AS I SEE IT - 3/03/2000
by: Bob Magee
Welcome to Pro Wrestling Headlines newsletter and UIRumors, which both carry AS I SEE IT beginning this week, which makes 55 websites and newsletters that carry this column in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates.
This week, a landmark movie about professional wrestling debuts... Beyond The Mat.
For those few readers who don't know, this movie is a documentary by Barry Blaustein about the real-life people behind the characters you see on TV, in house shows, and on PPV. It's been called "an honest, intimate, revealing, highly entertaining, and critically acclaimed documentary about wrestling [which] takes viewers beyond the ring and into the lives of the men and women who inhabit this colorful, competitive, and surprisingly complex world."
The movie focuses on Mick Foley, Terry Funk, Jake Roberts, Duane "Rocky Maivia" Johnson, Joanie "Chyna" Lauer as well as others with their melding of personal and professional realities as those depicted travel between the fantasy world of wrestling and the very real world we all live in.
Beyond The Mat is a five year journey by Blaustein that has resulted in a treatment of the wrestling business through the eyes of both a fan and a moviemaker who loves and respects those within wrestling as the human beings they are, shown with the demons and dreams that those performing within the business often have.
In Beyond The Mat, Blaustein shows us moments ranging from Mick Foley taking one of his most horrifying beatings of his career with 10 unprotected chairshots to the head at the 1999 Royal Rumble, done as Colette, Dewey and Noelle Foley watched; to the night Terry Funk was honored at a banquet in Philadelphia on the April 1997 weekend when ECW achieved its impossible dream of the Barely Legal PPV; to the hell on earth of drug addiction and personal alienation that Aurelian "Jake 'the Snake' Roberts" Smith has had to live with.
Beyond The Mat will open this Friday, March 3rd in:
Malco Majestic Theater
7051 Malco Crossing
The AMC Carolina Pavillion 22
9541 South Boulevard
Beyond the Mat will also be previewed in a special showing in Seattle on March 7, with a 7:00 pm showing at:
4329 University Way NE
Tony Lewis of STRICTLY ECW, the ECW fans organization, said, "I cannot stress how important it is to get out to the theater the opening weekend and support this film. Theater owners around the country will be looking at how the film performs, and that will determine how many theaters will carry this film when it opens nationally on March 17th."
Despite what the movie means for professional wrestling, and fans of the business, Ed Cleveland of STRICTLY ECW has reported that for reasons best known only to Vince McMahon, the WWF and its affiliates pulled all PRE-PAID advertising for "Beyond the Mat" from WWF programs right before the release of the film.
Despite cooperating with Director Barry Blaustein in the production of the film, and letting his cameras behind the scenes, for some reason Vince McMahon has decided not to support the film in its national release. Even more then that, he has essentially forbidden WWF employees from publicizing the film. All this for a movie that has received significant acclaim from most film critics, and was in serious consideration for an Academy Award in the Best Documentary category.
According to a report appearing on Lords of Pain.Net; Tom Ortenberg, the co-president of Lions Gate, Beyond The Mat's distributor released the following statement:
"Vince McMahon spent three years trying to buy the movie, and when he couldn't get it, he got angry....We have signed contracts with the WWF, and they are not living up to the agreement. We are now exploring our legal options to counteract this outrageous act."
In response, Jim Byrne, WWF Senior Vice President of Marketing said: "We do not permit third-party wrestling product to be advertised in the body of our shows. It creates confusion."
Confusion? Or a change of heart once Vince McMahon saw the final print of Beyond The Mat?
One has to wonder if McMahon felt that some of the realities of wrestling depicted in the movie were best left hidden, such as the horrified reaction by the Foley family to Mick Foley's senseless beating at Royal Rumble 1999; or the reminder through Aurelian Smith, (a former WWF employee) of the tragic toll in shortened and shattered lives that drug and alcohol use has inflicted on the professional wrestling industry and the families of those within it. One can reasonably assume that neither likely made Vince McMahon very happy.
Does the fact that a movie shows the fact that the increasingly violent style within wrestling has a very human cost disturb Vince McMahon?
Does McMahon hate the fact that the very real, very human, cost of substance abuse is depicted? Particularly since, according to Canada's SLAMWrestling.com, McMahon is paying $75,000 for Davey Boy Smith's drug rehabilitation because of Smith's addiction to morphine, painkillers, somas, and sleeping pills?
If that is why Beyond The Mat bothers Vince McMahon, too damned bad.
No matter whether or not Vince McMahon runs the most successful entertainment company of its type in North America, if not the world, he needs to be reminded that he still can't script reality, no matter now hard he tries.
All of us at PWBTS, and the 54 other websites and e-newsletters that carry AS I SEE IT join with Tony Lewis and the folks at STRICTLY ECW in urging you to watch this film when it comes to your town. I will make a particular point of posting information on opening dates, places and times for the film in major cities as I receive it. Any readers who have such information about openings for Beyond The Mat in their area are encouraged to send it to me at email@example.com.
You might also wish to let World Wrestling Federation Entertainment know of your displeasure, for trying to suppress a film which shows people the realities of the wrestling business, both good and bad.
The WWF can be reached at:
World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc.
1241 East Main Street
PO Box 3857
Stamford, CT 06905-3857
Since Jim Byrne earlier seemed to wish to defend this action by Vince McMahon, fans may also wish to contact him and express their thoughts at his WWFE office number: (203) 352-8600.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)