What to watch: Dark Side of the Ring

IT'S STILL REAL TO ME, DAMMIT! Let's look at Vice's breathtaking look at some of the biggest tragedies in professional wrestling history.


I don't know if you all know this or not, but I've spent an unfortunate amount of my life watching the greatness that is professional wrestling. And for as much as these shows and events have been for the past four decades, it's hard its share of dark stories and tragedies. That's what's made Vice TV's Dark Side of the Ring series so fascinating. So for today's What to Watch, I'm recommending Dark Side of the Ring, which is kicking off its third season this week.

Vice actually posted Part 1 of its Season 3 premiere early, telling the tragic tale of Brian Pillman. If you're a casual or a newcomer, you may not know the story of the Loose Cannon. You may be more familiar with his son, Brian Pillman Jr., who's currently one half of the Varsity Blondes in All Elite Wrestling. Brian Pillman Sr. was a trailblazer in a lot of ways. He was one of the earliest high flyers in North American wrestling following a football career that was cut short by an ankle injury. Pillman was in line to be a star, but it never came to be due to several changes in management in WCW.

Even with his singles career stalled, you can't keep talent down for long and Pillman would become one half of a breakout tag team called the Hollywood Blondes, where he teamed with some guy named Steve Austin. The management changes continued to wreak havoc with WCW and even as Austin and Pillman looked to be ready for the next level, management would continue to hold them down.

Pillman would ultimately reinvent himself in a way never before seen in pro wrestling at the time, carefully towing the line between the fake world of wrestling and the very real behind-the-scenes world that ran it. Pillman became an unpredictable entity, coming across as "real" in a fake sport. He seemed poised to become wrestling's next big thing, coincidentally launching into the stratosphere at the same time as old partner Steve Austin.

Then tragedy struck.

I won't spoil too much of the above, but it's worth the watch for fascinating chats with wrestling luminaries like Jim Ross, Eric Bischoff, Jim Cornette, and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin himself. Vice also spoke with members of the Pillman family, including Pillman's sister, kids (including Brian Jr.), and widow.

It's absolutely worth a watch, as is Dark Side of the Ring as a whole. You can actually catch a lot of the first two seasons in their entirety on the Vice YouTube channel right now.

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