To celebrate WWE's 50th anniversary year, WWE Home Video is released a three-DVD/two-Blu-ray set titled "The History of WWE – 50 Years of Sports Entertainment" on Nov. 19 in the U.S. It drops the following day in Australia and on Dec. 2 in the U.K. and Ireland.
While technically the company is older (the name change to the WWWF was a cosmetic one only, as it was still the Capitol Wrestling Corporation behind the scenes), this has always been the accepted start date.
WrestlingDVDNews.com has released full listings for the set. Unlike some other WWE productions, the documentary on the first disc is the clear draw here, being approximately three hours long. It appears to be as close to a "warts and all" production as you can get from WWE, with low points like the 1994 steroid distribution trial, Owen Hart's death and the XFL's failure all being covered.
The matches and angles included as extras are an interesting mix of major moments in company history. Aside from one really puzzling inclusion (the 2008 Tribute to the Troops main event, which is neither the first or most notable Tribute to the Troops headliner), I can't really argue with any of them.
I'd love to add to the list, though. So if WWE decided to go all out and release a bigger set, here's what I'd include.
Might as well lump these together, since they all follow the same theme. For the better part of 20 years, the WWE Championship rarely changed hands, with long-reigning babyface champions and heel champions acting in a transitional role:
- Bruno Sammartino (Eight years)
- Ivan Koloff (Three weeks)
- Pedro Morales (Three years)
- Stan Stasiak (One week)
- Bruno Sammartino (Four years)
- "Superstar" Billy Graham (One year)
- Bob Backlund (Six years)
- The Iron Sheik (One month)
- Hulk Hogan (Four years)
- Andre The Giant (Two minutes)
After that, Randy Savage, Hogan, and Ultimate Warrior all had year-long reigns through 1991, and the era of longer reigns was over.
Since this isn't just a title history release, you can't include all of those switches. On top of the Graham win over Sammartino, which is on the set, I'd at least include the Morales and Backlund wins because they had such long reigns and the matches aren't on a zillion DVDs like Hogan vs Iron Sheik is. Most of the other early title switches weren't filmed or taped. A fan shot Koloff vs Sammartino and maybe one or two of the Stasiak matches on a 8mm silent home movie camera, but I don't think WWE has the films.
When Vince McMahon raided the AWA at the end of 1983, taking their top wrestlers, announcers, and even production crew, Hulk Hogan had unfinished business with David Shults. With both off to the WWF, the feud just kind of stopped without warning.
When the WWF expanded into the AWA's home base of the Twin Cities six months later with a big debut card at the Met Center in Bloomington, Minnesota, Hogan vs Shults was the main event. They even did promos talking about how all of the local fans knew they had something to settle.
The show was a huge success, drawing a sell out crowd. The main event was an epic bloodbath, one of the most famous house show matches of Hogan's first title reign. If they weren't already worried, all of the other promoters in the U.S. were put on notice: Vince McMahon could just as easily do the same thing to you.
It's a really good match, but that's not the main reason to include it. This (or the similar 1987 match) should be on the set to showcase just how many distinct tag teams the WWF had in the late '80s. The tag titles could headline house shows back then, so you needed to have a lot of potential contenders in the pipeline.
The 1988 match also features the company's first attempt at a double turn (the two captain teams), which, at least in the building, completely flopped. It was incredibly daring to try at the time, and in the long run, it did take.
One of the many things that Vince McMahon did successfully that nobody did before him was export his pro wrestling company successfully. Sure, some territories crossed the Canadian border, Juarez, Mexico was part of the Funk family's West Texas territory, and Jim Barnett's Australian promotion expanded to east Asia, but those were still local products in the same region.
While the WWF booked talent to outside promoters in the Middle East early in the WWF expansion, the first full-fledged WWF overseas tour was a 1986 tour of Australia. The WWF had gotten big enough on TV there that WWF wrestlers starred in national ads for Toyota. The tours were reasonably successful in spite of getting fairly low level talent: Paul Roma and Special Delivery Jones were a main event babyface tag team, for crying out loud. Still, the company didn't return for over 15 years.
The beginning of the tours as we know them now was 1988, when they embarked on swings through France and Italy, followed by the company's first UK tour in 1989. The UK debut, at the London Arena, was really the start of an era, with a star-studded card broadcast live on satellite TV. Headlined by Hulk Hogan vs Randy Savage, it's still talked about today, and the UK is still one of WWE's best markets. The main event would be a great match to include with the always-excited British fans going nuts for their first sight of Hogan.
WWE doesn't get nearly enough credit for how much their production values enhance their shows. Whether it's expert TV production or the ability to purchase props like an ambulance to be rigged up for John Cena and Ryback to tear apart, they do things nobody else in wrestling can do.
Hulk Hogan's feud with Earthquake from 1990 shows the power of the WWE machine in building up a storyline. The attack on Hogan during an episode of The Brother Love Show is expertly shot: Look at how much more affective the tight camera angles focusing on Earthquake's girth and Hogan clutching his cross make it than it would be with a wider shot of the interview set.
After that comes one of the greatest videos WWE produced, if not the absolute greatest. It starts as a regular upbeat Hogan video set to "Real American," only to smash cut into the attack as creepy music plays. A somber instrumental version of "Real American" starts up under a montage of Hogan's greatest moments, cutting back and forth with the attack.
The video ends in an abandoned locker room. We see an open locker with Hogan's ring gear, "HULK RULES" shirt, and cross neckless inside. An unseen hand slams the door shut, and that's the video.
Hogan wasn't dead, though. His return to television was a pre-recorded promo where he started by speaking in his natural voice, thanked everyone for their support, and his anger started simmering until he exploded with rage into a Hulk Hogan promo, only angrier.
I can't do it justice, just watch it the whole video.
Hulk Hogan vs Earthquake headlined SummerSlam that year. The show outdrew that year's WrestleMania, headlined by Hogan vs Ultimate Warrior, on pay-per-view.
Quite simply the most-watched pro wrestling match in the history of cable television. It's not anything special in the ring, as both were nursing a ton of injuries and the finish is botched spectacularly, but it was a huge main event on free TV that got time to build when that was a rare thing and WWE was incredibly popular.
The John Cena vs CM Punk match from Raw this past February is probably on the set because it's an incredible match with the two biggest stars of the current crew (at least until the rise of Daniel Bryan). While he didn't last as long as Cena, Batista was right there with Cena as a top star for about five years.
This was their first big match against each other, and arguably their best. It's that type of big "clash of the titans" babyface match like Hulk Hogan vs Ultimate Warrior that nobody does better than WWE. A good way to mark the transitional era that paved the way for where the company is now.