June 16, 2000
Beyond the Mat wrestles with world of sports
By BOB THOMPSON - Toronto Sun
Crazy wrestling fan Barry Blaustein was committed. Not the locked-up kind but the obsessive, compulsive kind.
Why? The Saturday Night Live writer and producer spent five years making Beyond The Mat.
It's a professional wrestling documentary put together by Blaustein after filming in and around 17 U.S. states and staying at more Motel 6s than he cares to count.
The result is a fan's view that also provides a brutal insight into wrestlers' erratic lives, all in the name of presenting their good-vs.-evil high drama.
We're not talking WWF at Madison Square Garden. Blaustein's wrestling universe is more likely to be a side attraction at a dime-store carnival.
No glamour and not much glory in Beyond The Mat either.
Mixing performance sequences with dressing-room observations, the film is bare-bones.
The mostly has-been and never-was wrestlers are the travel guides for the behind-the-scenes look.
Jake "the Snake" Roberts is a prime example of a burnt-out former star trying to survive on the circus circuit.
Veteran Terry Funk, nearly crippled, still honours a promise to show up at an exhibition when his family clearly fears for his future.
The mini-portraits add up to a decent revelation -- the director shows us, he doesn't tell us -- of what it's like to live like strangers in a very strange wrestling land.