Being A Horseman ™ Starring J. J. Dillon
Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
We all know who those shadowy figures are, behind legendary manager figure JJ Dillon. We know, even though they aren’t getting images on the cover, they aren’t available to talk up this non-mainstream product, and they aren’t going to be live and in color on the product itself.
But those shadows, stretching long to this day, to 2012, from the angles and the presence and the imagery of mostly a few year period in the mid eighties, but stretching on even then to the height of the Cable TV wars of the nineties, and yes, in many way, in the hearts of heel wrestling fans forever.
This DVD is billed as a week in the life of the Horseman – trademarked, as we all know, so many years ago – and now held by a company that honors the group in the Hall of Fame, even with the controversy of inducting a guy who works for the feeble opposition, even with the questioning of the evolution of that name, even with the realities and the infamy of everything done during the height of that name, afterwards and long after any semblance of that foursome even can be remembered in the ring.
The DVD is packaged around one man, James J. Dillon, taking the viewers on a ‘tour’ of sorts, the remembrances of the actions and happenings of the group during a typical week in WCW during the mid-to-late 1980’s.
Dillon, of course, was the manager par excellence of the group.
Not so much the glue that held them together, nor any part of the overall attraction, but mostly the guy who simply had to be there. In 2012, the very concept of such an assemblage is incomprehensible. In 1986, four guys as buddies in and out of the ring had to have a manager running the business end.
Is it me or is it truly ironic that the WWE would induct one of the most influential manager stables (yeah, after I just discounted that aspect) in wrestling history when the promotion is so oblivious to the concept that it has squandered scores of talented guys that desperately needed a mouthpiece and ignored dozens of guys that could have filled that role with great success?
Just because HHH don’t need no stinking manager means no one gets a manager!
JJ Dillon, of course, is a manager of distinction.
Debating the work/shoot of this DVD would be as foolish as debating the merits of the WWE Hall of Fame, but there are those who look for such debates. I get the impression that Dillon is truly bringing forth his memories of the time frame, but, again, there’s no way any wrestling output on an entertainment level is going to be pure.
Some of the out-takes and talk of JJ’s wives and his stories are purely entertaining, that’s for sure.
The graphics and the packaging of the DVD are what they are. No one watches Shoot Interviews for stellar production values. Then again, Kayfabe Commentaries always sets things up nicely: from Sean Oliver’s laid-back interview approach, to the right mix of comedy and questioning, to the chapters and the extras.
Dillon always has had a folksy-like attitude, which contradicts his jet-setting image from the era.
But Dillon remains one of the more interesting figures in the industry. He’s been there, done that and has seen all sides of the feuds and the corporate structures. There aren’t too many people in the business who can claim that they started in Bruno Sammartino’s Pittsburgh promotion, worked closely with Ric Flair in his prime, and also had significant responsibilities in WCW and the WWE.
And still maintains good standing with all sides of those equations.
What I loved about this DVD were the details and the business-oriented sensibility of Dillon. The tour is more than just a sappy, cheap graphics display of a mythical week of the most mythical of all heel groups, but a pretty interesting description of what wrestlers do, and a many, many tales about the venues and the cities (large and small) and what the Horseman expected and what they may have done before, during and after a show.
I’m sure the WWE will put its own version out soon, but any such product will pale in terms of the depth, the details and the tone. Sometimes fanboy mentality is just the way to go when talking about things in wrestling’s past, and this is definitely one of those places for getting all warm and fuzzy about the infamous Four Horseman.
There is a distinct feel of nostalgia, of talking up something that was, is and always will be “cool”, and an enormous sense of just how big the Horseman were.
All the glitz and glamour of the Four Horseman is fine and dandy, but without the guys involved, and just JJ, there is an obvious flaw – all talk, and all talk from just one voice from the era.
Beyond that, there’s a strong perspective on what goes on in the business, from a guy who definitely knows his stuff. That, to me, is the stronger aspect of the DVD: getting a glimpse of the business and getting a view of what goes on in the average week of being a professional wrestler – albeit a glimpse from the top of the food chain, from someone surrounded by the most notorious, most notable and most fashionable of all wrestling stars.
Kayfabe Commentaries does it again, and provides another interesting perspective on the industry, filled with respect, details and tales to flesh out your nostalgia.