bill bodkin goes to the extreme …
Extreme Championship Wrestling was a wrestling promotion that exploded onto the scene in the 1990s and turned the professional wrestling industry on its ear.
The small, “outlaw” promotion made its mark by pushing the envelope of violence and sexuality as well as inspiring sincere, intense and unflagging emotional investment from its fans. Fans, like this writer, were captivated by the honest, raw, unflinching point of view that Paul Heyman and the army of wrestlers, workers and personalities that filled the company’s locker room presented on a weekly basis.
And that spirit is exactly what’s captured in the new documentary Barbed Wire City.
See, this isn’t just some “wrestling video” that chronicles the history of the company or is filled with former employees and wrestlers who are taking the opportunity to air their grievances or “shoot” on their former company.
No, this is a documentary that tells it straight giving you the same uncompromised take on Extreme Championship Wrestling as that company did on the sport of pro wrestling — thus making this documentary a much more emotional experience that previous documentaries on the company.
There’s moments of pure joviality and laughter (mostly thanks to the outlandish interview footage of Jerome “New Jack” Young) that are juxtaposed by moments of genuine sadness (particularly when the documentary focuses on Brian “Axl Rotten” Knighton who’s recovering from Bells Palsy). It’s this balance of fun and nostalgia with the honest and sometimes cruel reality of life during and after ECW that makes Barbed Wire City so enthralling.
The film also delves into territory, unexplored by previous efforts, particularly by including interviews with numerous pro wrestling journalists, former ECW office and non-wrestling employees and even Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corrigan, who appeared a few times for the company in the ring. Their inclusion lends an air of freshness and credibility to the production — helping differentiate it from the WWE’s Rise & Fall of ECW and Jeremy Borash’s Forever Hardcore.
The lack of an agenda also helps differentiate Barbed Wire City from its predecessors. WWE used their DVD to tell a WWE-slanted tale of ECW as well as help promote their ECW reunion pay-per-view, One Night Stand while Forever Hardcore was released in conjunction with Jeremy Borash’s Hardcore Homecoming shows. Barbed Wire City is attached to no event, no corporation, nothing — this really makes you feel that the wrestlers and personalities speaking in this film are much freer with their opinions and emotions than they were on other films. Not to knock those other films at all, but Barbed Wire City seems to capture the essence of ECW — being edgy and honest and not being afraid to give the same love and attention to both the positive and negatives of the company.
Barbed Wire City is a film that’s narrative can and will appeal to more than just the rabid ECW fan, but anyone who enjoys watching an examination a fascinating subculture and its ramifications on the world it existed in and the people who were involved in it.