I remember that Beyond the Mat came out when I was in high school, when I would read the Washington Post's movie section cover to cover. While I never got to go see the movie, I remembered that it stayed in theaters for quite some time, and the Post's review made a sincere case for Mrs. Foley to win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar that year.
I also recall that it was described as "the movie Vince McMahon doesn't want you to see!" After seeing the movie, along with the "Mania of Wrestlemania", I'm a bit confused as to exactly why the WWE was upset with the movie. The hyperreality of wrestling was clearly acknowledged and appreciated by both the fans and the WWE itself at this point in time. As was mentioned in class, "Mania" turned the story into a sacrifice of the body. While Beyond the Mat was much more a story about wrestling sacrificing one's psyche, and may have been WWE's initial revulsion from it, I kept thinking about the number of times that the Wrestling shows have actually embraced the idea of wrestling as a story about emotional sacrifice. Take Kurt Angle. During his feud with John Cena, and when he started to turn on the fans chanting "you suck" during his entrance, Kurt mentioned all that he has sacrificed in his life just so he can perform each week, including how he was currently going through a divorce but was still performing (as he was a heel, a small portion of the crowd actually cheered this). When he eventually moved to TNA, it would often be promoted that TNA "saved Kurt's life". This was in the sense that the WWE travel schedule led him to a painkiller addiction and a ruined personal life, but TNA's program helped him focus back on what he loved, heal his personal crises and kick his drug problem. I kind of see this as the flip side to Beyond the Mat's depiction of the wrestling-psyche: wrestling not as dramatic or physical redemption, but an emotional redemption for the wrestlers.
This says nothing of Mick Foley talking about his family and passions while in the ring, or the open manner in which the WWE talked about Eddie Guerrero's drug addiction that he overcame by (among other things) rediscovering his passion to wrestle. Or how Stone Cold Steve Austin's marital/life problems often bubble up in storylines (his return was hyped with an explanation as to why he left in the latest WWE magazine, and his divorce was even mentioned in Mania). The willingness to explore the issue is certainly there among wrestling promotions. The frequency and depth is not on par with the backstage politics or health issues, certainly, but it in no way is it considered off-limits.
So again, what would be so preturbing about Beyond the Mat? Was the real concern with the documentary that wrestling was viewed almost entirely in emotional terms, a lens that was too much for the current tastes of WWE execs? Or could it be that the emotional story arc just didn't have a satisfying ending, or that corporate didn't have a hand in guiding it?