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The Toys That Made Us: Power Rangers Episode Review

The following is a joint review by The Jez Show and Toku Toy Store.
Visit Toku Toy Store for all of your Power Rangers and Tokusatsu merchandise needs past, present and future!

The Toys That Made Us made its long awaited return to Netflix this past week with four new episodes for toy collectors and enthusiasts everywhere to get their anti-static gloved paws on. For those unfamiliar, The Toys That Made Us documents the history of important and popular toy lines. Its first two seasons profiled such giants as LEGO, Star Wars, Transformers and Barbie, to name a few. This third batch of episodes, which had been in development since July of 2018, featured My Little Pony, Professional Wrestling, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. While labelled with the full title of the Power Ranger franchise’s debut offering, the episode itself covered far more of the precursors and successors to Mighty Morphin than many expected.

The Ranger Story

Following a colourful introduction to the franchise for anybody not acquainted with Power Rangers, we are taken back to mid 20th century Japan for a look at the origins of the tokusatsu, or toku, genre. Tokusatsu, best translate as special filming, is the name of the genre in which shows like Power Rangers got their start and sit within today. The popularity of Godzilla in Japan brought rise to decades of rubber monster based, kick you in the face style content, popularised by production studio, Toei, and God-tier manga artist, Shotaro Ishinomori. It was through Ishinomori’s involvement that Kamen Rider, a superhero show about a transforming hero, was born and with any good children’s programme of course comes a line of toys. Toei partnered with a company called Bandai to produce their toys, beginning a legacy of toku toy production that lives to this day. The problem with Ishinomori’s Kamen Rider, as popular as it was, was that only having one solitary hero limits the ability to sell massive chunks of toys! To that end, the people at Toei Company put their heads together and came up with the Super Sentai series: a squad of colour-clad heroes that work in a team to thwart evil.

While referencing Ishinomori as the Japanese Stan Lee, The Toys That Made Us shifts focus to the actual Stan Lee who, little do the majority of Marvel fans know, was nearly the man responsible for bringing Super Sentai to the West. Lee worked with Toei in the late 1970s to produce スパイダーマン, romanised as Supaidaman, or just… Spider-Man. It was during his time in Japan that Stan fell in love with Super Sentai and so attempted to bring the fifth Sentai, Taiyo Sentai Sun Vulcan to America. Stan Lee’s attempt ultimately failed but not before passing his Sentai passions on to Marvel CEO Margaret Loesch, who didn’t understand why the television networks weren’t on board with the idea.

The years go by, enter Haim Saban. Saban, as enamoured with Super Sentai as Stan Lee, had the idea to splice the original Japanese fight footage and intermix original recordings of American actors to create a new show. Sounds like a winning idea, right? And it was, or is, or would be… but it would take over 8 years for Haim Saban to convince anyone of that fact. Enter Margaret Loesch who, since attempt #1, had moved from Marvel to FOX and was able to use her superpowers as Head of Children’s Programming to greenlight the project. Bada-bing, bada-boom, Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger becomes Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and a legend is born.

The Toys They Made For Us

With the Power Rangers coming to television, there was just one other little thing to have produced… toys! It is at this stage of the documentary where we really get to know some of the major players that were responsible for bringing us monsters, Megazords and (Auto) Morphin’ figures The most notable of these were Tsuyoshi Nonaka – world renowned tokusatsu toy designer – and Trish Stewart – Director of Marketing for Bandai America – who alongside Peter Dang – VP of Marketing for Bandai America – not only took responsibility for branding, marketing and distributing the Power Rangers toyline, but also came up with the names Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Zords in the first place. Cheers, Trish & Pete!

Those toys that Bandai America designed and produced repackaged from Japan really took off; took off the the point that there were periods in which the shelves of giant toy conglomerates like Toys R Us (R.I.P.) were completely empty! I myself remember these days well. While my parents somehow managed to find me a Megazords and Dragonzords for birthdays and Chrismasses, there were mass sectors of the toyline, like the Power Morpher and Dragon Dagger, that I simply never saw in stores. I really wanted that frickin’ Dragon Dagger.

Refresh, reinvent, resell toys

Of course, the Zyuranger footage wasn’t going to last forever and the next stage of the documentary details the way that Power Rangers reinvents itself every year – new actors, new suits, new mecha (that’s giant robots, or zords) and, most importantly, a whole new toyline. The magic of Power Rangers from a corporate point of view is that you can sell a whole mess of toys to a kid one year and the following year you can sell that same kid a whole other mess. It’s genius and torture all at the same time, depending on who you are.

It wasn’t just the show itself that underwent a refresh, the franchise itself underwent an upheaval of its own with moves from Saban to Disney, back to Saban, and now to Hasbro. The Toys That Made Us make the Disney Era of Power Rangers sound like a vacuous, entertainment void black spot on the history of the product and heap a little too much praise on Bandai America for their Zord Builder system but all in all the close of the documentary gives us a nice little seat-of-your-pants speed review of the rest of Power Rangers history.

Editing Triumph

As with any episode of The Toys That Made Us, the stellar editing work conducted by its production team carried the humour of the episode. Each episode of TTTMU utilises a repetition of a handful of words or phrases spoken by interviewees to drive forward the historical narrative or ground things when the subject matter gets a little too deep – we should be reminded that we’re talking about toys, at the end of the day. Such repeated moments in this episode include the reminder that Bandai USA’s top selling, highest quality product prior to Power Rangers was their line of sidewalk chalk, using the word henshin wherever someone might say transform, and the continual referencing of American audiences as “kids!” These are the unique and quirky things that make The Toys That Made Us the charming travel through toy history that it is. Never change.

Unless you wanted to make more episodes faster… we’d be cool with that.

The Verdict

When this programme first launched on Netflix in December 2017, I hoped and dreamed for the day that they would produce a Power Rangers episode. There was a fear that they would make a mess of it – as most outsiders to tokusatsu tend to when they step into that world and try to produce content sight unseen – but nothing could be further from the truth. Just as the He-Man, Barbie and Hello Kitty episodes had done for me, I fully expect the Power Rangers episode to have given the casual viewer an accurate, care-filled depiction of the franchise that millions of us love. Likewise, while I personally didn’t learn anything new from the episode, the way that the TTTMU team laid out all of the history of Power Rangers, even referencing Kamen Rider and the Godaikin toyline, is a welcome to any hardcore fan.

Stellar work, The Toys That Made Us! You looked after our fandom and we love you.

What did you think of the Power Rangers episode of The Toys That Made Us? How did you think it compared to other episodes in the series? Share your thoughts with us on our Facebook pages, The Jez Show and Toku Toy Store, on Twitter @thejezshow and @tokutoystore, or in the comment section below!

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Johnny Impact talks wrestling, film and television in this week’s GFW media Q&A

On this week’s edition of the GFW conference call, we were joined by the hottest new signing in GFW, a triple champion in AAA and recent guest star of Netflix’s Original Series, GLOW, Johnny Impact.

Worldwide Wrestler

What has been your experience in GFW so far?
Really happy with my experience so far at Impact. I’ve been blown away by the level of professionalism in the locker room and I’m really happy to work with some of my old friends like Bobby Lashley, Chris Masters and EC3 and also some of the newer talent; I guess Low-Ki and Eddie Edwards aren’t new talent but they’re new friends of mine. It’s just so positive. Everyone in the locker room feels like they know what they’re there for and they feel like they have something to offer. I didn’t feel any negativity when I walked into the Impact Zone. I felt like I was coming to a high school reunion party and hanging out with a bunch of my old friends. Everyone is excited at the idea of what we’re about to create.

Is there anyone on the GFW roster at the moment that you really want to face?
One of the most exciting things for me about going to a new promotion like GFW is exactly what this question is about. There’s a ton of people on the roster that I’ve never had the chance to wrestle. You’ve got X-Division guys like Trevor Lee and Desmond Xavier; both of whom I think are super talented but with whom I’ve never had the opportunity to work as Johnny Impact. Then there’s a guy like Bobby Lashley. He and I were real close when he came to OVW back in 2004 and we even rode together when I first started on the road but we haven’t worked for the same company in over ten years now and he’s grown as a performer and developed his own specific style and I feel the same about myself. It’d be really interesting to me to see how we match up now. Clearly, the current champion Eli Drake. I think he’s been underrated for a long time, certainly not in his mind… he thinks he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread but in the eyes of the wrestling community I think he’s been underrated. I would love the chance to have a true one-on-one matchup to put my skills to the test against him in the ring. 

What do you think about GFW’s partnerships with other companies around the world?
I think one of the most exciting things happening right now, in wrestling, is this partnership between GFW, AAA and NOAH. There’s gonna be a lot of talent exchanges because of this partnership. Eddie Edwards, for example, just won the NOAH title. We’ve got a bunch of AAA talent in GFW, Garza and LAX from Konnan’s promotion, The Crash and all these major companies are working together. To me, it’s really interesting. It’s like the sum of all these parts is greater than any one of these promotions by itself.

What does your signing with GFW mean for Lucha Underground?
Lucha Underground is planning on doing a season four and I’m planning on continuing my relationship with Lucha Underground. The specific dates for the tapings have not yet been released and I’m hoping it’s ASAP because I can’t wait to get back to the Temple. In the meantime, that’s what’s so cool about GFW: the opportunity to have all these new matchups and potentially, now, have some crossover with Lucha Underground, fingers crossed for that in the future.

When will be see you across the pond in the UK and Ireland again?
I’ve got a couple things that I’ve been talking about. A buddy of mine recently took over IPW and he’s making me come out in December to do a tag match. I’m still the champion of 5 Star Wrestling and I know they’ve announced a bunch of dates in 2018. Specifically, though, what dates and for what promotions, I don’t know but I love working in the UK and I’m planning to get back there before the end of this year.

You worked with Sexy Star in Lucha Underground. What are your honest feelings about what happened between Rosemary and Sexy Star at AAA TripleMania?
During the match, I feel like there was friction between Sexy Star and the other girls – not necessarily Rosemary, it was her first time in Mexico – but the other women in the match. It looked like they had some issues that they decided to work out during the match, which is unprofessional in my opinion. The match suffered because of it. Tensions ran high and, in my opinion, because she was in a heightened state of aggravation or whatever she took that out on Rosemary for no reason. 

Was now the better time to join GFW, as opposed to six years ago when you left WWE?
Couldn’t be happier with the way that it worked out. The reason I didn’t come right away is that when I left WWE, I was planning on just taking a year off. I left ‘cos I wanted to do movies and to make that movie that ended up taking a lot longer than I thought. I talked to Lagana, Tazz, Dixie and Big John several times back then but it just never really happened because I didn’t want to take myself out of Los Angeles. Then all that stuff happened and I ended up in a situation where I was working for Lucha Underground & AAA and there’s an opportunity to start having all these promitions work together; I could represent all 3 of these companies at the same time and still have enough control of my time to write movies, to audition, to do fun shorts and things, which is ultimately all I wanted when I left WWE – a little more creative autonomy. For me personally, this is the perfect time and secondary to that, professionally, physically (in the ring) and psychologically I’m the best I’ve ever been.

What are your thoughts on Eddie Edwards winning the GHC Heavyweight Championship in NOAH?
I don’t know Eddie really well, I met him a couple times and then I got to work with him at GFW… always liked him and was super impressed with his ability and knowledge. Talk about someone who’s really earned it, man. He’s been around forever and wrestled all over the world. I know winning that NOAH Championship meant a ton to him and it was one of those things I saw that put a huge smile on my face. Eddie’s a really good dude but also a really deserving, talented guy. Really happy for him, really happy to see that.

What would be your advice to young wrestlers breaking into the business?
I used to hate when people said this when I was a young talent coming up but young talent is the future of the business. It’s not gonna be on my shoulders forever. At some point, it’s gonna be on the Desmond Xaviers, the Ricochets, the Shane Stricklands…it’s gonna be on their shoulders and they’ll be passing down knowledge to the generation that’s after them. To young talent, the best advice from me is that wrestling is a crazy business and it drives a lot of people nuts because there’s such a lack of control. Learning to not worry about things you can’t control and only worry about things that are within your ability to control is one of the most important first lessons to learn. There’s a lot you can control, though: your in-ring ability, your physique, your promos, how you look, how you are, how you talk. That’s your job. You need to get as good at all of those things as possible. The things you can’t control depend on who’s running creative – somebody’s uncle, or a famous wrestler, do they know somebody? – you can’t worry about that. Ultimately, like Macho Man used to say, the cream of the crop rises to the top. In this business, people want to put their name on the most talented talent so being the best at every aspect of being a pro wrestler will result in you going the furthest in the business.

Do you have any interest in getting involved creatively in the wrestling business?
I’ve thought about it. I’ve thought about that several times. At some point, conceivably, yes. A lot of the stuff I think of when I’m not wrestling is, for some reason, comedy and instead of trying to fight that instinct, usually I just write what I’m thinking of because I enjoy it. I think if you don’t enjoy writing, it comes out when you’re reading someone’s stuff back. Also, anybody in the wrestling industry is involved, somewhat, in creative. I’m not involved in the creative department of any of the shows that I’m wrestling for currently but if I have ideas I can talk to Scott D’Amore, Sanjay, Big or Jeremy Borash. I can present ideas to them and we can discuss. Same thing with Lucha Underground, same thing with AAA and, ultimately, not everyone is in the same situation that I’m in where they can pick up the phone, make a call and have the creative department pick up. But even if you can’t call Sanjay at home at midnight, all those people that I just mentioned are looking for new ideas and looking for good ideas. Anybody that’s on the roster that has anything good will be heard. Wrestlers are usually in the creative department, whether they know it or not. 

If you were competing for the GFW Global Title at Bound for Glory, would you consider defending some of your AAA Championships too?
Oh yeah. I’d put anything on the line. When we get there, if I’m still tricampione of AAA, I’ll put all those things on the line. I’m that confident that I would leave Bound for Glory with Eli’s title, if he still has it by then. If we have a match. If I have my titles. I’m excited for Bound for Glory though, man. It’s one of the pay-per-views that’s the tentpoles of Impact. I remember watching it for the past 10 years and it’s gonna be a really cool thing to be a part of.

What’s it like going through the airports with three championship belts?
It’s a pain in the ass. I’ll be honest, it sucks. I’m old school, I always bring two bags. Fear bag, that you never check: that’s got the titles and your in case of emergency stuff but they always pull all three titles out. Sometimes if you have one you can sneak through but with three all the TSA people come over and they want pictures; it turns into a fiasco.

Is there a dream match you’d want to take part in?
Any wrestler? Any where? It’d be awesome to wrestle Okada, I’ve been a big fan of the stuff that’s been going on with New Japan. Daniel Bryan would be another dream match. A lot of WWE guys. Right now, I’d put Bobby Lashley up as a dream match because it’s been fascinating to see how well he’s done in both MMA and pro wrestling. A true two sport athlete, that’s very rare. He’s also a good friend of mine. Macho Man was always my dream match growing up or a singles match against HBK but some of these, I think, are never gonna happen. The ones with potential are the first ones I mentioned.

Your former tag team partner, The Miz, has really reinvented himself in recent years. What are your thoughts on his resurgence?
We text back and forth all the time. Every time my IMDB meter is higher than his, I snap it and send it over ti him, tell him that Boone: the Bounty Hunter is better than The Marine. He’s been killing it and I think it really comes down to the fact The Miz is always emphatically himself. He never changed who he was. Whether in the ring or in real life, he’s this loud, abrasive, confident guy. He’s a really good and loyal friend and, in smaller groups, really fun to hang out with. Because of those qualities, he’s remained consistent. He knows who he is, in the ring and out of the ring. I think that confident part of Mike Mizanin is what’s propelled him to the next level of success with wrestling. It’s been really cool to see. I’d put him on the dream match list, also. It might be more fun to tag with him than kick his ass but each one would be interesting.

Do you still keep in contact with Matt Cappotelli and how’s he doing these days, if you do?
I saw him a few months back. I did a show in Louisville, at OVW, and he and I hung out and caught up for a couple of days. It was awesome, actually. We talked about Tough Enough and how crazy it was that we both moved to Louisville together, back then. That was before he relapsed and they noticed anything. They found some more cancerous cells in his brain and he’s gonna have to go back to treatment, which sucks. The thing is about Matt Cappotelli, he is one of the most positive people I’ve ever met. His run of injuries and cancer and bad luck has been harder than just about anyone I know and he’s always been positive. He’s actually someone I think about when I think I’m having a hard time or s**t day. I think about things that he’s dealt with how positive he’s remained throughout everything. I talk to him at least once a month, sometimes more.

How are things with your other half, Taya Valkyrie, working in GFW at the moment?
She is so excited to be working with GFW. I have loved the entrance and her music. You guys need to tune in Thursday, I believe, to see her debut. She’s been loving it and has been really happy. You know what they say: when your girl is happy, you’re happy. That’s just part of why I’ve been loving GFW so much.

Could we see you back in WWE one day?
It’s hard to say. I believe so but it’s ultimately not completely up to me. I will say that I’m really happy right now with my life and my career with GFW, Lucha, AAA and everyone. I don’t even have enough time to wrestle all their shows on the dates those companies have. I’ve also been afforded the opportunity to pursue my own projects; to make Boone: the Bounty Hunter, basically. There are a ton of people on the WWE roster that I haven’t had a chance to work with. I’d love to work circles around Rollins and Reigns, I’d love matches with Finn Balor, Lesnar, Samoa Joe… all those are exiciting matchups and would be great for me. There’s nothing to say though that those matches couldn’t happen in GFW, or Lucha Underground, ‘cos the business changes so quickly. So as far as WWE goes, sure it’s possible but I’m really happy with where I’m at right now.

Where can we buy the sunglasses that you wear?
Probably, your best bet is to get them on Pro Wrestling Tees. I’ve got a couple of t-shirts up on that site for sale but you can also get the Mundo glasses there.

Worldwide Entertainer

How do you balance work in the wrestling, film and television industry to make sure you’re always working at your best?
Well, I’m sitting in my car right now in rush hour traffic on my way to an audition. It’s not easy. It’s about a lot of time management and prioritisation. Entertainment in general, to me, boils down to making people feel something and whether it’s TV or film or pro wrestling, people watch to feel and emotion. In any of those forms, the stories that we’re telling in the ring or on the TV show, or in a movie, is written and designed to convey that emotion. If it’s done well and people like it they can relate and they want more. Honing into that really is the core of entertainment; it was one of the first epiphanies that I had about entertainment in general and it’s was something that Vince McMahon always talked about. The point of wrestling is entertainment and he’d always say “Entertain my ass! I need to be entertained when you’re in the ring.” That’s the constant between any form of entertainment and making the transition back and forth because once you realise that the point of it is storytelling, the tools are different after that. In film and TV, your performances are more nuanced. You almost have to have your body and mind filled up with emotions but contain them so the camera can zoom in close to your face and pull what you’re thinking and feeling. Wrestling is different, there’s an arena full of people and what makes makes pro wrestling a performance art is the crowd. You’re feelings and actions need to be bigger so they can fire the crowd up, get rowdy, heckle and cheer. In short, I take everything one day at a time and know what the point of entertainment is; that’s how I balance it.

Can you talk to us about Boone: the Bounty Hunter?
I was a film major at UC Davis before I got into wrestling and I knew that I wanted to action movies pretty much my whole life. When I left WWE in 2011, I knew I wanted to do a movie and I didn’t know it was going to be Boone: the Bounty Hunter at the time. I wrote a movie that was like a sci-fi/action thing that I just ended up throwing away because it wasn’t that good and then I started working on Boone with a buddy of mine. The idea of the movie first, conceptually, was that I wanted to do a movie where the action was combo of parkour, pro wrestling and MMA – all the stuff that I’m best at. The character is this goofy, reluctant hero… kinda the everyman type of guy with a bullish arrogance. That’s fun because you get to say stupid things but also in an endearing way so to not alienate people. That was what we set out to write when we started Boone but then it evolved and it became about Boone and the reality show, Bounty Hunter. The jist of the plot of the movie that when the show was going to be cancelled because of ratings, he decided to go to Mexico after a real criminal to save his show. Making movies is hard, let’s put it that way. From the time I started writing to the time we shot it was two and a half years, then it took another two years of post production and getting the distribution deal, then we get to now and it’s out on DVD everywhere and it’s on VOD,iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu and places like that. It took a really long time but Boone is the movie that I’ve done that I’m by far the most proud of and people that have seen it have responded really well to it. There’s a lot of people that really liked it and call me up with Boone quotes: Boone-voyage, A-Boone-a-matata… stuff like that. If you haven’t seen it, check it out.

How was it working on GLOW and what were the girls like?
The girls in GLOW were amazing. They are all very hard working and beautiful, obviously, but I think what really made that show work was the camaraderie between the girls on the cast. They had a really fun and tight relationship between themselves and, because they were so sure of themselves and their abilities, they were very welcoming to outsiders like me. I was a guest star on the first episode; I played Salty ‘The Sack’ Johnson, which is one of my favourite wrestling names ever. I really felt welcomed by all of the cast members – the girls – and also by Marc Maron (who’s one of the funniest dudes ever), Carly, Liz and all the writers and executive producers on the show; they really made it a positive environment. I think that’s the secret to a show’s success – positivity.

What was it like working with Jason David Frank, and others, on Ninjak vs. The Valiant Universe?
I’m really excited for Ninjak vs. The Valiant Universe. The trailer, I believe, is going to be released this week. Jason David Frank, Derek Theler, Kevin Porter, Mike Rowe from Arrow, Ciera Foster – the cast of this digital series is, in my mind, 10/10. Everybody is uniquely them and perfect fits for their own specific characters. Outside of that, I feel like I’ve become legitimate bros with Jason David Frank, Derek and Mike which is one of my favourite things about working in a creative industry. When you’re working together with someone creatively, you really cut a lot of the superficial s**t quickly. You have to relate as your characters quickly and, sometimes, in highly emotional circumstances. Basically, it’s been great. I’m a big fan of Jason David Frank, he’s super talented and the rest of the cast is too. That goes also for Josh and Dinesh, the guys that run Valiant, as well as Aaron and Sean, the director and sound editor for Bat in the Sun. I think that when that trailer drops, people’s minds are going to be blown.

Does JDF have any interest in getting involved with pro wrestling in any capacity?
Yep, he and I have talked about it. We’re looking at doing a tag match. He’s tight with Booker T, they both live in Houston, and they were thinking about doing something like me and him vs. two other guys; we haven’t gone too far down that path yet. It might even be something we could do on Impact, that’s GFW’s call. He’s a lifelong martial artist and I know how hard we works at karate and karate schools and training. He’s a fan of pro wrestling, he loves the business and he’d like to be a part of it. I don’t think he wants to be a full time pro wrestler by any means but he’s an entertainer and thinks it would be fun to do a match.

Do you think Hollywood’s attitudes to pro wrestling has changed over the years?
Wrestling right now is hot. Pro wrestling is a hot industry worldwide right now. That’s partly due to The Rock; he’s on the cover of GQ, one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood but not only that, one of the most prolific actor/producers alive today. That dude is everywhere, he busts his ass and because of that he’s got the respect of the entertainment community as well as the professional wrestling community. It’s because he’s hot that you’ve got guys like Dave Bautista who’s become a famous actor with the stuff that he’s done in Guardians of the Galaxy, which for me was really cool to watch. Dave’s a big teddy bear, he’s a super nice guy and I think that came out in his performance when he was doing Drax. John Cena stepped up his game, also. He carried it so well in Trainwreck that he’s getting more and more stuff. Stone Cold Steve Austin is another one; he’s part of pop culture. He’s hosting and EP of three different TV shows now, I think. All of that really does endorse guys like me. All I need is a little hole for me to kick the door open wide because I’m hungry right now to get further into that world.

Are you excited to have Johnny Impact in GFW? Let us know your thoughts and feelings in the comment section below or tweet me directly @thejezshow.

Originally published by RealSport
Article appears in original form with updated social media links
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Nobody Speak: How Hulk Hogan almost destroyed the free press

This week, Netflix released their original documentary Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press which details the way in which the media in the United States are being targeted by billionaires and corporations, including but not limited to, the President of the United States, Donald Trump. The main focus of the documentary is the Hulk Hogan v. Gawker Media trial in which Hogan sued the online news publisher after they released a clip of his sex tape on their website. In this article, we review the documentary, summarising the key points and events, as well as provide a commentary on how, as a result of his lawsuit, Hulk Hogan may have caused the destruction of the free press in the United States of America.

Introducing the Participants

Following the documentary’s opening prologue, which touts the Hogan/Gawker case as the most important first amendment trial of the century, we are shown a montage of recent conflict between Donald Trump and the press. We see footage recorded of his supporters coming to blows with journalists and police in riot gear taking people away. This conflict sets the scene for Hogan’s complaints in the courts. Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea) is suing:

  1. Heather Clem and Todd Clem (Bubba the Love Sponge), for secretly videotaping the consentual sexual relations between him and Heather Clem. (This suit was settled quickly in exchange for $5000 damages and the promise that the Clem’s would not participate in the second suit);
  2. Gawker Media, for distributing the private videotape of the aforementioned sexual event.

Alongside footage from the start of the Hogan v. Gawker trial, the two main players are profiled. Hulk Hogan is profiled using poor quality video clearly lifted from YouTube. The suggestion of the profile is that it is difficult to discern the distinction between the character, Hulk Hogan, and the person, Terry Bollea but that Hogan is a household name that stands up for truth, justice and the American way.

Next up is information about the founders of Gawker, Nick Denton and Elizabeth Spiers, as well as some context about the Gawker website. It’s suggested that Gawker became popular as a media outlet because it didn’t care who it was offending, that the story was always the focus of their work, telling the tales that the rest of the media were either too scared or too polite to print. In interview, Denton defends his format stating that Gawker has an illustrious history of writing good stories that were not being reported and to do that it sometimes had to offend or insult.

Cease and Desist

After a brief introduction of the trial’s judge, Pamela Campbell, we join the trial in progress as A.J. Daulerio, then Editor in Chief of Gawker, begins to detail how he came to receive the Hulk Hogan Sex Tape. He suggests he received it routinely in email communication with an unknown source but that he knew the tape existed because of the reporting of other news outlets, such as TMZ. Daulerio is asked whether he can identify the participants of the video; he identifies Hulk Hogan and Heather Clem as well as a voice off-camera whom he believes to be Bubba the Love Sponge, cuckolding his wife to Hogan.

When Gawker posted a clip of the sex tape, Hogan’s legal counsel asked for it to be removed from the website. Hogan’s legal team stated that no damages or further litigation would be sought had Gawker complied at this point. Despite this cease and desist order, as well as a more personalised letter to Denton, Denton states that he “didn’t find [the cease and desist] persuasive” and so chose to leave the video where it was. Denton suggested that the video was in the public interest because Hogan was an all-American celebrity who is a role model for children.

Motivating Factors

The validity of Hogan’s objections to the distribution of the sex tape are raised when he is interviewed on radio bragging about his performance in the tape. At trial, Hogan suggested that he was deeply and personally hurt by the release of this tape. He justifies the bravado he displayed during interviews as being in character as Hulk Hogan, but that, deep down, Terry Bollea had been betrayed by the only person in his life he had left (Bubba the Love Sponge). In order to make the distinction between himself and Hulk Hogan, Bollea states in open court that references made to his “10 inch penis” actually referred to Hulk Hogan’s penis, not his own. He furthermore states that Hulk Hogan gave up his right to privacy when the character was created, suggesting that his own (Bollea’s) privacy should be considered separately to Hulk Hogan’s.

The next portion of the documentary focuses on where the money for Hogan’s trial came from as well as the Hogan’s motives for the trial. It was well documented at the point of the trial that Hogan had been experiencing severe financial difficulties as a result of the split with his wife and so many were led to question whether an outside entity was bankrolling it. This suspicion was heightened when Hogan’s legal team dropped a portion of their complaint against Gawker, the portion that pertained to the emotional distress caused by the release of the tape. It transpires that Gawker’s legal insurance covered the cost of the trial whilst this complaint was in place but without it they were not obligated to cover Gawker’s expenses. This led many within Gawker’s legal team to question whether Hogan’s goal was to receive financial damages from them or whether the intention was to, in fact, shut Gawker down.

Hogan’s intentions were further questioned when the rest of the tape was recovered, suggesting that Hogan wanted his sex tape forgotten because he uses racial and homophobic language within it. As the case went on, it became clear that Gawker were prevented from defending themselves effectively because of their inability to call Bubba/Heather Clem as witnesses, or allude to anything they had said against Hogan in previous cases or in the media. As a result, the jury ruled in favour of Hulk Hogan on all counts and damages were due from Gawker and its associates. $115 Million dollars in compensatory damages are due from Gawker as well as $25.1 Million in punitive damages: $15 Million from Gawker, $10 Million from Nick Denton and $100,000 from A.J. Daulerio.

A Secret Funder Taking On The Press

Following the trial, speculation continued about another person or entity secretly bankrolling the Hogan legal team. It is revealed that Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, was secretly paying the expenses of Hogan’s legal fight. But why was this Silicon Valley billionaire backing a court battle of a person he doesn’t even know, 2000 miles away from his home? With a little digging, it became clear that Thiel was financing Hulk Hogan to satiate the most primal of needs: vengeance. Back in 2007, Gawker published an article titled ‘Peter Thiel is totally gay, people’, questioning the sexual orientation of the billionaire. Having taken exception to this article, as well as Gawker’s continued coverage of Thiel’s eccentric views, beliefs and investments, Thiel decided to fund Hogan’s quest to end the “singularly sociopathic” Gawker.

The documentary goes on to discuss the knock-on effects of the trial, focusing on the way in which the rich can use their money and influence to silence the media and prevent them from reporting the truth by threatening them with litigation or, as was the case with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, simply buying out the outlet in order to gag them. The documentary concludes by focusing on how perhaps the most influential billionaire in the world, Donald Trump, is systematically using his money, power and authority to undermine and diminish the ability of the free press to report the truth.

The Legacy of Hogan v. Gawker

The Hogan v. Gawker trial will be remembered for its role in changing history. The trial is marred with the idea that, in the same way Peter Thiel did, anybody rich enough to spare the money can seek to destroy a news outlet or publication by simply litigating them into oblivion. A billionaire so inclined, who perhaps feels wronged by the way they’ve been reported, can provide the funds for as many trials as necessary to bankrupt that organization. The harrowing aspect of this is the fact that media outlets may be forced into liquidation defending themselves in court when, in fact, what they have published is completely justified, legal and legitimately within the public interest.

While Hulk Hogan isn’t directly to blame for this, he has unwittingly opened the floodgates for this kind of corporately funded litigation to take place. The amount that Hogan received in damages was disproportionate to the nature of Gawker’s crimes with Hogan receiving more in damages that most wrongful death cases net. Of the $115 Million in compensatory damages, $60 Million of them were stated to be for emotional distress, which Hogan had withdrawn his claim for and Gawker had lost their insurance coverage for. In the end, Hogan and Gawker agreed on a $31 Million settlement; the documentary does not mention this fact. By allowing Peter Thiel to fund his lawsuit, he set a precedent that allows other financial powerhouses to use their money to persecute the little man and force them into silent submission. Hulk Hogan won this lawsuit but perhaps we, a public who turn to the media for truth, were the losers.

Was Hogan right to sue Gawker? Should Gawker have been taken down in the way that it was? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below or on Twitter @thejezshow.

Originally published by RealSport
Article appears in original format with updated social media