Just a quick post tonight to say that I attended the world premiere showing tonight at the Malco Paradiso of Memphis Heat, and IT WAS KICK-ASS. I made it to the 9:00 showing, and it was standing room only - an electric atmosphere for certain. The line to get in snaked outside, and you could hear fans sharing all sorts of crazy wrestling memories.
Jimmy Hart introduced the film, co-executive producer Sherman Willmot had a silver Sputnik-streak in his hair, and Jerry Lawler had a special video-intro for the crowd since he was in Florida shooting for a movie. You could tell the hometown crowd really appreciated seeing all these special wrestling memories, and my hat goes off to the filmmakers for a job well done. The editing, the audio, the soundtrack, the story-telling were all top notch, and fans of Memphis wrestling owe it to themselves to catch this with other Memphians while it's in the theater (it's playing down on the square and also at the Southaven Malco Desoto 16 for the coming week).
I personally really loved seeing some interview footage of Sputnik and Billy, and the story of carnival wrestling and their feud kicks off the film as sort of "the rise of Memphis wrestling". From there it doesn't slow down one bit, and a whole parade of vibrant characters play out the colorful history of Memphis wrestling, a town where Saturday morning wrestling held a completely astonishing 80 percent market share for years. It was great to see Rocky Johnson, Bill Dundee, Jerry Lawler, and many others, but the guys who really steal the show interview-wise are Jackie Fargo and Jimmy Valiant. Jackie's so full of shit, but you can't help but smile when he starts to dish it out. And, Jimmy, what a sweetheart, his positive attitude is contagious. The film concludes with the Lawler-Kaufman feud (with some absolutely fantastic clips I'd never seen before) and the following Hart-Lawler feud and Jimmy Hart going to the WWF. You can't really blame Jimmy, but it does really serve as a nice instrument in showing how Vince and cable really took the air out of the local promotions. If I have any gripes, it'd be that some of the archival footage video quality is rough, but so it goes with old wrestling footage, and the filmmakers have done a service to gather what is available before anything else gets lost. Hot damn, I want to see the movie again just thinking about it - I must be excited to be typing about it 1:00 in the morning the night of - don't miss out!
Did I mention the awesome soundtrack? All Memphis and all awesome. As Don Poier, sportscaster for the Grizzlies, used to say, "Only in the movies, and only in Memphis."
*For a couple of my past posts on Memphis wrestling, click here for a post on the career of Sputnik Monroe or here for a short review of Ron Hall's book that inspired the movie.