By Graham "GSM" Matthews
I suppose it would have been more fitting if I watched this DVD and wrote the review for it on March 16th, but the next day isn't too far, right? Nonetheless, about a week ago, I was texted out of the blue by a good wrestling fan friend of mine who wanted to know who I thought were the top Superstars (not wrestlers) in WWE history. Undoubtedly, Hulk Hogan led the charge, but the rankings of Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock differed. He insisted that The Rock was better for a number of reasons, and I half-halfheartedly agreed, but he said the only reason his opinions of both altered was because he watched both of their documentaries back-to-back on the WWE Network (what a lifesaver that thing is). He encouraged me to watch both of them as well, and so I did.
I'll probably write a review on Rock's documentary another time, but I found Stone Cold's to be far better and more interesting. Granted, that might be because I watched it after The Rock's (whereas my friend watched them in the reverse order), but I enjoyed it much more than Rocky's for some reason. Now, keep in mind that I wasn't around for the Attitude Era (I started watching in April 2008), and while I already knew quite a bit about Stone Cold, this documentary definitely opened my eyes. I had no idea that he spent as much time on the independent scene as he did. I knew that Dutch Mantell (aka Zeb Colter) played a critical role in helping shape the career of Austin early on, but I thought it was interesting how the name Steve Austin came about. The in-ring name Steve Williams was already taken by Dr. Death, and although there was already a Steve Austin in the form of the Six Million Dollar Man, Stone Cold went along with it anyway. As for the Stone Cold part, it was funny that part of his in-ring also came about in a quick and unexpected way when his wife said the words "stone cold" at the table on morning while making coffee and that immediately stuck with Austin.
Another thing I didn't know about Austin was how much time he actually spent in Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW). Not only was he able to develop his character there into something much more than a cocky Hollywood blonde (which was entertaining in WCW with Brian Pillman, but it wasn't a main event gimmick, of course). You think CM Punk was controversial on the mic in 2011? Go back and check out the promos Austin cut while in ECW if you haven't already. A majority of them straight up took shots at Eric Bischoff, WCW and the asinine way he was fired from the company (over the phone). It was both humorous and appalling. These promos really set the foundation for the Stone Cold character that would come in WWE.
That being said, I found it even more surprising that Austin was given a complete overhaul of gimmick when he jumped ship to WWE (then known as WWF) as The Ringmaster. He was given Ted DiBiase as his manager, but why do that when Austin could already speak for himself? That seemed rather ridiculous, but thankfully WWE righted that wrong quickly by letting him do his own thing as Stone Cold and revolutionize the wrestling world with his unforgettable Austin 3:16 promo at the 1996 King of the Ring pay-per-view.
I already knew of Stone Cold's nasty neck injury from SummerSlam 1997, but I had no idea that he remained on television during his recovery time. He was already on a major roll and quickly becoming the face of the company, so maintaining his presence on TV was a smart idea by WWE. The segments and promos he took part in during that time were probably even more memorable than some of the matches he had in the Attitude Era with the exception of his various matches against The Rock. Speaking of which, I was happy to see his long lasting rivalry with Rock get a significant amount of time on this documentary, as it was obviously a huge highlight of the Attitude Era and one of the most iconic feuds in the history of the business.
One thing I always love about these kind of documentaries is how they go behind the scenes so to speak and even admit when things were done wrong. One example of this is when Stone Cold himself admits that his heel turn from WrestleMania 17 (in his home state of Texas, no less) was a mistake and that he would have done that over if given the chance. However, he and others interview (Mr. McMahon for one) put a nice twist on it by saying that Stone Cold made the most of it by showing more shades to his character that he wouldn't have been able to do otherwise. This included more comedy skits (that were actually funny, unlike some of the "comedy" skits we get nowadays) and wacky pairings. Stone Cold has always been a better babyface (even though he was a vicious heel during his indy days), but this DVD made it clear that he made a great tweener as well.
Another interesting topic covered in this documentary was Stone Cold's abrupt departure from WWE in 2002 and how he walked out on his contract. It was funny to look back on this and see how similar to the CM Punk situation from just recently and how much Stone Cold regrets doing it now. I've never seen Stone Cold get emotional before, but he seemed to tear up a bit when talking about how Jim Ross was the only one who reached out to him when he was hurt and when he left the company, and that obviously meant a lot to him. He also got a bit emotional when talking about his last match with Rock from WrestleMania 19 and the cool moment that happened after the match with Rock and Stone Cold exchanging words.
I realized that this DVD was released in 2011, but I had no idea that Stone Cold's involvement with the reboot of Tough Enough would be included, so that was really cool. I enjoyed that show a lot and it was awesome for Stone Cold as well as his fellow colleagues on the show to discuss it a bit. Will that show ever make a comeback? Anyway, unlike Rock's DVD, Stone Cold's documentary seemed to include interviews from people that were closer to Austin and more than just a handful of people. IT seemed like a much more "real" DVD if you know what I mean in that it invoked an emotion out of me as opposed to just recapping Stone Cold's career. Technically, it did, but it was done in a way that invested me as a viewer. Perhaps it's because Stone Cold's career was more interesting to follow (don't quote me on that), but it was likely the way the documentary was designed.
Not to slight Rock's documentary at all, but I loved this one so much that paled in comparison, even though they are essentially on the same level when it comes to their level of greatness in the business. It was longer than Rock's by just over a half hour, but I was so intrigued by the DVD's content that I needed to finish it despite watching it late at night. I refused to fall asleep until I finished it all, and it definitely didn't disappoint. Obviously, due to the fact I watched on the WWE Network, I didn't see what matches were included, but the documentary portion was fantastic and easily in my top favorites along with CM Punk's, Edge's and Chris Jericho's. It made me look at Stone Cold in an all-new light and made me appreciate his long line of work that much more. Now give me a hell yeah!
Should you watch this movie? Yes.