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Exposed! Pro Wrestling's Greatest Secrets (1998)

TV Movie  -  Action  -  1 November 1998 (USA)
4.6
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Ratings: 4.6/10 from 97 users  
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Go behind the scenes into the strange world of pro wrestling. Find out why these men are more than athletes, and more like actors. Revealed are the tricks of the trade and the secrets to putting on a good show.

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Title: Exposed! Pro Wrestling's Greatest Secrets (TV Movie 1998)

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Harley Race ...
Booker (as booker)
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Anthony Durante ...
Colossus (as Colossus)
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The All-American Boy (as The All-American Boy)
Gary Wolfe ...
Brute Force (as Brute Force)
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Go behind the scenes into the strange world of pro wrestling. Find out why these men are more than athletes, and more like actors. Revealed are the tricks of the trade and the secrets to putting on a good show.

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1 November 1998 (USA)  »

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Doesn't deserve all the bashing it gets, quite entertaining actually
22 July 2010 | by (IA, USA) – See all my reviews

This review consists of not only my thoughts but also some responses to criticisms I've heard about it. It's a 45 minute program about the "secrets" of pro wrestling, featuring real wrestlers whose identities have been hidden, and plenty of demonstrations of how they do their stunts in the ring.

I first learned about this video from the internet, about a decade after it had originally aired (and later got my hands on an actual tape).

Apparently this program has been the subject of of mockery from fans of Pro Wrestling. When it came out in 1998 it was somewhat dated and sensationalist, but I feel that a lot of the criticisms were sour grapes. A lot of fans claimed they always knew wrestling was fake. The fact is that people have been SAYING that for years, but how many people actually discussed how it was done, in a public forum in the 90's? I saw one other program like this made earlier, with older production values, but it didn't go as deeply into depth.

Is wrestling "fake"? This short documentary clarifies that indeed saying "pro wrestling is fake" is too simplistic of a statement. There are parts that are real and parts that acting. A lot of it is stunts and exaggeration. Pro Wrestling creates the illusion of an athletic competition, when in reality it is theater. Apart from the (many) times when accidents occur, these guys do get manhandled in the ring, and over time it takes its toll just like any career football player or (in some cases, professional boxers).

Pro Wrestling you see on TV or see "live" is over-acted, so that the people in the back can see, just like if you were seeing a play. You're watching a live action version of comic book villains and heroes slugging it out. There's also plenty of spectacle, and people watch it for the same reason they watch boxing or other sports, to cheer their favorites and boo the other guys. Knowing that the violence isn't what it appears to be may even soften the guilty feeling some fans may experience from watching what seems to be a bunch of guys mangling each other for sport.

The biggest dangers faced by pro wrestlers in the real world, that is, outside "kayfabe" (the lingo and culture of the illusion, the secrets) are drugs (steroids and recreational drugs, the latter being the temptation of all celebrities).

No doubt these guys are in great shape, and could likely "take you down in a back alley brawl" if the situation arose. But that's not the point.

People complain about the "bad acting" and theatrics in this video, but let's face it, that is EXACTLY the kind of thing that all pro wrestling on PPV or DVD is, especially the WWE. Heavy use of melodrama, stereotypes, and plots seemingly ripped straight from soap operas & "reality" TV are the meat and potatoes of wrestling. Is it any wonder nowadays that wrestling video games focus on playing up the promos, introductions and "what goes on backstage" as much as the action in the ring itself?

The video does what it does well, in showing the basics of how many of the popular moves are done, and some things not all wrestling fans might have known (taking chair shots or smashing through tables without injury). It doesn't get into how they "cut" each other with barbed wire or put out flames as in some of the more "hardcore" stuff (but they do cover basic "juicing" which is how most wrestlers bleed in a match), but it isn't hard to figure out, once you realize the culture of illusion we're dealing with.

Another complaint I often hear is that the masked wrestlers in the movie "were losers" or "needed the money." This seems like a very ignorant argument, considering that the "losing" in matches is as fake as the victories. The wrestlers don't determine who wins or loses, it's merely their job to play the part. Sure, they play to the crowd, but barring an injury, the outcome is going to be the same. Plus, do you think every wrestler gets paid the same? They are independent contractors, and especially with all the steroid use, many of them burn out or die before their time. The work they did in this video is no less "dignified" than what these guys and their peers do on Pay Per View. It's educational.

My impression after watching this program was that I found I had gained great RESPECT for the guys who came up with these tricks, the psychology that gets the crowd worked up with the show, the writers who come up with memorable characters and gimmicks and most of all the wrestlers who go through all the physical conditioning, showmanship, and even punishment in order to entertain you. If anything, a video like this made me give them more credit, not less, though others felt that it was mocking fans for getting caught up in the action.

People will point out that this video's material is "dated" but turn on TNA or just about any other promotion and you'll see many of the same tricks are still there or ones like them. I have a feeling if a non-kayfabe video was put out by the WWE it wouldn't create controversy.

Certainly more documentaries could be made that are more "respectful" or included more of the modern tricks (like the hardcore stuff) but the groundwork has been laid.

So while not a perfect show, it's good introduction, especially to young fans. You can still enjoy wrestling, even if you "know the secrets."


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