Gary Hart Guest Booker DVD a bittersweet masterpiece
MATT MACKINDER - SLAM! Wrestling
Watching the Gary Hart Guest Booker DVD from Kayfabe Commentaries has an eerie feeling as this interview was done less than 24 hours before his untimely death this past spring. Even so, hearing Hart talk about World Class Championship Wrestling during the trying year of 1986 is a treat.
Hart and Kayfabe Commentaries co-owner Sean Oliver sit and discuss WCCW and the objective of this interview is to have Hart re-book World Class from May 1986 through the Thanksgiving night Star Wars supercard. The six months in between included Gino Hernandez passing away, WCCW seceding from the NWA, Kerry Von Erich's near-fatal motorcycle accident, head WCCW booker Ken Mantell quitting and Bill Watts' UWF taking talent from World Class and Hart gets to re-book without any of that happening and the WCCW roster staying intact, along with getting to use wrestlers from the NWA and Jim Crockett Promotions.
This two-hour DVD starts with Hart detailing the Texas territory and the whole concept of the now-defunct concept of a territory. It's a lost concept to say the least and one that takes Hart about 30 minutes to explain. Names such as Paul Boesch, Jim Crockett, Joe Blanchard and Fritz Von Erich get mention and Hart also tells of how the WCCW hierarchy used to fly to all the shows in Texas long before wrestlers flew. The Texas TV deal also included main event-type matches and not squashes as was the norm back then.
The second chapter is called "The Roster" and it's here where Hart tells of Mantell's "deal" with Watts to try and put Fritz out of business. Hart calls Mantell a good booker, but not a good matchmaker. He said Mantell couldn't keep wrestlers established to keep drawing fans and his deal with Watts left WCCW with just Kerry, Kevin and Mike Von Erich and Bruiser Brody as the top stars.
Oliver then asks Hart to start the exercise of re-booking the territory before the downward spiral happened and he would have full use of the WCCW and NWA rosters. Hart thinks this is fantasy, and Oliver agrees, only to humble Hart by saying it's simply "a study of wrestling's most creative minds." Genius.
But before Hart starts the fantasy re-booking process, we take a detour as Hart talks about ECW and Paul Heyman. He said ECW changed wrestling from a sport to a show, that any guy off the street could be a wrestler and that the ECW gimmick hurt wrestling in the long-term. Hart then shoots on Vince McMahon and says watching a two-hour show of his nowadays is pretty hard to do. All those in agreement? Wow, look at all the hands!
Back on track with the fantasy, Hart would bring the Road Warriors and Paul Ellering to WCCW to challenge The Fabulous Freebirds for a shot at the six-man titles held by Kerry, Kevin and Lance Von Erich. This would establish the Warriors and they would go over. A Bruiser Brody and Blackjack Mulligan feud also happen with the TV title at stake. Hart said he would also talk Brody into losing the title to Mulligan.
Hart goes week by week on how he would write the shows and build the Freebirds-Road Warriors feud all the way to Thanksgiving. He even adds Abdullah the Butcher to the Brody-Mulligan angle with Brickhouse Brown also involved. The Von Erichs would also face the Road Warriors and Ellering in a non-title match with Ellering taking the fall. Having the Rock 'n' Roll Express on the undercard is also bandied about and other names that get mention include Kabuki, Iceman Parsons, Chris Adams and the One Man Gang.
Weaving names in and out of matches, yet still building to the supercard, and to hear Hart talk about it all is very bittersweet as it's unfortunate he's no longer with us to make decisions like this. He talks about how to establish wrestlers by having them go over and re-establish certain wrestlers to keep fan interest alive. The word "genius" was already used once before in this review and it should get more mention. Heck, Hart even books matches for the NWA Brass Knucks title!
Hart adds special attraction matches now and then, including one with Baron von Raschke against Wahoo McDaniel (or is it McDaniels?), and specialty matches such as Brody and Mulligan in a cage with the winner getting an NWA World title shot versus Ric Flair. Wow. Wouldn't that have been something?!?
Building the Warriors-Von Erichs angle stays consistent with the Freebirds always involved and return matches aplenty. It's a shame we don't get wrestling (not sports entertainment) like this these days. A crying shame. Seriously.
Another separate section has Hart telling stories about Don "The Spoiler" Jardine and The Missing Link (Dewey Robertson). Typical stories about life on the road that has the obvious violence and women anecdotes are always entertaining. Hart also calls Jardine "Donald" and his stories of him are laced with someone who maybe needed anger management.
The stories about the late Link are much more PG as Hart says Link apologized to him at the 2006 meeting at the Cauliflower Alley Club because Mantell wanted Link to attack Hart, who closes the segment saying he himself was in anger management in WCCW with Dusty Rhodes, who stood up at one meeting and said he's fat and wants people to stop calling him that. Ha!
Ending the DVD is how Hart would book Star Wars. The Von Erichs would win back their previously-lost six-man belts from the LOD and Ellering, Buddy Roberts winning the Texas title from Brian Adias and Mulligan losing a Loser Leaves Texas Match to Brody where falls count anywhere. Not only does Hart detail each match ending, but he explains why it would be done that way.
The DVD ends with Hart saying Oliver is better looking than Johnny Knoxville. An ending montage is a plethora of photos of Hart and sons, Jason and Chad, over some mellow and somber piano and violin music.
This is definitely a DVD that the WWE creative team should purchase to see how to write a wrestling show and how to book the proper way with matches that tell a story and not two-minute crud we get on Monday nights.
The entire Guest Booker series from Kayfabe Commentaries should get an award or something and not just rave reviews here on SLAM! Wrestling. This Hart DVD is a genius (there's that word again!) at work and it's mind-boggling, yet sad at the same time, to hear Hart talk about WCCW and how he would have made it work back some 22 years ago.
That said, this DVD isn't for everyone. If you're a new fan who thinks Triple H and John Cena are the end-all, be-all, then steer clear because you will have no clue A) who Gary Hart is or B) what he's talking about. If you are a fan of the lost "art" of wrestling and the writing and booking, hopefully, you already have this. If not, get it. Now.
Mar. 17, 2008: Gary Hart: ‘With a little help from my friends’
Mar. 17, 2008: Manager/booker Gary Hart dies
Mar. 16, 2008: World Class not a distant memory
May 1, 2001: 'Playboy' Gary Hart not so hated
Visit the SLAM! Wrestling store!
Guest Booker... Gary Hart DVD
Matt Mackinder always wondered if Gary Hart was related to Jimmy Hart or Bret Hart. Guess that's pretty irrelevant now, eh? In any event, he sends his condolences to Gary Hart's family. Better late than never. Email Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.