Beyond the Mat

Finally The ROCK has come BACK to DVD. And to you, all the millions AND millions, of wrestling fans out there, THIS is the disc you have been waiting for. And if your DVD player wont play this disc, maybe the Rock can help you by coming over, turning that S.O.B. sideways, and sticking it straight up your candy ass!

All wrestling shtick aside, Beyond The Mat is THE must-own movie if you are a fan of the current world of professional wrestling. The movie takes strides to show the human side of wrestlers — their relationships, their joy, and their pain. By doing this, the movie opens up professional wrestling to a much larger audience.

Barry W. Blaustein, both a filmmaker and a fan of professional wrestling, decided to make a movie about the real lives of wrestlers. In an anecdote told during the beginning of the film, he relates a story where as a child he went to a professional wrestling match. After the match was over, he saw a professional wrestler get into a car and drive away with his family. This was the incident that made him realize that professional wrestlers were real people too. Inspired by this memory, Blaustein spent five years recording over 60 hours of documentary footage. Blaustein edited the footage down to a 102-minute documentary, and added insightful narration to the entire thing. The final product is Beyond The Mat.

The DVD release of Beyond The Mat is unrated. The original theatrical release was R-rated, due to violence and language. Some of the wrestlers made some extremely negative comments (mostly against the WWF) in their on-camera interviews. Although these comments were cut out of the theatrical release, the comments were reinserted into the home release. Its difficult to find what was reinserted back in because its not marked and I didn’t see the theatrical release, but from what I could find on the Internet, the theatrical version was 102 minutes, and this version clocks in at a little over 107 minutes.

The majority of the film follows three wrestlers — Mick Foley, Terry Funk, and Jake “the Snake” Roberts — over the past few years of their careers.

Beyond The Mat goes beyond wrestling by delving into their personal lives and relationships, showing the real side of professional wrestling, and the human side of the wrestlers. Its interesting how Jake the Snake is presented as the past of wrestling, Terry Funk as the current hero of wrestling, and Mick Foley as the future. Shortly after the movie was released, Mick retired from wrestling, and Terry Funk, who retires from wrestling in the movie, came back from retirement. Jake the Snake well Jake the Snake is still wrestling for $25 a show and smoking a lot of crack, both of which he does on camera as well.

My wife, who thinks there is something wrong with grown men wearing masks, tights, and rolling around with each other on television, loved the movie. She really liked the behind-the-scenes footage, seeing the wrestlers wives, their kids, and all of the drama in their personal lives. I liked all that, but being a fan of professional wrestling, I also liked seeing the wrestlers I had forgotten about years ago (Koko B. Ware??) and seeing where they are now. My wife liked all the home footage of people like Mankind out on the beach playing with their kids, out of character.

If you think the biggest excitement for wrestlers is in the ring, think again. This movie choked me up at least three times: once when Mick Foleys kids ended up watching their daddy take 14 shots to the head with a metal chair; once when Terry Funk decides to give up professional wrestling; and once when Jake the Snake has a reunion with his estranged daughter. Actually the majority of the Jake the Snake portion of the film had me torn up a bit. Watching someone sink so low after being a celebrity is pretty depressing stuff.

To quote the production notes, Beyond The Mat is an honest, uncensored, sensational behind-the-scenes look at wrestling. It takes the viewers beyond the ring and into the lives of the men and women who inhabit this colorful, competitive and surprisingly complex world. The personal and professional struggle is the core of Beyond The Mat. Tough to top that. Beyond The Mat is a fascinatingly real look behind the scenes at a sport that doesnt seem real. If youre the type of guy who likes to find out how they do special effects in movies, you should enjoy this. It goes without saying that any fan of wrestling, whether it be ECW, WCW, or WWF should definitely check this disc out. Also, if youre a wrestling fan who has a spouse who is not a wresting fan, this could be the one to win them over.

Compared to me and my friend Stephen watching scrambled wrestling Pay Per Views on cable and trying to figure out what is going on, the video looks great! All kidding aside, it does look really good. And got a much better transfer than I figured a film of this genre would. It really seems like they spent a lot of time and effort on the transfer. I didnt see any added digital noise. The movie itself was shot in both 16mm and video to give it a, for lack of a better word, documentary type look. The audio has also received more special treatment than I thought it would. For example, when they are driving through some of the suburban areas, the voices stay in the front channel, while nature noises (birds, crickets, etc) can be heard from the rear– nice touch! Several of the wrestling events in the show also have crowd noises pumped throughout the rear of the room. Another professional job. One pet peeve is my Pioneer player wouldnt let me switch audio tracks on the fly, which is something I can usually do.

The main reason I wanted to get this disc was for the extras. This disc certainly does not disappoint. First of all you get a Cast and Filmmakers, which shows pictures of the main wrestlers featured in the movie and a little blurb about each one. You probably know everything in here if you watch wrestling.

Next you get Production Notes, which talks about the making of Beyond The Mat. It has a few pictures taken from the movie and maybe 5 or 6 paragraphs about the project. Most of the information is repeated in other places on the disc.

The third extra you get is the Theatrical Trailer. The last extra, Feature Commentary, contains some cool stuff. The movie comes with two separate commentary tracks one with the director Barry W. Blaustein, and a second with both Blaustein and Terry Funk. Then there are two shorter commentaries by Mick Foley. One is where Foley talks over his 8 minute segment in the film titled On My Life In Wrestling, and another one is a 20 minute segment where he talks over The Royal Rumble video. The weird thing is that the movie is basically wrestling footage with commentary track over it, so this is like a commentary track on top of a commentary track. Some of the information is repeated and there are some longer than average lulls, but there is a TON of information here to be gathered. While some of the other extras on the disc reek of filler material, the feature length commentaries will keep you watching this disc for a while especially if you have wrestling buddies.

If youre a wrestling fan, definitely pick this title up. It not only shows a lot of the inner workings of professional wrestling, but it also shows the human side of these characters that we dont normally get to see. We get to see Terry Funks daughters wedding, along with many other personal moments of these guys lives. We get to see both up-and-coming and down-and-out wrestlers. The movie itself is addictive, and the added commentary tracks just add another layer of information to be soaked up. My wife found the movie interesting, but I wouldnt say addictive. She enjoyed the relationships and personal drama more than the Japanese barbed wire wrestling clips shown. Still, we both watched and enjoyed it. I cant wait until the next pay-per-view I plan on having the guys over and having a Beyond The Mat viewing party to kick it off.

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