Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pro-Wrestling: Tricks of the Trade

Director: Rick Bassman
Distributor: Travel Channel
Released: 2002
Featured Talent

Afa Anoa’i, Lynn Anoa’i (Afa’s wife),Tovale Anoa’i (Afa’s daughter),Ariel,Rick Bassman, Jonathan “Raging Dog” Cedillo (School of Hard Knocks Trainee), Christopher Daniels, Dylan Dean, Rob Feinstein, Jungle Grrrl (Erica Porter), Terri Gold (Heather Lee Millard), Havoc (Heriberto Irizarry Jr.), Jesse Hernandez, Tom Howard, Frankie Kazarian, Joanie Lauer, Low-Ki, Shelly Martinez, Steve Masters (School of Hard Knocks Trainer), Big Dog Molson (Chris Fisher), Roddy Piper, Gabe Sapolsky, Smooth Tommy Suede, Sugaa (WXW wrestler), Robert Taylor (School of Hard Knocks Trainee), Wild Child (Ron Rivera),

The Good
A very generic one-hour show that looks at most aspects of pro-wrestling offered up by the Travel Channel.  It explores independent wrestling throughout the US, namely Ring of Honor in their first year, the forgettable WOW (Women of Wrestling) as well as Jesse Hernandez and Afa’s respective schools and small companies.  It is about what would envision - tons of highlights with an emphasis on stunts, discussing the basics of pro-wrestling and an endless stream of tongue-in-cheek narration.  Looking back at this footage that is more than a decade old reveals some interesting gems - Ring of Honor getting started, Shelly Martinez training and some UPW trainees hoping to get a break with Zero-One.  This was being produced in the wake of “Beyond the Mat” and the height of the WWF’s popularity, but this was during its descent.  This seems to have more value within that context than as an actual informative and educational production.  It all comes back to the director of this - Rick Bassman.  On of the most successful hangers-on in pro-wrestling history, Bassman has been able to tie himself to a number of low-level operations in the LA area and at this time he was running UPW and working to hook them up with Zero-One in Japan.  Perhaps in an attempt to mirror what "Beyond the Mat" and MTV's "True Life" did for APW and the HWA respectively, Bassman promotes the indies, the small schools and in the end makes UPW look like the necessary bridge to big success.

The Bad
One of the drawbacks of these short documentaries is that they often give a simple overview and lack depth.  In essentially 45 minutes, how much can a feature focus on anything substantively?  It tries to get at the blend of art and sport, trying to pull apart what is real and what is worked with mixed results.  This, like several other similar productions of that time period, focuses on the Los Angeles area, which was not a hotbed until PWG really caught on years later.  They have a hodge-podge of stereotypes - the legends who give back, the veterans still hanging on, those who are on the cusp of “making it” and those just starting the journey.  This was an uplifting approach that did not dwell on all the problems like “Beyond the Mat” did.  They talk about Afa’s training of local at-risk youth, people doing it for the love and get the desire and drive as opposed to the struggle and sacrifice.  This is a fairly shallow documentary that is not worth going out of your way to watch, unless you have nothing better to watch.  As stated, this seems like a carefully crafted tool by UPW's Rick Bassman, which ultimately did not work.

The Rating: **

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