You are here /wrestling
Guest Columns






(Loyal Butchaholics please note this is word-for-word what'll go in the paper. I realize you guys know the principal players, but it's still a good read.--BR)

"Beyond the Mat." Rated R. Starring Terry Funk, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, "Mankind" Mick Foley and other wrestlers. Premiering (or premiered) March 17 nationwide. Distributed by Lions Gate Films. Directed by Barry Blaustein.

I've been a wrestling fan for well over half of my life. This comes with no small amount of distress to my mother, who looks down upon me like you would a blonde, air-headed bimbo who marries a guy sight unseen just because he happens to be rich. Every Monday and Thursday night the question comes back: "Why do you watch that stuff?"

I think I do because it's a play on good vs. evil. Because of the pagentry involved and the Shakepearean storylines. And mostly because guys who aren't me look like they're getting beat up. Despite undergoing a Renaissance, professional wrestling is commonly derided as fake. But this is America, and sometimes, what appears to be fake can be the realest thing of all.

Director Barry Blaustein went out with pro wrestlers on the road for the better part of two years to show people just what it's like. Some of the wrestlers are poor and work as independents. Some are rich superstars in the largest federations. Some are in their prime. Some are has-beens looking to rekindle the spark of days past.

Blaustein found the inspiration to do this film after growing up much like I had. The film focuses on three main wrestlers.

First to the mat is Terry Funk, a wrestler for the better part of three decades. The film leads up to his retirement match. While his family feels good about him quitting, he has a strong dedication to the sport. As the third-largest promoter, Extreme Championship Wrestling gets set backstage at its first pay-per-view, the owner exorts everyone in the locker room to thank Terry for making it possible for them. He goes on to hold their World Title for a short time, then loses his "retirement match". But, Viola, he returns to the ring three months later.

One of the most captivating and disturbing stories is seen in Jake "The Snake" Roberts. Roberts, a former superstar in the 1980's, is now riddled with family problems and drug addiction, working small independent shows for a couple of dollars. The time that Blaustein spends with him on the road, the reunion with his daughter and Roberts' compelling, mostly lucid thoughts are haunting words and images that will stay with you long after the final credits roll.

A centerpiece of the story is "Mankind" Mick Foley, a good friend of Funk who is also a World Champion with the WWF. Mick has it all, a job he loves, a beautiful wife and nice children he loves to play with. Blaustein sets it up nicely with many shots of the family in down time, playing around and especially the kids pinning Daddy. As beautiful as the situation looks now, the ugly would equal if not surpass it.

A major WWF event, the January 1999 Royal Rumble, would see Mick lose the title to his friend Dwayne Johnson (a.k.a the Rock). We see Mick arrive to the cheers of the fans, and he and Dwayne plan out their match. Backstage, the Rock talks to Foley's kids and asks them if they enjoyed Disneyland. The kids are sort of scared of him, since he's the man who goes out and hurts Daddy, but they talk to him. Once the camera rolls, Johnson is in full Ali-style mode, tearing apart the skills of Foley(who is tying his shoes a few feet away, off-screen). Foley gives a quick kiss to the wife and kids, says a prayer, and goes out to entertain.

Foley and Johnson have a good match, with Foley taking quite a few bumps (sequences that look painful), such as falling off a 15-foot ladder onto a wiring board. The match goes back and forth until Johnson handcuffs him. He then goes onto deliver absolutely hellacious, vicious, chair shots to the head in quick succession. The audience gasps in shock and cringes. Foley's kids begin to cry and his wife is obviously horrified. They cannot exit the crowd quick enough and thankfully miss the last four-shot barrage of chair shots to end the match.

Backstage, everyone gives Foley a hand. Owner Vince McMahon checks his well-being. Foley is bleeding largely from the head, and the camera gets a great/terrifying shot of Mick being cut so wide open that it looks like a flesh-colored Venus flytrap sits on his head. He shakes it off and tells the kids he suffered nothing more than a boo-boo.

Later, as Barry shows the footage of his wife and kids to Foley, he feels guilty for putting his children through that and promises to cut back the bumps.

I usually feel biographies are right below root canals. But between laughing at white, middle-aged Blaustein cruising with young, black gangsta persona New Jack in a convertible to a audition in Hollywood and the gripping reality of the Roberts story, "Beyond the Mat" compels from start to finish. A well-deserved *** 3/4 to "Beyond the Mat." If you don't like wrestling, you'll still gain a respect for it. And if you like wrestling, it provides rare behind-the-scenes action that viewers aren't privy to. You can lay down the $8 for two hours and not be disappointed at the end.

It's 10:10 on a Monday night. hHh and his cronies have already been out once, so it's with little shock that we hear #ARE YOU READY?#. But the music is a little off, and there seems to be some sort of productioning malfunction. To quote what CRZ would later put in his report: "The hell? IT'S RUNNING IN REVERSE YOU IDIOTS!" A few astute folks notice the X is tinged with blue. The messed-up footage shows, and the music's playing, but it's just a little off, like someone's playing the kazoo or something. Finally, we get to #POWER TO THE MASSES...BREAK IT DOWN!#

JR acknowledges TREBLE H & STEPHANIE ONO coming out, but it's just TREBLE H. Or someone looking a hell of a lot like TREBLE H. It's actually Stevie Richards, with a prothetic nose, similar-looking tights that have sSs (Ha!) and the World Title that anyone can buy at the concessions. He's drinking the Powerade (blue, duh!) as he approaches the apron. JR & Kingfish are wondering what the hell is up. Richards hits the apron, removes belt, spits blue liquid, steps in the ring. Takes his spot, and delivers the CROTCH CHOPS OF PYROMANIA...but the X's that ensue are blue!

Richards, now, says he will be called the Board, or if you must, Super Sexy Stevie. Triple S. Richards has Helmsley's cadances and uhs down well. He does a little comedy bit that rips on his gimmick-riddled past and caps on DX as well. He's wearing a leather jacket, and as he takes it off, he announces, "It's time for the brand new Bluegeneration X!" The shirt looks like a DX shirt: except it's blue and the X is made of white smiley faces. Blue Meanie gets announced as B-PAC, same thing, crowd gets into it. DX doesn't acknowledge them at first, but if we're not down with BX, they have two words for us: MOCK IT!

The off-kilter music plays, and they exit to a pretty decent response. As the weeks progress, Stevie and...uh, the Board and B-PAC become thorns in DX's side, like your little brother trying to get you to take him somewhere.

T-shirt sales blow up. Richards & Meanie get over. And for all of you spitting at your screens right now, here's why it could work:

  • When the bWo first came out, it was cool. It did it's thing and ran its course. Same here.
  • Many of the WWF fans now didn't see the bWo then, so it's new to them.
  • Richards & Meanie continue to rise up to the midcard and provide another tag team for the hefty sized division.
  • They've proved they can work a comedy angle well enough for the smarts to laugh and the marks to mark out.
  • It allows for one-night enterances into the group, like that night Rock joined DX last fall, and also done on the first ECW PPV.
  • With everyone being a hard-ass, a comedy angle that DOESN'T SUCK **cough cough Mae Young** would keep fans balanced out levity-wise and also pick up where Mankind left off.
  • Merchandising. With two or three simple changes to a shirt (unless they go with an away blue on white), they can re-sell the shirt for the most part and get about $15 a shirt. Money is good.

    So, there you go. Please, sit down. Well, as usual, that was just me talking. Correspond if you feel that way. And if you're not down with that, I got two words for ya: MOCK IT!

    Wait, that's not my tagline!

    I'm outta here like I stole somethin'!

    There we go.

    Butch Rosser
    Supreme Overlord for Life, Future Husbands of Jennifer Love Hewitt

    Mail the Author

  • BLAH


    Design copyright (C) 1999, 2000 Christopher Robin Zimmerman & KZiM Communications
    Guest column text copyright (C) 2000 by the individual author and used with permission