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You've got to wonder about wrestlers. They're always on the road,
they're always carrying knocks and injuries, they don't get paid much
(except the few at the absolute top), they get no respect from the
public at large, they don't actually compete in the legitimate sense of
the word and the vast majority of them are quickly forgotten. Yet
nearly all of the wrestlers in Beyond the Mat continue to seek the
spotlight. Why? I guess Terry Funk sums it up best: "It's fun."
However, it's a strange type of fun. After all, I'm not sure that most people would class being hit over the head with steel chairs as 'fun'. Nor would most people relish the thought of being thrown off a steel cage. But as the film points out, wrestlers are hardly normal. At the same time, though, they're still people. They have the same problems as all of us. It's just that they earn their living by running around in spandex and by beating the crap out of one another.
Of all the different strands in Beyond the Mat, I like the Terry Funk section the most. It just shows how bizarre wrestling is. Here you have a man in his fifties who has degenerative arthritis and who wakes up in the morning, like many old men, in his y-fronts. Yet in the ring he's a bloodthirsty maniac. But at the same time he's a loving father who cries at his daughter's wedding and he has an excellent rapport with the man who he has his most brutal matches with. As dim-witted as wrestling is, nothing out of the ring is simple.
And the Funk section illustrates the problem that most wrestler face: they can't give up the spotlight. I mean, just take one of Funk's friends, Dennis Stamp. He hasn't wrestled in years but he still trains (by jumping up and down on a trampoline in his underwear) in the vain hope of getting another match. And when he's finally made the referee in Funk's 'retirement' match, he's beside himself with excitement at the prospect of being part of the main event. It seems like when you don't get paid much, when you're forced to do lousy jobs and when no one really knows who you are, the only compensation for such a depressing existence is a few cheers.
But although the film touches upon the dark side of wrestling, it's quite touching seeing Funk trying to persuade his friend Stamp to be part of his match. The man may be vicious in the ring, but outside it he's warm-hearted. And I like the way that when he persuades his friend to be part of his match, and when he walks away, he nearly trips over. Despite everything, he's just a lovable old guy. However, I also like the scene because Stamp is such a fool. He's so desperate to be someone and so desperate to be recognised, that he cuts a promo when he's explaining why he can't make the event ("I'm not booked!). It's as if reality and wrestling are blurred. He can't tell them apart.
Another wrestler who's been messed up by the business is Jake Roberts. He doesn't get on with his daughter and he's forced to pay for his drug habit by wrestling in fourth-rate events in backwater towns. He's even filmed urinating into a bucket and then falling asleep backstage. It really does give a depressing picture of what it is to be a professional wrestler your existence revolves around the road, run down hotels and small towns. No wonder so many of them are screwed up. But Roberts has even more reason to be screwed up than most. He's the product of a rape and his sister was kidnapped and murdered. And he has a terrible relationship with his father. They can barely look at one another. There's no connection there at all. And it's quite shocking hearing Roberts describe how he gave up his dreams just to shove wrestling down his father's throat (his dad was a wrestler and Robert's resolved to be better than him). Suddenly you can see why Robert's created such a compelling character. He was just drawing on his own life. Again reality and wrestling is blurred.
Perhaps the only one in the film that has a decent handle on things is Mick Foley. He has a clear plan (he wants to retire by the age of 35) and he has a solid family to support him. Somehow you know that he's going to be fine. Not that there aren't a few bumps on the way. In one scene he's forced to watch footage of his wife and kids screaming when he's repeatedly hit over the head with a steel chair. It's a real wake-up call. I mean, as entertaining as it is for sadistic bastards like myself, you just can't make you family endure that time after time. But it's his family that will keep Foley on the straight and narrow. However, for the other wrestlers who don't have stable personal lives, they'll have to seek love in cheers and applause. It seems like wrestling is a drug that most wrestlers can't crack.
Not that a few don't try. There's an amusing scene when a wrestler called New Jack, who has four justifiable homicides, auditions for a Hollywood casting agent. The people there are slimy beyond belief. They make the carnies in wrestling look honest in comparison.
But why the film succeeds so emphatically is because everything is just presented as it is. No judgements are made and nobody is looked down upon. Yeah, wrestling may be something on the fringes of society, but the film shows that as weird as it is, the people aren't really that weird after all. They're just people with the same problems we all have.
I've seen this movie a few times and as a wrestling fan for over 20 years I
was glad to see a movie that showed a glimpse of what goes on behind the
scenes. Blaustien does an amazing job and it was no surprise that it was
seriously being considered for an Academy Award nomination (sadly it never
ended up being actually nominated).
Wrestling fans have had to defend their love of the art of pro wrestling for many years. When the topic would come up that I am a wrestling fan I would be faced with the same idiotic question, with a tone of disbelief in their voice, "You know it's fake, right?". My response has always been to follow that question with "And what is your favourite TV show?" I usually get an answer like "Friends" or something similar and I then mockingly explain to them that Rachel and Ross never dated and Monica and Chandler are not really married and that that isn't even their real names. Soon they began to see the stupidity of their proclaiming that wrestling is fake. Whew, sorry, kind of went on a rant there.
Blaustien's film allows non wrestling fans to see exactly how "fake" wrestling can be. The blood, sweat and hard work that these athletes and their families endure is vividly shown. We finally see a human side of the often larger than life characters that these men and women of the squared circle portray.
One thing that I found very profound was the drab, dark and gloomy colours Blaustein used in segments showing that human side as opposed to the colourfulness of the slick production of the athletes performing. We go from the glamorous pyro and bright lights of a live Pay per View event to shots of the wrestlers in their concrete, black and white, dirty and sweaty dressing rooms. I don't know if the director did this on purpose but I thought it was quite effective.
Bottom line this movie is a must for any fan of wrestling but I feel it is even more important to the non-wrestling fan interested to see why all these people watch this "fake" form of entertainment.
I enjoyed Beyond the Mat because it gave us an insiders view of wrestling.
But to be honest it was quite disturbing at times.
In a way it can shatter a fans illusions. We fans seem to think of wrestlers as superhuman beings-we forget that they have personal needs, families, wives, girlfriends, children etc. This movie shows us how wrestlers lives can be changed due to their devotion to keeping the fans entertained.
I won't spoil any of the film but one example is Jake "The Snake" Roberts. I watched Jake wrestle in the WWF from 1986-1992 and to me he was a brilliant wrestler who had it all-how wrong I was. It showed us another side to Jake Roberts-the human side who has sacrificed a lot to become a wrestler, including family.
This is a thought provoking movie which helps remind us that wrestlers are human after all and that they spend a lot of time away from their loved ones putting their bodies on the line purely to keep us entertained. If anything, this movie helps us appreciate the wrestlers even more.
Love them or leave them - misfit politicians, wayward spouses, and yes, professional wrestlers. Perhaps no other spectacle involves personalities as much as professional wrestling and Barry Blaustein's insightful "Beyond the Mat' explores those who thrill us with their lust for mayhem. Men and women with self destructive appetites are drawn into this entertainment venue - those who make a profit like the billionaire promoter Vince McMahon are called smart and shrewd, those who are swallowed up by their maladaptive behavior like the pathetic Jake'the Snake' Roberts are simply called mad. "Beyond the Mat" doesn't uncover anything we don't already know - the loud-mouth, hyped interviews, the staged choreography of flying bodies and colliding men against steel, and the spurting blood sacrificed in the name of violence. What we do see are the showmen who strut their stuff inside the ring, more dedicated to their brotherhood and craft than you can imagine. The battle wearied Terry Funk is a throwback to the self-managed, up-close-and-personal hero that Blaustein and a good number of his generation grew up with. The much younger Mick 'Mankind' Foley is a creation of the media driven World Wrestling Federation, a syndication leap years away from the Amarillo, Texas of Terry Funk. The deeply hurting Jake the Snake has fought so many battles in his long and troubled life that his only solace is crack cocaine and fighting in the ring. But the blood that Funk and Mick and Jake spill is the same blood of wanton brutality. It is the spectacle of harm and harming others. And yet in a cruel and twisted way, "Beyond the Mat" reminds us that wrestlers are as normal as anyone, just different. 'Mankind' and 'The Rock' can talk pleasantries before a match, before each tries to pulverize the other in front of their stunned wives and children. Terry Funk, as a gesture of forgiveness, repeatedly begs an old nemesis to referee his supposedly final match - a match in which he knows he will lose and will get brains bashed in. "Beyond the Mat' is a well made chronicle of wrestlers who care less if they win or lose (the promoters see to that) but more on how they play the game.
As a wrestling fan, when I saw this movie in the video store, I had to get it. Thinking I'd be seeing nothing more than an overview of pro wrestling, I was pleasantly surprised to see this documentary by filmmaker Blaustein that incorporates all the major wrestling organizations in the U.S. and also some of the greatest wrestlers ever to step in the ring...including a few personal favorites like Mick Foley and Terry Funk. In showing these wrestlers as humans, Blaustein has created a view of wrestling unique in a world of trickery and promotional stunts. This is one helluva documentary going behind the scenes of all the wrestling promotions, showing the real people involved, and in the end shows the viewer that, indeed, in wrestling nothing as it seems. A few of the highlights include a touching, and tragic, portrayal of mat legend Jake "The Snake" Roberts, behind the scenes of a WWF pay-per-view, and the story of hardcore legend Mick Foley. I would highly recommend this to anyone...it is an entertaining and revealing film that I think even non-wrestling fans would enjoy.
Yes, that's the title to the second Mick Foley book, but it also does a good job of summarizing this wonderful documentary. This movie shows wrestling for the dangerous and addictive sport it is and that people seem to forget because the endings are predetermined. If you can watch the scenes where Foley is repeatedly hit in the head in front of his wife with a chair and then try and talk about how fake the sport is. Look at the life of Jake Roberts and say that there isn't something inherently messed up. Though it depicts horrible acts of violence and drug use, but this movie is more shocking in the damage people in this sport do to themselves in pursuit of this "fake" sport with so little respect for themselves. A chilling and wonderful documentary.
This great documentary goes behind the scenes and shows us a side of wrestling that we rarely get to see. In particular, it focuses on three legendary wrestlers, and their stories should provoke a wide range of emotions from every viewer. There are other stories as well, but these were generally much less interesting, and the film works best when the focus is on Mick Foley, Terry Funk, or Jake Roberts. Their stories were all compelling, and wrestling-haters who are usually so quick to dismiss this business as "fake" should take a look at this movie and see just how real it can be.
man i loved this film, a real insight into what happens behind the scenes of the world famous wrestling franchise. well all my favourites were here but mostly of not mick foley, i love this guy and to see him in such a candid light was great, also jake the snake roberts, it was difficult to see what a bad state of affairs this once amazing personality has gotten himself into. but on the whole its just a very honest portrayal of what these guys have to go through day by day just to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads and those of their families. i also strongly suggest that anyone who likes this movie also read the two mick foley books and also try and find jerry the king lawlers nbook as well as they give a really deep insight into the world of sports entetrtainment. the only thing i didn't like about this film is that it didn't have any info or input by dusty rhodes who is by far my all time favourite wrestler, oh well they did a great job even without the American dream.
everything about this documentary is fantastic. it is emotionally
almost the whole way thru. and sincere. i really don't know why vince
mcmahon wants it banned, because after watching it, not only do i wish it
were part of a series, but it will make the WWf viewing experience more
intriguing. its three main foci were 53 year old "living legend" terry
funk, the "insane" mick foley/mankind, and the late-80s early 90s
jake "the snake" roberts.
great revelations are slipped in so understatedly as to make them seem almost trivial. "mick (foley) called to tell me that they were giving him the championship belt, but that he would lose it at a later pay-per-view, royal rumble". this was slipped in with no excitement. then we witnessed the event itself, focussing on the anguish of his wife and two kids sitting at ringside. and as he took immense and REAL punishment, their tears manifested themselves on my face.
another insight was shown as a person sitting in the "back-room" was feeding commentary to the "real" commentators sitting at ringside.
the documentary held more pain when it turned its attention on jake roberts, who now plays small-town cards, smokes, and is a crack-addict. i remember him from his high-times, and seeing him in this condition pierced my heart. and when his life story unravels, it turns grotesque. "my mom was 13 when she had me," he drawls. "that's cos my daddy raped her.....he was my mom's mom's (ie grandmother's) boyfriend..."
as i said, i wish that this were one in a series of exposes, for this is fascinating, and one of the best documentaries i have ever seen.
I am not the biggest wrestling fan as I was when I was a little kid,
but I found myself amazed with the inner workings of what it actually takes
for a wrestler to make it in whatever venue. I can still remember a long
time ago on Sundays watching Wrestling at the Chase with Larry Madisick (The
ringside announcer). Then, it was Crusher Blackewell, The Von-Eriks, and
other various names that seem to have long been forgotten. Now, it's Stone
Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, and women wrestlers like Chyna.
It was amazing to see the transformation from what it was into what it is. It was also sad to see the self destruction of Jake the Snake Roberts and to a certain point Terry Funk with his refusal to retire.
What was also interesting was the fact that the heads of the wrestling groups (like Vince McMahon)the movie did profile did not make light of what they did or even how they promoted it. This is sports entertainment plain and simple. They have tapped into a market not to be out done by any other mass marketed item except for PokeMon.
The only problem I had with this film was the fact that I did see it at the movie theater. Now after the fact, I believe that a documentary like this should have gone to video instead. It didn't diminish the quality of the subject, but it was just something not meant for the big screen.
None the less I did enjoy this film and I would recommend it for just about anyone who has the slightest interest in wrestling.
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