Wednesday, May 11, 2011

BBC Video Diaries: Pro-Wrestling

Director: n/a
Distributor: BBC
Released: 1993

Talent Featured
Robbie Brookside, Ian "Doc" Dean, Brian Dixon, Bill Dundee (Sir William), Giant Haystacks,
 Ulf Hermann, Maxx Payne, Steve Regal, Johnny Saint, Dave Taylor, Steve "Skull Murphy" Young

The Good
An amazing little documentary from the early 1990s that features Robbie Brookside as he struggles to "make it" in pro-wrestling. Brookside was a hot young star in the final days of televised British wrestling as Brian Dixon's All-Star promotions utilized him well. A teenage star from Liverpool, Brookside fell into that era of excellent workers who were able to rub shoulders with many great British stars, but were too young, too small, too British or whatever to reach that next level. In 1988, British wrestling was taken off TV and the native version of the sport practically died over night. It had been ailing for several years, languishing under the influence of the Crabtrees, unable to compete with the flash of the WWF and suffering several other hardships. Many found scarce work across the country at independent shows, some traveled to Japan, some to the Continent and a select few tried to make it to the US. Other than Japan, this documentary focuses on that post-TV era. Brookside and partner Doc Dean travel from small show to small show working for Brian Dixon, but the conditions, payoffs and even some of the talent is pathetic. The two travel to Germany for a tour and you get a feeling for how vital that is for keeping many of these guys afloat. Otto Wanz and the CWA was able to give many European wrestlers a place to go and make good money for about a decade after British wrestling died. A portion of this focuses on his former partner Steve Regal (more recently known as William Regal) who managed to catch a break with WCW, reinvented himself as Lord Steven Regal and became one of the best workers in the US and one of the most underrated entertainers as well. While Regal had good size, Brookside never filled out, he looks like and kind of works like Edge (if you've never seen him). Brookside believes in the British style, but understands the need to adapt to the American approach. Unfortunately for him, Britain never had a domestic product that was able to do this and the last of the "World of Sports" generation are now retired and the independent scene over there is remarkably disjointed from the traditional British style. This is almost a tragic story and while the end is hopefully, you know fifteen years later how it would end.

The Bad
This documentary has a understandably narrow scope as it focuses on Robbie Brookside's career up to this point. He had not yet traveled to Japan, although he had opportunities with New Japan and Michinoku Pro that never panned out for him. There were a handful of great workers (Tony St. Clair, Fit Finlay, Dave Taylor and a others) who successfully bounced around and did not have a paycheck-to-paycheck career like Brookside. Many did though and it is interesting to focus on that story. People like Doc Dean, James Mason and others struggled to find their place and while some had chances abroad or even in the US, few found actual success. The sad story here, unfortunately is the real one for most British wrestlers and it has only gotten more dim as time has passed.

The Rating: ****1/2

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