Pro Wrestling's Darker Side Will Get Unveiled In New TV Docuseries
In recent years, much attention has been rightfully placed on the uncomfortable and morally bereft corners of the entertainment industry, from cinema to television to music and beyond. Now, a new Viceland series titled Dark Side of the Ring is taking aim at the well-documented troubles and tragedies within the world of pro wrestling, with stories centered on legendary athletes like Randy "Macho Man" Savage, Bret Hart, The Fabulous Moolah and more.
No doubt many viewers tune into WWE's Monday Night Raw every week without the knowledge of just how twisted things have been in the pro wrestling industry, but Dark Side of the Ring could be a wake-up call for many. Viceland announced the six-episode docuseries will hit the midseason schedule on Wednesday, April 10, just three days after the biggest wrestling night of the year: WrestleMania 35. That timing probably isn't coincidental.
Understandably, WrestleMania ties into at least one of the emotional stories being showcased on the upcoming Viceland series. For instance, one installment will focus on the doomed love story between Randy "Macho Man" Savage and his manager Miss Elizabeth. (Real names: Randy Poffo and Elizabeth Hulette.) The two married in real life in 1984, and she was brought into the then-WWF to be Macho Man's ring manager a year later. Their courtship was celebrated for years, and culminated in a faux in-ring wedding at Summer Slam in 1991.
Unfortunately, it wasn't truly a match made in heaven, with Macho Man and Miss Elizabeth getting a legitimate divorce in 1992. They worked together again some years later as part of the other giant wrestling promotion, the WCW, where Miss Elizabeth eventually became professionally and personally connected with the "Total Package," Lex Luger. She somewhat suddenly retired in 2000, and just three years later, she was found dead of an alcohol- and drug-related overdose.
One other infamous wrestling tale that will get showcased is the Montreal Screwjob, the highly controversial match ending that soiled the highly respectable 13-year career of superstar Bret Hart. Without getting too heavily into details, Hart was set to transition from the WWF to the WCW, but he and Vince McMahon weren't initially in full agreement on how to wrap up Hart's reign as World Heavyweight Champion.
At one point, the deal was made to handle things amicably with a Survivor Series match pitting Bret Hart against his rival Shawn Michaels, with whom he'd had some genuine feuds with behind the scenes. The thing is, Hart underestimated the deviousness of Vince McMahon and his team, who set it so that Michaels won the match outright, leaving Hart left completely agog and insanely pissed off. The match's influence on the WWF-turned-WWE was immeasurable, and it took years to clear the air between Hart and the others. Take a look at the trailer for the series!
Dark Side of the Ring will delve into four other scandalous and devastating stories from the history of the squared circle. Fans will learn about the various tragedies surrounding the multigenerational Von Erich family – Fritz Von Erich, his six sons, and their children – which were noteworthy enough to inspire myths about the family being cursed. Then there's the story of Gina Hernandez (a rival of the Von Erichs), whose shocking death in 1986 was first ruled a homicide and then labeled a drug overdose, though conflicting reports remain.
One episode will center on widespread allegations against famed female pro wrestler Mary "The Fabulous Moolah" Ellison, who passed away in 2007. Her actual wrestling skills were top-notch, but The Fabulous Moolah inspired a laundry list of accusations from trainees and others who say she financially and sexually exploited her female employees. As recently as 2018, the WWE sparked a backlash by naming WrestleMania 34's Battle Royale match after Moolah, so it'll be interesting to see if this ep causes the WWE to remove her from its Hall of Fame.
Finally, Dark Side of the Ring will tell the story of the true wildcat Frank "Bruiser Brody" Goodish. A sometimes hard-to-handle guy, Brody was a popular fighter through the 1970s and 1980s. However, his career was cut short in 1988 when an undisclosed argument led to his locker-room death just before he was scheduled for a match.
Beyond its legacy-tarnishing stories, Dark Side of the Ring will feature narration from Wayne Keown, better known to wrestling fans everywhere as "Dirty" Dutch Mantel. He no doubt has some of his own personal insight to put into these stories, and it'll be interesting to see who else from the industry will show up in interviews.
Directing for Dark Side of the Ring is filmmaker Jason Eisener, who's best known for the feature Hobo with a Shotgun and segments from the horror anthologies V/H/S/2 and The ABCs of Death. The show will be executive produced by Viceland's Chris Grosso, with Evan Husney and Ed Hatton producing.
As stated above, Dark Side of the Ring will make its debut on Viceland on Wednesday, April 11, at 9:00 p.m. ET.
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Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.
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