Let's Go To The Movies
Chapter Four: The Modern Era
#PWHS #Article #LetsGoToTheMovies #ModernEra
In the very first part of this series we started in the 19th century with Thomas Edison's very early motion picture productions including unknown wrestlers and a match that caused controversy. From there we followed the evolution through filming odd matches to the early days of Hollywood and the explosion of television and beyond. Names like Frank Gotch, George Kotsonaros, Gorgeous George, Mike Mazurki, Nat Pendleton, Ernest Roeber and Tor Johnson have all come up among many others.
Now we're going into the final chapter of the story. By this point it should have become quite apparent that wrestlers had been a big part of the movies for a long time before Hulk Hogan came onto the scene. It would be completely remiss to not to give him the credit he deserves for being able to use the movies to boost his wrestling career, something not many had done before him.
When Hulk Hogan appeared in Rocky III as Thunderlips he became one of the hottest commodities inside of that squared circle. He used the fame from the 1982 released flic to build upon the momentum he already had in the wrestling world. There doesn't seem to be much point in elaborating too much on what happened, just about everyone knows of Wrestlemania I and how Hogan ended up in the WWF/E.
In an unsuccessful precursor to WWE Studios Hogan was the star of No Holds Barred. But, of course Hogan would go on to star in other movies too, such...classics...as Suburban Commando (1991), Mr. Nanny (1993) and Santa With Muscles (1996). Although he never became a big time successful movie star, Hogan certainly did show a whole new generation of fans that their favorite wrestlers could appear on the big screen.
It's often forgotten that Hogan did not do this on their own. Something that's quite amazing when Nada, better known as Roddy Piper in They Live (1988) uttered the words, "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass... and I'm all out of bubblegum," which have been repeated many times since then by people all over the world. And how have people forgotten Blain's just simply bad ass reply to Poncho in Predator (1987)?
Poncho: "You're bleeding, man. You're hit."
Blain: "I ain't got time to bleed."
Wrestling and political enthusiasts will know Blain better as Jesse Ventura. And that's not even mentioning that Terry Funk had starred in Paradise Alley back in 1978 and would also appear in the 1989 Road House among other films. 1986 saw the release of Body Slam, a movie with the following summary on imdb.com:
"M. Harry Smilac is a down-on-his-luck music manager who is having a hard time attracting talent and booking gigs for his band, Kicks (The most recent of the gigs is a Dairy Queen opening!!). When making arrangements for a campaign fund-raiser, he mistakes Rick Roberts, a professional wrestler, for a musician and hires him. At that moment he becomes a wrestling manager and starts to book matches for him and his teammate Tonga Tom. The team is a success, and Harry decides to take his wrestlers and his band on a "Rock n' Wrestling" tour. The tour is a success, and Harry feels what it is like to be a winner again."
Many stars of the mat featured in this movie including Roddy Piper, Afa and Sika Anoi'a, Captain Lou Albano, Freddie Blassie and Ric Flair. But, as with the previous articles there were more and, too many to recount all together, these are just some of the many.
Through-out the 1990's we saw wrestling branching off in other ways more frequently. They had appeared in TV shows before, but Hogan starred in Thunder In Paradise, Bret Hart would star in Lonesome Dove. Other wrestlers made guest appearances like Shawn Michaels in Baywatch or a WCW edition of the Family Feud.
Bret Hart's name comes up again with the documentary release of Wrestling With Shadow's. Quite a few documentary's started to pop up around this time, not that it was a first in wrestling, but, with the advances in video technology it was becoming easier to make this kind of product to sell to fans. Probably the documentary that had the most impact in the 1990's was Barry Bernstein's Beyond The Mat with Jake Roberts, Terry Funk, Dennis Stamp and even Vince McMahon as well as many other guys in what was a shocking behind the scenes look at wrestling.
That was something else that helped documentaries really come to the forefront of video making; the newly found openness of wrestling by those within the industry. It provided the chance for WWF/E to branch out from the traditional tape of matches by a superstar to making biographies of wrestlers. A big seller for the company still to this day.
During the year of 2000 WCW released their movie called Ready to Rumble. It starred David Arquette and many of their own stars. From Bill Goldberg to Sting to Diamond Dallas Page. It was by no means a
Before the documentaries from WWF/E and other places started to flood the market though, there was another guy who surpassed Hulk Hogan for fame in the movies and arguably equaled him within the ring. That man being Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. He appeared in That 70's Show portraying his father in 1999. In 2001 he was in the Mummy Returns as the Scorpion King only to return the following year with him as the star in the movie named after his character.
Eventually he left wrestling to become a full time movie star with several movies he appeared in being at the very top of all time numbers in the movie ticket sales. He has titles next to his name like Fast & The Furious, The Tooth Fairy, G.I. Joe, Hercules and several more movies in the works as this is being written. He also had the successful return to the WWE over the last few years.
Even though they are not strictly documentaries, something else that would completely filled the wrestling DVD market was shoot interviews. There's many companies out their making them at the moment including Kayfabe Commentaries and High Spots. For about ten years that market has continually grown to the point where pretty much any man and his dog can record an interview with a wrestler be it purely audio or with a video too.
Not to be outdone seeing how movies were happy to have wrestlers come in and take up parts through-out the early 2000's with the likes of Triple H and the Big Show appearing in films, the WWE decided to make a decision to release their own film making studio. Since 2002 they have been churning out movies, although it hasn't been a huge success, they do seem to keep getting more and more Hollywood names involved and like they're going in the right direction to make a truly profitable venture.
It was since about 2002 that WWE really started to pump out the superstar documentaries as well as looks at the territories, managers and anything else they thought people would be inclined to purchase. We touched upon the other companies who make the shoot interviews, but there are also those who make documentaries in the truest sense of the word.
For example the Barbed Wire City one released about ECW a little while back or any number of people who have taken advantage of such funding opportunities such as the Kickstarter campaigns. People like Michael Elliot have done a fantastic job with what they have released, but that's not to say you should just blindly fund anyone's campaign.
Since again around the early 2000's WWE has experimented with TV shows also. They had a little thing called Tough Enough right before the peak of reality TV shows. They kind of went quiet for a while after that, but then Hulk Hogan emerged with the likes of Hogan Knows Best and Celebrity Championship Wrestling. Now WWE have recently been branching back out into TV with the likes of the Total Divas reality show and The Legends House. They have much more original content promised to be coming too. Other than Hogan's ventures outside in the realms of television, there has also been Shawn Michaels' MacMillan River Adventures, Chris Jericho has starred in several shows as well as hosting his own gameshow called Down Fall, as well as many other wrestlers finding themself on the tele. more frequently.
In all honesty right now in 2014 there are so many ways just through the recording of motion pictures to make a profit, you have to wonder where it's all going to stop. That's not to say I am predicting a disastrous end to professional wrestling or anything, just how long is it going to take before the market completely saturates with amateur and professional producers? As a wrestling historian though it's a great age to live in with information being captured and recorded with the ability to see past matches and stars on a screen that you probably never could have in the past.
When you look back at the evolution of motion pictures and professional wrestling it's quite a journey from a few matches recorded per year on giant rolls of film, if it was a good year, to the bright lights of Hollywood and every single person who owns a computer and a video recorder can theoretically make their own movie to put onto a small easily transportable DVD. Most importantly to this series of articles though, like Edison and the other early pioneers in motion pictures many of the people today still choose to use wrestling as the subject they want to capture on their recordings.
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