Barbed Wire City… The Unauthorized Story of ECW Documentary
Not Just For Wrestling Fans
I wanted to use the space this week to talk about a few things I love about our documentary.
One of the major reasons I wanted to make this documentary is a void I saw. The lack of combining matters very involved pro wrestling fans would like to see in a film about wrestling, with the clarity and narrative quality that would make this film accessible to anyone who doesn’t watch, or necessarily like, pro wrestling. Most of you reading this probably fall into one of those two categories. So if you like pro wrestling, I hope you’ll watch and support the film. I’ve done a lot of interviews with wrestling websites and publications over the last 8 months, and I’ll be doing a lot more, so hopefully wrestling fans are aware of us and what we are doing. I’ll try to write a blog just for you guys next week. But if you don’t like pro wrestling, I’d like to talk to you right now.
It was important to us in constructing this film that it focused on two areas: The business of an underdog company in the pro wrestling industry, and the human element. Not everyone cares about pro wrestling –or baseball, rock music, the circus, nuclear power plants, conditions in third world countries, food, etc. for that matter. We all have different interests. So what makes us discover and want to learn more about something outside of our daily lives through things like documentaries? Usually it involves the curiosity of wanting to know how something works, and at the same time being emotionally drawn in by some human element we find a way to emotionally relate to, or at least understand. That’s exactly what we’ve tried to present with our film.
If you don’t know anything about pro wrestling that is OKAY. You don’t have to know anything about pro wrestling to enjoy this film. It might help or enhance moments, but I don’t think it is necessary. It’s almost more interesting if you don’t. The film studies a wild time in that industry, specifically a company called Extreme Championship Wrestling that had a culture and vibe unique to its industry. They were outlaws in an outlaw “sport,” to borrow the words of a journalist in our film. The people that we will introduce to you on this journey are human beings who had dreams of making it big in there profession, just like you and I might. But these men (and women) were willing to go a step further for these dreams, probably too far. And why they did it—what motivated them—is at the heart of this story.
Some of these people you’ll be meeting in the nineties, or in the early part of this century, and then again in the year 2012. That’s because a staple of our narrative is a reunion that brought many of these men back for one big show. So you’ll see how they turned out over a decade later. Some have found peace, and some still struggle today. They aren’t all the same. You might love some of them, you might not love others. The important thing to remember is that all of them aren’t just wrestling characters, and they aren’t presented as such in our film. They’re people who lived fascinating lives, and their stories are intertwined to this day.
You’ll meet Tod Gordon, the businessman from Philadelphia who started ECW. You might be surprised to meet him, especially given the image and reputation of Extreme Championship Wrestling. I think the colorful personalities of people like Mike Durham and Ted Petty will jump off the screen at you. The blunt statements and opinions of someone like James Fullington or Scott Levy are always interesting. The fascinating stories of Jerome Young, Brian Knighton, and John Rechner might spark some discussion and emotional reactions upon viewing the film, especially for anyone unaware of their personal stories. There are touching and humorous moments in the film, and there are tragic moments. You’ll meet members of the small staff of ECW, like Gabe Sapolsky, Kathy Fitzpatrick, Dan Kowal, or Ed Zohn, who lend unique opinions from their era of involvement as the company rose from a mom and pop operation and attempted to hold it together as they became a national entity.
We’ll introduce you to Paul Heyman, the polarizing ring leader of ECW and one of the central figures in our film. The character study that’s conducted through our dozens and dozens of interviews, along with Heyman’s decisions during the course of ECW’s history, should create some interesting post-viewing discussion among people who aren’t familiar with the wrestling industry.
Billy Corgan, longtime wrestling fan and creative force behind the band The Smashing Pumpkins, added a lot of smart, intelligent thoughts to our documentary. This film will also introduce you to the pro wrestling media (yes, there are people who professionally cover pro wrestling), who have a lot of varied opinions about what they cover. And there are so many more. Perhaps my favorite is a gentleman I met in Queens, New York over a decade ago.
Tony Lewis, a regular guy who worked for the city and happened to love pro wrestling (particularly ECW), is probably, to some degree, my favorite part of this film. If you have preconceived, stereotypical notions about whom wrestling fans are, you should really see Tony see this film for Tony. Thoughtful, emotional, and passionate, Tony helps crystalize not only what Extreme Championship Wrestling meant to its fanbase, but the sense of community they had and shared. Meeting him, and being able to document his story, was one of the best parts of my job. A chance meeting again in 2012 at the aforementioned reunion was the cherry on top, and having that moment on camera is maybe, for me, the best 30 seconds of the film.
I implore you not to dismiss this as simply a wrestling film. Instead, think of this as a documentary that provides a window into the subculture of a distinctive performance art, and that art just happens to be pro wrestling. Don’t judge it until you’ve seen the film. We hope you’ll summon the intellectual curiosity to take a glimpse into this journey, because we think you’ll be surprised to find yourself rooting for our subjects, and wanting to know more about the human element. Barbed Wire City is surprisingly human.