Beyond the Mat (1999)
It’s strange to think when this movie started, it was going to be much more of a WCW influenced documentary than a WWF one, and Mick Foley was going to be in the Jake Roberts role of, wrestler down on his luck in the last days of his career. All of this according to Foley himself on a recent podcast, who said, in 1995 when he first met director Barry Blaustein, that he was currently working in various independent organizations, including the beloved hardcore Bingo Hall promotion known as Extreme Championship Wrestling, and had no hopes at all of ever being signed to the Major Leagues of pro wrestling, the WWF. What a difference a few years makes as when this movie finally came out Foley was already a former WWF champion. Still his scenes in this movie in the infamous “16 chair shots” match with The Rock, while his young daughter watches in utter horror, are among the hardest to watch. There’s a lot of hard to watch stuff here, like the aforementioned Jake Roberts scenes, but all in all this movie is the perfect primer to show to someone who would like to understand a little bit about why people like wrestling and what it is like to lead this life. Roberts, I should mention has made somewhat of a comeback of his own, kicking his demons, and has been the star of a second documentary made by personal friend Dallas Page. The movie follows various people, including young hopefuls, over the hill types just hoping for one more booking, and scenes with Vince McMahon himself commanding a young (but sadly soon to be paralyzed) wrestler named Droz to vomit on command. McMahon is reported to hate his portrayal in this film, which makes me think it is all the more accurate. Another promoter featured here at the height of his mania is ECW promoter Paul Heyman, whom we get the rare glimpse of him actually giving one of those legendary “Kool-Aid” speeches to the ECW locker room before their first PPV in 1997. This is a great movie to watch if you haven’t seen it in a while. If you can try and track down the special edition with commentary by Jesse Ventura and Mick Foley. This movie above all else gives an honest portrayal of the highs and lows of the wrestling business, from its seedy underside, to the magic it captures when done right.