Wrestlers Season 1 Review – An excellent docu-series that absolutely “gets over”

Season 1

 

 

Episode Guide

Ohio Valley Wrestling
Cheap Heat
Faces & Heels
Get Over
Mother
About Face
The Big One

 

Professional wrestling is an artform. Specifically, it’s the art of physical storytelling. As the wrestlers in Netflix’s latest docu-series will tell you, the idea is “to work an audience to make them believe”. And that belief comes from creating a compelling narrative, told by compelling characters, who create a compelling match inside the squared circle.

While everyone has heard of WWE and, to a lesser extent, AEW, few have actually paid attention to the third tier of wrestling. And that’s really the focus of Greg Whiteley’s (who Directed Netflix’s smash hit Cheer) latest docu-series.

We’re in the heart of Louisville, Kentucky at the heart of Ohio Valley Wrestling Gym (OVW). Owned by former WWE superstar Al Snow, he’s up to his eyeballs with stress; he’s worried that the company could go under at any moment. That’s obviously bad news for the rising stars and hopeful athletes working in the promotion in a bid to push into the big-time.

OVW has an illustrious history of moving athletes onto bigger things, given it was a feeder promotion to the WWE for a long time. Athletes like John Cena, Batista and even Brock Lesnar honed their skills and moved on from here, eventually pushing into the big-time and onto greener pastures. Now though, those pastures have started to dry up and turn to worrying shades of brown. In a bid to try and get the field a luscious shade of green again, OVW is given an injection of money from new co-owners Craig Greenberg and Matt Jones.

These two are outsiders; money men who want to see their investment grow. Unfortunately, this also means invading the tight-knit locker room and making changes that ruffle feathers. What’s particularly interesting here though is seeing the push/pull feel between the two sides as the season progresses. Al Snow is a wrestling vet of over 40 years and knows what works in the business and what makes it tick. Matt and Craig though want to broaden out the audience so it’s not quite so niche, and that means attracting more of a mainstream crowd.

Matt in particular ends up causing a rift in the promotion during those early episodes, which ultimately comes to a head later on in the show. Similarly, there’s an on-running narrative with two specific athletes that feels like a central pillar to the show’s characters. There’s HollyHood Haley and her mother Maria, who have both grown up around the wrestling business. Given they’re mother and daughter both inside and outside the ring, this conflict comes to a head during episode 5 in a particularly interesting chapter, aptly titled “mother”.

These two get a lot of screen-time, as does Al Snow, who finds himself reflecting on his career in the final two episodes as he considers stepping back in the squared circle in a bid to try and generate revenue and boost audience numbers for a culminating PPV called “The Big One”. That’s not to say that others are shunned or pushed to the side though!

Among the other athletes on the roster, we have the heavyweight champ Mahabali Shera, Freya the Slaya and Mr Pectacular. The latter is a particular favourite with this reviewer, and in a way feels reminiscent to the Miz from WWE. He has that charisma and X-factor that makes you love hating him – and you can tell he loves that side of the business. And business is the name of the game here.

Director Greg Whiteley has done a great job getting up close and personal with the different athletes, and understanding their backstories as well as what drives them to try and succeed in OVW. You can see those obvious influences from Cheer right the way across the 7 episodes, and the show thrives with its human interactions. That absolutely enhances this series, which features plenty of bumps, pops and slams to keep you hooked until the end.


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  • Verdict - 8/10
    8/10
8/10

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