It was strange watching this DVD. Unlike those of Dusty Rhodes, Bret Hart and Ric Flair there is deep sadness that floats through both disks as you watch a man no longer with us and those who talk about him were all deeply affected by Brian Pillman's death. (A similar feeling can be felt by re-watching the Eddie Guerrero DVD released mere months before his death as a celebration of his life. Irony can sometimes be a little grim!) As with a lot of WWE DVDs, this is a full length documentary bolstered by a number of matches and extra segments from his career.
I'll go on record and say I have no real knowledge of Brian Pillman and before watching this DVD I could name the number of things I knew about him on one hand (Flyin' Brian, Hollywood Blondes, Hart Foundation, Dead). This is quite sad when I consider the obvious impact that he had on the wrestling industry as a singles and tag team wrestler, especially in bringing the spotlight to the smaller guys or Cruiserweights who were usually lost in the mix of outlandish, giant grapplers. The DVD covers Brian Pillman's entire life, from his American Football career to his initial wrestling training by Stu Hart in the legendary 'Dungeon' whose students have included Chris Benoit, Lance Storm and of course Bret Hart and the rest of his brothers. He started his career in Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling in Canada before moving onto superstardom in WCW, ECW and then finally in the WWE. Despite his small size, he was able to put on a high-flying, exciting match more like the Mexican Lucha Libre style which was very unusual at the time especially in America, where the wrestling world was dominated by very short, generic squash matches. Later in his career he defined himself with the 'Loose Cannon' gimmick in which everything felt like a shoot (real) and everyone in the business was not able to tell where the line was between Brian Pillman the man and Brian Pillman the performer. Despite obviously everything being scripted, Pillman went against this so often that he rattled a lot of peformers who were unable to tell exactly what Pillman would do next and would lead to his eventual firing from WCW for scaring Bobby Heenan so much that he swore on live TV.
His career went through lots of ups and downs and this is all covered with nothing shaded over including his addiction (or dependency-depending on your
view) to drugs, his car accident that nearly killed him and caused him to have surgery to fuse his ankle together and thus dramatically reducing what he could do in the ring. A lot of those interviewed are at least people who knew Brian, though I do wish they had interviewed a few current stars to see what an impact he had on their lives in or out of the ring. Of those who speak, it is his wife Melanie and close friend Steve Austin who do much to show how much of a good man he was despite the 'demons' he was battling, although comments by Eric Bischoff, Dusty Rhodes and Mick Foley are also insightful though feel a little scripted at times. It's surprising that Vince McMahon does not comment in the DVD, but I guess he's too busy writing storylines to exploit the death of Eddie Guerrero to concentrate on Pillman who has more or less been forgotten by the WWE, which is a shame.
The DVD is full of extras, including interviews, though a lot of them feel too much like outtakes from the main feature and you can see why some of them were cut. A lot of TV clips from WWE and WCW are also included with the wonderful 'Flare for the Old' segment from WCW and the entire 'Gun' incident and sadly watching it makes it all seem so stupid and really makes you wonder what all the fuss was about when it was played out so badly. However, the jewels in this set is the inclusion of sixteen matches from his early days in Stampede wrestling to his more famous stuff in WCW and WWE. As with all 'Best of' DVDs, I'm sure there are more matches that should have been here or ones on here that shouldn't, however, as an overview of his career these are perfect.
Bad Company (Bruce Hart and Brian Pillman) vs. The Midnight Cowboys (Rip Rogers and Kerry Lee Brown) *** This match is unfortunately ruined by the odd... very odd commentary.
Thankfully we all have volume control as this is a great early Pillman match. He was always a tag team specialist and it must be said that this match is just a small indication of what was to come.
US Heavyweight Championship: Brian Pillman vs. Lex Luger ***
It surprises me to say that Pillman actually gets a good match from Lex Luger. No seriously! This is a great match that really is fun to watch.
Brian Pillman & Tom Zenk vs. Fabulous Freebirds (Michael Hayes and Jimmy Garvin) **
I loved the Freebirds as a kid. Why doesn't WWE release a DVD of them? This isn't a great match at all, but it's certainly a lot more entertaining than most matches on TV at the moment.
War Games: Brian Pillman, Sting, and The Steiner Brothers (Rick and Scott) vs. The Four Horsemen (Ric Flair, Barry Windham, Sid Vicious and Larry Zbyszko) with Arn Anderson *****
I always loved the War Games match and I wish WWE would release a DVD of all of them. Similar to the WWE's Elimination Chamber this is a brutal match for all involved. This match has almost every star of WCW at the time and it shows. Flair, Sting and the Steiners really shine in this match aswell as Pillman who starts the match and really shows his single skills and brutal brawling style as he tears apart Barry Windham. Not for the faint hearted!
WCW Light Heavyweight Championship
Brian Pillman vs. Richard Morton ***
Anytime Pillman defends this belt his game steps up about twelve notches.
This is a quick, fast paced and exciting by two wrestlers who usually competed in tag matches.
Brian Pillman and El Gigante vs. Barry Windham and Arn Anderson in a Loser Leaves Town match ** This match is less than four minutes long. Why? Why is this? We have some great talent in the ring and there is no reason why this should be so short.
For a match featuring El Gigante, usually voted worst wrestler ever, I'm surprised this match is as good as it is.
Brian Pillman and Barry Windham vs. Johnny Gunn and Tom Zenk ** Pillman was a great tag-team wrestler and the more I watch the more I tend to agree. This isn't a fabulous match, but it's certainly watchable.
Hollywood Blondes vs. Ricky Steamboat and Shane Douglas **** If Hollywood Blondes was such a great team, why is there only one match? I expected at least three, especially as they were voted one of the fifty best tag teams of all time by PWI magazine. A great match. From this I can see why they were so good and why both went onto to have great careers.
Brian Pillman, Sting, and Dustin Rhodes vs. Paul Orndorff, Steve Austin, and Rick Rude in the "Thundercage" *** Possibly the greatest collection of wrestlers I have seen in a long while.
Sting was just awesome this early in his career and he gels so well with everyone as opponent and partner. The rivalry between Pillman and Austin was so good that it adds a lot more to this match.
Brian Pillman vs. Jushin "Thunder" Liger ***** These guys were just made to fight each other. An exciting match that is just full of excitement and energy.
Brian Pillman vs. Dean Malenko ***
Both are great technicians, but this is too short for me to get into it.
Brian Pillman vs. Eddie Guerrero ***
It actually makes me sad watching this match, knowing that both are no longer with us, although this was a great match from both of them. This is truly memorable for Pillman shaking up Bobby Heenan, forcing him to swear on live TV.
Brian Pillman vs. Steve Austin ***
A nothing brawl. But this is a great match of Austin in his prime. If Pillman hadn't been injured this would have been a lot better. A great set up for the next match though.
The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart, Jim Neidhart, Owen Hart, The British Bulldog and Pillman) vs. Steve Austin, Ken Shamrock, Goldust, and The Legion Of Doom (Hawk and Animal) ***** Such a mix of styles it's surprising that it actually works. At thirty minutes everyone in the match has some time to shine. Sadly, Pillman has very little to do with this match with Austin, Bret Hart and Legion of Doom dominating throughout. I do wish it had been an elimination match to increase the excitement.
Brian Pillman vs. Goldust w/Marlena ***
A great brawl. Goldust was such a great character that he was able to get the best out of Pillman. By this time Pillman was limited in what he could actually do in the ring, but this was still a fairly impressive match to watch.
WCW Light Heavyweight Championship ***** Brian Pillman vs. Jushin Liger Perfect. Just perfect. If Pillman is ever remembered for any match, it'll be this one. All Cruiserweights/ X-Division stars should watch this match before going into the ring as it really shows just how to put on an exciting, intelligent and entertaining match. It is marred by WWE being forced to take out the commentary by Jesse 'The Body' Ventura, but that didn't stop me from enjoying it.
Pillman had no effect on me while he was alive, but this DVD has made it so that in his death he will always be remembered and it justly respects what he contributed to the industry. His style can be seen in any match fought by Benoit or Rey Mysterio, the brawling style of Batista and Finlay and even the mic work of Edge can be seen to be influenced by Pillman. Sadly, his name is just one of the many wrestlers who have died in the passed ten years and though he may not be as well known as British Bulldog, Roadwarrior Hawk, Curt Hennig or Eddie Guerrero he will still be remembered as leaving a mark on the world of professional wrestling and now everyone can experience it too.
Reviewed by David Simpson on May 2, 2007.
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