See, wrestlers are just like you and I, except with more muscles and brain damage.
It’s supposed to be fun. It’s not supposed to be real. Join Mick Foley, Terry Funk, and Jake “The Snake” Roberts for a no-holds barred look into the wild world of the professional wresting, with all of its secrets and truths uncovered.
I used to be a huge wrestling fan back in 2003 till around 2008. I swore that I would never stop watching it and always be a die-hard fan. However, things started to change for me when I got into high school and I realized there were cooler things out there like girls, beer, partying, and well, movies. Occasionally I’ll check it out here and there but it’s nothing too serious like the old days. Thankfully, this documentary reminded me just why I loved it so much in the first place.
Director Barry W. Blaustein definitely shows that he has an appreciation for wrestling and gives us a great glimpse behind what really goes down in the ring. I like how Blaustein gets up close and personal with what we see in the ring and how all of that is performed, written, and talked about in the first place. People that ever mention that “wrestling is fake” will definitely see this flick and think a little differently because it shows that yes, all of the matches are predicted before-hand, but all of the shots, slams, choke holds, etc., are all somewhat real and have pain to it. You see plenty of this when these guys come out of the ring to get stitched up and you realize that those are real flesh wounds, that actually do hurt.
I also liked how Blaustein was able to capture all of this footage, going from all of these different wrestlers and promotions. We see the big and bad WWF (which is basically WWE, for all you jabronis out there), which is practically ran like a business with Vince McMahon at the helm, telling people how he wants his shit done and everybody practically looking at him like a dick and crazy S.O.B. Then we go to a smaller, independent company named APW where the owner, Roland Alexander, is basically scamming all of these smaller-time wrestlers out of their money, in hopes of one day being a big-time WWF superstar. But it’s not over because then we go to a company that’s right in the middle, which will always be one of my favorites: ECW. We get to see how ECW is practically an insane wrestling promotion where just about anything and everything happens and where everybody treats each other like family, much ado to owner, Paul Heyman. It’s three great glimpses into the three main layers of professional wrestling and even though I wish they went a checked out WCW, I still have to give Blaustein some credit for actually getting in there, and showing us just how it all works differently depending where you are.
My problem I had with this documentary was that even though Blaustein said he was very much in love with wrestling, he did a pretty good job of showing just how effed up it can be. One of the more disturbing moments in the film is when they show Mick Foley, aka Mankind, getting hit over and over the head with a chair by The Rock right in front of his family, who are all practically balling their eyes out thinking that he’s dying in there. It’s a shocking scene but very disturbing in showing how certain loved ones look at all the pain and aggression that comes with pro wrestling and it seemed like something that would show the horrors rather than the positives.
Another example of how negative this film was towards the wrestling business was when we focus on a dude I vaguely remember named Droz. We follow Droz for a good 5 minutes as we see him meet and greet with Vince McMahon, get to know a little bit about what he’s going to do there, like be named “Puke”, and then get asked to barf into a trash can just for proof. This seemed not only very strange, but also something that could seem a little bit negative with how it shows Vince as being a demeaning ass in telling this one dude that he’s going to be named “Puke”. Both of these scenes seemed strange considering how much Blaustein had for the wrestling business because it definitely does it more harm than good.
The three subjects that Blaustein chose to focus this documentary on, were pretty good choices considering each one had interesting stories behind them. We follow Terry Funk as his family continues to beg him about retiring from the ring, when all he wants to do is give the fans one more match. Funk is a very respected wrestler and this flick shows him as a naturally likable dude that just loves wrestling and loves his fans. Nothing wrong with that my man. As I’ve mentioned before, the film also follows Mick Foley as we get to see more behind him than we usually see on TV and the guy is so awesome. He’s nice, smart, charming, likable, and a very dedicated father that would do anything to make his family happy. Big problem is, he just can’t say “no” to wrestling.
The biggest subject that this film follows is Jake “the Snake” Roberts, who seems like a very smart dude but deep down inside, has some very effed up problems. We see this guy talk all about his relationship with his estranged father, who actually raped his mother when she was 13, we see him talk about some jumbo mumbo shit while he’s high on crack, and we also see him try his damn near hardest to reconnect with his estranged daughter. It’s one of the sadder moments of the flick but also seemed very wrong when it came to showing Jake in such a negative light. Yeah, I know the guy is a huge fuck up but compared to the other two subjects here, the guy practically seems like the mentally challenged brother.
Consensus: Beyond the Mat is a relatively insightful and sometimes, provocative behind-the-scenes look as to what really goes on before and after the bell rings, but also seems very mean to its subject, even though the director himself states that he truly loves it.