So I've reviewed two documentaries so far, one about old guys yelling and one about pro wrestling. What does that say about me? 

I've discussed in the past my love affair with horror films, this being the case even though 99% of the horror films being put out today are brainless, repetitive and insulting to the very people who normally enjoy the product.  On a totally related note: wrestling.

Yay.

One of the gift/curse things I've run into upon moving in with my wife is that we decided that the extra money to get cable TV really wasn't worth it. Well I say we decided that, but that isn't totally accurate, Comcast decided that for us, seeing as even the basic cable plans cost far, far more than having subscriptions to Netflix and Hulu. It is nice on one had not to be burdened with terrible television shows all the time, since I can just download whatever I want to watch (Doctor Who, GoT, Adventure Time) and disregard everything else (everything else). On the other hand, I don't get to watch WWE Raw anymore. Which sucks. And is awesome. I think that is only something wrestling fans can understand.

I started watching wrestling as a thinking individual (i.e. not a child watching Hulk Hogan and thinking it was all real and that Hogan was about to beat up a crazy person with tassels and face paint) a little into the Attitude Era. For those who don't follow wrestling, in the late 90's the WWE and WCW hit their peaks in terms of talent, and story telling, the angles (stories) were more mature and everything tended to be far more entertaining than what is presented today. I remember seeing the Invasion angle in 2001, and being let down. I remember watching ECW die. I remember Katie VIck. I remember Hidenreich raping Michael Cole and no one mentioning it after. In short, I remember watching televised professional wrestling fall apart.

And yet, as terrible as things got, I would always tune in, expecting things to get better. This week, this would be the week that they would get some momentum going. Then the WWE would hire writers from iCarly, and I would feel hurt that they are moving away from what made them great, but I would sit down and watch again. Then Triple H would go all necrophiliac on us and I would be hurt that anyone would think this would be a good idea, but i would keep watching. Kane essentially rapes and kidnaps Lita, ouch. Keep watching. JR stops announcing and Michael Cole turns heel. Damn. Keep watching.

Finally I don't have cable, and to actually watch the WWE takes effort on my part. So I stopped watching. Turns out I don't miss their product that much. Go figure.

What I do miss on the other hand is the indy shows I used to go to. Living in the suburbs of Chicago growing up there was a lot of independent wrestling organizations competing for my ticket money. Windy City Championship Wrestling, NWA Midwest, AAW, IWS-Midsouth (God I miss their shows, Ian Rotten was such a carney, but damn could he book), and Ring of Honor. The only problem was, 90% of the shows were god awful, but for $15 a ticket, you took your chances.

Going to those shows, you got to really understand what it was like to be a wrestler working his way up, or working his way down the ladder of success. You saw men who drove 10 hours to get to a little shit hole hovel in Midlothian, Illinois, work their ass off for 20 people and take home less money than they spent for gas. Men would get beaten to a pulp and take home $20, and not even get a copy of the show for their resume reel. That is love of the sport right there. In fact, in the time it has taken me to write this in-between calls at work, I have made more than most of the wrestlers I would pay to see get years smashed off of their lives.

I suppose this would be the point where the famous real/not real debate comes into play. For the record, of course pro wrestling is fake. The stories, the promos, the characters, all made up. The beatings, not so much. You learn, when coming up how to throw a punch so it doesn't break your hand. You learn where to land a punch so it doesn't break your opponent's head or face. You learn how to fall, how to hit the elevator cables wrapped in tape that serve as ring ropes. You learn how to take care of the man you wrestle, and trust that he will take care of you in return. None of that takes away the fact that you are being punched, kicked, trampled, thrown, smashed and beaten bloody. When a 220lb man hits the turnbuckle (corner) running at full speed, it is the equivalent of a 30mph car crash on his body. That is a normal thing that happens multiple times in a match. A normal thing that doesn't look like it will hurt so they don't act like it does. Now imagine what being thrown off the ring and onto a concrete floor would feel like (a drop of 10 feet by the way). Or having the ref slice you open with a razor to make your bleed after a chair shot (just so happens chair shots don't make you bleed very often, just concusses you, so drastic measures must be taken). Or having someone break your nose and then throw you into a pile of folding chairs. These things occur all the time in pro wrestling, and the bitch of it is, you, as a wrestler, can't break character. EVER. If you were in the NFL and you break your nose, the game stops. You get that shit looked at. In wrestling, you spit up blood that would otherwise drown you, and keep going. Are you a heel (bad guy)? Best rub that blood on the good guy to look mean. Oh, you landed bad on that jump and broke your ankle? In the NBA you are done for the season. In this gym, you just hobble over to the ropes and jump again. That's what's so fake about wrestling, you have people dieing for you every night, and they will never let you know it. Often for $20 a night.

Torn quad

Massive, deep cut

Yeah...
The point of all of these, is that the match continued like nothing happened after the injuries, because that is what has to happen. Granted, in the last one it was a quick cover but still, would you want someone laying on you when your leg looked like that, or would you vomit all over yourself and pass out?

Needless to say, the life of a pro wrestler is not an easy one. Try explaining to the manager of the video store that you work at during the day that all the scabs that just recently appeared on your face are a result of barbed wire and staples, but should go away in a couple of days. Or calling in sick to work because you might have fractures a vertebrae last night falling into a chair.

Or try explaining to Droz why he will never walk again.

The life of a pro wrestler is tough, but they do it because they love it. And that is where the documentary "Card Subject to Change" comes in. Unlike most of the pro wrestling docs out there, this movie covers the independent leagues and follows the wrestlers who really aren't doing it for the money, as they aren't making any. We see established stars, first timers, old timers and Sabu (who somehow is all three). Overall the tone tries to be slightly jovial, basically showing the world that these men and women don't mind working for 15 people in a bingo hall, and really don't mind the low paydays because this is their dream., which is true, if they didn't love it, no one would wrestle. We see Kevin Sullivan, who has been in the business longer than just about anyone, showing up, doing his thing for 10 people and leaving, all the time happy with his life. It is a nice change of pace from the wrestling docs like "Beyond the Mat" where everything is a downer.

Except, well everything IS a downer, just not the way the filmmakers planned. The reality of pro wrestling is that terrible things happen all the time. People are injured, people do drugs, people die. All the time. And it feels like reality started to hit the makers of this movie mid way thru and they couldn't totally hide it, so what started out as a celebration of the world of indy wrestling turned into something much darker.

We follow Trent Acid, a man who has been working the northeastern circuit for over a decade. He is good, but has his demons, much like most wrestlers. Midway thru the doc he disappears. Turns out he OD'd, got arrested and was in jail, but now he is clean and will not take his lfe for granted, things are looking up!

Trent Acid died of a heroin overdose right after they finished the movie. He was widely regarded as one of the best workers in the indy scene, a scene which is literately littered with drugs and cheap sex.

Hey look it is Sensational Sherri, former WWE star working the indys as she winds down her career, talking about how it doesn't matter how many people who up, she will still give it her all because she loves the business so much.

Sensational Sherri died right after the filming at aged 49 of a perscription drug overdose.

Hey it's Percy Pringle otherwise known as Paul Bearer and Kamala!

Percie died in March and Kamala just lost a leg to the diabetus. Neither wrestling related, but still sad.

Sabu is talking about how much he is ready to leave the business because he is hurting.

Nope, still going according to the credits, and as of 2013, he is STILL going.


It really is a shame that they chose to go after the wrestlers that they did,because there are so damn many wrestlers in the indy scene that nothing terrible happened to, and would have fit the tone of the movie perfectly. Colt Cabana anyone? Mike Quackenbush? Some other third guy? La Parka? All would have been perfect for the film itself while not adding to the cluster-bomb of sadness at the end. I can't blame the filmmakers for this, however, as it was truly out of their hands. I mean, hell, if Trent Acid had managed to stay clean the film would have been almost perfect, seeing redemption coupled with all the devastation. But once again, not really the filmmakers fault on that one, just a matter of poor luck on everyone's fault.

All in all "Card Subject to Change" is a good documentary, but made flawed by external forces. I can tell that there was a struggle to keep true to the original intent of the film when everything started to go to shit, but still an attempt to not sugar coat anything. In the end it does feel a little bi-polar, but, seeing at that is what pro wrestling is on a good day, that is perfectly understandable.

What I choose to take from the movie is that people like Sensational Sherri and Trent Acid were, while flawed people, people who lived life everyday doing what they loved, and while they left us too soon I am not sure they would have done it any other way. Also, that I miss like hell Paul Bearer. The universe may never have another man so full of love as the man who followed Undertaker to the ring on so many a night.

"Card Subject to Change" is a good movie, without a doubt, it is not quite as depressing as "Beyond the Mat", and does a fairly decent job of showing the side of wrestling that is not normally shown, the wrestler as a family man, as a friend, and as a person. It is a shame so much went terribly wrong in everyone's lives while it was being made, but, unfortunately, that is the sad reality of the pro wrestling business, the only thing that isn't fake is the pain.

Rating B+




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