The two documentaries we watched in class, Beyond the Mat (BTM) and The Mania of Wrestlemania (TMOW) take you behind the scenes of a wrestling show. The two, however, are very different in content and production quality. This results mostly because TMOW was produced by the WWE and BTM wasn’t. Even though the documentaries differ greatly, they give different perspectives on what goes on when wrestlers aren’t performing.
BTM felt more like a documentary than TMOW. The camera-work, candid interviews with wrestlers, and issues dealt with seem more real than TMOW. TMOW appears to be more like a scripted documentary that aims to promote the Wrestlemania event. Even though Vince appears more in BTM than TMOW, he had no control over BTM’s production. The wrestlers in BTM speak more openly, unlike TMOW where wrestlers have to be more cautious about what they say.
I thought TMOW was surprisingly short. I think this was done intentionally as a way to keep people’s interest. It appeared that the documentary was centered around a few shocking images (injuries from Stone Cold, Brock Lesnar, and Kurt Angle) that drove the stories. I almost forgot that there was a bit on the Undertaker and Shawn Michaels because there was nothing really interesting about the stories. I don’t know if I would’ve been able to stay interested in it if it had lasted another half hour.
Time wasn’t even an issue for BTM. I was able to get involved in every story told and it felt like they weren’t performing for the camera. There was conflict within each story that was sometimes unresolved, unlike TMOW. It shows how stories don’t always have a happy ending in real life. I also felt like I was able to follow the stories more easily in BTM. I never saw Wrestlemania XIX and I felt like could’ve appreciated the documentary if I had watched wrestling during this time period. BTM did not require knowledge of the time periods to understand the effects that wrestling had on the lives of those in the documentary.
The stories in both documentaries have a similar structure, but the content is contrasting. TMOW tells different stories about Wrestlemania XIX from the wrestler’s perspective. It does not really go beyond the mat like the other documentary. It attempts to bring in what the wrestler’s families were feeling about injuries and matches, but it seems very contrived. BTM, on the other hand, gives more than just a story about a wrestling match. It details some of the internal and external conflicts that wrestlers were going through away from the spotlight. It shows how wrestling has affected the wrestlers and their families in ways that have never been seen before. I would have never known about this dark side of wrestling if it wasn’t for this documentary.