I’m a wrestling fan through and through. In the good times, and bad. I’m also a cable cutter too and thus sometimes I can’t watch shows in any easy accessible way. Thanks to the PAUSE (are we actually calling it that?) many content providers are offering their wares for free. Including Vice TV putting up the entire first season of Dark Side of the Ring for free and legally on their app.
(Episodes 1 and 2 of Season 2 are also available on Vice’s YouTube channel.)
The first season consists of six episodes, and it is a mix of some of the worst well known stories in pro wrestling and some of the worst less known ones.
Episode 1: Macho Man and Miss Elizabeth
Episode 2: Montreal Screwjob
Episode 3: Bruiser Brody
Episode 4: The Von Erich family
Episode 5: Gino Hernandez
Episode 6: Fabulous Moolah
All together this series about the real life of professional wrestlers is just like the scripted sport. There’s a hero and villain of each episode. There’s a larger than life familiar talent. There’s new talent that draws your attention. There are different interpretations of the same event. It’s brutally honest and also as carny as it’s inspiration.
Randy Savage comes across as the hero of his story. A man in love who wanted nothing more than to spend every day with his lovely wife and keep her safe. A noble dream. Elizabeth grows tired over the years of being under his thumb and leaves Randy. She falls for another wrestler, Lex Luger. Lex is married, puts up Liz in the same housing community his wife and kids live in, addicted to pills, and to everyone’s surprise this ends poorly. This hour makes Randy out to have been right all along. But did he ever hit her, why did they never have children, why was their relationship so secretive, and most of all why was Stephanie McMahon not brought up at all?
This begins a noticable flaw in the program. Maybe due to the hour long limit. Or due to who they were able to interview and what is and isn’t a concrete fact. There are parts of all of these stories that are not addressed. Possibly edited out for time. A great introduction to these stories but with all of them there is more to be unearthed.
The Montreal Screwjob is the legendary match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. Who knew, who didn’t know, the details are always blurred. Earl Hebner is made out to be a hero put in a bad spot, when in previous interviews he has been accepting of his villainous deed. Shawn Michaels knew more. Triple H knew. The ripples of this night are triumphant in helping to start the Attitude Era but are tragic for the Hart family. Maybe if Bret wasn’t in WCW he wouldn’t have received the concussion. Maybe Bulldog wouldn’t have sustained that back injury. Maybe Owen would still be alive.
I knew that Bruiser Brody was murdered and the right people looked the wrong way on purpose. I did not realize what an amazing talent he was. I have an old tape trading best of Abdullah the Butcher VHS somewhere in my collection that I have to dig out because I’m sure some of these crazy matches with Brody in Puerto Rico are on here. He should be considered for every wrestling Hall of Fame. His influence is massive and seen in many wrestlers today. Gone too soon to be given the credit he deserves.
The Von Erichs is by far wrestling’s saddest story. Only one son left and his pain is evident in his voice and in his face. While the rest of his family is dead, is he dying a slow death of mourning? Your heart will break for Kevin Von Erich. There is so much pain and a curiosity of what could have been from this family. They could have ran pro wrestling. Booking, training, and of course wrestling. The worst spin on this episode is that Fritz is not portrayed as a villain. He is shown as a broken emotionally shut down father dealing with the death of his sons. He is not shown as the promoter who forged autographs and charged fans for them saying they were the last signatures his son made before dying. He’s not the one who forced his near vegetable of a son in front of the cameras saying he’ll wrestle again soon.
Gino Hernandez was a revelation. I had heard the name but never saw a second of footage before his episode. What a star. This man could have become one of the biggest and greatest names in all of wrestling history. Running neck and neck with Ric Flair in similar gimmicks. Just imagine Gino in WWF as a northern version of Ric Flair. Money. Nothing but money. Also, because this was the one I had the least knowledge of I can’t decide which theory holds the most merit. Was he killed by those he owed money to? Did his cocaine induced paranoia cause him to take his own life? This is a future rabbit hole for sure.
The Fabulous Moolah episode is possibly the worst spin of all the episodes. I had no idea Moolah had a daughter until this special. A daughter who it appears has no children, no spouse, just a former women’s wrestler and an obsessed fan who seem to be a bit too close to her. Close enough that someone should take a good look at this woman’s will. Moolah controlled women’s wrestling for thirty years plus and did more damage than good. Women were absolutely pimped out and had their earnings taken from them. Many people interviewed on this special don’t want to say anything negative about her. But the truth of who Moolah was is well known within wrestling. Remember when Triple H married Stephanie McMahon? Who slipped something into her drink during the bachelorette party? Moolah. Who has a “longtime best friend” that she has a secret relationship with, denies anything more, and yet that partner is buried right next to her?
All of this said, I can’t recommend the series enough for fans and non fans. You will discover something new. You’ll also begin a trip into the history of wrestling. This is the introductory volume of a much longer story. Complete in itself, but also providing the key for so much more.