Wrestling documentaries are something that never could have happened a couple of decades ago. Before the Monday Night War blurred the lines, the business kept to kayfabe big time, insisting on maintaining wrestling as real and refusing to let guys break character and such. Naturally, that changed with the War and the rise of “tweeners” and such, plus the enhanced media buzz breaking more of the lines to let fans see the truth. Thus, we had a lot more looks at wrestling, some negative but pushed as really showing the business off.
The big change was when WWE won the War and acquired the libraries of WCW and ECW among others. It took a bit to crack the code but soon, WWE realized the massive potential they had in their library to sell DVDs and Blu-Rays of wrestlers and promoters and give us some great stuff. True, some can be rather self-serving; the Dusty Rhodes doc, for example, skips over his stuff as booker for WCW and you get the feeling a lot of guys agreed only if they had some rough stuff of themselves skimmed over as well. So yes, you do have to separate ones that are pure promo pieces with more serious fare as well as understand how time can change some perceptions (quite obviously the Chris Benoit: Hard Knocks doc is much harder to watch today) and enjoy them.
The best wrestling documentaries/biographies don’t just employ the people involved in these angles and such to discuss them. They go deep and showcase what made this stuff so special in the first place and how it impacted the business. WWE has really raised the bar in the last several years to know fans want a lot more warts and all presentations and improved its production wonderfully. But we also have some great independent productions that utilize the freedom of not being under WWE’s corporate umbrella to showcase better stuff. As we recently did a list going into documentaries on all wrestling topics, this list will focus exclusively on wrestler biographies, whether produced by WWE or an independent party.
15 Ric Flair: The Definitive Collection (2008)
14 McMahon (2006)
This 2006 DVD can be pretty self-serving but it also offers a fascinating look at what makes Vince McMahon tick. His family show up a lot (Linda is truly funny and bright here) and make it clear even they are unsure where Vince the man ends and the “Mr. McMahon” character begins. They really are up front on how “Vince screwed everyone” with his expansion and note how he goes too far on things like Katie Vick. A great bit is HHH laughing on how Vince is the worst guy to get in the ring with but thinks he’s a fine worker and they cite the XFL as more a noble failure while still noting Vince’s own ego ruining a lot of things.
13 The Road Warriors: The Life & Death of the Most Dominant Tag-Team in Wrestling History (2005)
12 Eddie Guerrero: Cheating Death/ Stealing Life (2004)
11 The Last of McGuinness (2013)
10 Ultimate Warrior: Always Believe (2014)
The 2005 “Self-Destruction” documentary was a massive hatchet job of the Warrior but this more than makes up for it. Indeed, it openly addresses how much in poor taste that earlier doc was and this instead honors Jim Hellwig, a much better picture than most give him. He appears on camera a lot to discuss his career, the ups and downs of his life, how it felt to be pushed into the big spot of WWE only to lose it. It’s stunning to realize these were shot just days before the Warrior’s sudden death and a sense of regret fills everyone (even Vince McMahon) as they note the tragic irony of him finally getting his due from the company just before he was gone.
9 Jake Roberts: Pick Your Poison (2005)
8 Bret Hart: The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be (2005)
7 Ric Flair and The Four Horsemen (2007)
6 Brian Pillman Loose Cannon (2006)
5 Stone Cold Steve Austin: The Bottom Line On The Most Popular Superstar Of All Time (2011)
4 CM Punk: Best in the World (2012)
CM Punk himself worked hands-on for this documentary and it shows with his own unique attitude, beginning by point blank stating he never should have made it in WWE. We get looks at his rise, including Ring of Honor footage and his feud with Samoa Joe and really something seeing WWE give major attention to a company still out there. Punk is just what you expect, completely frank on things, not hiding his issues with how “the title should matter, not the man holding it” and folks (including HHH) openly talking on how WWE never felt Punk was the right guy behind the scenes.
3 E60: The Scott Hall Story (2011)
2 Ladies and Gentlemen, My Name is Paul Heyman (2014)
1 Hitman Hart: Wrestling With Shadows (1998)
Those who believe Montreal was a massive work by Vince, Bret and Shawn often use this as evidence, citing how much of a coincidence it is that Bret just happened to have a movie crew around filming the whole thing. Regardless of whether or not that’s true, this is still a great movie as we see Bret in his private life, handling family and the pride he has in the business. Hearing the secretly recorded talks between him and Vince is fascinating and how he feels as the program with Shawn kicks in. Seeing the behind the scenes stuff from Montreal is fantastic as Bret’s wife yells at Shawn and Hunter who lie about knowing anything on this and we see Vince leaving the locker room after Bret decks him along with Bret looking rocked by it all. How much of it is real may be debatable but there’s no denying you can be a believer watching a man’s career shaken like this yet still determined to fight on no matter what and how the most infamous moment in wrestling history unfolded before everyone’s eyes.
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