Jump to content
TSM Forums
Sign in to follow this  
Guest TSMAdmin

DVD (Re-)Review: Beyond The Mat

Recommended Posts

Guest TSMAdmin





Studio: Imagine


Distributer: Universal






Let me tell you a little story: I was eighteen, and I had just moved to LA from England on my lonesome. I'd read stories all over the web about this Wrestling With Shadows-esque documentary on wrestling, one that had more backstage footage than you can shake a stick at, and that told the stories of three of the all time greats, Mick Foley, Terry Funk and Jake Roberts. Meltzer and Scherer were drooling all over it, and I knew that I had to see this flick.






"Hey dad, bet you five bucks Steph can't book for shit." "You're on."








However, the film was far from on general release; in fact, it was only running for five days on a single screen in an obscure theatre in Century City (in order for it to qualify for some award nomination). Now, Century City was quite a way from me and, being the unemployed wannabe-immigrant that I was, I had no car, and none of my buddies could take me. But the film was on a very limited release, and no-one knew what would become of it after that. And dammit, there was no way in hell I was going to miss my shot at seeing this movie.



So I caught a cab to Century City. I watched the flick. I got another cab back home. I looked in my wallet: the ticket cost me seven bucks, the cab ride was SEVENTY bucks. And it was worth every penny…






"Emerald Fusion! Modest is the shit JR!" "Well, I don't see no spinebuster..."











Barry Blaustein, Hollywood screenwriter (the man behind some of Eddie Murphy’s finest moments) had done some good work for Frasier-headed Ron Howard and his company, so as a reward, old Richie...er, Ronnie, gave him a hundred grand with which to make a movie of his choosing. A lifelong smart wrestling fan, for Blaustein there was only one project he was going to spend that money on.






Sometimes you chill, sometimes you shill.








I sincerely doubt that any of you reading this particular site have no knowledge of this film. Suffice it to say, it tells three important stories that every wrestling fan should know: 1) Mick Foley is killing himself with his hardcore antics, and his family aren’t impressed, especially when they sit and watch from ringside, 2) Terry Funk is killing himself with his hardcore antics, and his family aren’t… hey, there’s a theme going on here. Actually, Funk’s story is more about the fact that he’s sixty years old and doing moonsaults off ladders, his body is completely knackered and he simply CANNOT STOP WRESTLING. 3) Jake Roberts used to be famous and good. Now he wrestles for crack and simply CANNOT STOP DOING DRUGS. But if you listen to his story, maybe you'll understand why. Maybe.






"Bet you five bucks Steph can't book for shit." "Sure."













I’m still amazed at the number of wrestling fans I speak to whether or not they spell “mark” with an s who haven’t seen this film. When guys go to OVW, Jim Cornette sets two compulsory study aids: A copy of Lou Thesz's Hooker, and this movie.






Dennis Stamp shoots on RVD, we laugh at Dennis Stamp.






It’s not really fair to compare this film to Wrestling With Shadows. The fact that WWS was the first real look behind the curtain for most of us, coupled with the fact that it documented the fascinating events of Montreal gives it a quality and aura that nothing can really live up to. Having said that, if peeking behind the curtain is what you’re looking for, Beyond The Mat will be right up your alley it’s far more of an exposé on the wrestling business, told through three compelling stories each one as poignant as Montreal. Mick and Terry’s tales are heart-warming and heart-wrenching at once, while Jake’s story is just tragic. The details and events surrounding Jake’s cursed family is enough to drive anyone off the rails - you might even say that Jake's handling things pretty well, all in all.





These fascinating insights are comfortably padded with plenty of backstage footage from a number of WWF and indy events, a tour of Titan Towers, and some shorter focusing on some of wrestling’s more colourful individuals, from Vince McMahon to New Jack to Chyna to Spike Dudley. In fairness, Bryan Alvarez was right when he pointed out that the film never really realises its own message - after all the horror and heartache it shows it, it wraps things up neatly with a somewhat confused moral of "[wrestlers] are just like us, only really different." But it's a minor, minor issue that doesn't at all detract from the experience.






Mick Foley: fake wrestler.








For the wrestling fan, it’s a wet dream. For non- fans who get roped in to watch the flick, there are enough life stories and tear-jerking moments to appease the grumpiest grandparents and the most cynical girlfriends.




When RAW has once again tested your limits as a wrestling fan, pop this baby on to remind yourself and your no doubt bewildered friends why you watch this hokey wrestling shit.




Movie Rating: ****


Not quite Flair-Steamboat, but damn, it's pretty close.











When I slapped this baby into my player, I was a little pissed at the pedestrian, non-animated menu. After a little clicking though, I was very pleasantly surprised with the extras on offer:




- Audio commentary by Barry Blaustein and Terry Funk


- Audio commentary by Barry Blaustein


- Two short, scene-specific commentaries by Mick Foley


- Theatrical Trailer


- Cast & Crew profiles


- Easter Egg of Jake Roberts buying a pint of Schnapps and a six pack (maybe)






"Sure she's cute Vince, but I really don't think she can book for shit."








Okay, let’s get the garbage out of the way first. The profiles are pretty lame and you won't learn anything about anyone except Blaustein himself. The trailer is fun to watch a couple times like most trailers, and like most, you won’t go back to after that.




The commentaries are the real gold on this disc. As you can imagine on any documentary, there are a bunch of stories that don’t get told and information that doesn’t get covered. Bear in mind that Blaustein was tailing wrestlers with a camera for about four years (in addition to the year he followed them without a camera), and we all know how much happens in wrestling over that much time.






Foley is Jesus







The commentary with Terry Funk is worth fifteen bucks alone. It’s basically a candid conversation between two wrestling fans, one of whom happens to be a living legend, that is prompted occasionally by what’s happening on screen. Terry tells some amazing stories about Vince McMahon, Japan, the state of the business, and his numerous retirements. This is a truly non-stop commentary, as enlightening and entertaining to wrestling fans as Kevin Smith commentaries areto View Askewers.





The Blaustein solo commentary is also worth the price of admission, telling stories more directly related to what’s actually happening on-screen (as opposed to Terry spending most of his time reminiscing). He recounts experiences he went through during filming, from the difficulty in getting co-operation from WCW or the WWF, getting attacked by the wrestlers, time he spent with various guys that didn’t make the cut (singing Afa, anyone?) and ultimately the difficulty in getting the film released thanks to Vince and his lawyers. Great stuff here, although there are a number of short pauses throughout.






Mike Modest: The REAL Undertaker





The two short Foley commentaries are interesting, but then Mick reading the ingredients on the back of a soup can would be entertaining. It’s especially funny to hear his comments on his own backyard wrestling adventures (“this is my backyard wrestling; cheesy legdrop, nobody gets hurt.” Then it cuts to him jumping off the roof of his buddy’s house), as well as his reaction to The Rock destroying his head with eleven chairshots at the Rumble and then not bothering to check he was okay afterwards. See Mick. See Mick shoot. Shoot Mick shoot!






Jake's matrats







As for the Jake Easter Egg... well, if you can find it, you're a better man than me. Blaustein constantly makes reference to a "button at the end of the DVD" that takes you to a clip of Jake doing his thing (buying vast quantities of alchohol and shitting in some nachos), but damned if anyone's found it yet. I doubt it personally, but if you find it, for God's sake tell the rest of us.




Extras Rating: *****




This would be akin to a twenty-minute Benoit-HBK match. Three falls. With ladders. And Stacy and Torrie going down on each other between rounds.











It’s really interesting to look back at this film to see how the fortunes have changed for everyone documented: ECW: gone. WCW: gone. WWF: lost millions on the XFL, lost their name to the tree-hugging WWF, and lost almost all of their fans. Chyna: gone. Droz: paralysed. Funk: still wrestling. Roland Alexander: being sued for a wrestling death. In fact, there are only two people who are doing better now than they were back then, and one of them is Jake Roberts. Sure, his reputation is still worth less than shit, but he’s got his own wrestling school and is running shows in the UK. The only other guy from the film who is more successful now is Mick Foley finally out of the business, spending all day with his family, and writing all the books he wants. And I guess The Rock really hasn’t done too badly either.




No special effects, crappy sound and fairly mediocre video mean it isn’t the one to show off your new home cinema setup. But it is a great way to spend the remainder of Monday night after RAW has once again done its best to kill your love of wrestling. Draw the curtains, kill the lights, grab a loaf of bread and enjoy.






Overall: ****






More fun than Stacy Kiebler in a sleeping bag.






Jay Spree




Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this