It takes a lot for me to purchase a wrestling DVD these days. The advent of WWE Network had really allowed me to unclutter things a bit, as there wasn’t much use for my physical copies of old pay per views, or best of Raw and SmackDown sets, and the like.
Naturally, I made an exception for the new Randy Savage Unreleased DVD, which became available last week. Two motivating factors were in play here in making this purchase:
1) I am an unabashed Macho Man Randy Savage fan, to the point I used to unironically listen to his rap album (much to the chagrin of my then-girlfriend, and other assorted vehicular passengers)
2) I love rare matches
The Savage DVD is quite the treasure trove of curious oddities, from long-yellowed 1980s TV squashes, to bonus matches at tri-weekly TV tapings that only the in-house audience bore witness to. I don’t think I’m spoiling the contents for anybody when I say that nothing on the DVD quite equals the quality of his WrestleMania III match with Ricky Steamboat, or any of his other heralded classics. Not that I was expecting anything on the three-disc set to, anyway.
I’m only about halfway through the Savage collection, and I already love it for the same reasons that I immensely enjoyed the WWE Unreleased collection that hit stores last September. I mean, seemingly out of the blue, the company commissions a DVD consisting of tryout matches, dry runs for future feuds, and simple pacifiers for the crowds that had to sit through hours of bare-bones squash matches. Sid Justice vs. Ted Dibiase from 1991? Earthquake wrestling while dressed as a lumberjack? The first-ever casket match in WWE history, done as an experiment? Insert the Fry from Futurama meme here on my behalf.
Both DVD sets, near as I can tell, have earned a good share of critical praise. Part of the praise is due to their offering of rare footage, to which completionists messily lick their chops. The other is for the hit of simple nostalgia that the sets offer, an afforded chance for fans of a certain age to watch wrestling action that they’ve never seen before, through the applied lens with which they would have watched such matches in their youth.
One match on the Savage set features him against Ricky Steamboat from a Houston show seven weeks after ‘Mania 3, a rematch for Steamboat’s IC title. It doesn’t matter that the bout wasn’t quite a five-star affair – it didn’t have to be. It’s a look at a match that I, as a Savage devotee, have never seen before, and thus would have an obvious curiosity toward. And I’m far from the only connoisseur of such retro matters in this instance.
What I do find kind of funny, though, is how there’s quite a demand for this sort of unearthed footage (with no intentions of applying ‘star ratings’ to the content), and that demand co-exists in a world where fans have become more and more hypercritical toward today’s product. And I’m not even talking giving scathing opinions of bad storylines and angles, or inane gimmicks, or ‘burials’ of good talent, but rather match quality.
When AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura didn’t have an out-and-out five-star match at WrestleMania 34 (per the expectations), people were quick to express gutted disappointment. If I had to venture my own subjective rating, I’d say it was about ***3/4 (really good, but short of a true classic, not that my gut feeling should be yours, too), but the idea that some people didn’t find it to be, say, ****1/2 or better, was to them an irksome point of contention.
When Cody Rhodes began making waves on the indy scene post-WWE, the big knock him was seemingly, “How many match of the year candidates has Cody had? Because I sure as hell can’t think of any.” Suddenly, the man’s entire worth came down to how many times Dave Meltzer rated one of Cody’s matches ****1/2 or greater. And this isn’t a knock on Meltzer, because he certainly doesn’t measure a wrestler’s worth solely on their (again: subjectively-appraised) in-ring output. The fact that Cody is one of the point men for a one-night indy super-gala that sold 10,000 tickets in 30 minutes should be a better measurement of his value than anything, really.
When watching the Savage DVD over the past few days, it really did hit me just how much more fun wrestling is when you’re observing with a certain set of lens. I’m not expecting a Savage squash victory over a 21-year-old, tentpole-thin Shane Douglas (working under his real name of Troy Martin) to be worthy of a spot on WrestleKingdom, and in fact it might only be the fifth or sixth best match (if that) of any given Raw in 2018.
When you watch wrestling with an unwavering hankering for match-of-the-year candidates, you’re probably setting yourself up for disappointment. Sure, that Okada/Omega match is probably going to come through to your liking and then some, but generally such high expectations are a gamble.
Meanwhile, I bought the Savage DVD knowing precisely what I was getting without having seen 80 per cent of the matches. And I certainly wasn’t expecting artistic achievements display-worthy of a wrestling equivalent of The Louvre.
This isn’t me claiming to be better than anyone just because they hold wrestling to a specific lofty standard (I can certainly be critical, too, when it’s warranted). I’m just saying that it might not hurt to enjoy wrestling from a different perspective, one in which you and the presentation aren’t challenging one another. Taking myself back to a time when I didn’t try to measure a match against matches of similar peerage…well, it keeps my blood pressure from undue rises, that’s for sure.
If you’re a fan of WWE in the 1980s and 1990s, and you haven’t picked the Savage DVD up, what are you waiting for? And if that time frame is a bit alien you, based on your age or your specific tastes, I say give it a go. Just check your personal rating system at the door, because it’s hardly needed.
But Savage’s rap CD? That s**t was five stars, right there.