DVD Review – Shawn Stasiak: Determined

DVD Review – Shawn Stasiak: Determined

I have to admit – when I first got this DVD, I wasn’t sure what I was in for. Shawn Stasiak always struck me as an odd mix – he had a million-dollar look, was decent in the ring, and always seemed uncomfortable on the microphone. When I saw it was coming from a site called musculargalore.com, I was a bit apprehensive that we were in for a two-hour instructional video on Stasiak’s workouts.

I’m not usually this glad to be wrong.

The DVD starts with Stasiak explaining the history of the Stasiak name by talking about a Canadian wrestler from the early 1900’s who had the name of Stanley Stasiak. Stanley was also Stan the man’s namesake.

From there we ride with Shawn as he drives from Boise to Portland, a journey that was very familiar to him as he rode with his father to Don Owen’s Portland Wrestling territory. Along the way, he stops at a waterfall and explains the significance of it to him.

We get to Portland and Shawn points out a few features and shares some memories of the building that used to be known as the Portland Sports Arena. It’s also here that we see how this is different from most shoot interviews – Shawn doesn’t verbally attack (or even say anything really negative) about anyone. Even while Shawn and the cameraman are basically being escorted off the property, the worst that Shawn will say is that the new owners don’t understand the wrestling history of the building.

Shawn then talks for a few minutes about Sandy Barr. Barr was the father of Art and Jesse Barr and also promoted in the Portland area after Owens’s territory closed. Shawn mentions how Sandy had worked to help gather footage of his father for the DVD and Barr was scheduled to be interviewed, but had passed away only a couple of weeks before they were set to film him.

I should take a moment here to say that the DVD has some very interesting footage of Stan the Man. While none of his WWE-owned material is on the disc, we do get some clips from matches (which were likely gathered by Sandy Barr). Also, we get to see some of the Stasiak home movies, including a great shot of Stan posing with the WWWF world title and a young Shawn beside him.

We then leave Portland and Shawn talks with Johnny Mantell. Mantell was a Texas wrestler who was one of Stan’s tag team partners.

While in Texas, Shawn also visits the site of the old Sportatorium. The Sportatorium is now only a vacant lot, but it is best known as the home arena of World Class Championship Wrestling (and later, served as the GWF GlobalDome).

Before leaving, Shawn also speaks with Skandor Akbar and has a phone interview with Kevin Von Erich where they also share memories of his father. “General” Akbar was the leader of WCCW’s Devastation Incorporated, and a top heel manager until the day the company closed. Of course Kevin was the son of Fritz Von Erich and one of the top babyfaces in World Class.

We then move on to Boise, where Shawn talks with a couple of his former wrestling coaches from Boise State University. We also get a glimpse of his workout at Boise State, as Stasiak says he returns there for training occasionally.

After graduation, Stasiak talks about how he had begun wrestling for Sandy Barr’s promotion over a summer. He worked ten matches with very little training, and a clip or two of one of the matches is included. It is clear that these matches mean a great deal to Stasiak, as they were the only ones his father was able to see him wrestle in before his death.

From there we’re introduced to Shawn’s first “wrestling” persona – Phobia. While Phobia never stepped into the ring, it did give Stasiak local television exposure as he would appear on a local newscast around Halloween to give out safety tips to trick-or-treaters.

On a side note, this was really a great idea. Phobia had bright face paint (which Stasiak himself credits to the Ultimate Warrior and Sting) and was, while possibly cheesy to adults, perfect to get the message through to kids. Phobia was someone larger than life, and also more interesting to them than a newsman in a suit reading the safety tips. Phobia also turned Stasiak into a local celebrity.

Stasiak soon got a development deal with the WWF and was sent to Memphis. He also points out something that I’d long suspected – I always felt like he had potential in the ring, but he just felt kind of “green.” Stasiak confirms that feeling by saying that apart from his ten matches in 1996 and the quick training that went with them, he had no wrestling experience.

He talks a bit about his development tenure, including the fact that Lawler worked a program with him. From there it’s up to the WWF, as Meat was born. Stasiak is extremely candid about his feelings on Meat. Let’s just say that he agrees with the rest of the world on the character.

The next topic is the infamous tape recorder incident. What happened (as it is explained on the DVD, and appears to be extremely accurate from my memories of the actual incident) is that Stasiak was riding with two other wrestlers when they got into an argument over the translation of French directions. Stasiak thought this was hilarious and started taping the conversation so he could replay it later and they could all laugh about it. The other wrestlers were offended and went to management, who suspended and then fired Stasiak.

Stasiak is again extremely candid on the incident, and again keeps from bashing people (and in fact even refuses to name any names). He does however mention that if Dana White called and offered him a UFC match against anyone, it would be against the other wrestler in the car who is still living.

After talking about the time between his release and his signing by WCW, Stasiak discusses his feelings about being sent to the Power Plant and both being brought back up as part of the New Blood Thrillers and as PerfectShawn.

He talks a bit about his final feud with Bam Bam Bigelow and how he was feeling after the WCW buyout. Again, he’s open about his feelings with the gimmick where he would crash into walls while trying to attack people, and mentions that Steve Austin went to McMahon and asked why he was wasting Stasiak doing that.

From there we move on to Planet Stasiak. Stasiak outlines his original idea for the gimmick, which is kind of a mix between Tazz and Bob Backlund. Planet Stasiak was meant to be a well-spoken wrestler who was a machine in the ring but also a bit off (by believing he was from Planet Stasiak). The WWE went a different direction, and the idea flopped.

Again, Stasiak refrains from attacking the WWE, only noting that they weren’t able to get onto the same page about Planet Stasiak and basically noting that he felt the WWE didn’t see the potential in him.

After he got the call, Stasiak says that he immediately resolved to go back to school and become a chiropractor. He talks about what it was like in class, where he was taking notes while everyone around him was trying to figure out if he was that wrestling guy.

Stasiak earned his doctorate, and talks about the value of chiropractic by showing an X-ray which reveals the damage did to his own neck. Remember – Stasiak has notable damage, and he only wrestled a full-time schedule for about five years.

We also see a wrestling appearance for Stasiak with a local group. This is interesting for several reasons – first, the camera is backstage as the show is getting set to go, so we can see some of the preparation that Stasiak does before he comes through the curtain. Also, we hear some of Stasiak’s concerns about wrestling – namely that he’ll damage his hands, which are how he makes his living now.

From there Stasiak discusses his workout routine (which is broken into a six-day cycle). We then follow Stasiak on two days of his workout with exercises labeled with what they are and which body parts they target. While most wrestling fans may not rewatch this, it’s interesting to see at least once to hear some of Stasiak’s stories he tells between workouts (including one weightlifting technique his father taught him).

The next stop is Rob Van Dam’s house, where the two talk about their beliefs and personal spiritualities, along with some books that they have read that helped shape those beliefs. Afterward, we get another short interview with Stasiak to close the DVD.

Overall, the DVD is extremely interesting. As you watch it, you come to realize how little you really knew about Stasiak. He’s obviously intelligent, and is a better speaker on here than he ever was cutting a WWE or WCW promo. Also, a great deal of Stasiak’s gimmicks dealt with arrogance (like PerfectShawn or Shawn “The Star” Stasiak). There is no arrogance here. Stasiak comes across as a genuinely nice guy who’s trying to help people through his chiropractic practice and his motivational speaking.

The DVD is also an interesting mix. I’ll be honest – wrestling fans will really enjoy the first half where Stasiak’s wrestling career is covered (although he does still tell the occasional wrestling story throughout the entire DVD). The second half will interest bodybuilding fans.

As far as flaws, there aren’t many. There is a time or two when Stasiak is a little difficult to hear, but this is a common flaw with documentaries (and occurs when Stasiak starts speaking when he’s a bit too far away – not through any fault of the camera operator).

Something else I would have liked to see would have been more on-screen labeling of the exercises. This is done very well when his bodybuilding routine is covered in the second half of the DVD (although I wish that the onscreen description of his 6-day workout cycle had been synced up with his verbal descriptions a bit better), but I would have also liked to have seen it during his Boise State workout.

The only other flaw (if you want to call it that) I noticed was the special features. We get an interesting story from Stasiak where he’s discussing a coincidence that occurred during the making of the documentary. I would have personally also liked to have seen some matches from Stan the Man and Stasiak himself.

Overall, however, the DVD is extremely interesting and offers an unvarnished look behind the curtain. Stasiak is an interesting speaker and you can tell that he is passionate about the subjects he discusses – wrestling, chiropractic, and bodybuilding.

The DVD is two and a half hours, and keeps your interest throughout. Looking over what I’ve written, it seems like a lot – but I’m only touching on very few points. I’d recommend picking this up, especially if you’re interested in some of the old territories, are interested in what happens behind the scenes with the WWE, or would just like a peek through the curtain at an indy show.

The DVD is available for purchase at musculargalore.com.

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