So as promised, I continued my journey through Dark Side of the Ring season 2 last night, with one of the worst and one of the best episodes this time.
First up, the Brawl for All episode, which falls squarely into the Worst category for me. Mainly because the entire show turns into YET ANOTHER dick-waving contest between Vince Russo and Jim Cornette that essentially overwhelmed any story or narrative they were attempting to craft around the subject matter. But even if that wasn’t the case, the teaser promised that BFA was “the worst thing to ever happen in wrestling” (which, I mean, COME ON) and not only it wasn’t the worst at the time, they didn’t even make a case for it being the worst on their own show about it! In fact, they somehow managed to craft an actual narrative for the tournament itself, with underdog Bart facing Bradshaw, the inspiration for the whole thing, in the finals. And the rundowns of the matches and chaos of the scoring system actually made it sound compelling in a weird way and made me want to watch it to a certain degree. So it really kind of failed at everything it was attempting to do. Also shoehorning in the Droz deal was kind of weird, like they wanted to tell the story of him breaking his neck somewhere and settled on this as the opportunity. Also poor Bart Gunn gets no respect even here, as they completely ignore his very successful run as Mike Barton in All Japan afterwards and just act like the Butterbean stuff ended his wrestling career. And again, please, someone convince both Jim Cornette and Vince Russo to SHUT THE FUCK UP ABOUT IT ALREADY. This was like a 3/10 or 4/10 for me.
And then right afterwards I watched one of the BEST episodes in the series, the Last Ride of the Road Warriors. This was GREAT, treating both guys with respect and telling their stories from start to finish, while still being brutally, painfully honest about what a fuckup that Hawk was in his later years. You had rare footage from Japan, interviews with Nikita Koloff and Barry Darsow and Scott Norton, the history of the team and origins of all the bits of it, you name it. I loved the very frank discussions from Animal on the shit that Hawk was doing at Summerslam 92 and how it screwed up both their careers, and of course the end of the show was heartbreaking after Hawk finally thought he had turned his life around and yet life still had one last receipt for him. And of course the episode has another layer of heartbreaking finality now with the death of Animal after it came out. Anyway, this was great and much better than the WWE-produced documentary which was itself pretty OK by their standards at the time. No gently stepping around any topics, just brutally honest and didn’t present Hawk as a monster or a saint. As Ellering said in the show, they were brothers, and sometimes they fought and mostly they loved each other. A 10/10 episode for me.
Next up on my watchlist: New Jack and then Jimmy Snuka. Well that’ll be an interesting pair of shows.