Today’s Prayer Focus

Beyond the Mat

MPA Rating: R-Rating (MPA) for language and violent content.

Reviewed by: Nick Graham

Moral Rating: Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:
Primary Audience: Older Teens, Adults
Genre: Documentary
Length: 1 hr. 32 min.
Year of Release: 2000
USA Release:
Featuring Terry Funk, Mick Foley, Jake Roberts, Roland Alexander, Vince McMahon
Director Barry Blaustein
Producer Barry Blaustein, Ron Howard, Barry Bloom
Distributor Distributor: Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. Trademark logo.Lionsgate (Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.)

Pro wrestling is a spectacle many love, many scoff at, many laugh at, and more recently, many blast for amoral content, (and though I am a lifelong fan, the amoral content criticisms are justified in quite a few cases).

“Beyond The Mat” is a documentary that looks past all the controversy surrounding the currently hugely popular pseudo-sport, and focuses directly on the men involved. What drives a man from teaching third grade English to allowing himself to be thrown through tables and smashed with folding chairs for a living? What causes a man to risk severe injury (one of the wrestlers the film follows, Darren Drozdov, was recently paralyzed from the waist down in the ring after his opponent botched an elementary move) just for the sake of entertaining thousands of strangers who in many cases don’t even know his real name?

Barry Blaustein, a screenwriter and former scribe for “Saturday Night Live”, tries to peer inside the concussion prone noggin’ of the modern pro wrestler, and what he gets is a revealing, sometimes funny, sometimes wince-inducing, and sometimes downright depressing look at the “superheroes” many idolize as children, and some of us (including Blaustein and myself) continue to admire into adulthood.

The film follows various wrestlers in different stages of their careers. We see young hopefuls trying to go from wrestling for $25 on the weekend to making 6 figure salaries in the big promotions. We see Mick Foley, a compassionate husband and father of two, as he tries to find balance between a family scared for his life (when you see the above-and-beyond the call of duty stunts Foley performs during his matches, you’ll know why), and a business he has loved since childhood… a business he is currently attaining great wealth and popularity at.

We meet Terry Funk, at over 60-years-old a legend in the business, as he contemplates finally retiring after a doctor tells him if he doesn’t have both of his knees surgically replaced, he will live in agony for the rest of his life. (His retirement doesn’t last long, and he continues to wrestle to this day.)

We also meet Jake “The Snake” Roberts… a man who has gone from making hundreds of thousands of dollars and attaining huge popularity, to a life consisting of alcoholism, drug addiction, and trying to makes ends meet on the weekends grasping at the few remaining strands of his fame. Roberts is a psychological disaster, rambling on about his disturbing family life as a child, his indulgences of celebrity excess during his glory years in the sport, and the subsequent free fall into 24-hour misery that those excesses and family problems led to. We see Roberts meet with his college age daughter, and with his father, neither of which are very happy occasions… a fact illustrated by the fact that afterwards he sulks in his hotel room, smoking crack, trying to come up with excuses for all the misery in his life and in his families life.

“Beyond The Mat” is not just a fluff piece made by a wrestling fan… (something proven by the fact that billionaire wrestling promoter Vince McMahon is trying his hardest to snuff any chances of success the film has)… it is instead a man looking at his childhood heroes, and in some cases the heroes of his own children, and showing that they are all too human.

The film has some profanity, namely the f-word is thrown around about 15 times by various people in the film. It also has some very bloody scenes from “death matches” (Foley and Funk have wrestled in Japan where the ropes around the ring are switched with barbed wire!). As a Christian, I would recommend “Beyond the Mat” for its intended viewing audience of older teenagers and adults. I would also recommend it strongly to people who are in no way, shape, or form wrestling fans, especially after reading the Kansas City Star’s review where the critic basically accused all wrestling fans of being complete morons, yet praised the film and its participants to no end.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
I loved this movie—and all the critics who always snear at it will finally see the hard [work]… put into their jobs…
Kate, age 15
I took my 16 year old son to see this for very important reasons. He is at the age where professional wrestling is “cool”. He is even more at risk as my father, his grandfather, was a professional wrestler for almost 20 years. I have a lot of pictures, magazine articles, etc. from my fathers glory days that he has grown up with. Because I was around the business and know what it is really like I kept telling him that what he saw on TV wasn’t what wrestling was like. Nothing could better illustrate that fact than this movie. You see my father wrestled with Jake the Snake’s father (Grizzly) for a number of years. He also wrestled with Jake when he first went into the business. I grew up with him and knew both he, his brother (aka Sam Houston) and his sister (Rockin Robin) as young children. I still speak with Grizzly on occasion. Professional wrestling is a sick world of lies, deception, sexual deviants etc. The 10 minutes of fame is NOT worth the price they pay. My father dreamed of breaking me into the business. I praise God that he saw fit to take me away from there. I left the theater in tears as I recognized that 23 years ago I almost made a decision that would have put me right next to “Jake”. Without the grace of God I shudder to think where I would be today. Parents, this is not a good “Christian” movie. On the other hand it is a great movie to show what wrestling is really like. No punches are pulled, excuse the pun, it really shows what life behind the scenes is like. It is also a great movie to show what life without Christ can be. Please pray for Jake, as well as the rest of those in the world who don’t know Christ as their Saviour. My Ratings: [2/4]
Carl Kerby, age 39
The movie was pretty good. Besides the depressing parts (Jake the Snake Roberts, that is) it put a smile on my face. Why? Because I knew that if those wrestling critics saw this movie, I think that they would stop criticizing for awhile, because it shows the hardship that a pro wrestler has to go through to get where he/she is or wants to be at. I have even more respect for Mick Foley and Terry Funk after this movie… My Ratings: [2½/4]
Christina, age 13