World Wrestling Entertainment has always been known for producing documentaries about its talent, first for release on home video and DVD, and later for its in-house WWE Network. More recently, WWE has cooperated with outside productions about wrestlers, such as last year’s HBO film about Andre The Giant. WWE has also begun cooperating in recent years with ESPN, after not doing so for much of that network’s history, even though both organizations are based in the state of Connecticut.
Now, WWE is continuing in that vein. WWE Studios has reached a deal with A&E Networks to produce a series of documentaries about wrestling legends, per Deadline. The documentaries will be made about “Macho Man” Randy Savage, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Booker T, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Shawn Michaels.
The documentaries will include both archival footage and new interviews. Savage and Piper are deceased, but the other three subjects are alive. A&E also announced that Billy Corben, the respected documentarian behind several films in the ESPN 30 For 30 series as well as the new documentary Screwball, will direct the Macho Man doc. Joe Lavine, an HBO veteran, will direct the Piper film, while George Roy will helm the Booker T movie. Directors have not yet been announced for the Austin and Michaels films. All of the films are scheduled to air in 2021.
“We are thrilled for the tremendous opportunity to partner with WWE Studios to produce these special films that honor some of the most impactful personalities who have left a lasting imprint on pop culture,” Elaine Frontain Bryant of A&E told Deadline.
A&E, WWE Partner for Documentaries on Five Iconic Wrestlers https://t.co/3bCsABLlXs
— Variety (@Variety) April 4, 2019
The cooperation of WWE is important to the effort, as Vince McMahon’s organization owns nearly all of the historical footage of professional wrestling in North America. This is true of not only WWE’s own library but also those of other, defunct promotions. As different federations have gone out of business over the years, McMahon has made a point of purchasing their video libraries, much of which has been used for content on the company’s WWE Network streaming service.
While the Biography series dates back to the 1960s, it’s been part of A&E Networks since 1987. It was spun off into a separate channel called The Biography Channel, which folded in 2012. The channel, after a hiatus, returned in 2017. Professional wrestlers, including Andre The Giant and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, have been subjects of Biography episodes in the past.
WWE will host Wrestlemania 35 this Sunday at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.