5 Essential Wrestling Movies Every Fan Should See

the_wrestler_main Containing elements of athletic competition, show business and performance magic, professional wrestling is a secretive world of handshakes, industry-jargon and solid, unflinching dedication to a craft that thrills the dedicated fan as much as it bewilders the casual onlooker. It isn't a straight fight; that much ought to be obvious to anyone who's ever been in an actual fight, but then again, it certainly isn't the phoney baloney silliness that many people deride it as either. Pro wrestling is as hard (or harder) than any other sport on this Earth. It has no off-season and wrestlers routinely work while struggling with injuries that would send a bus driver or office worker into early retirement (no, I'm not exaggerating). Because this insular world of performance art was so secretive for so many years (some would-be wrestlers even had their eyes gouged out by overzealous pros looking to "protect the business"), it has often called out by journalists, cultural commentators, dour-faced academics and other interested parties. In the 1950's, French academic Roland Barthes did a great study of wrestling as an insight into the values and prejudices of Western culture (and he's not the only one). Books and movies about wrestling range from insightful to completely clueless. Best selling wrestling autobiographies have been written by ghost-writers with seemingly no interest in wrestling as a business, before being summarily rejected by fans, whilst films that feature wrestling in them (including one or two listed here) have often been mercilessly savaged by the industry itself. Filmmakers routinely struggle to realistically portray wrestling's delicately balanced mixture of reality and fiction (a line so blurred that even the wrestlers themselves can get confused). It is hard to capture wrestling's world of simple, black and white morality plays that are, almost always, blighted by real-life excursions into gray areas that would have the average rock band running for cover in shock and awe. Some of these filmmakers, however, did the industry justice and left me, a long-time fan, satisfied, enthralled and excited. Rather than crassly attempting to expose the business (like the risible cash-in crap-fests like Secrets of Pro Wrestling Revealed and its ilk), these films focused on the human drama at the heart of the squared circle, celebrating the wrestlers as artists or craftsmen and praising their work. Here, then, are the five wrestling movies that every true fan needs to see...

5. Bloodstained Memoirs

Bloodstained Memoirs As a film, Bloodstained Memoirs isn't actually very good - there, I said it (please address all hate mail to Chris Quicksilver, C/O What Culture.com). However, it does provide us with an insightful set of interviews featuring some of wrestling's biggest stars, past and present. Over 155 minutes, fan-turned director David Sinnott treats us to in-depth, uninterrupted one-on-ones with stars of the past like Rowdy Roddy Piper and Superfly Jimmy Snuka, as well as today's WWE Main Eventers like Rob Van Dam, Chris Jericho and Christian (two of which were contracted to TNA at the time). The real coup of the entire film, however, is getting Japanese stars Keiji Muto and Yoshihiro Asai (aka Ultimo Dragon) to open up in about their careers in a relaxed and intimate manner (despite Dragon still wearing his mask). The interview footage, however, is horribly shot, with numerous 'arty' close-ups of the wrestler's eyes, or, bizarrely, their teeth (unlike a well-developed body and good mic skills, oral hygiene is obviously not a pre-requisite of making it big in the business). Also, rather than being presented as cutaways, these shots are often the results of clumsy mid-sentence zoom-ins which detract from the interviews, as opposed to adding to them. The end result is as if the film was shot by a first year college student who got bored of all the talking and decided to get "experimental" on us for no justifiable reason at all. On the other hand, as a piece of oral history, the film is interesting, even engaging, but it is so dense and so lacking in narrative, that only dedicated fans need apply. Having said that, long-time fans will enjoy Jimmy Snuka recounting the famous coconut incident yet again and fans of early 2000's WWE will enjoy seeing Rob Van Dam, Chris Jericho and Molly Holly, but very little is on sale here that can't already be seen for free on YouTube. Al Snow does a great job of presenting a series of in-between segments designed to make the film look more like a cohesive whole and less than a bunch of DVD special features or interview outtakes sewn together on a miniscule budget. Ultimately, the end result is less a film and more a collection of interviews which are not inventive enough to hold the interest of casual fans. The final segment, which features Hardcore Legend Mick Foley, is simply a candid 15 minutes or so of the man signing autographs and meeting fans, with no interview conducted at the end. What we get, then, is not much better than something that could have been filmed on a smartphone. So no, I don't think Bloodstained Memoirs is a good movie. Why have I listed it here? Well, as I said, for long time fans, any access to our heroes is good access. To hear Roddy Piper recount that he didn't bludgeon Bret Hart during their Wrestlemania VIII match is a genuine treat. To see Chris Jericho speaking so eloquently about his music career is uplifting and inspiring and watching Mick Foley interact with his fans in such a genuine way is truly heartwarming. Also, I am a huge Ultimo Dragon fan, so it was great to hear what he has to say. For all its faults, Bloodstained Memoirs did bring us a little closer to some of our wrestling heroes; it didn't offer anything new, but it did allow us to share a few laughs with some seasoned pros as they recounted old (and much embellished) war stories. The interviewees are calm, at ease and comfortable, that is the real achievement of Bloodstained Memoirs.

I am a professional author and lifelong comic books/pro wrestling fan. I also work as a journalist as well as writing comic books (I also draw), screenplays, stage plays, songs and prose fiction. I don't generally read or reply to comments here on What Culture (too many trolls!), but if you follow my Twitter (@heyquicksilver), I'll talk to you all day long! If you are interested in reading more of my stuff, you can find it on http://quicksilverstories.weebly.com/ (my personal site, which has other wrestling/comics/pop culture stuff on it). I also write for FLiCK http://www.flickonline.co.uk/flicktion, which is the best place to read my fiction work. Oh yeah - I'm about to become a Dad for the first time, so if my stuff seems more sentimental than usual - blame it on that! Finally, I sincerely appreciate every single read I get. So if you're reading this, thank you, you've made me feel like Shakespeare for a day! (see what I mean?) Latcho Drom, - CQ