As a big fan of the Memphis pro wrestling territory, to say I was ecstatic about getting my hands on the Memphis Heat documentary would be an understatement. I did and the 90 minute video is every bit as exciting and intense as the promotion was back in its heyday.
Memphis Heat chronicles the rise and prime of one of the most entertaining pro wrestling territories in history, Memphis. Stories have been told about the territory and its classic matches and feuds for years in interviews with key players from the company. But never has it all been put together in one presentation and told as a story.
The key players of the area tell the story throughout this DVD. The list of Memphis wrestling legends telling the story include; Sputnik Monroe, Billy Wicks, Bill Dundee, Jackie Fargo, Jim Blake, Jimmy Hart, Jerry Jarrett, Rocky Johnson, Jimmy Valiant, and oh yes the King himself Jerry Lawler.
[adinserter block=”1″]The DVD starts with the legendary Sputnik Monroe. I have heard the tales about Sputnik but I had never seen Sputnik on video until now. Unfortunately Sputnik has passed since this was produced. Sputnik tells some great stories about his battles with segregation. Sputnik is white but he was known for going to African American bars to socialize with the minorities and getting in a lot of trouble. Sputnik was arrested and tells his story about he was able to get African American fans into shows and with better seats. Quite frankly there is a real story here and I would hope at some point that someone does an entire movie or book on this.
The DVD than goes through the changes to the area and how Jerry Jarrett, Bill Dundee, Jackie Fargo, Jerry Lawler, etc. got involved and became key players. I am skipping over a lot here but I don’t want to give too much away. Everyone has a story and none is less riveting than the other.
As for the personalities, I’d say just about everyone came off well. Jerry Jarrett came off brutally honest retelling stories and giving his opinion on the background. I’d say of everyone, Jackie Fargo came off the worst to me. Fargo came off as the stereotypical old timer who can’t stop talking about how great he was, how bad the others were, and how important he was to the territory. While he was arguably the biggest star of the region, he was the only one that came off that way. Everyone else came off humble and you could almost see each and every one of them getting goose bumps (especially Lawler and Hart) as they retold their stories.
What makes this DVD great is without a doubt the footage. Footage from the territory is shown throughout the entire documentary. Whenever someone tells a story, no matter how obscure it may be, footage is shown of the match or angle. I was a big tape trader back in the day but there were things here that I had never seen before. The other clips brought back some tremendous memories of watching these angles and matches years later on tape. If not for anything else, the footage makes this DVD a must own.
Just about every classic moment and angle is chronicles and shown. Everything from the legendary Jerry Lawler-Andy Kaufman feud (with a great story or two by Lawler), tons of great Jimmy Hart clips, Lawler winning the title as a heel, breaking his leg, and the legendary Hart interview that turned Lawler face, the Tupelo Concession Stand Brawl, Funk-Lawler Empty Arena Match, Lawler vs. Fargo, tons of Lawler vs. Dundee angles and interviews, Jimmy Valiant’s debut attacking Lawler, the Rocky Johnson vs. Lawler feud, and so much more. It was just non-stop action from start to finish.
There are even some uncensored promos and matches that make the DVD. One in particular is the Jerry Lawler vs. Terry Funk Empty Arena Match. They show Funk before Lawler enters just cutting a curse laden promo on Lawler that just took the intensity of that match to another level. While the Funker isn’t interviewed on the DVD, he certainly makes his presence known through this and other match clips against The King.
[adinserter block=”2″]If I was going to compare this to anything it would probably be the World Class documentaries, yet this DVD is about 1,000 times better. The combination of southern rock playing over clips as the legends tell the stories made for one of the most fun 90 minutes I have ever spent watching a pro wrestling DVD. I would go as far as to say that this is critical viewing for any pro wrestling fan. You will get a much better understanding of old heads like me who whine about how much better pro wrestling used to be and you will see how exciting pro wrestling used to be.
In addition to the 90 minutes of non-stop action on the documentary there are about two full hours of extras on the DVD. I haven’t gotten through all of the extras yet but so far they are just as fun as the DVD. The extras have been just as good as the main DVD so far. The extras include a ton of classic matches & promos (all fantastic), Jimmy Hart telling a great story about wrestling Jackie Fargo, and a fascinating story about Mario Galento that could have easily made the main movie.
If there is one complaint, it is that the feud with Angelo Poffo’s ICW and Randy Savage coming to the territory was never discussed. The feud between the two promotions is legendary and I think it was a real big part of the history of the area. Even bigger than the feud was when Randy Savage came into the promotion to feud with Jerry Lawler. The story cuts off at 1985 when Jimmy Hart leaves, but Savage came into the territory in 1984. To be fair, I have not watched all of the extras so maybe there is something in the bonus area.
I can’t ever recall watching a documentary and waking up the next day and wanting to watch it again until Memphis Heat. This documentary is truly a treasure and I can only hope that more movies like these chronicling old school pro wrestling territories get produced in the future. Unfortunately I don’t think any of them will match the greatness of Memphis Heat.
For information on ordering Memphis Heat, visit their website at http://memphis-heat.com.