Written by El Puerquito Magnifico
According to the cover of this two-disc set, Ultimate Classic Wrestling Presents… gives fans a ringside seat for a collage of classic wrestling from arenas across the country. It’s a collector’s set featuring ferocious battles between pro wrestling’s most famous and infamous stars, and it’s not for the faint of heart. What is actually delivered is over five hours of matches from the defunct United States Wrestling Association, the majority of which were filmed at the Sportatorium in Dallas, Texas in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I won’t deny that there’s a lot of great material on here, but the cover is just a bit deceiving.
Long-time wrestling fans will be familiar with this type of release. It’s basically a bunch of matches featuring superstars from the World Wrestling Federation or World Championship Wrestling before they made it to prime time thrown together by someone trying to make a quick buck. If you’re a fair-weather fan or someone who is accustomed to the glitz and glamour of Monday Night Raw, these matches might be a bit of a shock to your system. They appear to be filmed in a bingo hall with very small, very rural-looking crowds in attendance. There’s no pyro, no fireworks, and no fancy camera angles. It’s wrestling the way it used to be, perhaps the way it was meant to be: two men lacing boots and going toe-to-toe in the squared circle with a giant banner advertising Renegade Tobacco behind them. The human game of chess played out with a distinctive southern style. Or, if you prefer to look at it another way, it’s two guys in tights doing gymnastics. But at any rate, it ain’t fancy and it ain’t pretty.
As a dedicated fan of the real sport of kings, I found Ultimate Classic Wrestling Presents… to be a worthwhile venture, as long as you know what you’re in for. The two-disc set boasts many superstars such as Steve Austin, Cactus Jack, Jerry Lawler, Jeff Jarrett, Dustin Rhodes, and Mark Callous, aka The Undertaker. In addition to these six superstars, there are over twenty other wrestlers who are featured in matches or at the very least make brief appearances, most of whom fall under the designation of either “has-been” or “never-was.” But don’t take that to mean there isn’t a lot of talent on these two DVDs; there’s plenty of great entertainment for a reasonably low price. No one is mistaking any of these bouts as a match of the decade or even match of the year, but if you like wrestling, you oughta like these discs.
If nothing else on Ultimate Classic Wrestling Presents… floats your boat, it is worth viewing for a rare look at The Undertaker before he entered the World Wrestling Federation. He is featured in several matches under the names “The Punisher” and “Mean” Mark Callous. I’ve been a fan of the ‘Taker for a long time now, and I’ve never seen any of this early footage. It was pretty exciting to see this legendary grappler as a young man, learning the ropes and perfecting his style. The same can be said for stars such as Steve Austin and Cactus Jack, though footage of the early days of their careers is much more readily available, and a lot of the footage offered here isn’t quite from the earliest stages of their careers, but somewhere in the middle.
If you’re a newcomer to the world of professional wrestling and you like the cartoonish style of the WWE, I probably wouldn’t recommend purchasing these DVDs. While there’s a lot of great talent featured, most new fans are looking for a slicker product more in line with what they see on Monday Night Raw. However, if you want to see real wrestling; or perhaps I should say rasslin’, with all the glitz and glamour stripped away, look no further. These guys aren’t falling back on expensive props or fireworks to tell their story; they are doing it through talent, athletic ability and ring psychology. It harkens back to an earlier time in the history of the sport and while it’s certainly not for everyone, dedicated fans of wrestling will probably enjoy it quite a bit.