Beyond The Mat (1999)

(On VHS, April 2001) I’m not a wrestling fan, but it’s not necessary to be one to be amused, disgusted, fascinated and amazed by the wild universe exhibited by Barry W. Blaustein in Beyond The Mat. Blaustein is obviously a die-hard fan, and his film shows it, treating the subject with a brutal honesty but never a mean spirit. Not a WWF/WWE puff-piece nor a naively sophisticated exposé on how wrestling is (newsflash!!) all fake, Beyond The Mat goes past all the false pretence to focus on the people behind the wrestlers. Think it’s fake? You’ll see real stitching and real pain. You’ll see the glitz of the WWF/WWE and the scum of the bottom-feeders. You’ll see a maniac in the ring and a model father out of it. You’ll see three wrestling “archenemies” chatting up a little kid. You’ll see too much of a reunion between maladjusted dad and daughter. You’ll see the various ways a wrestler can go over the hill. Most of all, you’ll see one of the most revealing documentaries of the year, a masterful tour through the grotesque and the pathetic, the awful and the stunning. Blaustein knows how to package his subject, but most of all it’s his love for his subject that gives the film its ultimate edge. Wrestling fans will love it, but average people shouldn’t pass it up. Good stuff.

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