Reviewing Beyond the Mat, the movie Vince McMahon didn’t want you to see!
Beyond the Mat is off of Netflix on January 1st. With the New Year rapidly approaching you might miss out on a chance to view this wrestling documentary. Don’t let it pass you by!
Beyond the Mat features performers from several different wrestling promotions. The piece ends up focusing on three professional wrestlers, each at a different point in their career. You have Mick Foley, Terry Funk, and Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Foley at the top, holding the WWF Championship. Terry Funk contemplating retirement. Jake Roberts falling from grace, bottoming out of the wrestling industry due to a bout with addiction.
Barry Blaustein’s film plays as a love letter to professional wrestling. It is a must-see for any true wrestling fan. Blaustein had unparalleled access to many backstages and he uses it to lift the veil of secrecy on the business. We see a side of wrestling that in the late 90s we didn’t know that much about. Blaustein’s access to the then WWF is incredible, taking us inside the headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. Blaustein shines a certain amount of humanity on all the wrestlers he comes across. You start seeing these performers as more than just their in-ring personas.
The downfall of the piece stems from the fact that Blaustein himself is a fan. He doesn’t challenge many of his subjects with any sort of journalistic merit. Blaustein shows just enough of the trials and tribulations of each man but doesn’t find the heart of the matter until the very end of the piece. Blaustein digs in deep with Mick Foley. He travels to Florida to show Mick and his wife Collette the footage captured during Foley’s “I Quit Match” with The Rock at the 1999 Royal Rumble. Dewey and Noelle, Mick’s children who are famous in their own right, cry as their father took chair shot after chair shot leaving him bloody. This was a wake-up call for Mick who had viewed his brand of hardcore wrestling as performance art. The relationship between Mick and his family serves as the most interesting point of the film.
Had Blaustein not opted to play the role of observer in this documentary exploration of the other performers we met throughout the piece may have been possible. With a wider net of questioning, anchored with some hard-hitting journalism Blaustein would’ve extracted a much better end result for his film. He may have even found an answer to the question he starts with at the beginning of the piece – what sort of man bashes someone’s head in for a living? We simply don’t know at the end because Blaustein doesn’t seem to give us much of an answer.
In 1999 I’m sure that Beyond the Mat was the talk of wrestling fans worldwide. Now that technology has come around the wrestling community is more plugged into wrestling than ever before. A documentary isn’t needed to answer what type of person these performers are because most already know. There are very few wrestlers who crack into the “major leagues” that haven’t been seen somewhere else before. The wrestling community shares information with one another at an exceptional rate. There is no need for a screenwriter who is merely a fan like the rest of us to go poking around with a camera crew in the modern-day product. While it may not be needed you should still give Beyond the Mat a watch if you’re an avid wrestling fan.