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Monday Night Mayhem DVD Review: “Timeline: The History Of The WWE 1997 As Told By Jim Cornette”
Produced By: Kayfabe Commentaries
DVD Review Written By: Shawn “The Angry Hero” Marek
I’ve come to the conclusion that if they ever make a “Mount Rushmore of Pro Wrestling Shoot Interviews” (carved into a mountain somewhere in “Parts Unknown”), the four faces would have to be The Honky Tonk Man, The Iron Sheik, Raven, & Jim Cornette. Since being let go from TNA, “The Louisville Slugger” has been a fixture with Kayfabe Commentaries, lending his acerbic wit & sledgehammer honesty to a series of YouShoot’s & Ring Roasts. For the first (and hopefully not the last) time, JC is now a part of the WWE Timeline DVD’s, providing his recollection of the year 1997 on this double-disc DVD set from the mighty Kayfabe Commentaries.
In addition to eternal host Sean Oliver, Jim has brought along a WWE-issued ledger that he used during 1997 to help keep track of attendance, house grosses, bookings, & other miscellany. As a part of the creative booking team, this ledger was essential then and essential now to refresh Cornette’s memory from time to time during the DVD. This particularly becomes handy when JC is able to go back and prove how poorly the house shows were doing at this time, despite the prominence of stars such as Bret “The Hitman” Hart, “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels, & “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Concurrently, the sold-out success of WrestleMania XIII that year in Chicago was perpetuated in part to recognizing the dwindling houses and running smaller buildings, like The Rosemont Horizon. Jim stresses over and over that 1997 was the year that set up the WWE boom of 1998, putting the pieces in order (The Rock’s heel turn, “Stone Cold” vs. Vince McMahon, etc.) that would make it so memorable.
The ongoing drama between Shawn Michaels & Bret Hart is a steady theme here, as Cornette recalls the petulance of both men. Shawn was at his height of unprofessionalism, described by JC as “jacking off in people’s livelihoods” every time he’d throw shoot comments out on television and refuse to do jobs. Bret wasn’t perfect either, letting his national pride get the better of him when it came to dropping the title before the infamous Survivor Series “Montreal Screwjob.” Jim poses the question as to why didn’t Vince think to strip the title off of Bret before he told him that he would no longer be able to honor the 20-year contract, thus freeing him up to negotiate with WCW. Triple H takes it pretty hard here too, as Jim talks about how after The Kliq incident at Madison Square Garden, Hunter had to go around and apologize to everyone in the locker room, only to later become insincere and exploit the incident on Monday Night RAW (partly at the behest of Vince Russo). There are some great stories here, including Cornette’s tale of the backstage brawl between Shawn & Bret, ending with JC getting a souvenir of HBK’s hair.
Another fine aspect of the Timeline DVD is Jim’s explanation on the randomness of the roster in 1997. Names from the past such as The Fantastics, Scott Taylor (soon to be Scotty 2 Hotty), Tony Anthony, & The Patriot either made TV appearances or had try-outs. According to Cornette, this was more of a way to get good matches on TV for relatively cheap (in terms of talent pay) and see if something caught on. In the midst of a war with WCW, the WWE roster was thin; the current talent did not have the juice behind them like they would over the next few years. Come to think of it, this approach perfectly explains why the “Gang Warz” were a thing in 1997 and how Miguel Perez Jr had a job.
1997 saw returns & debuts from The Legion of Doom (because according to JC, why not — it’s The Road Warriors) and current RAW announcer Michael Cole, who Jim pegged a Kevin Dunn project, brought in solely for his looks & professional news background. Cornette minces no words when it comes to his opinions on the WWE Executive Producer, recalling the assorted run-in’s he had over the years with Dunn. At one juncture, Dunn brazenly told JC how he had grown “tiresome” of Jim & his persistence that they talk wrestling during the booking meetings. It was par in 1997, as Cornette puts it, for production meeting to be dominated by Vince McMahon’s obsession with Sable and how they were going to put her on TV that week as opposed to, I don’t know, booking The Patriot in strong manner. Hearing JC talk about how Sable, someone who could have cared less about wrestling, made five times as much as he did in his best year in the business. Quite staggering, and yet it puts into perspective why today the WWE will purposely hire models and teach them to wrestle. Back to Dunn, Jim went for the jugular, lashing out at him & his deformed teeth. This led to a forced vacation for Cornette from the booking committee and Vince brokering a truce, during which Dunn started crying and while JC apologized.
Speaking of feuds, Jim’s disdain for former WWE head writer (and current TNA booker) Vince Russo is on full display on this DVD. Cornette details how Russo went from a floundering video store clerk with an obsession over B-movies to the editor of the WWE Magazine and eventually a creative team member. After a poorly-produced taped edition of Monday Night RAW from Germany, Vince McMahon flipped out and put out a call for some fresh ideas. Russo stepped up to the plate, described in a manner only that JC could, like an “idiot savant rattling off shit.” McMahon would only take the best ideas out of the glut of madness Russo was bringing. To hammer Russo’s clueless nature in the wrestling business, recalls a story when Russo came backstage and was so excited to have been inside the guard barrier. Jim goes deeper into his hatred for Russo, explaining that Russo was never a fan of wrestling per se, but more the spectacle & angles; he had no concept of telling a story in the ring. The fact that Russo quit the WWE to McMahon over the phone after bullsh*tting WCW into hiring him tells Cornette all he needs to know.
Honestly, I could go on and on about this DVD. There is so much ground to be covered from Brian Pillman’s tragic death, to why JC is so proud of the Hell in the Cell, to how Jim reacted to “The Montreal Screwjob,” plus the subsequent holdout of some of the boys. This Timeline is one of the most comprehensive wrestling retrospective done not just for Kayfabe Commentaries, but anywhere else. Despite both DVD’s totaling over three hours in run time, Cornette makes it fly by and leaves the viewer (at least me) disappointed that it wasn’t longer.
Be sure to pick up your copy of Timeline: The History of WWE 1997 As told by Jim Cornette, along with tons of other great wrestling shoot DVD’s & retrospectives over at www.KayfabeCommentaries.com. Until next time, feel free to check me out on Twitter (@AngryHeroShawn), my official “Future Endeavored” blog (located at www.FutureEndeavored.tumble.com), along with my short film Smark (located at www.SmarkMovie.tumblr.com). As you wind down your “Summer of Mayhem 2011,” remember: Above all things — be a man!
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