falling apart in August of 1998. Naturally, no mention is made of Kevin Nash killing WCW's top draw, the repeated screw job finishes WCW booked that, depriving their fans of a pay-off, and killing off numerous towns in their wake, now is any mention made of Vince Russo's tenure which made WCW a mockery of itself. (Maybe Russo should've used this as ammo in his war of words with Tenay, something like, "Even McMahon knows I had nothing to do with WCW's demise." At least he'd have something.)
A very brief history of the WCW World Title is shown, including clips from the "Golden Era" of wrestling in the '50s. Ric Flair, rightfully, did most of the talking. However, he just had to add that when he was crowned NWA Champion, it was even sweeter that Vince McMahon, Sr., who didn't use the NWA Champion but was still on the board of directors, voted for him. The DVD covers Flair to Dusty Rhodes to Goldberg. Goldberg was the recipient of a few backhanded comments including Flair, who said "(Goldberg) was an example of what a promotion could do with a guy if they wanted to create a star" while Bischoff added that he "wished Goldberg had been a little bit more prepared, more seasoned, as a performer."
The coverage goes right on through DDP, whom Booker said his title run was "completely manufactured," (referring to his friendship with Bischoff) to Sting, whom Flair said "could have been one of WWE's biggest stars," to Hogan, whom Flair, again, just had to say was "the man."
The final big story is McMahon's complete revision of the Survivor Series ' 97 screw job against Bret Hart. Shawn Michaels adds complete lies stating that Hart "would not lose the title to anyone, under any circumstances" even though it's common knowledge Hart offered several alternate scenarios to McMahon prior to the match. The interviews are interspersed with footage from "Wrestling With Shadows." Vince added his pathetic line about Gerald Brisco (whom is also interviewed stating that only he knew about the plans in the back) stepping on his ankle and breaking it, being the reason why Vince dropped like a "ton of bricks" when Hart punched him.
Shawn Michaels admits what everyone has always known, that he knew about the plans ahead of time, and Brisco disgustingly added that "Shawn became a man" that night. If becoming a man means completely lying to everyone of your colleagues, keeping up the act for years, denying the truth, and passing the blame unto the victim, then yeah, I guess he did become a man.
Although Vince McMahon may have been in a tight spot, and Bret Hart's choice to refuse to lose in Canada was wrong, attempting to paint Shawn Michaels as a hero and Vince as a tough, stand up guy, are both hysterical and depressing at the same time.
The DVD also contains the Orton family history in wrestling, covered with comments from all three generations. Rikishi adds a teary-eyed tribute to his Samoan heritage and values, as well as stories of the late Yokozuna. The DVD drags during the tour of Trish's house, Bradshaw's "basketball skills," and a story about a 107 year old wrestling fan (although you have to admire her dedication). But it picks up with Booker T meeting a fan of his since the "Ebony Experience" days, Levon Kirkland, and William Regal talking about his pet lizards. "There's just something special about having a four foot lizard walking around your basement," Regal said and I concur, being the owner of a three foot Savannah monitor myself.
Extra's included are four matches:
(1) Jimmy Snuka defeated "The Crippler" Ray Stevens via CO from 1982. Weak match, but notable for Snuka's post match "New Yorrrkkk! I luv you, baby!" line on the house mic. (*)
(2) Davey Boy Smith captured the I-C Title from Bret Hart at Summerslam '92. A thriller in Smith's homeland in front of a HUGE crowd. Many call this Smith's greatest match ever, and whether you agree or not, it was definitely his biggest match ever and both he and Hart (more thanks to Hart) delivered big time. (****1/2)
(3) Shawn Michaels beat Bret Hart in the infamous Survivor Series '97 Screw-Job. Weird match that featured the crowd touring brawls that were very popular of the time period. Picked up and was pretty decent with great crowd heat up until the infamous finish, which made the crowd even madder. (***)
Booker T beat Scott Steiner to became the 5-time WCW Champion. This was, of course, on the final Nitro on 3/26/01. The decision to have Book go over was a McMahon call, due to the fact that they knew Scotty wasn't going to accept a buy-out and they already had Booker locked in. Short but good match. Awesome counter sequence where Steiner blocked the Uranage (Rock Bottom) with a northern lights suplex for 2. Book eventually nailed it for the win. (**3/4).
Final Analysis: (6.0) "Confidential" is an interesting mix of WWE Superstars away from the ring, offering a chance to see them as people rather than as "Superstars," but it is definitely best known for being Vince McMahon's personal history book, where every controversial incident he's a part of and can't outright sweep under the rug is twisted, turned, and manipulated until it becomes something that McMahon can live with. Although far from fact, the interviews are still newsworthy and eye-brow raising. Unfortunately, "Confidential" is losing steam every week as it not only becomes more of a comedy show, but is also the only WWE/F show to ever feature consecutive re-runs repeatedly. Oh yeah, Triple H doesn't like it either because it "exposes the business." Man, so that's why he can't have a **** match anymore. It's all "Confidential's" fault! It all makes sense now. Recommended you haven't previously seen the shows.
Tony Batalla is the Torch Media Reviews for PWTorch.com's "Videogame/DVD" section. His articles also appear in the Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter. You can write to him at TBatalla@pwtorch.com.
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