Described as a heartfelt documentary focused on the day-to-day lives of professional wrestlers, this explores a bizarre sporting world to some, but a much loved one to others. The film follows athletes such as Terry Funk, Jake Roberts, Darren Drozdov and even Mick Foley on their quest of doing what they love – traveling on the road, entertaining the fans and putting their bodies on the line. This emotional documentary dates back to 1999 and is something most wrestling fans will have already seen since its release over twenty years ago. Beyond the Mat is currently streaming on Netflix.
Director: Barry W. Blaustein
Writers: Barry W. Blaustein
Starring: Terry Funk, Jake Roberts, Mick Foley, Vince McMahon, Jim Ross
Over the years, many have regarded Beyond the Mat as a must watch for wrestling enthusiasts across the world and it’s difficult to disagree with that notion. Whether you’re a fan of the big leagues over at the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), a lover of the independent scene or just somebody that used to watch WCW (World Championship Wrestling) and ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) back in the day, this film manages to give the viewer a great insight into wrestling on a whole and some of the athletes that take center stage.
Something I felt that this documentary did really well was when it came to highlighting just how addictive of a lifestyle being a professional athlete truly was for the characters under the microscope. As mentioned, Terry Funk and Jake Roberts were two people featured throughout, but with both coming to the end of their career, it was evident what the industry was doing to them in terms of the pain and agony their bodies faced on a regular basis, along with their agonising families looking on.
Not only did Beyond the Mat underline men at the end of their career, in contrast, it also focused on men at the beginning of their career or entering their prime years. Mick Foley and his family were featured throughout, somebody that had an extremely strong relationship with the filmmaker himself, Barry Blaustein. The strength of the relationships between Barry and the majority of the other co-stars was one of the main strengths when it came to the documentary in its entirety. Many of the people featured seemed really comfortable on a personal level and opened up to an extent that they haven’t done before or since filming.
Elsewhere, Vince McMahon also made a rare appearance, along with Jim Ross, who featured more prominently as a WWE employee. Surprisingly, a young Dwayne Johnson at the start of his path to glory, was also filmed, but one thing worth noting is the fact that another man involved, Darren Drozdov (Droz), suffered an almost fatal accident not long after the filming of the documentary and was left paralyzed because of the incident. A scary reminder to anybody that regards the business as anything less than real.
Overall, Beyond the Mat was an extremely emotional look into the sheer brutality on both a physical level and mental level suffered by those involved in the world of sports entertainment. Well worth a watch for any true wrestling fan out there. Beyond the Mat is currently streaming on Netflix.
“I don’t get why I like it… I just always have.”Barry Blaustein – Beyond the Mat