The Assignment: Triumph and Tragedy of World Class

It’s important to know your history to know where you have come from and where you are going. Back when Nova was in charge of the WWE developmental system he implemented mandatory history assignments for the students of the developmental territories so they would know pro wrestling’s history and they would learn just how many moves Nova created and apparently the best ways to get on-line prescriptions. I feel Nova had a great idea there and every week I will assign a book or DVD for you to check out and learn from. They are not only educational but also very entertaining.

And this week The Assignment gets its own column, separate from Historically Speaking, as I give my full, long-winded thoughts on the brand new Triumph and Tragedy of World Class DVD released by World Wrestling Entertainment.

Enjoy.

World Class was before my time and I couldn’t even point out David Von Erich in a line-up before I picked up the WCCW documentary Heroes of World Class that was released in 2006. I’ve mentioned that disc as an “assignment” previously, and how much I enjoyed getting a look at wrestling history I was in no way familiar with. WWE’s version works well as a complimentary piece, much like the two ECW DVDs from 2005 worked together.

The Triumph and Tragedy of World Class Championship Wrestling hit the shelves officially on December 11, 2007. As I watched it the evening of its release, I was once again in awe of WWE’s home video department. Without even getting to any of the extra features or bonus matches, the production crew once again put together another phenomenal documentary piece.

While not nearly as in-depth as Heroes, it does hit the high spots and low spots very well. A lot of the information that is relayed in Triumph echoes what has been said previously so I think the true stories are being told. WWE did a good job of getting old WCCW stars in the studio to give their versions of the stories. Bill Mercer, Gary Hart and Skandar Akbar all make appearances to give some of the World Class back-story. They all come off as knowledgeable and in no way buried on this WWE production. In fact, thanks again to the WWE production team, they come off looking better physically than they did in the earlier independently created doc.

The living Freebirds of Michael Hayes, Jimmy Garvin and Buddy Jack Roberts all get plenty of screen time, with Hayes looking as garish as possible in a teal suit. Garvin, now bald and quite heavyset, looks decades away from his days as “Gorgeous” Jimmy, and in fact was hardly recognizable without his name chyron. The WCCW boys all get ample time to properly tell the story and some of the WWE involvement from guys like Mick Foley and Shawn Michaels seems like a good fit. But the amount that Triple H is featured as an analyst for this disc is alarming, and a bit jarring. Triple H is a student of the wrestling game but he really doesn’t bring much to the discussion and his bits often felt jammed in there, sticking out like a sore thumb. It was as if they watched the disc and thought it needed more current WWE involvement so they stuck Triple H in there. And for being the NWA Champion for much of the Von Erichs’ run as Ric Flair was he wasn’t involved here nearly as much as I had suspected.

The one guy who really surprised me was “Wild” Bill Irwin, recently seen on this past RAW as The Goon. He worked as an upper-mid card guy in WCCW and really got a chance to shine here as a knowledgeable and well thought-out guy. He didn’t bring in any hidden agenda or axes to grind and told it like it was, even going so far as to admit his own drug use.

The real surprise in this Triumph disc was the portrayal of long-time WCCW booker and mainstay Ken Mantell. In this disc Gary Hart and Kevin Von Erich bury him as not being trustworthy and for being a lousy promoter. He isn’t interviewed here to give his side of the story at all, although the Freebirds do say they liked him as a matchmaker. I say that because he was a big part of the Heroes of World Class disc put out earlier and really told a majority of the story there. Akbar also puts him over a great deal on the Heroes disc as well, but his comments about him aren’t included in the WWE disc.

It’s also interesting they talk in great detail about the death of the Von Erich boys and Gino Hernandez (including a tearful bit with Gary Hart), but neglect to touch on the deaths of other former WCCW stars like Chris Adams and Bruiser Brody. I guess their deaths didn’t happen during World Class’ existence so they don’t fit into this story’s canon.

All the good (and bad) stories are touched upon at least a bit. Everything is talked about, from the Freebirds rivalry to Kerry’s NWA Title win at the Parade of Champions to Akbar’s “Devastation Inc.” stable to Chris Adams & Gino Hernandez to “Iceman” Parsons and even “Lance Von Erich.”

This all comes just from the doc piece. I haven’t scratched the surface on all the extra interviews, on-site personality segments and series of matched included on the set. There’s some Von Erichs-Freebirds matches, Kerry’s NWA Title win over Ric Flair, some Bruiser Brody action and a hidden gem of a Fantastics-Midnight Express match. The extra interviews also feature an interesting plane crash story from Gary Hart and a trip to Japan from hell from Kevin Von Erich.

I don’t need to tell you to buy this disc. If you like WWE DVDs and their documentary pieces, you’ll buy this. If you think WWE is the scourge of the Earth you’ll spend your money on some indy fed discs. And if you were a fan of the Von Erichs in the first place then you already know the story better than I do and already have this and the other World Class DVD anyways. It was well worth the money.

Kevin Von Erich comes off as a wonderful, humble human being. As a man whose lived through the deaths of five brothers and a father he seems to be a remarkably held together man. His haunting line about once having five brothers and now not even being a brother is a real poignant thought.

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