As we covered briefly in class, the WWE-produced documentary on the AWA brings with it some interpretive issues, further complicating the already complex machinations of "authorship" in wrestling itself. I actually found the documentary fairly straightforward toward the beginning--leaning on the side of idol worship when describing Gagne, perhaps, but otherwise kind of what I expected.
Things got a little confusing when it got to the beginning of the end, most notably with Hulk Hogan. That Verne and the other commentators, including his son and Hulk himself, had radically different interpretations of Hogan's early career and abilities as a wrestler/performer is to be expected, since the industry and fans seem to be have a highly conflicted opinion of him. More problematic was Hulk's departure, and the beginning of the exodus to WWF.
McMahon, of course, came off as a bit of a prick. But that's to be expected, given his character in the WWE narrative, isn't it? I was far more alarmed at the fact that his explanations were pretty convincing, in that destroying a popular wrestling club is hardly the worst offense that can be levelled against the kind of bare-knuckle capitalism that's been the hallmark of pro wrestling since its carnie days. He seemed strangely out of character, really, although I wonder if it's just because I'm not as familiar with the character as most of you.
I was a bit confused by how the wrestlers managed to leave without fulfulling their contractual obligations without getting sued into oblivion--from what I hear, most of the entertainment industry puts its hungrier workers into pretty iron-clad contracts with enormous penalties for such things. Was there a loophole that once the TV promos had been shot, the contract was technically fulfilled? It doesn't seem like even McMahon could throw enough money to staunch a flood of lawsuits.
At any rate, the end was the strangest for me, as various commentators eulogized the AWA, organized by the filmmakers into a central narrative that Gagne was progressive for his era but not progressive enough for the rise of cable. Underlying this assertion is a claim that the WWE's actions were both just and inevitable, which makes me wonder if McMahon expects the WWE to be on top forever, or if someday he'll sell his tape library so someone can make documentaries about how HE deserved to lose it all.