“Beyond the Mat,” The 1999 Pro Wrestling Documentary

One of favorite film genres are documentaries, and one of those movies is Barry W. Blaustein’s 1999 project Beyond the Mat.  I remember seeing commercials for this film while watching WWF Shotgun Saturday night (remember that, fellow wrestling fans) and anticipating its release.  I would later be gifted the VHS  release of the film as a Christmas gift from my parents in 2001 and watched it non-stop for several weeks.  Beyond the Mat is by far one of my favorite professional wrestling documentaries (next to Wrestling with Shadows and The Rise & Fall of ECW) of all time, and one that any fan of pro wrestling and/or documentaries should take the time and watch.  

For anyone is unfamiliar with the movie, Beyond the Mat follows the lives of professional wrestlers outside of the ring, primarily Mick Foley (a.k.a., Mankind), Terry Funk, and Jake “The Snake” Roberts, as well as some aspiring wrestlers, young and old. It also focuses on the then-World Wrestling Federation (WWF), Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) — during its rise in popularity– and many other independent wrestlers and organizations nationwide from 1997 to 1999. The film had a limited release in theaters stateside on October 22, 1999 (later all theaters in March of 2000) and later released on VHS and DVD.

The movie is also known by its tagline “The Movie Vince McMahon Didn’t Want You to See!”  After viewing the film, WWF owner/chairman Vince McMahon removed all advertising for it from broadcasts.  The WWF claimed that it was due to a policy against advertising for other wrestling companies or ventures (i.e., ECW and the independent promotions).

Beyond the Mat received some critical acclaim. It was named Best Documentary at the Cinequest Film Festival, and was nominated by the Director’s Guild Association for Best Documentary and Best Director. The book The 100 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen listed Beyond the Mat, claiming that “the film works on an almost Shakespearean level.”

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