Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Beyond the Mat - Ringside Special Edition

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
7 out of 10
Extras Rating:
7 out of 10
Movie Details:
View here

Buy this DVD at Amazon.com

Rating: Not Rated

Starring:
Mick Foley as Himself
Jake Roberts as Himself
Terry Funk as Himself
Vince McMahon as Himself
Tony Jones as Himself
Michael Modest as Himself
Roland Alexander as Himself
Darren Drozdov as Himself
Vickie Funk as Herself
Stacey Funk as Herself
Brandee Funk as Herself
Paul Heyman as Himself
Brandy Smith as Herself
Collette Foley as Herself
Dewey Foley as Himself

Special Features:
Enhanced Feature Commentary with Jesse Ventura, Mick Foley and Director Barry Blaustein,

Feature Commentary with Terry Funk and Director Barry Blaustein

Dinner with the Guys

Theatrical Trailer

Production Notes

Cast and Filmmakers

Other Info:
Full Frame (1.33:1)
Dolby Surround
English and French Subtitles
Running Time: 1 Hour 48 Minutes

Synopsis:
This is the "Ringside Special Edition" (Unrated Director's Cut) of the 1999 documentary. This film is also produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer.

In Beyond The Mat, writer and director Barry W. Blaustein takes you behind the scenes of the world of wrestling where you meet the men behind the characters. Blaustein begins by discussing his longtime love for wrestling then slowly moves on to show us what's behind wrestling today. He begins by introducing us to Vince McMahon and his WWF (now named the WWE). You get a glimpse of this multi-million dollar business and the inner workings of the company. Blaustein then moves to the other extreme by showing a small wrestling school run by a shady businessman / accountant. You're there firsthand as two of his students try out for the WWF.

The documentary then moves on to show us Terry Funk and his family. Well down the road to retiring, Funk's body is wearing out, yet he continues to push it beyond its limits. We also meet disgraced wrestler Jake "The Snake" Roberts as he spirals downwards into drugs, a bad relationship with his father, and a worse relationship with his daughter. Finally, we see Mick "Mankind" Foley in a battle with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Foley's wife and children watch in horror as he's beaten up.

This version of the film is not rated, but it contains language and graphic shots of blood and head cuts. The original version was rated R for language and violent content.

The Movie:
When "Beyond The Mat" arrived at my house, I wasn't terribly thrilled with the idea of watching it. (And I wondered why the heck Ron Howard produced it.) Though I'm a little familiar with wrestling, I'm no big fan of what it has become. I might pause to watch a second or two of it while channel surfing, but otherwise I have no interest in it. Needless to say, the idea of watching a two hour documentary on wrestling was not high on my list of fun things to do. However, when I started to watch it I quickly became wrapped up in the story Barry Blaustein was telling. All of the drama and emotion behind the scenes is more interesting than anything the characters could come up with in the ring.

Blaustein gives us two different looks behind the scenes. First we see the business side of things. Vince McMahon comes across as the Donald Trump of wrestling. According to comments from some wrestlers, he's an unscrupulous businessman and he even looks a little psycho when we see him name a new wrestler "Puke" (then ask him to barf in his office trash can) and even get into the ring himself to fight. On the flip side, a fat wrestling school instructor is shown scamming wrestling hopefuls out of money and trying to get them into the big time with the WWF.

We are also given a look at the family lives of the wrestlers as well. We see Terry Funk's family beg him to retire as he continues to participate in brutal fights. You see Jake Roberts talk about his evil father and his battles with drugs. In fact, Roberts gives an entire rambling monologue while high on crack. We also meet Roberts' estranged daughter who tries to reconcile with her father. She shows a scrapbook of letters that she has received from Jake over the years that she has ripped up, painted, and written "anger" all over. (As you might guess, she's studying psychology in college.) It's quite sad to see how bad their relationship is and we see that Roberts has truly hit rock bottom. Then we meet Mick Foley, the polar opposite of Roberts. He has two young kids and a loving wife. However, they provide one of the most disturbing moments in the film. You see the little girl screaming in terror as The Rock hits her father over the head with a chair. She watches in horror as blood pours down her father's face. It's shocking and disturbing. You start to wonder why the Foley's would even allow their children to watch this since it looks like they're going to be emotionally scarred from it.

Blaustein ends up delivering a very interesting documentary. It never makes fun of wrestling, but it doesn't pander to those running it either. While the picture isn't always flattering to those highlighted, it does appear to be an honest look at what goes on behind the scenes. I think wrestling fans will enjoy this rare glimpse at what goes on behind the glitz and spectacle. They'll also like all the vintage footage of their favorite wrestlers. I also think non-wrestling fans, such as myself, will find it interesting to watch.

As a side note, I never saw the original version of this movie, so I don't know how it is different from this director's cut. However, I imagine shots of some open head wounds were probably among the cut scenes.

The Extras:
There are a few extras included on this DVD and they appear to have been created recently:

Enhanced Feature Commentary with Jesse Ventura, Mick Foley and Director Barry Blaustein This commentary is unique in that occasionally Ventura, Foley, and Blaustein pop onto the screen in front of the movie and talk about what's happening. While they don't talk through the whole movie, they have enough to say to keep things interesting. Foley talks about his wife and kids seeing him beat up and the reaction to that after the movie came out. Ventura talks about backyard wrestling among other things. Blaustein asks them interesting questions including if they've ever been embarrassed to be wrestlers. All in all, it's a decent commentary.

Feature Commentary with Terry Funk and Director Barry Blaustein This is more of a traditional commentary with Funk and Blaustein providing audio only and it does run through the whole film. Funk reminisces about the good old days and tells stories about getting stabbed, his family wanting him to quit, etc. He even expresses some surprising opinions about regulation of television (he's in favor of it). If you're any kind of fan of Funk, you'll enjoy this.

Dinner with the Guys This 15 minute video features Barry Blaustein chatting at dinner with Mick Foley and Jesse Ventura. The dinner setting is a casual atmosphere, but it's a bit awkward to watch Foley and Ventura stuff salad into their mouths while reminiscing. The two talk about life in retirement, what they think of wrestling today, and why they got into wrestling to begin with. While there are no groundbreaking revelations here, it is an interesting conversation.

The Bottom Line:
Beyond The Mat was a much more entertaining documentary than I was expecting. Wrestling and non-wrestling fans alike should find something here worth checking out.

Order this DVD @ Amazon

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