Friday, 14 September 2007

Robbie Brookside's Video Diaries - Retro Review

Sometimes, when you buy a tape off a guy on the internet, you don’t know what you’re getting. Sometimes the quality is excellent, and sometimes the quality is very poor. But there are times when you can be pleasantly surprised, as was the case when I managed to get a hold of Robbie Brookside’s Video Diaries.

Originally broadcast as part of the Video Diaries series on BBC 2 in 1993, way before reality television became highly fashionable, this documentary tells the story of Brookside’s travels around the European and American wrestling circuit, long before wrestling fans gathered together on the internet, and long before new promoters began to spring up all over Britain with great regularity.

Indeed, the British wrestling scene of 1993 was very different, six years before the FWA came into being, one year before WAW held their first arena show, with Brian Dixon and All-Star Wrestling being the only real major player on the scene. Brookside tells us how difficult life is on the British circuit as he travels up and down the country with his Liverpool Lads tag-team partner, Ian “Doc” Dean. It certainly is a revealing insight into how difficult things were back then, especially as fans had become accustomed to the American way of doing things, something which Brookside touches upon a great deal.

There’s the usual cast of supporting characters to be seen as well. A locker room encounter with the Superflys, Ricky Knight and Jimmy Ocean, is shown, after Brookside and Dean lost the tag-titles to them in a particularly nasty bout which saw Brookside knocked out and Dean needing stitches in a nasty head wound. These scenes are strictly played out for the camera, and some may find them rather silly now since the death of kayfabe. We also see encounters with Skull Murphy, a hard case in the ring, but something of a party animal outside of it, and with Klondyke Kate, whom Brookside regards as his “big sister”. Indeed, the scenes involving Kate and Doc Dean’s son were rather poignant.

The documentary also takes in a trip to America, to visit his old tag-team partner, the future William Regal, who was then plying his trade for WCW as Lord Steven Regal. The differences between the British and American scenes blow Brookside away, and he is clearly impressed with the surroundings he finds Regal in, and upon leaving America, Brookside declares that he will return to try and make a career for himself. Of course, we know how this will turn out.

Of all the wrestling documentaries I’ve seen, this is certainly one of the best, and it’s a great insight into the British wrestling scene at the time. But the rest of the tape provided something of a surprise.

At the beginning of the tape is a shoot/press conference interview, in which Brookside answers questions from several fans, and tells several very amusing stories as well. Given that he mentions Scott Conway’s training school, and an upcoming match with Gangrel, the interview was probably filmed around 2002. Brookside tells some very entertaining and funny stories, such as the time a very young Paul Tyrell was terrified that he wouldn’t be allowed in Scotland for a wrestling show because he didn’t have his passport, and the story behind the infamous hypnotism angle with Kendo Nagasaki. Brookside also tells of his dislike for the internet wrestling community, and how a certain company he’s worked for, but doesn’t name (although it’s pretty obvious what company he’s referring to), books their angles and plays up to the internet smart marks.

There’s also three matches here as well. First is the aforementioned tag-team match in which Brookside teams with Regal as The Golden Boys against Kendo Nagasaki and Blondie Barrett. Then there’s a match from the S4C Reslo show, as Brookside teams with Pat Roach against Drew McDonald and Giant Haystacks. Finally, there’s fan-cam footage of the Liverpool Lads against Nagasaki and Barrett, a great match which makes you realise just how great a team Brookside and Dean were.

In conclusion - a hell of a tape here, and I’m glad that I finally managed to get a hold of this one.