"A Hard Look at a Sad Story"
What You Need To Know:
BEYOND THE MAT is more of a sad story than anything else. For example, one wrestler finds out at the doctor’s office that he must get both of his knees replaced. Another wrestler deals with his painful past and crumbling present by becoming addicted to drugs instead of seeking Jesus Christ, who can offer him hope. Perhaps the most powerful footage, however, occurs when one wrestler’s wife and children watch him in an extremely violent match. The violence becomes so intense that they eventually have to leave in tears because it has gone too far. It is this footage that shows the true impact of such violent “acts,” with real consequences. In addition to these things, this movie contains plenty of foul language, violence and other questionable material
(PaPa, Ro, B, LLL, VVV, S, N, A, DD, M) Mostly pagan worldview with some romantic elements of men being heroes & some moral elements of family unity; 36 obscenities, 2 profanities, 3 exclamatory profanities, several instances of vulgar language some sexual language, man depicted urinating, & man vomits on command; many scenes of wrestling violence acted out with real, depicted injuries, including man beats man with metal folding chair, plus man tells how stepfather was electrocuted in his house, depicted laceration after violent match, & man recalls father raping another family member & other family cruelties; no implied or depicted sex scenes but man talks of fornicating with two women, inability to have intimate relationship with wife & a few other sexual references; women in skimpy clothing, man in underwear & upper male nudity; alcohol use; implied & discussed drug use, depicted man under influence of drugs & smoking; and, girl talks about emotional trauma from father’s lack of love.
The world of professional wrestling is exposed in BEYOND THE MAT, a documentary depicting the business and personal aspects of this violent form of entertainment.
Director, narrator Barry Blaustein begins by making a statement about professional wrestling, describing it as “pageantry, athleticism and cheesy acting.” As a self-described fan of the “sport,” Blaustein heads to the corporate headquarters of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), the so-called king of the industry. Heading it up is Vince McMahon, an unusual CEO in that he is actually a wrestler himself.
Next, Barry explores the beginnings of a wrestler, visiting the largest pro-wrestling training school in the country. Two potential wrestlers are given a chance to audition for the WWF, but do not make it. He continues on to the professionals themselves, many of whom are now older men with major physical disabilities. One notorious wrestler, Terry Funk, is shown getting up in the morning, stiff and barely able to move. Despite these limitations, he continues to come out of retirement to compete in matches. Another wrestler is shown as a loving father and husband, but his tearful wife and children are filmed watching him being beaten by another wrestler with a metal folding chair. They eventually must leave because they cannot stand to watch any longer.
The real insight to this movie, however, are the interview portions of Jake “The Snake” Roberts. A wrestler with huge fame in the 80s, he still wrestles, though without the same charisma. Through Blaustein’s words, viewers find out how badly Jake’s past has caught up with him. The horrible sufferings and hurts of his life as a child ring clear in his inability to function as a good, loving father. Jake’s daughter, Brandy, shows the camera a book she made full of angry, emotional pictures about her father’s lack of support. Father and daughter are shown reunited after four years, but the tension is high. Jake and Brandy discuss the problem, and Jake even shows a bit of remorse through his tears. After the ordeal, however, Blaustein finds Jake in a hotel room after using drugs. Later, we find that Jake “The Snake” has gone to jail.
BEYOND THE MAT turns the unreal drama and characters of professional wrestling into very real people with real problems. Despite the narrator’s apparent fondness for wrestling, it is clearly a form of entertainment that comes with a price. Though there are many loving scenes of wrestlers and their families, the narrator gives the audience a hardened look behind the glamour of the industry. The footage is often rough and grainy, but the camera captures the raw emotions that are not usually shown on television, both good ones and bad ones.
An assortment of scenes makes BEYOND THE MAT more of a sad story than anything else. The movie shows one wrestler at the doctor’s office after being told he has to get both of his knees replaced. In a different scene, another well-known wrestler deals with his painful past and crumbling present by becoming addicted to drugs instead of seeking Jesus Christ, who can offer him hope. Perhaps the most powerful footage, however, occurs when one wrestler’s wife and children watch him in an extremely violent match. The violence becomes so intense that, with tears and distress, they eventually have to leave because it has gone too far. It is this footage that shows the true impact of such violent “acts,” with real consequences. In addition to these things, this movie contains plenty of foul language, strong violence and other objectionable material that, regrettably, is far too often a part of professional wrestling and people’s everyday lives.