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Like a lot of people, I went through a pro wrestling phase. From the mid-1980s up into the early ‘90s, I watched and enjoyed the sports entertainment stylings of WWF and WCW titans. After that, my direct attention tapered off, but my indirect awareness of the sport never really went away – I had friends who remained engaged and my general pop culture consumption meant that I was always at least tangentially up on the scene.

My affection for pro wrestling remained, though it did evolve over time, eventually morphing into an appreciation of it as one of the last true bastions of American melodrama (alongside the soap opera) as well as a repository for physically impressive feats of undeniable athleticism.

Too often, the personal stories of these wrestlers devolve into sadness and/or mayhem – there’s a whole cottage industry of documentary reckonings with the behind-the-scenes tragedies that accompanied the successes of some of wrestling’s most iconic figures.

Jeremy Norrie’s new documentary “The Other Side of the Ring” is different. This film isn’t about digging into the bleak seediness beneath the over-the-top glitz; instead, it’s about spending time with wrestlers from varying levels and discussing how they got here and why they’ve stayed.

Oh, and they’re all women.

Norrie sits down with a handful of women who have invested their blood, sweat and tears into the wrestling world. They come from all levels of the sport, from the top of the mountain that is WWE to the down-and-dirty indie scene, but the one thing they all share is a passion for the sport that they love – a passion that is brought forward through a collection of interviews.

Now, there’s not as much actual in-ring action as you might expect for a wrestling documentary – the realities of filming during COVID meant that Norrie was forced to largely rely on preexisting footage and some of the promotions that his interviewees worked with didn’t necessarily have a lot in the way of video. While this lack does undercut the film’s effectiveness somewhat, there’s no denying the compelling nature of the stories these women tell.

Published in Sports

Have you ever wondered where pro wrestlers come from? From what kind of environment does a professional wrestling star spring?

“Fighting with My Family” tells the story of how one particular wrestler – WWE star Paige – came to reach the pinnacle of her chosen pursuit. Written and directed by Stephen Merchant (yes, THAT Stephen Merchant), the film is based on Max Fisher’s 2012 documentary “The Wrestlers: Fighting with My Family.” It’s the story of an English family and their devotion to the world of professional wrestling – a devotion that would help one of them reach the top of the heap.

It’s also a funny and surprisingly heartwarming story about what it means to be a family and about how those family ties can both help and hinder efforts at self-betterment. Sure, it’s a bit of on-brand fantasy courtesy of WWE, but instead of feeling calculated and cynical, there’s an unexpected sincerity to it that proves quite engaging.

Published in Movies

How do you tell the true story of a man who seemingly sprang forth from the mists of myth? How do you ground in reality a man whose life seemed in many ways like fantasy?

How do you do justice to a giant?

That was the daunting task laid before director Jason Hehir when he agreed to make “Andre the Giant,” the very first documentary project springing from the partnership between Bill Simmons’s The Ringer and HBO. And through well-curated archival footage and a host of interviews with people who both knew and cared deeply for the world-famous wrestler, Hehir executed that task to perfection.

Published in Sports

I've been part of several odd coincidences lately - one of which is directly related to the column I write in this space.

Published in The Sports Edge
Wednesday, 20 July 2016 11:50

WWE lands in Bangor

World Wrestling Entertainment hits the Cross Insurance Center

BANGOR The WWE was in town this past weekend, bringing their SummerSlam Heatwave Tour to the Cross Insurance Center on Saturday night.

Published in Sports

I was back onstage this pastFridaynight as part of the Portland Comedy Festival after the considerable layoff of almost ten months. To be honest, I was nervous for that set like I haven't been for any other that I can remember. Sure, there were always the ones that would give me an extra buzz, headlining a particular club for the first time, opening for someone really big for the first time, or working with someone whose work you admire.Fridaywas a different kind of buzz altogether, it was the 'if you stink out the joint, people will think you're done' thing. And I wanted no part of that, thank you.

Published in The Sports Edge

I was lucky enough to have a seat in the building as World Wrestling Entertainment made its triumphant return to the Bangor Auditorium on March 4. While I freely admit that I'm not a huge fan of professional wrestling, there's no mistaking the very real energy of the moment when it all unfolds in front of you live and in person.

This was a big show; even a relative neophyte such as I could recognize some of these names. John Cena. Chris Jericho. Kane. WWE Champion CM Punk. These are some of the brightest stars in the WWE galaxy and they were right here in Bangor.

The night's matches all had their winners and losers, but the particulars didn't really matter. It's all about experiencing the spectacle, and even if you aren't a follower of wrestling, you can't help but be swept up in the unapologetic passion of the true fanatics. 

Published in Happenings

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