Friday, 24 July 2015

WWE It's Good to Be King - The Jerry Lawler Story DVD Review

WWE's It's Good to Be King - The Jerry Lawler Story is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray, available from and all other good home video stores. The three disc set features a documentary looking Jerry Lawler's life, as well as over twenty matches from The King's career, ranging from 1981 to 2011, alongside a number of non-wrestling segments in various forms. The set includes matches against the likes of The Undertaker, Curt Hennig, Bret Hart, Terry Funk, Ric Flair and more.

Disc One

The main feature of this set is the documentary that covers the first disc and comes in at just under an hour and a half. Following Lawler's entire life, the feature is impressive in the amount of ground it manages to cover in such a short amount of time, keeping a quick pace throughout, especially as Lawler moves throughout the different territories. The interview with the man himself, allows for some good insight into a number of his most famous moments in wrestling, with stories of how he broke into the business being particularly fascinating. 

All the major points that you'd expect to be included are there from Lawler's feud with Andy Kaufman (including footage from the pairs appearance on The David Letterman Show), to his arrival in the WWF and feud with Bret Hart, his departure from WWF in 2001, as well as his infamous heart attack during a live Monday Night RAW (including never before seen footage, which isn't comfortable viewing) Plenty of other aspects of Lawler's life are covered rounded off the documentary that gives a nice picture of Lawler's life at a distance. The King's interview comes across as honest, with Lawler not worried about saying how he feels, whilst also never afraid to point out his own errors throughout his career.

A number of different personalities are also interviewed, including some of Lawler's biggest rivals and allies, as well as those who knew him in his youth and his current girlfriend. Anytime Vince McMahon appear on these sets is a real treat these days, and his insight on Lawler's career, especially his match with Supestar Billy Graham and Lawler's 2001 departure are invaluable here. Both former Mid-Sothern promoter (and TNA co-founder) Jerry Jarrett and announcer Lance Russel make their debuts on a Home Video release, both providing a satisfying look at The King's time in the Mid-Southern promotion. It's clear that a lot of effort has gone into putting together these interviews to provide as wide a look at Lawler's life as possible and it pays off.

My only real complaint is that the documentary is just a little short, and whilst the brevity allows the documentary to keep up a cracking pace, at times it would have been nice to see things delve a little deeper. Especially when it came to Lawler's time before WWE, as Lawler spends time in an era and promotions that very rarely get a look in in today's WWE landscape. There's space to expand, and more areas of Lawler's life to be explored that perhaps an extra half hour or forty five minutes would have allowed.

Disc Two

The first match is a real treat, as Lawler takes on Terry Funk in an Empty Arena match from CWA (April 1981) and whilst the footage isn't great, it's a curious brawl and completely fascinating for any modern day fan. Lawler's first bout with Andy Kaufman (also from CWA in April 1982) doesn't have a lot of wrestling content with plenty of stalling, but a red hot crowd laps it up. The lengthy time that Kaufman sends on the mat following the mat works as a nice contrast to the modern day pacing of wrestling, but perhaps takes up a little too much time for a Home video release. The crowd continues to play a major factor in a Loser Leaves Town Match with Bill "Superstar" Dundee (CWA, June 1983) being loud throughout and pushing the match along nicely. The match itself is good ol' fashioned brawl, with a sound structure that plays the crowd well, leading to an electric finish. 

With the best footage of the set so far, an AWA World Heavyweight Championship clash with "Cool" Curt Hennig (AWA Championship Wrestling, March 1988) is another brawling effort. For me, the match was a little long for the shitty finish that it is given. As the wrestling landscape continued to change, The King's match with Kerry von Erich over the AWA and WCCW World Heavyweight Championship (WCCW, September 1988) is an acceptable inclusion for it's historical significance alone. Lawler shines as a heel here and whilst von Erich no selling a piledriver had me shaking my head, the angle that follows the contest is a terrific piece of booking. 

A handful of WWF segments follow, including Lawler's debut for the company, but it's his interview with ukulele playing nuisance Tiny Tim (WWF Monday Night RAW, July 1993) is a particular highlight, for unexplainable reasons. Owen Hart provides a decent opponent for Lawler (WWF Wrestling Challenge, July 1993), although the bout is a little short on wrestling content. The inclusion of a Bret Hart and Bam Bam Bigelow collision (WWF Monday Night RAW, July 1993) may look odd at first, but does include Lawler's infamous tirade on Stu and Helen Hart at ringside, which genuinely hilarious. A segment involving The King and a fake "Rowdy" Roddy Piper (WWF Monday Night RAW, June 1994) doesn't quite hit the spot on a Home video release on it's own right.

However, the segment does work as a nice lead in to Lawler's bout with Piper himself (WWF King of the Ring, June 1994), with the bout having a true big fight feel. The match didn't do a whole deal for me, going much longer than it needed too, with one good false finish the shining light in between a corny story. Almost certainly included for the name value is a Casket match with The Undertaker (WWF, 1994), that whilst promising a strong narrative early on fails to deliver.

Disc Three

If your a fan of celebrity appearances than William Shatner's turn on the King's Court (WWF Monday Night RAW, January 1995) will be right up your ally, but it wasn't my cup of tea. The Kiss My Foot match with Bret "Hitman" Hart (WWF King of the Ring, June 1995)  is one of the strongest matches on the set, in front of a great crowd, that's into everything that either man does in the match. A solid end to the feud that is helped by the previous segment inclusions on the set which add nice context to the match, allowing the viewer to be almost as into the finish as the Baltimore Crowd. A match in which Lawler does his own commentary opposite Al Jackson (WWF Supestars, March 1996) is much better than it deserves to be, with Lawler's heel gimmick shining. 

Some may get a kick out of the infamous bout with Jake "The Snake" Roberts (WWF SummerSlam, August 1996), but the focus on Roberts' real life alcoholism really didn't sit well with me. Part of WWF's ECW Invasion storyline see's a superb back and forth segment between Lawler and Paul E. Dangerously (WWF RAW is WAR, March 1997) with the pair both breaking into almost shoot territory at points. A surprisingly enjoyable tag match, with "Mr. Monday Night" Rob Van Dam opposite The Headbangers (WWF Shotgun Saturday Night, June 1997), mainly because of Van Dam's involvement, although the close is disappointing.

A bout with Tommy Dreamer (ECW Hardcore Heaven, August 1997) is a hell of a lot of fun, even if Lawler bleeding buckets is a bit too much. Shit loads of ridiculous false finishes, tonnes of surprise appearances and Lawler taking to the ECW style better than he should have been able to in 1997 make this a great watch. Included simply because of The King teaming with his son, "Too Sexy" Brian Lawler, a match opposite Flash Funk and Scott Taylor (WWF Shotgun Saturday Night, October 1997) is an absolute mess of a match. The same can be said for a contest with Tazz (WWF SummerSlam, August 2000), which whilst the crowd is, for some reason, into proceedings is a bit ol' shitfest. 

A "Legends Match" with "Nature Boy" Ric Flair (WWE Monday Night RAW, November 2004) is everything that you would want it to be at the time, with a superb finish. Lawler's Hall of Fame induction (March 2007) is included in full, with William Shatner on hand to do the inducting. The crowd is disrespectful throughout, which makes for frustrating viewing at times, as does Shatner's piss poor induction speech. Lawler looks at home with his speech, with some genuinely funny jokes and stories, although there is some cross-over, content wise, with the documentary on Disc One.

Remembered for being much, much better than it should have been, a TLC bout for the WWE Championship with The Miz (WWE Monday Night RAW, November 2010) makes good use of the toys available with Miz and Alex Riley both putting in a lot of work. The story of the bout works well, with Lawler receiving his first WWE title match, with Lawler doing a great job as the nostalgic favourite. The final match on the set see's The King opposite Michael Cole (WWE WrestleMania 27, April 2011) in a match that doesn't deserve to Lawler's only match at The Show of Shows. On the upside, seeing Lawler's face on his entrance and whilst delivering a Bret's Rope Fist Drop, is an absolute picture and it's so clear how much being able to perform on that show meant to him. The after match antics involving "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Booker T and Jack Swagger is much much more entertaining than the match itself.


I'd recommend the documentary portion of this DVD to anyone who considers themselves a wrestling fan, and especially anyone interested in learning more about wrestling history from the pre-Sport Entertainment era. 

The matches however are a different kettle of fish. It's a shame that the first match available comes 12 years into Lawler's career, but with the quality of the footage of that match, it's not surprising that earlier footage either doesn't exist or isn't of a high enough quality to include on a home video release. There's some good matches on here (Bret Hart, The Miz) and some significant and curious bouts also (Terry Funk, Kerry von Erich, Tommy Dreamer) which make for great viewing. Then there's some horrendous matches that don't reflect greatly on Lawler or WWE (Jake Roberts) and some that are just plain shite (Flash Funk and Scott Taylor). If I wasn't reviewing this set then the skip button would have come in handy a few times.

If your a documentary guy then the documentary justifies the price tag, if you're after matches there might be just enough to make this a worthwhile purchase, but be prepared to sit through some bouts that don't quite cut the mustard.

1 comment:

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