Writing for TJR Wrestling has afforded me the opportunity to learn about wrestlers beyond the favorites who’ve captured my interest over the years. What a pleasant surprise to scrutinize a particular wrestler or event for the sake of a column, and come out the other side with a new-found appreciation for someone I didn’t really notice or maybe even like before.
I’ve always struggled with Triple H. He’s been a wrestler that I never found exciting, until Royal Rumble 2010. He still wasn’t exciting, but he made an unexpected impression on me. The term “ring general” came to mind as I watched him lead a wide cast of characters through the intricate motions of a Rumble. He was subtle, he was focused, and he was selfless. Since then, I’ve watched his “big” matches turn to “fine” and then to “overly ambitious” ones. I was relieved to see him lose the ponytail and gain the suit. For every complaint we could make about the recent Triple H storylines, we should acknowledge the influence he has had on tag teams, talent development, and DVD production.
In the last few years, the biographical and topical videos put out by WWE have improved a great deal. Not only have they poured money into making each release look polished, but they have also invested time and consideration into the storytelling. Wrestlers are shown to have a life outside of their characters in the ring – the rules of kayfabe are relaxed. A lot of effort goes into telling a more well-rounded story, featuring interviews that also come off as more genuine than the practically teleprompted sound bites of yesteryear.
With all of these things in mind, I was intrigued by the recent release of Triple H’s DVD, “Thy Kingdom Come”. How objective would it be, and how would I feel about him after watching it?
I decided that instead of doing an in-depth review, and possibly giving too much away, I would balance my report with some other WWE videos that may (or may not!) be worth your while. The company has been churning out so many high-quality videos over the last few years, many of which I have already enjoyed (the CM Punk and Chris Jericho ones in particular). I decided to sample two that I hadn’t seen yet, in addition to Triple H’s. Cue the tape!
Rey Mysterio – The Life of a Masked Man (2011)
I chose this video first, because Rey has always garnered compliments from his fellow wrestlers for being easy to work with, and I didn’t know much about him.
Everything - from the set design, to the line of questioning aimed at Rey - is carefully curated to achieve a solemn tone. It suits Rey perfectly, as he is very soft spoken and demonstrates a great deal of reverence for many of the topics covered. Instead of rapid cuts between other wrestlers raving about Mysterio’s career, Matt Striker talks to Rey one-on-one. I’ve always been mystified by people’s disdain for Matt Striker; I thought he brought valuable insights to the commentary table, and he is a fitting foil for Rey here.
Mysterio speaks fondly of the uncle who helped raise him, and who introduced him to the world of lucha libre. The story of how he got his name and the meaning behind his mask design is very touching because it follows lucha tradition. Rey proves to be an excellent storyteller, with the appropriate questions from Striker who leads him through this journey. Sprinkled throughout are matches that show Mysterio’s diverse history in the ring. From a beautiful singles match against “Lionheart” Chris Jericho in WCW, to a fun Fatal 4-Way with Swagger, Punk, and Big Show, we get an excellent cross-section of his work.
Along the way, Rey shares his thoughts on Eddie Guerrero, who not only wrestled with and against Rey countless times, but was also his closest confidant. I am always amazed by how people are moved to such eloquence when it comes to Eddie. He affected people. Matt asks Rey about what he says to all the little kids that he touches foreheads with on his way to the ring. I’ve always wondered about that too! Rey also talks about his own children, and how he feels about being unmasked.
The Netflix version of this video features five matches, but there are 28 in total on the 3-disc set, plus more interview segments. If you are a serious Mysterio fan, you may want to invest in the DVD (not to mention, there are several others already released), but I thoroughly enjoyed the condensed version. I came away from it hoping to see Rey have one more run – a proper good-bye, well deserved.
The Epic Journey of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (2012)
“This is my truth” says Dwayne Johnson, and I vowed to give him the benefit of the doubt. I’ve always liked Dwayne Johnson, the actor and tweeter, more than I liked The Rock. Perhaps because The Rock flourished during a time when I didn’t watch a lot of wrestling – the catchphrases had made their way into the mainstream consciousness, but I had no original connection to him as a fan. I gritted my teeth watching him monopolize the 2008 Hall of Fame ceremony, and rolled my eyes when he trotted out the beloved-but-tired catchphrases for his comeback. I do not have a lot of charity in my heart for The Rock, but Dwayne Johnson does a darn good job of being a warm, witty fellow.
This is a very glossy promotion for Dwayne. The childhood photos, the home videos, and all of the people interviewed paint Dwayne in a very flattering light (even Triple H, who tries to keep his backhanded compliments to a minimum). Everyone raves about his natural ability, his work ethic, and his charisma. Everyone justifies his hiatus from the wrestling world to make movies, and by the end I realize that it is the entire point of this DVD: “This is my truth” refers to Dwayne’s reason for leaving.
Before we get to that, I will describe what else you can expect to see on this DVD. It provides a chronological look at Johnson’s life (up to challenging Cena for WM 28). I particularly liked seeing footage of a young Rocky Maiavia training in a practice ring, and that “white meat babyface” (in Triple H’s words) morphing into The Rock when the fans’ thought Maiavia just plain sucked. It was like the goofy tassels dangling around his chest were a yoke from which he broke free, and it was time to come into his own. There is ample footage of his time with the Nation of Domination, his ego-fueled brawls with Triple H, his convention-defying feud with Mick Foley, and his art-imitates-life rivalry with Steve Austin. Everything I expected to see, with perhaps a little too much detail, but it’s there for those who can’t get enough of the People’s Eyebrow. What I didn’t expect: a heightened interest in his Empty Arena Match against Foley, which I have never seen, and more of an appreciation for the Rock n’ Sock Connection. Fantastic chemistry. I also liked a neat little insight from John Cena, referring to The Rock’s match against Hogan, but I won’t spoil it here.
I’d rather talk about the whole point of this DVD, in my opinion being that The Rock turned his back on wrestling for an admirable purpose. Not to go to Hollywood, but to do so without relying on wrestling. Dwayne refers to his long hiatus from WWE television as being “quiet for awhile” because he wanted to get into the movie business on his own merit. I believe he means “without the tasseled yoke of wrasslin’ around my chest”. And because that’s what many fans believe, they turned on The Rock after his first starring role.
Why do we take such a pessimistic stance? Why can’t we view it in the same generous (and possibly more objective) way as Triple H and Chris Jericho? Because as Jim Ross so succinctly puts it, wrestling fans felt “You don’t love me anymore”. Oh, wrestling fans. We are a marginalized lot, aren’t we? Looked down upon by people who think professional wrestling is a juvenile form of entertainment, trashy and low. When The Rock left wrestling behind so definitively, it felt too much like a personal rejection – from one of our own, no less. Did he decide that it was better to forsake the wrestling fans to gain mainstream acceptance? Or was it a gesture of maturity, ill-received by the fickle masses?
These days, a wrestler cannot thrive on catchphrases alone (for long). About three Jabronis in, The Rock’s comeback fell flat. This DVD celebrates how great The Great One was, proving why so many people still love him, even five Jabronis later. Should Dwayne need to justify what he did? Does it matter what we think?
Triple H – Thy Kingdom Come (2013)
This video opens with Batista comparing Triple H to Michael Jordan.
On one hand, that’s CRAZY TALK, the kind so ridiculous that it comes right back around again to being amusing. On the other hand, let’s think about Michael Jordan for a second. He was a workhorse, a man who philosophized that talent could only get you so far. He was the first and last guy at practice. He would repeat drills a mind-boggling number of times before anyone else had even gotten out of bed. He had a big ego, not unwarranted, and one that many would say is necessary to reach the success that he did. It’s still crazy talk, but Triple H does exemplify a lot of those traits.
“Thy Kingdom Come” is a heavy handle, loaded with connotations, but the point of this DVD seems to be the humanization of The King of Kings. It’s not without hyperbole; as a matter of fact, there is a marathon of superlatives heaped upon Hunter at the end, my favorite being, “He’s not just a Hall of Fame wrestler, he’s a Hall of Fame human being”. Don’t ask me who said it, I had wandered away to make supper by that point. But almost everything else that came before it: riveting.
Great efforts are made to characterize Paul (those who don’t call him Paul, call him Hunter) as a deserving person. Everything that he has today, from the long list of title reigns to the boss’s daughter, he has rightfully earned. And I’m not saying that he hasn’t, my goodness they’ve got enough credible people on here telling me he has. This may be all you need to know: The Undertaker agreed to be on this DVD, and speak out of character. No make-up, just a hoodie. What a rare and stunning gesture, one that I’m sure Triple H knew would elevate his story beyond reproach.
And then there are his parents. His parents are adorable! With their sunny dispositions and obvious love for their son, how bad can a guy be who was raised by such endearing people? This is a detailed chronology of Triple H’s life, from the time he climbed up on his father’s lap to watch wrestling, to making Vince McMahon shed a tear because he is so blessed to have Hunter in his family. It’s a fascinating story that shows Hunter to be a focused and savvy student of the business (Public Service Announcement: do not make a drinking game out of “The Business”). Hustle got him in the door, and a relentless work ethic and thirst for knowledge won the hearts of his elders. Enough evidence is given to convince me that Triple H really is that guy: the one who went to the WCW training facility every day when he already had a job with them; the one who moved to Alabama just to rehab his torn quad as well and as quickly as possible; the one who is now paying it forward with the WWE Performance Center.
He also paid his dues politically. All parties involved agreed that Hunter took the fall for the infamous incident at Madison Square Garden, and had to prove himself in the ring yet again after marrying Stephanie McMahon. He offers an excellent analogy about the precarious position of a top guy, and how well-behaved you need to be so that no one has the ammo to bring you down. He too is a good storyteller, full of details and voices and a love for wrestling that cannot be disputed. While I’m sure a lot of revisionist history is in play here, “Thy Kingdom Come” features a who’s-who of WWE and enough juicy behind-the-scenes tales to keep me enthralled.
The list of matches is an interesting one, with enough off-the-beaten path choices to make the DVD a good purchase. I was a fool to think it might be an objective take on Triple H, but that’s okay, I still had a good time. I’m sure that’s kind of the point.
What Do You Think?
Do you want to see Rey Mysterio come back for one more run, even if it’s at a diminished capacity? Should Dwayne Johnson need to justify The Rock’s hiatus from wrestling? Has Triple H earned the praise?
Happy Fall, and I'll see you on twitter for Battleground!