Available at Amazon.com
The Von Erichs
Studio: World Wrestling Entertainment
Rating: Not Rated
Run time: 360 minutes
Number of discs: 2
Release Date: June 5, 2007
It must be noted that I’ve been stewing about writing a review for this WWE-produced DVD. After hearing about Chris Benoit, his wife Nancy and son Daniel, I didn’t know how I could sit down and watch something entitled The Most Powerful Families in Wrestling. This especially holds true if you know anything about such celebrated families as the Harts, the Guerreros, and specifically the Von Erichs. But, as a native Texan, when I watched the two-hour-plus documentary I was pleased to rediscover the rich history of wrestling in Texas. Families like the Funks, the Windhams, and the above-mentioned Guerrero and Von Erich clans.
The Most Powerful Families in Wrestling is similar to the superstar profiles that would be included on various Coliseum Home Video releases from the eighties and nineties. Although here the participants aren’t in wrestling character mode. Our host is wrestler Carlito, son of Puerto Rican legend Carlos Colon. He appears from time to time and intros various wrestling family vignettes, including his own.
Like any family, it is common for a child to want to emulate his mother or father. But when your father’s profession is that of a wrestler, the pressure that comes with being a second generation star may be harder to stomach than a Knife-edge chop to the chest. In fact, the first chapter of the documentary, “Weighing in on Family Ties,” is a quick overview of growing up in a wrestling household. Sacrifices and perks are juxtaposed. Oftentimes, the father would be on the road traveling to different territories for much of the year; or, looking for success on the wrestling circuit could have also meant moving from town to town. Which is okay if you are single, but with a family to care for it’s quite the decision: to be a suitcase father (the Willy Lomans of the wrestling world), or to establish roots in a town you can call home.
For the children of wrestlers being backstage at an event can be as lively and colorful as the action inside the ring. Walking around eyes become wide as saucers, the children amazed by the behemoths that lace their boots in preparation to enthrall and entertain. And if your father is a champion, such prestige could be to a child’s advantage. (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson recounts how, as a child, he bragged about his father being a champion.)
After the brief introduction, giving us a general feeling of what it is like growing up in a wrestling family, the rest of the documentary emphasizes a number of them, fifteen in all. There is no rhyme or reason as to the order of the packages, only that third-generation superstars bookend The Most Powerful Families in Wrestling â€” Randy Orton and The Rock. Whether this was a post-production decision or not, it’s fitting nonetheless.
The Orton Family: Bob Orton Sr. began his career as an usher directing people where to sit. But when he was introduced to pro-wrestling a career change was in order. Years would pass and his son, Bob Jr., who gave up his father’s dream â€” for him to be a doctor â€” decided he wanted to be a wrestler, too. So Junior got a rude awakening by legendary grappler Karl Gotch with him being stretched every which way. Such instruction was vital, as Bob Jr. became a terrific performer inside the ring and never made a mistake. Roddy Piper chimes in during a sound bite that he, Bob Jr., should have made a mistake every now and then to prove to others that, hey, this cowboy can wrestle. His son, Randy, would follow a similar path wrestling at the amateur level. His work ethic got him into Ohio Valley Wrestling, a promotion that could be best described as WWE’s farm league. The success Randy has had during his four-year tenure with the sports-entertainment company â€” World Tag champion, Intercontinental champ, and World Heavyweight Champion â€” has people with WWE singing his praises, including William Regal, John Cena and Eric Bischoff. Though, Bischoff’s is the best attempt at humor, comparing Randy’s first four years in the biz to Steve Austin’s. Guess Bischoff forgot that during Austin’s fourth year he was nursing an injury and got terminated by WCW.
The Guerrero Family: Best described as the Latin Kings of the Texas border, the Guerreros reigned supreme in Juarez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas. Whereas with the Orton family each Orton topped the other as far as in-ring performance and marketability is concerned, for the Guerrero clan it was all about trying to reach the close-yet-still-unobtainable plateau of their father, Gory. He was a legend. In fact, he was responsible for being the first wrestler to use the Camel Clutch submission maneuver and perform a German Suplex. And then there’s his Gory Special, a move that would be utilized by his son, the late Eddie Guerrero.
The McMahon Family: What really needs to be written about the McMahons that hasn’t been written already? Well, you would be naÃ¯ve to believe the Vince McMahon character you see on TV is the same in real life. There is a moment within the video package that McMahon gets choked up reminiscing about his father and how much of an influence he had on him despite not knowing him until he was twelve years old. McMahon cherished those moments â€” few as they may have been â€” with his father and he describes the opportunity his father afforded him: To run a minuscule territory in Bangor, Maine. Upon turning the promotion into a rousing success, Vince Jr. slowly bought out his father’s share of the business. Like a lion Vinny Mac quickly devoured competing territories and usurped their talent. Also making his presence known in the McMahon family is wrestler Triple H who married Stephanie McMahon. His recounting of his first dinner with the McMahon clan is humorous, no doubt. No more than five words were spoken between Triple H and Vince during the meal.
Father and Son: This is a short piece about how certain sons could never reach that same level of greatness of their patriarchs. Such is the case of Dustin Rhodes, David Flair and Brian Christopher â€” the son of Jerry “The King” Lawler. Of the three Dustin probably had the greatest level of achievement, having won the U.S. Championship in WCW and a number of tag team titles with the likes of Ricky Steamboat, Barry Windham and Booker T. Though, I’m sure more people will remember him for his theatrics as Goldust than his in-ring prowess.
The Windham Family: The patriarch of this clan, Big Bob Windham, picked up wrestling after suffering a broken leg while playing in the NFL. He was scouted by Verne Gagne and got a contract to compete on a larger scale, much bigger than the Texas circuit. His greatest success would come tagging with Blackjack Lanza. Mulligan’s son Barry was playing college ball when he met with Dick Murdoch and decided he wanted to be just like dear old dad. Even though his father’s greatest wish was for Barry to be a professional boxer. So many accolades are heralded Barry’s way especially by Dusty Rhodes who proclaims Barry to be the most natural, gifted athlete to step foot in a wrestling ring. Early into Barry’s career he tagged with Mike Rotundo, a man he would call friend and in time brother-in-law. Together they had a successful run at the tag titles in 1985 in the World Wrestling Federation; but Barry’s greatest success, however, would come in the National Wrestling Alliance tangling with Ric Flair, only to later join the Four Horsemen. Barry’s brother Kendall gets a brief mention as another Windham that decided to carry on the family legacy. As World Championship Wrestling was on the verge of collapse, Barry and Kendall teamed together and won the titles in August 1999.
The Graham Family: Okay this could have easily been paired with a later segment titled “Questionable Family Ties.” The Graham Brothers (Eddie and Jerry) were not actually related but they looked eerily similar. A team in the Northeast, Eddie would head south to Florida to run his own territory. That territory was a hotbed for wrestling talent; Dusty Rhodes tell us that Eddie had the most impact on his career as a wrestler. Jim Ross adds an anecdote from when he worked with another giant in the industry, Bill Watts. Watts told Ross that he got a Ph.D. in wrestling from Eddie Graham. With the Graham Brothers tandem no more, this would lead to the introduction of “Crazy” Luke Graham and “Superstar” Billy Graham, neither of whom are related to the Grahams. In all honesty, the only two Grahams that are remotely related â€” well, in this package â€” are Eddie Graham and his son Mike.
The Anoa’i Family: I don’t know what it is but Samoans always seem to play a heavy role in wrestling. Vince McMahon attributes their success because they are just so damn tough. The Anoa’i Family is no different. Their legacy extends generations in the business. It started with Afa and Sika as The Wild Samoans. Inducted into WWE’s Hall of Fame this year, they were a team that scared their opponents, and many of the fans as well. The late Yokozuna, his character was that of a Japanese sumo wrestler. But he would make history becoming the first Samoan heavyweight champion. Other Anoa’i family members that are referenced include Rikishi and Umaga.
The Gagne Family: Verne Gagne was the Hulk Hogan of his day â€” the 1950s. So believes his son Greg. But he was a better performer and didn’t need to keep reminding kids to say their prayers and to keep taking those vitamins. As great a wrestling technician he was in the ring, Verne was probably a better teacher/trainer. He emphasized the fundamentals, the little things up and coming wrestlers take for granted. Of all the students he trained, close to a hundred, and maybe more, went on to be a contributing part of the wrestling industry. Such students included: Jesse Ventura, the Andersons (Gene, Ole and Arn), The Iron Shiek, Larry “The Ax” Henning, Ric Flair, Curt Henning, Blackjack Mulligan, Blackjack Lanza, Ken Patera, Ricky Steamboat, The Nasty Boys, and the future Sgt. Slaughter. Oh, and his son, Greg Gagne. Verne Gagne’s school was for one year, but for Greg it took two years. This wasn’t because he was slower than the other fellows, it’s because his father wanted him to be that much better than everyone else. Ric Flair even commends Greg on how fluid he was in the ring. WOOO!
The Hart Family: Before there was such a thing as chiropractors Stu Hart was a stretcher of a different sort. He came over from the United Kingdom and put wrestling on the map in Canada with his promotion Stampede Wrestling. Like the Guerreros, the Hart style was innovative, a combination of freestyle and submission-based wrestling. A number of wrestlers who passed through Calgary were tested in Stu’s heralded “dungeon,” the basement of the Hart household that was nothing more than a place for sparring, but with plenty of room to test out new submissions. Such talent in Stampede Wrestling included the likes of Bret and Owen Hart, “The Dynamite Kid” Tom Billington, Chris Benoit, Brian Pillman, Bad News Allen and Jake “The Snake” Roberts. When Bret got his footing in the World Wrestling Federation he was paired with his brother-in-law, Jim Neidhart, as the Hart Foundation. Then, in 1991, Bret began a singles career that saw him involved with feuds with Davey Boy Smith (another brother-in-law) at SummerSlam in 1992 and his brother Owen for much of 1994. Then the piece on the Hart family diverges to the tragedies that have afflicted them â€” the untimely deaths of Davey Boy Smith and Owen Hart. Beyond the immediate family, you can look at friends of the Harts that have passed on: Brian Pillman and now Chris Benoit. (Though seeing Benoit tear up while commenting on how great a father Owen Hart was just doesn’t sit right at the moment.)
The Vachon Family: Finally, a pro-wrestling family where a female may have had a more lasting impact than her male counterparts. Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon is most likely the most famous Vachon, but his niece, Luna, created her own look within the industry, what with her hairstyle and tattoos, something that if done today would be far removed from the phrase “WWE Diva.”
The Colon Family: Carlito drops his usual “I spit in the faces of people who think they’re cool” act to give us insight on what it was like to be raised in Puerto Rico. His father, Carlos Colon Sr., trained in a New York wrestling school and from there went from state to state, country to country looking for jobs. He finally settled in Puerto Rico and was instrumental in bringing wrestling to that country. With the help of Vince McMahon Sr. and Gino Marella, Colon was able to attract talent from the States to compete in his fed, the WWC. It was a costly venture, paying wrestlers to come to Puerto Rico. But the business the company was doing was well worth the expense. Unlike his father, who was a brawler and oftentimes got bloodied during matches, Carlito is more of a high-flyer. His cocky swagger developed while in Puerto Rico spitting apples into people’s faces as part of vignettes to instigate his heelish qualities.
The Von Erich Family: If the untimely deaths of Owen Hart and Davey Boy Smith are hard to take, how about being the only surviving heir of a wrestling family. For Kevin Von Erich, he lost all his brothers through tragic circumstances. His father, Fritz Von Erich, was a dominating Texas wrestler who ran his own territory, WCCW â€” World Class Championship Wrestling. It was a promotion that thrived because of his five sons. For Steve Austin, he believes the Von Erichs to be the family who brought a lot to the wrestling business; he looked up to them. Dusty Rhodes reminisces about the Von Erichs and how tragedy wasn’t a singular event, it was like taking on machine gun fire.
The Rougeau Family: The nephews of Johnny Rougeau, a wrestling matinee idol in Eastern Canada, Jacques and Raymond Rougeau were a tandem that really should have had at least one run as WWF tag champs. Their “All American Boys” gimmick, with the accompaniment of 80’s muzak, is pretty dated, but their in-ring chemistry and feuds with The British Bulldogs, The Hart Foundation, and The Rockers are the stuff of legend. The team would disband and Ray Rougeau would take a broadcast position with the WWF. Jacques would compete as “The Mountie” and as one-half of the Quebecers, managed by Johnny Polo (a.k.a. Scotty Flamingo, a.k.a. Raven).
The Funk Family: Ah, the Funks, Dory Funk Jr. and Terry Funk. They hold distinction as the only brothers to have ever been world champions. Joining the Von Erichs and the Guerreros, they too had their own wrestling promotion in Amarillo. If you are keeping track, then that means three promotions in three corners of Texas: Amarillo, Dallas and El Paso. If you factor in the territory run by Paul Boesch in Houston, well, that’s just another corner of the Texas wrestling puzzle. It’s funny seeing the contrast in wrestling styles between two brothers. While both had wrestling psychology down to a fine art, Dory was the calculating mat technician; Terry was the wild Texan brawler that would become a legend in Japan with his hardcore encounters with Mick Foley.
Questionable Family Ties: And now it’s time for a little comic relief, a break from profiling real wrestling families. Among those spotlighted in this package are the Godwinns, the Valiants, the Beverly Brothers, and the Garvins. No brothers in the bunch. The same is also true for Edge & Christian, the Smoking Gunns, Ivan and Nikita Koloff and the Andersons. Probably the most questionable of family ties is the Dudleys: Dick, Little Snot, Spike, Bubba Ray, D-Von, Sign Guy and “Dances With” Dudley.
The Brisco Family: In Jim Ross’s eyes, Jack and Gerry are the best brother tandem of all time. Jack was an amateur wrestler, well schooled at Oklahoma St. and a national champion. Jack rose to the level of NWA World Champion and had memorable encounters with Dorry Funk Jr. In the later stages of their careers, the two brothers were engaged with legendary feuds with The Funks and Rick Steamboat & Jay Youngblood (see their encounter at the first Starrcade).
The Maivia/Johnson Family: This is the last family highlighted as part of The Most Powerful Families in Wrestling documentary; and it continues the Samoan tradition that was brought up with the Anoa’i family. The Rock’s grandfather, Peter Maivia, put Samoa on the wrestling map. His moniker “High Chief” was not for show, he was in fact a High Chief of his village in Samoa. As such, he had to get the ceremonial tattoos. No needles were involved in the creation of the tattoo. It took a mallet and a shard of bone. Yeesh. After he passed on, his wife took over as a promoter. Such a pioneer, she was running a business in a time where women were trying to branch out of the house and into the workforce. The Rock’s father, Rocky Johnson, along with tag partner Tony Atlas became WWF Tag Team Champions. The achievement was the first ever by an African-American in professional wrestling. (In the early 1990’s, Ron Simmons would be the first black Heavyweight Champion.) Just like his father and grandfather, The Rock wanted to join the family business and asked his father to train him. Rocky Johnson agreed. A call to talent agent Pat Patterson, and a short tryout later, and Rock was in the WWF developmental league faster than the “People’s Eyebrow” could be raised. His pay-per-view debut would be at Survivor Series in 1996 in front of a packed crowd at Madison Square Garden. The Rock was then known as Rocky Maivia, a tribute to his father and grandfather. Months would pass and the crowds would slowly turn on Rocky and his gimmick â€” chanting “Rocky Sucks, Rocky Sucks.” The crowd’s reaction was probably the greatest thing could have happened. Rocky Maivia was repackaged as The Rock. The change was definitely advantageous: The Rock became the biggest star in Vince McMahon’s company, to the point where his star power was greater than that of a sports-entertainer.
A/V QUALITY CONTROL
Presented in 1.33:1 full screen, the only thing lacking in the video quality is some of vintage clips shown during the documentary and as part of the special features. The picture during the single camera sound bites is pristine. The audio presentation is a Dolby Digital mix. Comments are clear and distinguishable, even footage taken from broadcasts forty-plus years ago. Subtitles and Closed Captions are not available with this WWE home release.
Besides the two-hour-and-twenty-minute documentary, which is reason enough to purchase this DVD, there are sixteen bonus matches and a few interview segments. Looking at the insert included, the match selection is to be desired. But it’s almost like getting a wrestling compilation with various odds-and-ends. It seems like the producers intention was to whet the appetites of the viewer, while saving some of the bigger matches for future compilations and retrospectives.
Complete Match Listing
THE INSIDE PULSE
Looking back at the families included in this retrospective I am wondering where are the Steiner Brothers, the Hardys, the Poffos, the Rhodes family or the Watts family? I can understand Rhodes being omitted since the “The American Dream” has had his own DVD release, and the Hardys are still active in the ring. But packages on the other families would have been added contributions. Nevertheless, The Most Powerful Families in Wrestling continues a common theme of recent wrestling retrospectives, being a DVD of two-halves: The documentary is great, full of stories and information, but the match selection for bonus features needs work. (Instead of the Hart brothers Survivor Series tag, a better choice could have been The Harts vs. The Steiners or The Harts vs. The Quebecers at the 1994 Royal Rumble or any other tag match involving The Hart Foundation.) And with the Rougeaus, picking one of their matches against The Hart Foundation, The Rockers or The British Bulldogs would have been more fitting than the Bushwhackers. If WWE really wanted to showcase the most powerful families in wrestling they would have chosen matches that showed them at the top of their game. Still, any true wrestling fan would be foolish to pass up such a good documentary.
WWE â€” The Most Powerful Families in Wrestling