Is 'Dark Side of the Ring' Still Worth the Watch?  | Opinions | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

Is ‘Dark Side of the Ring’ Still Worth the Watch?

Around the start of the fifth season of Vice’s wrestling series Dark Side of the Ring this spring, I was ready to declare that the series had run its course. After all, I felt the show had already gotten to most of the significant “dark” stories in wrestling history and was beginning to scrape the bottom of the barrel. 

When I saw The Iron Claw last year, and one scene featured a tag team match of Kevin and David Von Rich against Bruiser Brody and Gino Hernandez, I realized that three of those four men had Dark Side of the Ring episodes, specifically about their deaths. But most of the big ones have been covered between all those, plus Chris Benoit and Owen Hart. 

Plus, I got the sense that the brand was getting stretched thin, with spinoffs like Dark Side of Football and Dark Side of Comedy and a “special” called The Nine Lives of Vince McMahon, which merely consisted of repurposed segments from previous Dark Side of the Ring episodes. As for Vice, the company entered bankruptcy last year and stopped publishing the vice.com website, although a revival is said to be in the works. 

The formula, furthermore, has gotten tiresome, with the same voices heard over and over again, and an over-reliance on reenactments. 

Its Second Wind

But the new season represented an improvement over the last one, thanks mainly to “Welcome To My Nightmare, The Chris Colt Story,” the sixth episode of the season and one of the best of the series. 

I’m a pretty big wrestling fan, and I thought I knew all the history. But I had never heard of Chris Colt, an independent wrestler in the 1960s and ‘70s who later worked in gay pornography and died of AIDS complications in 1995. This was so far afield from the type of story typically explored by the series and so compelling. 

I liked the episodes about Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake and The Sandman, the ECW legend who supposedly lives near me in the Philadelphia suburbs. In the Buff Bagwell episode, I was reminded of my longtime skepticism that his participation in the Gigolos reality show was on the level. 

Some episodes, such as the one about John Tenta, weren’t all that “dark,” except for the part about the person dying, while others (Sensational Sherri, Terry Gordy) were mostly about how this very cruel industry chewed up people and spit them out. Others, like the finale about “Black Saturday,” were less compelling. 

But the new season convinced me that Dark Side of the Ring still has some life. The current Vince McMahon scandal will likely give them some future material, although that seems more like a four-hour, two-part, Alex Gibney type of job.

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