Thanks to people like Vince McMahon and others, the curtain has been pulled back on the world of professional wrestling a long time ago. Although a majority of the audience now understands that the results are predetermined, the drama around the sport continues. And as amazing as the drama in the ring is, the real-life characters and drama outside of the ring provide just as many stories. No series has been able to uncover as many of the characters and backstage stories as Dark Side Of The Ring (2019 – 2021).
The start of the third season Dark Side Of The Ring takes on the story of the true loose cannon Brian Pillman. While his time on earth was cut short, Pillman had a tremendous effect on the pro wrestling world. He was known to live his gimmick while also working with everyone around him. But I am getting a little ahead of myself; let’s start the review where the episode does … at the very beginning.
As told by his sister Linda, Pillman had a rough childhood. At a young age, Pillman had been given dozens of throat surgeries, including an emergency tracheotomy performed on a doctor’s dining room table. Pillman did not let that stop him and, in many ways, it seemed as if the surgeries may have hardened him. Eventually, after finding his way through fights and other issues, Pillman took that energy and applied it to becoming an All-American college football player and eventually having a short NFL and CFL career. During this time in his life, Kim Woods enters. Woods gave Pillman the idea of visiting the famous Hart Dungeon to learn the tricks of the trade in professional wrestling. Getting Kim Woods to agree to be part of the episode was a good get for the Dark Side of the Ring crew. Throughout the episode, Woods provides some great insight to which few, if any, were privy.
Most of the rest of the first hour wraps up exploring Pillman’s start in the business and his love of his family. The story of his early career focused on the constant start and stop of his pushes as management changed. The bigger focus was on the family that he had always wanted. Focusing on wrestlers’ lives outside of the ring is one of the places where Dark Side Of The Ring always shines. We get to know the long and twisting road that makes up Pillman’s family. From having a child he did not know about until years after they were born, to the pressure that a growing family puts on Pillman — all of it helps to drive the story.
The second half of the show begins to focus on the loose cannon character. The question about the character, however, is how much of the character is real and how much is just that: a character. The truth is that what happens in the wrestling ring is often known by many well before it happens. The loose cannon persona allowed Pillman to blur that line between what was real and what was not. Like much in wrestling, who knows what all depends on who you ask. One of the glaring examples comes from the story of Pillman getting his release from WCW. Kim Woods swears that no one knew Pillman was playing both sides for money. Meanwhile, Eric Bischoff, who would look the worst if he admitted that Brian pulled one over on him, says he always knew what Pillman’s plan was.
Many of the reveals are best left for someone to watch on their own. I will leave you with this: several times I teared up at both the life that Pillman had lived and the fights his kids have had to go through since then. In the end, you are reminded that people are put in certain places for a reason. It is obvious that Linda Pillman loved her brother and his kids and, without her, the tragedy of Pillman’s early death would have an even more negative effect on his children.
DARK SIDE OF THE RING: SEASON 3 EPISODE 1 and 2
EVEN STORY TELLING10.0/10
ENDING FILLED WITH HOPE9.5/10
MAKING ERIC BISCHOFF LOOK STUPID10.0/10
NOT CALLING OUT MELANIE PILLMAN6.0/10
TALKING HEADS TAKES8.0/10
- Cast: Steve Austin, Eric Bischoff, Jim Cornette, Chris Jericho, Brian Pillman Jr, Melanie Pillman, Jim Ross
- Director: Jason Eisener
- Producer: Jason Eisener, Even Husney
- Network: Vice TV