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Spoiler warning for the Season 1 finale of Viceland's Dark Side of the Ring.
Dark Side of the Ring has legitimately delivered some of the most engaging episodes of unscripted TV so far in 2019, digging into pro wrestling's dark and unbridled past. For its Season 1 finale, the Viceland docu-series focused on the legendary and semi-tarnished career of Mary "The Fabulous Moolah" Ellison. More specifically, on the various alleged abuses that Moolah reportedly took part in through years at various training facilities, such as drugging and pimping out the women in her wrestling stable.
While other Dark Side of the Ring episodes focused on mysterious deaths, and how wrestling storylines negatively affect real-world relationships, "The Fabulous Moolah" depicted how absolute power can corrupt absolutely. At least, depending on who you listen to. I got to listen to Dark Side of the Ring executive producer Evan Husney explain why the creative team chose The Fabulous Moolah for one of the Season 1 stories.
First bringing up the WWE's decision in early 2018 to hold the Fabulous Moolah Battle Royal for WrestleMania 34, Evan Husney said:
Unlike quite a few other topical TV programs of this nature, Dark Side of the Ring's mission wasn't to "cancel" Moolah from the jump. This is one of those situations where there are too many people making accusations to dismiss anything, but also too many people defending Moolah to dismiss that side.
The episode definitely covered both corners, so to speak. On one side, there were accusers such as the children of Sweet Georgia Brown, the first black professional female wrestler, and the former pro champ Wendy Richter. On the flip side, there were defenders such as the Fabulous Moolah's daughter, and wrestlers such as Selina Majors, not to mention the "Fight For Moolah" founder Nigel Sherrod.
Here, Evan Husney talks about taking the Fabulous Moolah's story on in as unbiased a way as possible.
These situations are always complicated, when someone's personal behavior overshadows the more positive influences he or she has had on a grand scale. Her importance was another factor in why the Dark Side of the Ring crew wanted to bring Moolah's story to the masses.
Scandal-focused documentary projects like this have a way of creating waves within the zeitgeist at large. HBO's Leaving Neverland, for instance, caused a lot of people to re-look at Michael Jackson's history, though that project was highly criticized for only taking the perspective of the alleged victims. The same could be said for Lifetime's R. Kelly docu-series that put a spotlight on the many accusations that have been aimed at the R&B singer over the years.
During my talk with Evan Husney, I asked what kinds of sparks and reactions he thought the episode might get.
Expanding the scope out from The Fabulous Moolah, one of the biggest Dark Side inspirations for Evan Husney and director Jason Eisener, among others, is the proliferation of "shoot" videos on the Internet these days. For those unfamiliar. these videos typically feature big-named wrestlers speaking candidly and unabashedly about many a topic.
Below, Husney explains why those videos sparked the move to create Dark Side of the Ring.
Indeed, each Dark Side of the Ring episode invited viewers to come to their own conclusions about such topics as Bruiser Brody's death, Macho Man and Miss Elizabeth's love, and the Von Erich family "curse." And it's likely that many would have different ideas about what it all meant, which speaks to the show's largely unbiased approach.
Though Dark Side of the Ring may be technically finished with Season 1, Viceland has more goodies for fans to enjoy. On Wednesday, May 22, the network will be airing the new docu-series The Wrestlers, which will sidestep the WWE's glitz to spotlight various wrestling communities around the world. Also on that night, Viceland will air extended episodes of Dark Side of the Ring, with deleted segments added back in for even more engrossing goodness. Be sure to tune in!