Monday, 12 December 2016

True Giants

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 429 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: December 1 2014

Following on from the Cruiserweight-themed release Wrestling's Highest Flyers in late 2010/early 2011, True Giants takes the complete opposite approach by focusing on the largest performers in wrestling history (mostly).

You can look at this concept in two ways. On the one hand, it's nice that the mammoths are getting a spotlight (oxymoron, I know), especially since the vast majority have never or will never get a DVD profile of their own, even established names like Vader, Psycho Sid and Yokozuna. Plus, some are genuine major stars, such as Andre The Giant, Big Show and Kevin Nash (incidentally, why hasn't Nash received the DVD treatment on his own yet?). On the other hand, those who stand close to or above the 7-foot mark, and/or weigh in excess of 350 pounds, are rarely associated with classic matches. Some big men, such as Vader, have put on epic encounters on a regular basis, but such performers are generally the exception rather than the norm. A giant's job is generally to perform as a giant would, meaning that most of the stars highlighted on this release have only ever watched fantastic matches as opposed to working them.

Nevertheless, giants have played a vital role in the history of the wrestling business (hell, the most famous wrestling moment ever is probably when Hulk Hogan bodyslammed Andre The Giant at WrestleMania III), and therefore the behemoths are more than deserving of a profile focusing on their careers and - what else? - their size. Whether you find it entertaining is another matter entirely.

Anyway, the main programme provides mini-career profiles on more than a dozen big men: Big Show, Gorilla Monsoon, One Man Gang/Akeem, Haystacks Calhoun, Giant Gonzales, Big John Studd, Kevin Nash/Diesel, Ernie "Big Cat" Ladd, Mark Henry, King Kong Bundy, Psycho Sid, Vader, Yokozuna, The Great Khali and, of course, Andre The Giant himself. The profiles are mostly concerned with in-ring accomplishments and notable matches/feuds rather than their lives outside the ring, with Show and Andre amongst the notable exceptions. Plus, some comments by various talking heads are in-character (e.g. emphasising how one performer is particularly threatening because of his sheer size), which in modern times is rarely a positive.

There are many matches included as bonus features, but as alluded to earlier very few are exactly of a high standard (no pun intended), so I'll just focus on the standout bouts. There's a weird six-man tag from Mid-South Wrestling, which includes the unlikely combination of Andre, Dusty Rhodes and Junkyard Dog (Shawn Michaels pops up in another Mid-South match against One Man Gang). Hogan vs. Big John Studd is a typical Hogan match (tailor-made for Hulk, you might say), and Kamala vs. Andre inside a Steel Cage is a minor dream match (plus, who doesn't love Kamala?). Andre vs. Randy Savage completes the second disc.

On disc three, we open with a legitimately p-ss-poor match between El Gigante and One Man Gang from the 1991 WCW Great American Bash; this makes Gigante/Giant Gonzales' later match with The Undertaker from SummerSlam 1993 seem like a masterpiece. Sid Justice (Psycho Sid, obviously) teams with Ric Flair against Hogan and Roddy Piper in a rare gem of a match, and one of the few bouts on the DVD which ignores size as a component of the match psychology. We see Yokozuna dethrone Hulk as WWF Champion at King Of The Ring 1993, and we get one of the most overused DVD matches ever as Diesel vs. Razor Ramon from a 1994 episode of Superstars is recycled once more.

Diesel vs. Isaac Yankem DDS (a.k.a. Kane) is a fun inclusion from an interesting time in both men's careers; Diesel was less than six months away from forming the nWo, whilst Yankem would actually play a "New" Diesel shortly after that (and, of course, he would later be reborn as Kane). Sid vs. Bret Hart from 1997 is pretty good (thank Bret for that), and we then focus on modern big men like Big Show (against Rhyno and Eddie Guerrero), Mark Henry (versus Rey Mysterio) and The Great Khali (who tangles with Shawn Michaels). We then get the Monster Mash Battle Royal between Henry, Big Daddy V, Kane and Khali, which I actually enjoyed, and the DVD appropriately closes with Mark Henry battling Big Show in a Bodyslam Challenge (as part of The Price Of Raw; don't ask me to explain). The Blu-ray includes a few more matches and several additional profiles for Earthquake, Kamala, Bam Bam Bigelow and that madman Abdullah The Butcher. Why The Undertaker and Kane didn't receive profiles here is beyond me.

Is this a contender for best WWE DVD of the year? Of course not. It will actually probably end up being one of the weaker WWE DVDs, at least from a match quality standpoint. However, it is entertaining, and it is cool to see the focus shifted to many performers who otherwise are only rarely acknowledged for their abilities and accomplishments, some of whom are amongst the most memorable characters ever seen for longtime fans (as I mentioned earlier, who doesn't love Kamala?). It's far from a must-own, and fans who have only discovered wrestling in the last five years may be horrified by the standard of the wrestling on display here, but for fans of a certain age, it's an enjoyable nostalgia trip, and a fun chance to look back at some of the legitimately biggest men in wrestling history.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10 - Okay

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