I’ve been a casual fan of wrestling for a long time.
I’ve gone through cycles of watching every week, to watching the odd PPV.
The silliness, the theatrics, and the live action physical stunts always manage to pull me back in. So I was shocked that I had never heard of Beyond the Mat, a 1999 documentary that WWE helped with, but then tried to dissonance itself from.
The reality of wrestling can be as silly and insane as their storylines, and so I was in.
For anyone else who missed this, Beyond the Mat is a documentary by Barry W. Blaustein which follows Jake the Snake, Terry Funk, and Mick Foley. These 3 wrestlers provide really diverse personalities outside the ring. Jake the Snake is having issues with substance abuse, Terry Funk is old as hell and doing the independent circuits just for the love of the sport, and Mick Foley is the most wholesome man I think I have seen.
Seriously, I knew the guy was known for being nice to other wrestlers but holy crap. For one of the most crazy characters in wrestling, known for putting his body on the line, he might just be one the most lovely humans on the planet. We slices of him at home with his wife and kids, and he is the best kind of family man.
Throughout the story is a series of other clips and moments like watching a new up and coming wrestler get his chance. The gimmick that gets him signed, he can throw up on queue. It was the 90s, let’s keep that in mind.
The stories are really well told to give an interesting slice of what happens behind the scenes.
The hardest part really is Mick Foleys story and watching how his kids handle him getting bloodied up. He seems to be able to tell himself that he tells his kids it’s all pretend and he’s a superhero. Then we get to watch them at a live show. The Rock and Mick Foley have a pretty iconic fight, but as The Rock is taking to his head with a chair we keep cutting back to his wife and kids.
They viscerally react and cry with every hit as the crowd roars. I can’t lie, it was a really hard watch.
Afterwards they are back stage as he passes his concussion checks, and tells them its just a boo boo. They then walk around with him as he has a post match convo with the Rock and goes home. When you see how much he loves and plays with his kids, then see how epic of a wrestler he is, and then see that battle. I mean, it’s been days since I saw it and it’s still sitting in my mind.
The Bluray also comes with a dinner conversation with Barry W. Blaustein, Jesse Ventura (who was lightly covered in the doco) and Mick Foley which is a surprisingly great little watch.
Beyond the Mat is a well created documentary. It’s not a hit piece, or a fluff piece, but just a bunch of really interesting slices of life of wrestlers at the time that shows the positives and negatives. This is a must add to the shelf for any wrestling fan.
Oh and the controversy with the WWE and the movie. Vince was included in it but came off as a dick. It’s not hard to make Vince look like a dick though.