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WWE: Stone Cold Steve Austin(2011)
Stone Cold Steve Austin looks at the life and career of Austin, and includes exclusive, never-before-seen interviews with Austin and many of his in-ring rivals.
For more about WWE: Stone Cold Steve Austin and the WWE: Stone Cold Steve Austin Blu-ray release, see WWE: Stone Cold Steve Austin Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on November 30, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Steve Austin, Vince McMahon, The Rock
» See full cast & crew
WWE: Stone Cold Steve Austin Blu-ray Review
The Texas Rattlesnake slithers onto Blu-ray through a must-own three-disc release.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, November 30, 2011
That's the bottom line.
Professional wrestling has always been, and probably always will be, about larger-than-life figures and flashy personas in shiny clothes covering up only the most private of human parts, leaving an otherwise hulking and shiny physique exposed to the world. They're the kind of people, most of them, who are anything but relatable, but the manufactured drama, pretend action, and incredible feats of freakish strength and athleticism prove enough to draw in audiences by the millions, to propel the world's most staged but perhaps most entertaining performance events to unparalleled heights. But what happens when one of the performers is the proverbial "everyman," the guy who could live down the street, the trucker who could be driving the semi, the dude at the body shop, that big former football player who just loves to watch the game and kick back with a beer or ten? Take those typical wrestling superstar traits and put them inside a man who's as talented as his peers but also as relatable as any old regular Joe off the street -- not to mention oozing with charisma and blessed with an uncanny understanding of what it is that wrestling fans want to see and hear -- and the end result is the greatest WWE superstar of all time, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. This is his story, the story of a dedicated hard worker who paid his dues, rose through the ranks, suffered through and overcame career-threatening injuries, and elevated himself to legendary status not only within the square ring of professional wrestling, but within popular culture, transcending his sport and emerging as an icon of the 1990s, a hero of the people as the face of sports entertainment.
Better known in his earlier days -- and at the dawn of his career -- as Steve Williams, the man now known worldwide as "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was born in Victoria, Texas but soon found himself in the small community of Edna where he blossomed into a multi-sport star and, more importantly, found his fingers pointing the television dial to small-time professional wrestling events televised from nearby Houston, events that would plant the seeds of destiny in his then-blonde, soon-to-be-shaved head. Steve would answer the call to attend a nearby wrestling academy and quickly found favor with wrestling star "Gentleman" Chris Adams, who recognized Steve's potential despite the future superstar's slow learning curve. The two would professionally feud in the ring in small-time matches while Chris honed Steve into a superior wrestler outside of it. It wasn't long before Steve became something of a hot commodity. Promoter Jerry Jarret lured him to USWA, operated out of Tennessee, where another wrestler named "Steve Williams" performed. It was there that his pseudonym -- and now legal name -- "Steve Austin" was born (and, no, Steve wash't comfortable stealing from Lee Majors, but the name stuck). The stage name would evolve to include "Stunning" Steve Austin, which, as his fans would know, would foreshadow his "Stunner" finishing move that would become one of many signature elements that would shape his career. Before long, Austin was the wrestling circuit's 1990 rookie of the year, another stepping stone on his way to superstardom.
Austin's exploits in the USWA, his improved wrestling ability, evolving persona, and dedication to the sport captured the attention of one of wrestling's then-"big leagues," World Championship Wrestling. The WCW was a major stepping stone for Austin's -- or anyone's, for that matter -- career; it offered national exposure via TBS broadcasts and paid significantly better than the smaller local and regional circuits. Before long, Austin was the WCW champion. His star shone brightly, and WCW began marketing him as a "blue collar" hero character. Austin would partner with Brian Pillman and form one-half of the "Hollywood Blondes" tag team that would dominate the WCW for some time thanks to their uncanny chemistry despite grossly different personal backgrounds. Like all good things in the wrestling universe, The Hollywood Blondes would eventually dissolve, leading Austin to a more prominent role as a singles match wrestler which, together with a burgeoning rivalry with Ricky Steamboat, would allow the spotlight to shine even more brightly on the young up-and-comer. Unfortunately (or fortunately, in hindsight), an injury and the WCW's lack of belief in Austin's marketability led to his dismissal from the WCW -- via phone, no less -- leaving him a wrestler without a home and a future in jeopardy.
ECW and WWF Superstardom.
Though still injury-riddled and out of pro wrestling, Austin received a phone call from Promoter Paul Heyman, a man who recognized Austin's true potential as both a performer in the ring and as a wrestling character out of it. Austin and Heyman played up the angle of Austin's unceremonious departure from the WCW, which served both as an outlet for his frustrations and as a means of elevating his exposure and stature within the ECW ranks. Austin's stock once again skyrocketed; he morphed into a ECW favorite with his now-polished wrestling skills and fleshed-out character. Austin's success opened another door -- this one into the WWF (or, now, WWE) -- and he seized the opportunity to migrate over to wrestling's biggest stage and cement his talents in Vince McMahon's showcase platform. Austin would find his character immediately changed; he was portrayed as a silent but deadly warrior, taking away half of his schtick and his character with it. Dubbed "The Ringmaster," Austin found success in the WWF but was displeased with the direction his career was headed. Fortunately, the WWF recognized his potential. The persona was unleashed, the "Stone Cold" and "Texas Rattlesnake" nicknames stuck, 1996's King of the Ring event saw the debut of his famous "Austin 3:16" catchphrase, and the rest, as they say, was wrestling history.
Shattering glass. A catchy guitar riff. A heavy bass line. A shaved head. A black vest. A couple of Miller Lites. Thousands of cheering fans. Steve Austin's career success is defined by his achieving of the pinnacle of every facet of professional wrestling. Great skill inside the ring, a unique ability to refine his character to perfection, unmatched dedication to the sport, a fan-friendly persona, and even the perfect intro music shaped Stone Cold into the ultimate professional wrestler, a far cry from the greasy, long-haired superstars of the previous generation that were all 1980s flash in their presentations. Professional wrestling is a game played inside and out of the ring, and it's the mastery of both areas that makes a wrestler a professional, and a professional into a legend. Austin was -- and remains -- the sport's most beloved heel and its most popular anti-hero. His career as a WWE superstar was solidified by his legendary bloodbath match with Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13, defined by his in-character rivalries with WWE boss man Vince McMahon and "The People's Champion" The Rock, and shaped by his unique everyman beer-guzzling, fast-talking, no nonsense character leading to a celebrity status outside the realm of professional wrestling quite unlike anything the sport had ever known.
Austin's career is thoroughly chronicled in The Bottom Line on the Most Popular Superstar of All Time. It's a story of great success earned by a deserving figure, an everyday kind of guy who epitomizes the never-give-up attitude, demonstrated time and again throughout his career, even when the possibility of permanent paralysis via a terrible in-ring, real-life neck injury at the hands or Owen Hart and via a missed piledriver at SummerSlam threatened to end his career. Smartly or not, Austin continued to wrestle, and even then his best days -- the rivalries with McMahon and The Rock -- were still ahead of him. In essence, Austin embodied everything there is to love about professional wrestling. In the film, many of his peers simply describe him as having "it," that unique ability to perform at a high level and hone his innate inward and outward wrestling characteristics that are necessary to achieve superstardom. The film proves both honest and capable as it chronicles Austin's career, from his wide-eyed viewing of wrestling as a child all the way through to his post-in-ring career as a film and television star. This isn't merely a highlight reel -- that's included separately as the bulk of the film's supplemental package -- but rather a good, quality narrative that tells a complete story of a rise to wrestling prominence though unique insights into the entirety of the professional wrestling world, from meager beginnings to the biggest stages and the brightest lights of the WWE.
Perhaps the most intriguing element running through The Bottom Line on the Most Popular Superstar of All Time is something that's implied throughout but never truly discussed directly, and that's that there's more to professional wrestling outside of the character, the rivalries, the square ring, the endorsements, and the general mayhem that surrounds these athletes. A professional wrestler isn't scripted into existence; the sport may predetermine winners and losers as a means promoting its superstars, but these athletes train just as hard as those who participate in any other sport, face the same risk of injury (despite the precautions taken inside the ring), and must truly compete with their peers to achieve the kind of success enjoyed by Steve Austin, competing, perhaps, not literally in the ring, but by proving their dedication to the sport, by mastering the art of professional wrestling, by honing their alter egos into marketable characters. It takes much more than raw skill -- say, the ability to throw a baseball 100 miles per hour or to hit a twenty-foot jump shot with consistency -- to become a professional wrestler, let alone a championship caliber professional wrestler. These are people who work just as hard, or harder, than "legitimate" professional athletes to earn success. Behind the muscles and the costumes and the (usually) phony fašades are true human beings who sweat, bleed, stress, and diligently work their way to the top. Wrestling, then, is not unlike any other sport; it's a combination of raw athleticism and Hollywood-caliber acting combined, something that not every muscleman off the street can achieve. And that's the bottom line.
WWE: Stone Cold Steve Austin Blu-ray, Video Quality
WWE: Stone Cold Steve Austin features a 1080i, 1.78:1/1.33:1-framed transfer that's fairly representative of the average WWE release. It combines both new HD video footage and vintage SD clips, the former mostly in the shape of interview pieces that help define the throwback 1990s-vintage SD material. The HD footage is fairly crisp and satisfying; all there really is to see is up-close facial detail on Austin and other interviewees. It's fine, yielding good textures and playing in a stable 1.78:1 window. The Austin segments in particular are of a slightly lower light than, say, interviews with Mick Foley and The Miz, and background blocking and banding on the wall behind him is evident throughout. Still, the footage may be described as "serviceable" at worst, "satisfying" at best. The SD footage looks rather good, particularly once the action shifts to the higher-dollar WWF sequences where higher production values and more money allowed for some nice looking material by 1990s standards. Detail is fair and colors are vibrant and balanced. Sharpness and clarity, of course, come up lacking, but the material -- bordered by Stone Cold Steve Austin-inspired "black bars" -- translates well enough to Blu-ray. The video score reflects, primarily, the scattered interview clips and not the SD footage. Fans familiar with the typical WWE release that spans both the HD and SD eras --much like the Shawn Michaels/Bret Hart title and unlike the recent Randy Orton set which was made primarily of footage from the high definition era -- know what to expect with this.
WWE: Stone Cold Steve Austin Blu-ray, Audio Quality
WWE: Stone Cold Steve Austin debuts on Blu-ray a rather vanilla Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that's this set's one true weak point. The best sound probably comes from the menu screen. Austin's signature hard rock intro music enjoys very good power and clarity; it's almost a revelation for those who only know it from 12-year-old TV telecasts. The surrounds are used regularly throughout the film, to accentuate the sound of shattering glass that begins the movie and in support of music throughout. Unfortunately, balance is a little iffy. The center and the surrounds seem to carry most of the musical action; the front side speakers are drowned out by the others. Dialogue is clear and always the dominant element, whether in quiet interview clips or in rowdy arenas where WWE superstars and ringside announcers have to contend with screaming fans and intro music. There does appear to be a very slight lip sync issue in the Mick Foley interview clips, but nowhere else in the movie. The general mayhem of wrestling sounds are adequate given the quality of the source; falls to the mat and the like are satisfyingly powerful and accurate. This is by no means a winning soundtrack, but it gets the job done.
WWE: Stone Cold Steve Austin Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
WWE: Stone Cold Steve Austin delivers an incredible amount of bonus features and full-lenthg matches billed as supplements. Several matches include an alternate audio track featuring commentary from Steve Austin and Jim Ross.
Disc One Special Features (1080i/1.78:1, 16:40 total runtime):
Disc One Blu-ray Exclusive Matches (1080i/4:3, 1:32:27 total runtime):
Disc Two Full-Length Matches (1080i/4:3, 4:13:27) with Introduction from Stone Cold Steve Austin (1080i/1.78:1, 0:54):
Disc Three "Moments" (1080i/4:3, 2:29:15 total runtime):
Disc Three Special Features (1080i/1.78:1, 25:21 total runtime):
Disc Three Blu-ray Exclusive "Moments" (1080i/4:3, 59:04 total runtime):
WWE: Stone Cold Steve Austin Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It seems rather fitting that the greatest WWE superstar of all time gets what's pretty much the best WWE home video release yet. WWE: Stone Cold Steve Austin is a wonderfully produced, thorough, informative, and entertaining look into the life and career of Stone Cold Steve Austin. What more is there to say that hasn't already been said? The set is nothing less than an absolute must-own for any Austin/WWE fan, and it would make a fantastic primer for those just getting into the sport and who want to learn more about its, perhaps, greatest era and certainly its finest superstar. The main documentary is supported by several discs of bonus features, including some of the best fights of The Rattlesnake's career. The video and audio presentations are more than adequate, but content is king, and this retrospective Documentary is a true champion that earns my highest recommendation.
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