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  June 13, 2000

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Blaustein steps into wrestling's ring of reality

By JIM SLOTEK -- Toronto Sun

Barry Blaustein. -- Stan Behal, Toronto Sun
It's the world's worst kept secret, that wrestling is fixed -- so much so that confirmation is virtually a throwaway line in Barry Blaustein's acclaimed documentary, Beyond The Mat.

"Mick Foley phoned me at Christmas during filming to tell me, 'Mankind's gonna lose this one match,' " Blaustein told The Sun.

Blaustein -- Eddie Murphy's movie co-writer of choice (for The Nutty Professor 1 and 2, Coming To America, Boomerang) -- had unbelievable access to the wrestling community and became close friends with the over-sized, punishment-glutton Mick "Mankind" Foley.

"He said, 'Hey, Barry, guess what? They're finally gonna give me the title!' I said, 'Get outta here!' And he says, 'Y'know, they figured (Stone Cold Steve) Austin was hurt and I've gotta win it once to get some credibility. But I'm gonna lose it really bad in the Royal Rumble.' And then he said, 'That'll be my biggest match. I'm gonna bring my wife and kids.' "

"I said, 'Are you sure you want to do that?' And he said, 'Ah, they're used to it.' And sure, they knew it was fake, but I just felt like a train wreck was about to happen."

Bad move, as it turned out.

With Blaustein's cameras rolling, Foley's wife and kids are ringside as Mankind has chairs broken over his head and gets the stuffing beat out of him by current WWF poster-boy, The Rock. The kids' sobbing as their dad is covered in blood is profoundly disturbing. Finally, his wife hustles the kids away.

It's unblinkingly human stuff, and you don't have to be a wrestling fan to get it. Which is what Blaustein was after.

"I made it specifically for people who couldn't care less about wrestling. It's about family as much as it is about wrestling, families trying to stay together."

Or not, in the case of Jake The Snake Roberts. The debauched ex-WWF superstar is followed from city to city as he wrestles in places such as Kansas and Nebraska, scoring crack cocaine as he goes, and avoiding his daughter who hasn't seen him in four years (Blaustein sets up an on-camera reunion that's far from heartwarming).

Other figures passing by include Terry Funk, an old crippled lion finishing his days in the upstart ECW: (Extreme Championship Wrestling league); the female wrestler/body-builder Chyna; a seedy-looking L.A indie promoter who lines up wrestlers for audiences of less than 100; and the AntiChrist himself, WWF boss Vince McMahon, whose league was in the dumper when he acquiesced to Blaustein's project (in 1997), and who even resorted to making himself a wrestler.

The WWF since has gone great guns, even going public on the stock exchange, and McMahon has subsequently denounced Beyond The Mat (after trying to buy the rights to it). The Ted Turner-owned WCW refused to take part.

So, having let the cat out of the bag about fixed matches, is Blaustein telling wrestling fans there's no Santa Claus?

"No, the biggest misconception of non-fans is that fans don't know it's fake. But it's more real than you imagine. I mean, you get hit over the head with a chair, it's a real chair and real blood.

"One of the things I love about wrestling is, it's a weird hybrid of sports and entertainment. It's a low form of sports and a low form of entertainment. I enjoy the athleticism, but I enjoy the showbiz element even more."

So did some on the Academy Awards documentary committee, which included Beyond The Mat among 12 finalists in its selection process for this year's Oscars.

"It didn't make the final five, because I think certain people, no matter how good it is, would just snort and go, 'It's wrestling.' "


  • Beyond the Mat in the SLAM! Wrestling Movie Database


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