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Growing up I wasn’t much of a wrestling fan. Yet, one of my best friends at the time couldn’t get enough of it. We were both a product of the eighties. His room was adorned with posters; he also had wrestling figures and plush dolls. I even remember one birthday where I gave him a WWF toy-wrestling ring so he could reenact some of his favorites battles with the likes of The Ultimate Warrior, Brutus “The BarberÃ¢â‚¬Â Beefcake, and The Big Boss Man.
But then he moved away and it would be years until I rediscovered the spectacle of the squared circle.
It was the summer of 1993 and I stumbled across a WCW telecast; the program was leading up to that July’s Beach Blast. All those preconceived notions I once had about grown men in tights punching and kicking and eye-gouging their way to victory fell by the wayside.
With the help of an allowance, and more than a few mom-and-pop video stores, I quickly devoured the WWF and NWA/WCW video library. Hundreds of heroes and villains Ã¢â‚¬â€œ characters I would eventually learn are referred to as “babyfacesÃ¢â‚¬Â and “heelsÃ¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬â€œ some of them have had a lasting impact on the industry, while others have become just a distant memory.
One group that can lay claim at transcending the art of teamwork is the Four Horsemen. And by teamwork I mean two-on-one, three-on-one, and four-on-one gang assaults where the intention is to maim and cripple. It’s been close to a decade since their last hurrah, but their legacy is undeniable. The adage “often imitated but never duplicatedÃ¢â‚¬Â is fitting for a group whose leader is a limousine ridin’, jet flyin’, kiss stealin’, wheelin’ dealin’, son of a gun! That man is Ric Flair.
In 2003 the “Nature BoyÃ¢â‚¬Â had his own retrospective DVD release with The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection. His three-disc set is arguably the best when it comes to match selection. But for World Wrestling Entertainment documentaries were almost an afterthought Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the Flair set lacks such a feature. Then the company wised up and documentaries became the main course; sometimes the features would run anywhere from one hour to two-and-a-half hours in length. Wrestling matches, miscellaneous promos and interviews became the dessert portion of the DVD: the extras.
It’s fitting that Ric Flair’s own release had a number of great matches, because the matches included with Ric Flair & the Four Horsemen is lacking in quantity. Nevertheless, the documentary sells itself; it is all the reason you need to make this two-disc set part of your wrestling DVD collection.
At 132 minutes the main program is not a Cliff’s Notes version of the Horsemen legacy. Oh no. Such a length takes us step by step through the stable’s history. Divided into thirty-six chapters, we learn how the group’s moniker was an accidental occurrence. As a TV taping was running short on time, the production crew jury-rigged an impromptu interview segment with Flair, Ole and Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard and his manager J.J. Dillon. The interview was hot on the heels of a storyline of Ole trying to break wrestler Dusty Rhodes’ leg. During the condensed segment Arn made a passing reference to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Since Flair, Blanchard, and Arn Anderson were as close off the road as they were on it, the Four Horsemen label just kind of stuck. Impressive, as it was not a decision made by a think tank or somebody in management, but rather a wrestler with brains and brawn. Take that Lex Luger, and your total package. Which is funny, since Luger replaced Ole in 1987.
Luger’s stint with the faction gets a mention, as does the participation of Barry Windham and his brother Kendall; then there’s Sting, Sid Vicious, the former “Young StallionÃ¢â‚¬Â Paul Roma, Brian Pillman, Chris Benoit, Steve “MongoÃ¢â‚¬Â McMichael, Curt Henning, Jeff Jarrett, and Dean Malenko. Heck, even Hiro Matsuda, who was management’s answer for when J.J. Dillon left the National Wrestling Alliance, is acknowledged.
Besides vignettes of those who were at one time or another a Horseman, what more can you expect? You’ll discover, or rediscover if you are a die-hard wrestling fan, the feud the Horsemen had with Dusty Rhodes and how it culminated with the advent of War Games: The Match Beyond; it is a match in which two wrestling rings sit side by side and are encased inside a steel cage.
The documentary splices archival footage from past TV tapings and PPV events with static shot interviews and sound bites from three of the original Four Horsemen (Flair, Blanchard, and Arn Anderson), Windham, Dusty Rhodes, and current WWE superstars Shawn Michaels, Triple H and Chris Benoit, among others. Some of what is said is worth hearing; though, Anderson seems too concerned with trying to maintain the Horsemen mystique, still wanting us to believe that he and the rest of the faction were in fact trying to legit injure the likes of Dusty Rhodes or Ricky Morton.
Even with Anderson’s steadfastness there is no reason to avoid this DVD release. There’s so much material here that you would be foolish to miss it.
Here’s the complete rundown of chapter titles:
Ric Flair Discovers Arn Anderson
Minnesota Wrecking Crew Reborn
“Nature BoyÃ¢â‚¬Â Ric Flair
A New Ally: Tully Blanchard
Villains Unite Against a Rising Hero
Ric Flair: True World Champion
An American Dream Destroyed?
Enter J.J. Dillon
The Creation of The Four Horsemen
The Original Gang
The Four Horsemen vs. Dusty Rhodes
The Lifestyle of The Four Horsemen
Ole Out, Luger In
Ric Flair and Precious
Arn and Tully: The Tag Team
Lex Out, Barry In
Arn and Tully Leave
J.J. Dillon Leaves
Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat
Ric Flair Leaves and Returns
Arn and Sid Confrontation
Arn vs. Flair
The Four Horsemen Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 1996
The nWo and Eric Bischoff
The Four Horsemen Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 1998
The Legacy of The Four Horsemen
A/V QUALITY CONTROL
Everything is presented in 1.33:1 full screen and the quality is good for the most part; there’s an odd clip thrown in here or there. The audio presentation is also serviceable. Dolby Digital Surround is the way to go if you want to hear Ric Flair’s rants about Space Mountain and owning shoes that are more than a person’s house. Tons of great sound bites and stories. Those in need of closed captioning or subtitles are out of luck as neither is included.
Ric Flair & the Four Horsemen comes housed in a two-disc keep case. The first disc is reserved for the main feature and a few extras. The second disc is strictly supplemental material.
On Disc 1 there are a number of extra interview segments.
Bonus matches and interviews can be found on Disc 2.
THE INSIDE PULSE
The main feature on Ric Flair & The Four Horsemen is the best documentary WWE has ever produced. Period. So many stories and reflections, even at 132 minutes it doesn’t seem long enough. While the documentary is comprehensive with the help of sound bites from original members Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard and J.J. Dillon, it’s a shame Ole Anderson didn’t want to participate in the project. As far as the bonus matches go, the selection is 50-50. I did like the inclusion of the cage match and the missing War Games match, but did we really need Dusty Rhodes vs. Tully Blanchard? Why not the Anderson/Windham vs. Doom tag match from Starrcade 1990, it’s just as long and it’s a fun street fight. WWE could have done the Horsemen a great service if the stable was given three discs instead of two. Even the “New and ImprovedÃ¢â‚¬Â Degeneration X got three discs and most of their material was culled from the last six months of 2006. Still, the set has a lot to offer wrestling fans; and the lack of matches leaves the door wide open for an Ultimate Four Horsemen Collection.
Ric Flair & the Four Horsemen