Wednesday, 11 February 2015

DVD Review: True Giants

They are the men who were not only metaphorically larger than life but physically larger than many of their opponents, the big men who became legends in the world of professional wrestling. Now WWE have dipped into their vast video archive to pay tribute to these men, from Gorilla Monsoon and Andre the Giant right up to their modern counterparts Mark Henry and the Big Show, they're all here in the three DVD set True Giants.

As is the custom with these things, let's start at the very beginning with.....

Disc One
This is where you'll find the documentary, and as always with WWE this is a slickly produced piece documenting the careers of many of wrestling's greatest big men. Coming in at a shade under two hours, it features biographies on the likes of Haystacks Calhoun, Ernie Ladd, Sycho Sid, Kevin Nash, as well as the big men I mentioned in my opening monologue.

This piece of the collection is quite enjoyable. It was nice to see some stuff on some of the wrestlers I'm not overly familiar with, and some of the tributes to those that are sadly no longer with us were quite moving at times, especially that of Tim White when he talked about Andre the Giant.

The one drawback with this is that it just seemed a little too short. It would have been nice if the producers could have gone into a little more detail about the subject's careers. Another hour or so would have been greatly appreciated by this particular writer, but at the end of the day I certainly can't say I was disappointed with what I saw.

Disc Two
This is where you'll find the matches, so let's start at the beginning with.....

March 1976
We begin in the Mecca that is Madison Square Garden, as Bruno Sammartino defends his WWWF title against the Big Cat himself, Ernie Ladd.

It's a rather interesting battle this, coming in at a shade over ten minutes. By no means is it a technical masterclass as both men spent most of their time brawling, and the only real hold of note came when Ladd went for a bear hug early on after Sammartino took him down with a couple of hip tosses.

From there these two spent their time punching and kicking each other, with Ladd using a few underhanded tactics such as jabbing the champion in the throat on the blindside of the referee. The Big Cat came up short in the end though, crashing and burning when Sammartino moved out of the way of his top rope splash. Sammartino then went for the pin, and it was all over.

May 1977
It's a quick return to the Garden as the Superstar himself, Billy Graham, defends the WWWF title against Gorilla Monsoon.

It's an early title defence for the Grand Wizard's top client, and a nice little power versus power battle. Graham had a little success pushing the Gorilla around early on, but he soon found himself in Monsoon's powerful bear hug. The champion looked like he was going to go down, and it was only when both men went into the ropes that he found any respite.

Graham then took the upper hand after a low blow before he began to work over Monsoon's back with a bear hug of his own. The action spilled to the outside momentarily, and after Graham rammed Monsoon into the barricade a couple of times he pushed the big man back into the ring and came down off the top rope with a knee drop for the title retaining pin.

March 1978
Still in WWWF territory Haystacks Calhoun takes on that vile, heinous future Russian and then-Mongolian Nikolai Volkoff.

This was billed as having a sixty minute time limit, but it was pretty obvious from the start that it wasn't going to get anywhere near that. Volkoff, a big man in his own right, tried to bring Calhoun down to size by clubbing away on him. It had little to no effect, and although Volkoff managed to get in a few underhanded tactics Calhoun moved out of the corner when Volkoff charged at him with a knee strike. A big splash later and it was all over in a matter of minutes.

June 1981
It's on to Texas' World Class territory as Ernie Ladd defends his American Heavyweight title against Kerry Von Erich at WCCW Star Wars.

This match shared quite a few similarities with Ladd's previous appearance on this collection, with the exception that it was about twice as long. There's a few holds used here, but in the main it's a bit of a brawl, with Ladd again using numerous underhanded tactics to stay on top.

Von Erich had quite a few good moments, particularly when he used his iron claw, first to Ladd's head and then to his mid-section, but when the Big Cat connected with a big boot as Von Erich came off the ropes it looked all over, until KVE rolled out of the way when Ladd went for a big splash. Von Erich then slowly climbed to the top rope, and as Ladd got to his feet Von Eric flew off the top and connected with a sunset flip for the title-winning pin.

January 1982
It's a battle of the giants in the Mid-South territory as Andre the Giant, Dusty Rhodes and the Junkyard Dog face Ernie Ladd and the Wild Samoans.

It's your basic television match here, voted for by fans who sent in hundreds of cards and letters (yep, they actually voted by post back then!) It's not too bad, with the bad guys triple teaming Andre for a while, with Afa and Sika even body slamming the big Frenchman at one point.

The all hell breaks loose moment came rather quickly, and after Rhodes and JYD back dropped Ladd a rather shaky looking Andre flew off the second rope with a big splash for the pin.

September 1983
Still in Mid-South, Dusty Rhodes faces another gigantic opponent in the form of King Kong Bundy.

Rhodes had originally been scheduled to face someone else (Bill Somebody?) that night, but when that guy didn't show and Rhodes was given the win by default Bundy came down to the ring and challenged the Dream. It was a challenge that was duly accepted.

Rhodes had some success early on, until the big man managed to grab hold of him and put him in a bear hug, and although Rhodes managed to break free after an elbow to the head Bundy soon had his hands around him again.

Ever the fighter Rhodes broke free again and began to fight back, but just when it looked like he was getting the upper hand One Man Gang hit the ring and attacked Rhodes. The two big men began the beat down as the referee called for the bell. Magnum TA then made an appearance, but when his attempted save failed it took an intervention from old Hacksaw himself as Jim Duggan ran down to lend a hand.

September 1984
It's back to Madison Square Garden as Bobby Heenan guy John Studd challenges Hulk Hogan for the WWF title.

I was all set to call this your usual Hogan fare, but they were still ironing things out during the first few months of Hulkamania, as was evidenced by the champion wearing white and blue, and using the big boot within the first few seconds.

Studd soon took control and slowed the pace down with a couple of bear hugs. Hogan fought back briefly, but a clubbing blow from the big man sent him crashing out of the ring, and whenever he tried to get back in Studd booted him in the head, opening up a cut on his forehead.

This fired Hogan into action as he got back into the ring. His comeback saw him trying to claim that mega-bucks prize money Studd had offered to anyone who could slam him. It was a prize that would go unclaimed on this day because when Hogan tried for the slam Studd's legs became tangled in the ropes.

Eventually the action spilled to the outside again, and after a brief brawl which saw them slamming each other's heads into the ring apron before Heenan helped his man back into the ring. The referee was high into his count by this time, reaching the number ten and calling for the bell as Hogan stood on the apron. Heenan and Studd grabbed the title belt and began celebrating before they headed for higher ground as the Fink announced Studd as the winner by count out.

October 1984
Once more in the WWF and across the border in Canada Kamala goes up against Andre the Giant in a steel cage match on an episode of Maple Leaf Wrestling.

This one wasn't too pretty. Basically it was two big guys beating the proverbial out of each other, with Kamala spending the first few moments running around apparently frightened of his surroundings. From there they rammed each other into the fence, with the Giant sustaining a cut to his forehead when his face met the mesh.

The next few minutes saw Kamala chopping away at Andre, but each time the face painted one tried to escape Andre kept holding him back. It wasn't long before he made his comeback, and after body slamming his man he came off the top rope with a sit-down splash before going through the door to win the match.

January 1985
Over in World Class the One Man Gang takes on a young Shawn Michaels, or "Sean Michaels" as he's billed here.

It's jobber mode for the future HBK here. His few seconds of offence, if you can call it that, consists of ducking out of the way of the Gang's clutches a couple of times. Apart from that it's all one way traffic for a couple of minutes before OMG finishes his man off with a running powerslam and a big splash.

May 1986
It's back to the WWF and a team of giants as John Studd and King Kong Bundy take on Tag Team Champions Davey Boy Smith and the Dynamite Kid of the British Bulldogs on an episode of All American Wrestling.

Time to use that David versus Goliath term again. It's a pretty one side encounter, with the Bulldogs only able to take either of their opponents down when they double up on them. Bundy and Studd then used Smith as their punching bag before an irate Dynamite jumped into the ring in an attempt to save his partner. All this does is enrage Studd, who pushed the referee before throwing Dynamite out of the ring. The official immediately disqualified Bobby Heenan's boys, and a shoving match between Studd and Bundy followed after King Kong missed an avalanche in the corner.

November 1986
Over in the Universal Wrestling Federation Skandor Akbar guy One Man Gang defends his World title against Ted Dibiase on an episode of Power Pro Wrestling.

It seems a little odd not seeing Dibiase throw the cash around, or as a babyface for that matter. The crowd went absolutely wild for the challenger here, and he put up a good fight against the big man for the most part. Akbar, as was his way, got involved of course, which led to the future millionaire clobbering him with a big right.

Despite all of his power OMG almost ended up in Dibiase's figure four, but the big guy kicked Dibiase off into Akbar, who by this time was protesting about something or other on the ring apron. The Gang followed up a few moments later with his 747 splash to Dibiase's back before he secured the win after he dragged him to the corner and came down with another 747 off the second rope.

September 1988
Once more at the Garden, Bobby Heenan guy Andre the Giant challenges Miss Elizabeth's old man Randy Savage for the WWF title.

There was lots of stuff going on at the beginning of this one. As the match began Heenan began to stalk Elizabeth around the ring, claiming that he wanted to talk to her about something. Savage was so incensed by the attention the Brain was giving his missus that Pat Patterson came down to ringside to stop the Brain. Eventually Heenan was told that he'd have to leave ringside otherwise he'd get fined and his Giant would get disqualified, so after much protest the Brain went to the back.

As for the match it was your typical Andre post-back surgery match. He could still tell a good story but he was a slow and lumbering machine by this time, and after complaining that Elizabeth should go to the back as well he spent most of his time choking and chopping the Macho Man.

Savage came back into the match as we got the obligatory Giant tied up in the ropes spot. Andre was eventually freed by the referee, and that's where the action began to break down, and after Andre grabbed hold of Elizabeth the referee counted them both out as they brawled at ringside.

Afterwards Savage carried Elizabeth back to the locker room as Andre began to celebrate with the title belt, claiming he'd beaten Savage for the title, and when the referee refused to announce him as champion Andre choked him until he did. Happy with the result of his actions, the Giant released his hold, but grew even more irate when the Fink announced that the result still stood and that the referee had just fined him.

Disc Three
July 14th, 1991
Over in World Championship Wrestling it's a Battle of the Giants match as Kevin Sullivan guy One Man Gang faces the huge Argentine El Gigante at The Great American Bash.

You could call this a power versus speed battle, but this time around it's the Gang bringing the speed! At the beginning of the match we had the rather unique sight of Gigante accompanied to the ring by a group of midgets, with our esteemed commentators wondering if they were there to neutralize Sullivan's threat.

When the match began OMG tried to use his superior speed against Gigante, and it didn't quite work out when he ran the ropes and crashed off Gigante, and it was only when Sullivan and a metal wrench were brought into the equation that he managed to get Gigante off his feet, and whenever either Sullivan or the Gang distracted the referee the wrench came into play again.

The very big man came back, foiling another of Sullivan's interference attempts by crotching him off the top rope, and then thwarting the Gang's attempt to use powder by kicking the substance into his eyes. He then took him down with a clothesline from behind, and three count later and Gigante had the win.

February 18th, 1992
Back in WWF territory, Harvey Whippleman guy Sid Justice teams with WWF Champion Ric Flair to take on Intercontinental Champion Roddy Piper and Hulk Hogan.

Originally filmed during the good old Coliseum Home Video days, this proved to be a rather interesting spectacle, mainly because of who was in this match. It began with Flair and Piper doing their thing before we saw a brief power battle between Sid and the Hulkster, and a few moments later Piper was taking the punching bag treatment from the heinous heels.

Hot Rod eventually made it back to his corner, but after Hogan took care of Flair with the big boot and leg drop combination big Sid clobbered Hogan with a chair while the referee was trying to stop Piper from getting to Whippleman. Justice and Flair then posed in the ring briefly, but they failed to notice Hogan getting back into the ring, and while Piper held Justice Hogan hit Flair with a big clothesline (the axe bomber, perhaps?) for the winning pin.

January 25th, 1993
Still in McMahon-land thoughts of Sumo abound as Mr. Fuji's Yokozuna faces Earthquake.

This was another of those old Coliseum matches, and you could almost call it a blink and you'll miss it affair. There's a bit of posturing between the two at the beginning before Earthquake uses his superior speed to try and take Yoko down. Yoko quickly came back into the match though, and a brief distraction from Fuji allowed him to connect with an avalanche in the corner. Then it was up to the top rope for his Banzai splash and the winning pin.

June 13th, 1993
It's a second consecutive appearance for Yokozuna as he seeks to regain the WWF title from Jimmy Hart guy Hulk Hogan at King of the Ring.

The Hulkster's last appearance in a WWF/WWE ring for almost a decade was controversial in more ways that one. His reluctance to drop the title to Bret Hart lead to this match, and even then he didn't loose cleanly.

The match itself was, as I almost said in his previous appearance in this collection, typical Hogan fare, for the most part. Big Yoko gave him a great deal of trouble early on, and when he tried to bodyslam the Sumo star he couldn't budge him.

Yoko soon took control with a bear hug. Hogan fought back briefly, again going for the bodyslam, but when Yoko took him down with his belly to belly suplex it looked all over. Except it wasn't. Hogan kicked out of the ensuing pin, Hulked up, and began to take it to his challenger, but whenever he connected with his big boot the big man didn't go down the first time, and it took several more tastes of leather before he fell to the mat.

Hogan then looked for the finish, but to the surprise of just about of everyone Yoko kicked out after the leg drop of doom. Hogan then promised to finally bodyslam the big man until he was distracted by a photographer on the ring apron. As the Hulkster approached him a fireball shot out from the photographer's camera and hit Hogan square in the face. This left him wide open, and after a jab to the throat sent him down Yoko connected with his own massive leg drop for the three count and win.

That wasn't the end of things though. As Hogan tried to recover his eyesight Yoko and his manager Mr. Fuji dragged him to the corner, adding insult to injury when Yoko came down from the second rope with his Banzai drop.

And back in 1993 a certain future wrestling blogger was grinning from ear to ear.

August 30th, 1993
It's on to Summerslam as the Undertaker takes on Harvey Whippleman's Giant Gonzales in a Rest in Peace match. In case you're wondering what a Rest in Peace match, it's basically a no count out, no DQ match. There's also a couple of other things to remember here: Whippleman has hold of the urn, and Paul Bearer is nowhere to be seen, having previously been put out of action.

All of this lead to one big guy and one even bigger guy basically beating on each other for about ten minutes. Without the urn the Undertaker looked powerless as Gonzales dominated the action, clobbering him with a chair at one point, and unlike his likeable WCW persona all this Gonzales seemed able to do was club people.

So with Gonzales dominating the action it came as a big surprise to everyone when an ominous bell sounded and Paul Bearer made an appearance, carrying a black wreath to the ring. He then clobbered Whippleman and took back the urn, finally giving the Dead Man some semblance of life so he could mount a comeback. Numerous clotheslines followed, and it was only when he went up to the top rope and came down with an double axe handle that the Giant was finally taken off his feet. Taker then went for his trademark cover to take the winning pin.

Afterwards an irate Giant began to argue with Whippleman, and when the manager didn't give him the answers he wanted to hear he ended up on the receiving end of a chokeslam.

April 30th, 1994
It's a battle of Kliq members on WWF Superstars as Diesel, accompanied by Shawn Michaels, challengers Razor Ramon for the Intercontinental title.

Just a few weeks before Michaels and Ramon had contested a certain ladder match to see who was the undisputed champion. Now Diesel was stepping up for his buddy in what was a pretty decent encounter. Ramon went on the attack as soon as he hit the ring, but it wasn't long before Big Sexy took control with his size and power, cranking down on the Bad Guy's head and neck.

Ramon soon managed to work his way back, and although Michaels was sent flying when he tried to interfere it would end up costing him dearly, because after Michaels removed one of the turnbuckle pads Diesel whipped Ramon into the exposed turnbuckle before taking him down with the jack-knife powerbomb for the title winning pin.

August 1st, 1995
Over in WCW, Ric Flair and his buddy Arn Anderson team up to take on Vader in a handicap match at Clash of the Champions.

Given who was in this encounter I thought it was going to be a bit longer, but despite this it proved to be pretty entertaining.

As our esteemed commentators predicted Anderson started against Vader as the somewhat cowardly Flair cheered him on from the ring apron. Anderson looked quite impressive, especially when he took Vader down with the best spinebuster the wrestling business has ever seen.

Flair then tagged in and slapped the figure four on those massive legs, and although he survived this by getting to the ropes he was soon taken down by Andersons DDT. Vader continued to fight back though, much to the annoyance of the old friends.

The Nature Boy then went into his usual routine as he did his big bump off the top rope before Vader took Double A down with his powerbomb for the winning pin.

January 20th, 1996
Back on WWF Superstars, Diesel faces his future doppelganger when he takes on evil dentist Isaac Yankem.

Once again it's your typical TV fare with two big men beating the hell out of each other. With his buddy Jerry Lawler watching on from ringside the man who would be Kane looked quite impressive as he matched Diesel in the power department. Sadly none of the trademark moves were there, but then again they were more suited to the Big Red Machine than a doctor of dental surgery.

Yankem came close to getting the win a couple of times, and even though the King managed to get in a couple of cheap shots Diesel came back and took the dentist down with the jack-knife for the win.

February 17th, 1997
It's back to championship action as Sycho Sid challenges Bret Hart for the WWF title on Raw.

This was actually the third attempt to get the match started on this show. It had been scheduled to kick off the show, only for Steve Austin to storm the ring and attack the Hitman, and when the match was rescheduled for later in the evening Austin attacked Hart again backstage.

Power versus finesse would be the best way to describe this encounter. The Hitman tried to knock Sid down to size at first before working over his left leg as we got to see an early example of the ring post assisted figure four. But try as he might he couldn't keep the big man down as his power shone through time and time again.

But even though he'd been sent packing twice before Austin returned to the scene of the crime once more. At first it looked like Sid had dealt with him at ringside when he clobbered him with a big right, but when Hart had locked Sid in the sharpshooter Austin came back and clobbered the Hitman in the head with the chair.

Both Sid and the referee were oblivious to what had happened, so when Sid powerbombed Hart for the title winning pin he had no idea that the assist had gone to Austin.

May 21st, 2001
Still with Raw, the Big Show challenges the man-beast Rhyno for the Hardcore title.

You know, I kind of miss the old Hardcore title, but then again we're living in a PG age now, so you can't have anything.

Anyway, this was a very entertaining short and sweet encounter. They didn't even bother with the ring for the first few minutes as they brawled around ringside, with Show suplexing Rhyno on the ramp the highlight of that particular segment.

The toys came into play soon afterwards as Rhyno clobbered Show with a wide selection of signs, but when he tried to set the big man up for the gore Show countered with a chair to the noggin. A few moments later Rhyno tried to bring a metal rubbish bin into the equation. The move backfired when Show threw it back at him and kicked it into his face. It proved to be the beginning of the end as Show chokeslammed Rhyno onto another metal bin for the title winning pin.

October 19th, 2003
It's another championship opportunity for the Big Show as he challenges Eddie Guerrero for the United States title at No Mercy.

This was kind of fun. Guerrero came into this match with a cut and bruised back after having been slammed through a car windscreen a few days before, so it came as no surprise that Show targeted that particular area with those massive hands of his.

Needless to say that Guerrero fought back, lying, cheating and stealing the advantage, and when a quick exchange between the two protagonists saw the referee take an accidental hit Guerrero upped the quota a bit with a few more underhanded tactics, but even though he clobbered the big guy with brass knuckles, hit him with the championship belt, connected with a top rope frog splash, kicked him below the belt and took him down with a DDT Guerrero still couldn't get the pin.

A short time later it was all over when he grabbed Latino Heat around the neck and took him down with a chokeslam for the title winning pin.

January 20th, 2006
On Smackdown, Mark Henry, with Melina in his corner, faces Rey Mysterio to determine the number one contender for the World title.

If you could ever really describe a match as a David versus Goliath battle then it would be this one. Normally the smaller guy tries to match power with the bigger guy, but not in this one. Mysterio used his lightning-quick speed throughout to attack the big man as he enjoyed a great deal of success early on.

The success didn't last forever though, and when Henry finally got his hands on him he began to thrown the masked man around the ring like the proverbial stuffed toy, and even though I've been quite down on Henry in the past his performance here was pretty decent.

Mysterio managed to get back into the groove of things with some more of his high speed offence, and when he connected with the 619 and top rope frog splash it looked as if the impossible was about to happen. Unfortunately for him it didn't. Henry didn't even bother to kick out of the pin, he just grabbed hold of Mysterio, rolled back to his feet, and took him out with what would become known as the world's strongest slam for the win.

May 7th, 2007
Speaking of number one contender matches, Shawn Michaels takes on the Great Khali in a no disqualification match for a shot at the WWE title over on Raw.

I never really was a fan of Khali, but the way he was booked here made him look like an absolute monster. Mind you, he was in the ring with one of the best in the business.

Like Mysterio in the previous match Michaels tried hit and run tactics to take the big man down, but after the obligatory giant tied up in the ropes spot the big Indian finally got his hands on Michaels briefly.

HBK managed to fight back though, and after clobbering Khali in the head with a chair and connecting with a top rope elbow it looked like there was going to be an early finish when Michaels prepared for sweet chin music. Khali easily blocked the kick though and sent Michaels in la-la land with a big chop to the top of the head.

From there it developed into a nice back and forth encounter, and after Michaels choked Khali and dragged him out of the ring he tried to DDT him through the announcer's table. Khali was too big though, and after easily fighting off this attempt Khali put Michaels through the table with a two-handed slam. The referee called for the bell seconds later, giving Khali the stoppage win.

October 30th, 2007
In the WWE's watered down version of ECW it's four big guys for the price of one as the Great Khali, Mark Henry, Big Daddy V and Kane go at it in a Monster Mash Battle Royal.

Thankfully this only lasted a few minutes. There was the usual power stuff from all four combatants, with the former Viscera getting worse as the match went on. In fact the best thing he did was get eliminated by Kane.

The Big Red Machine then joined Henry in eliminating Khali, but when he came off the top rope a few moments later Henry caught him and threw him over the top rope for the win.

September 7th, 2009
It's back to Raw for the final match of the collection as Mark Henry faces the Big Show in a bodyslam challenge.

Well, the final few minutes of this collection were filled with two big guys beating on each other before they tried for a bodyslam. That was about it really, because although this reminded me of the Andre/Studd match from Wrestlemania I it couldn't compare to it drama wise. Mind you, it was made by the host of The Price is Right.

So basically what happened is that Henry eventually managed to slam show for the win and the star prize, a hot tub! Where's Bobby Heenan with a WWF-brand sports holdall when you need him?

In conclusion - so after nearly seven hours and over five thousand words we've finally reached the end point of this collection, so did it live up to all the hype?

Well, it was pretty enjoyable. The documentary piece was well produced, and although I would have chosen a few different matches to showcase the talents of some of these giants overall it was pretty enjoyable, save for the last two matches of the collection.

In fact my only real gripe with this collection is that I don't have a blu-ray player, otherwise I could have seen additional features on the likes of Bam Bam Bigelow, Earthquake and Abdullah the Butcher.

Putting all that aside though, I'm glad I got the chance to see this, and that's why I'm giving this collection the thumbs up.

With thanks to Fremantle Media and Fetch Publicity for supplying a copy of this release. True Giants is available to buy online at www.wwedvd.co.uk.