By Jamie Miller
Greetings Nightlighters, it is I, “The jobber” Jamie Miller here with yet another issue of Nightlight. Now as you know by now I am a huge wrestling fan. I have a few reasons for this, the stories told in the ring and the pageantry and over-the-top gimmicks. However, another big reason for my love for it as an adult is the backstage stories. For something that has men and women wrestling in the shortest of short shorts, some really dark stuff has happened behind the scenes. As a result, one of my favorite shows to binge-watch is Vice TV’s “Dark Side Of The Ring,” which is a documentary series that tells the tale of some of wrestling’s darkest and craziest behind-the-scenes stories. I’ve been watching it since the first season was released in 2019 and picked up where I left off when the first part of season three dropped in May. If you’re wondering how good this season is – please, read on.
“Dark Side Of The Ring” season three began with a two-part episode which detailed the career and tragic end of Brian Pillman. This episode, like all episodes from season two onward, is narrated by legendary pro wrestler Chris Jericho and features interviews with people who know both the industry and who knew Pillman, including his widow, Melanie Pillman, and son and fellow pro wrestler, Brian Pillman Jr., as well as well known wrestling commentator “JR” Jim Ross. I give this episode seven and a half torches out of 10. This actually taught me a few things I didn’t know about Pillman’s life and tugged at my heartstrings, especially when Pillman Jr. talked.
The next episode told the tale of Nick Gage. Gage, for those not informed on the ins and outs of pro wrestling, is what’s known as an ultra violent wrestler. Basically, every stereotype about wrestling dialed up to 13. They’re putting people through barbed wire tables, slamming each other on raw syringes and smacking each other with light tubes. And Gage is like the king of this style. The episode talks about his career and missteps. In addition to his girlfriend and friends, Gage himself speaks. I give this six and a half torches out of 10. It’s interesting that though at times they almost try to paint Gage as this sympathetic person, I see many of his struggles coming from his own making. Still a good episode, and I do like a come-back story.
Next in the season came an episode which told the tale of “WCW Collision in Korea,” which was a wrestling pay-per-view held in North Korea. As you can guess, sending a group of American and Japanese wrestlers to North Korea was bound to be…. interesting. Among the wrestlers sharing horror stories were 2 Cold Scorpio, Eric Bischoff, Scott Norton, and others. I give this episode seven and a half torches out of 10. It was intriguing to say the least.
Next, the series covered the career and life of one of the most controversial wrestling stars of all time, The Ultimate Warrior. Among those interviewed were Warrior’s first wife Shari Lynn Tyree, legendary wrestling manager Jim Cornette, Jim Ross, and one of my favorite pro wrestlers of all time Jake “The Snake” Roberts. The interview subject matter was mixed. Tyree said many positive things, especially about their time together and last conversation, while Ross and Cornette were highly negative of Warrior’s skills in the ring. Robert’s criticized Warriors seeming arrogance and selfishness. This is probably my favorite episode of the season, if not the series. Warrior made many, many mistakes It would have been easy to completely railroad him, yet they instead chose to show both sides of the man behind the face paint. I give it eight torches out of 10.
Next was probably one of the most disturbing episodes of the series which told the tragic story of the children of Grizzly Smith. Smith allegedly committed some of the worst abuse you can do to children. Among those interviewed were his children, Jake Roberts, Sam Houston, Rockin’ Robin and Robert, who was given up for adoption. Jim Cornette was also interviewed, as was Houston’s former wife and semi-retired wrestling manager Baby Doll, as a way to give an outsider’s perspective. This was a hard episode to watch, as especially with Roberts, you could see the pain and sorrow in his eyes. I give it seven and a half torches out of 10. I’d rank it higher, but it bummed me out too much.
Finally, came the episode about The Dynamite Kid. Speaking in this episode was hardcore wrestling legend Mick Foley, long time wrestling journalist, Dave Meltzer, perhaps one of the most underrated wrestlers of all time, Lance Storm, the Kid’s first wife, Michelle Billington, bitter real-life rival Jacques Rougeau Jr. and others. This episode was also difficult to watch. It’s always challenging to watch a bright star crash to earth, so to speak. This was a sobering tale of the dangers of fame and ambition. The episode also mentions the Kid’s infamous backstage fights with Rougeau. I give this episode seven and a half torches out of 10. They could have simply ragged on the kind of person Kid was behind the scenes later on, but instead, they also talked about the man he was before, and what led him to what he became. I respect the documentary for that.
All in all, this adds up to a phenomenal season. I tend to love “Dark Side Of The Ring,” and give season three, eight and a half torches out of 10. I recommend giving this a watch, even if you’re not a wrestling fan.