Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hulk Hogan's Celebrity Wrestling

... and today we have a guest review of Hulk Hogan's Celebrity Wrestling, courtesy of my erstwhile broadcast colleague, the fabulous sebastian. This review originally appeared over on dvdpurgatory.com.

The word "celebrity" in this title is a little misleading, if not an outright lie. A more accurate description might be "exactly who are these people and why am I supposed to know them".

Dennis Rodman is the only one with a legitimate claim to be a celebrity, and I use the word "legitimate" loosely. Butterbean may be reasonably well known to boxing, or tough man contest fans, but the rest of the world is oblivious to his blubbery fighting achievements. Danny Bonaduce is known not so much for his role in The Partridge Family, but more for his anger issues, his alcohol and drug problems, and for prostituting himself on any tv show (including his own) for the price of a cup of coffee (or a can of beer). Todd Bridges played Willis on Different Strokes and was surely mostly forgotten before this show came along. A category Dustin Diamond (who played Screech in Saved By The Bell) would have to step up to be in. Nobody really knew him in the first place. Erin Murphy was very young when she was Tabitha on Bewitched and I have no idea where they found her for this. The birthing ward maybe? Surreal Life?? Frank Stallone (brother of Sylvester) is the oldest of the competitors and another weird and obscure choice. Steven Ziering, from the original Beverly Hills 90210, would have been a stretch to use as a "celebrity", but it's worse than that, they use his ex-wife Nikki Ziering (a sometime actor, a sometime Playboy model, and a full time bore). Tiffany had a pop hit or two in the eighties yet still, somehow, qualifies as a "celebrity". I guess he status was enough to get her in to Playboy). And I still don't know who Trishelle Cannatella is or why she is here but, incidentally, she is the third of the contestants to be in Playboy.The wrestlers involved are a little more legit. Hulk Hogan may be the biggest name ever in wrestling, despite his wrestling ability being less (much less) than stellar. His persona though was undeniably appealing to American males and made him the superstar that other wrestlers envied. Brian Knobbs (one half of The Nasty Boys) reputation was built more on his ability to withstand a phenomenal amount of punishment than to wrestle a technical match. Brutus Beefcake's main claim to fame was some colourful outfits (which Mr J one once saw him wearing in a gentleman's club after a live event) and the good fortune to tag-team with a genuine talent in Greg "The Hammer" Valentine. Jimmy "Mouth Of The South Hart was one of the most popular (or unpopular I guess) managers ever, but he hardly rivalled the true greats like Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. Eric Bischoff led WCW to television dominance in the nineties and, while WCW has faded in to oblivion, Eric's ego never did. Guest appearances by Bill Goldberg and Rob Van Dam help to keep the training interesting for wrestling fans.

Despite the dubious nature of the talent and trainers, the show itself is not without appeal and insight into the much maligned world of professional wrestling. Hogan even manages to come across as being more humble than he has in the past (including the admission that his wrestling ability is limited) but he is not in the show very much and seems fairly detached when he is. A style similar to that he used while hosting American Gladiators. A show which, in hindsight, is probably is even more low-brow than this one.

The contestants are divided in to two teams and each week they learn some moves and put on a show for a small audience. The training, the planning, and the clash of egos is a good introduction to the workings of professional wrestling. It was clear to me that some people only survived elimination because of their audience appeal not their wrestling ability. I'm not talking about Hogan, I'm talking about the bimbo Ziering. Based on her “sexy” looks and lack of ability it is likely she could even make it in the WWE, if she wanted to. I doubt she would because, however ditzy she might be, she's not that stupid. Bridges and Diamond seem to be enjoying themselves and showed an appreciation for wrestling and a desire to be good at it. Bonaduce showed a desire to prove himself a "talent" but, as with everything else in his life, he overestimates his ability (and appeal). The choice of winner, much like the choice of a champion in wrestling, did not come down to who was the best in the ring or training, but you'll have to watch it to find out who the it was.

This is a great companion piece for the Wrestler, with both showing life in the squared circle from behind the scenes. Though, like after watching the Wrestler, you may very well leave the screen depressed, and perhaps a little sorry for all of those involved in it.

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