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Monday Night Mayhem DVD Review: “This Wrestling Life”
Produced By: Stephen Gillis & Make Believe Media Inc.
DVD Review Written By: Shawn “The Angry Hero” Marek

Ah, the pro wrestling documentary. Since the late 1990’s, the mystique of the pro wrestler has been significantly weakened. Watching Vince Russo instruct Sable to sell her back in a match in Beyond the Mat to following the political maelstrom that was Wrestling with Shadows, there are few angles that this genre could go in that would shed new light on the business and those that worship it. Hell, even Hollywood rocked the behind-the-scenes drama quite adequately in fictionalized fashion with The Wrestler.

That being said, I have to give filmmaker Stephen Gillis credit for the unique spin he puts on the genre in This Wrestling Life. It’s a tough gig trying to impress wrestling fans with anything these days that isn’t WWE-related (and even that’s a stretch). What Gillis accomplishes here is a detailed look into four very distinct personalities, all of whom love pro wrestling and are passionate enough to cross over from spectator to physical participant. It is an emotional & frustrating ride for everyone involved.

This Wrestling Life follows Extreme Canadian Championship Wrestling partner/trainer Scotty Mac, as he preps three hopefuls in achieving their pro wrestling dreams, while coping with his own existence in the business. There’s Travis (Volt Vegas), an 18-year-old, 6’4″ monolith of a young man that aspires to be a WWE Superstar. There’s Natalie (KC Spinelli), a young woman whose tomboy attitude & disdain for male chauvinism has led her into the pro wrestling business. And finally, there’s Bill, the 40-year-old openly gay man who wants to be a referee.

Travis’ tale is tragic & inspiring, as he grew up amidst substance-abusing parents, who actually encouraged him to not finish high school. He’s very naive, but seems to take well to the training despite his size and perceived awkwardness. At a young age, Travis is convinced that after his first match, it’s only a “few more steps” before he realizes his dreams. His emotional journey is most engaging, as his immaturity is greatly on display, yet he is determined to not make the same mistakes his parents did.

Natalie is the complete opposite of Travis, lacking humility & maturity in every way possible. She shows up consistently shows up late for practice, even for her first match. She always finds ways to complain about training and how Scotty is mistreating her, regardless of the fact that she has contributed nothing to ECCW at this point. Natalie’s arrogance is so remarkably strong that Rick Martel would be shocked. On the brighter side, Natalie did manage to get her act together, most recently appearing on the World of Hurt wrestling reality show program with Lance Storm. Given the way that she comes off here, I would have written her off regardless of this film’s epilogue.

Bill is a completely different beast than the others. He comes off as the geeky middle-aged guy that we’ve all seen at the local indy shows who desperately wants to be accepted by the wrestlers. Gillis tries to play up that Bill’s homosexuality is the reason he is constantly ridiculed amongst the boys, and in one uncomfortable scene is brutally bumped while training. To be honest, I didn’t know Bill was gay until towards the end of the documentary. I just chalked up the hazing & ridicule he received to his gawkiness. The sad part is that Bill knows it’s not right and is willing to take the abuse, because he wants to prove that he belongs. Thankfully, in the end, (slight spoiler), Bill makes out ok as an ECCW referee.

Scotty Mac’s plight in the wrestling business is focused on as well, although not nearly as much as the other three. He’s 30 years old and knows his days are numbered as far as chances to hit the big-time in either WWE or TNA. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, as others feel that Scotty is not exactly prime-time material, due to a lack of size. It is ECCW and the opportunity to teach students like Travis that keep him motivated and existing in the wrestling business. Throughout the documentary, Scotty goes to great lengths to promote a familial atmosphere in ECCW, since in the end, it might be all that he’s got.

If there’s one complaint about the documentary, it is that it makes training to be a wrestler not nearly as physically taxing as we know it to be. Granted, this is not the WCW Power Plant and Scotty is not Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker, but I expected more complaints of pain coming from Natalie & Travis. Scotty runs his practices seemingly very light & carefree, and it makes me wonder if he was holding back for the cameras. There are a few scenes where Scotty & his assistant trainer (Bubba) are particularly gruff, but not nearly as much as you would think.

This Wrestling Life is a fine wrestling documentary that adds a fresh perspective to the business. The subjects that Gillis chose really make this film and keep the viewer intrigued & connected. It ends on a positive note and shows a genuine side of pro wrestlers that I feel has been missing from most wrestling documentaries. Please support This Wrestling Life by checking out the film’s official website (located at www.ThisWrestlingLife.com), and by following them on Twitter (at www.Twitter.com/TWLTheMovie). You can also purchase and download the documentary right now on iTunes (located at http://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/this-wrestling-life/id440691373). Until next time, feel free to check me out on Twitter (at www.Twitter.com/AngryHeroShawn), my official “Future Endeavored” blog (located at www.FutureEndeavored.tumblr.com), along with my short film Smark (located at www.SmarkMovie.tumblr.com). Enjoy the rest of the “MNM Fall Tour ’11,” and remember: Above all things — be a man!

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