Netflix’s Wrestlers Is a 5 Star Classic

Image courtesy of Netflix

With all apologies to Dave Meltzer’s rating system for wrestling matches, Netflix’s Wrestlers is a five star classic documentary. The seven part series is available to stream in full now & if you haven’t already seen it, close this article now and go watch it. (There are some spoilers in this article). This series will appeal to wrestling fans and non fans alike. It’s a documentary with heart, about people willing to face struggle head on and chase their dreams throughout the toughest of obstacles.

The Background

Netflix’s Wrestlers focuses on Ohio Valley Wrestling, a promotion based out of Louisville, Kentucky that has over 20 years of history, with huge wrestling names like John Cena, Randy Orton, CM Punk and Batista all wrestling there on their rise to superstardom. OVW was once business partners with WWE but aren’t anymore. This series focuses on their current talent roster, new owners & management and their financial struggles without the big money backing from WWE.

Legendary professional wrestler Al Snow runs OVW these days, bringing decades of experience to his young talent roster, where he not only teaches and mentors, but also writes the shows and handles all aspects of OVW’s creative process. Al has a management team around him but he is the heart and soul of the company and really comes off extremely likable throughout the series. Al loves the business of pro wrestling and despite the stresses of running a business like this that is losing a lot of money, his passion is never in question.

Al is flanked by new owners, who bought into the company in an attempt to help his financial woes. Matt Jones, one of the new owners, is a pivotal figure in the series. He’s an outsider to the world of wrestling and is quite brash and hardline to start but by the end, really endears himself to both the crew and viewers. It’s almost a redemption story of sorts for Matt and by the time the final episode is over, you can really see Matt and Al working well together, something that didn’t seem possible at the beginning of the show.

Dream Chasers

Netflix’s Wrestlers follows around many of the wrestlers and crew members from OVW and one thing they all have in common is that they’re each chasing their dream. For each, the dream looks different though. For veteran wrestler Cash Flo, the dream is to keep doing what he loves. He’s not dreaming about the big stage of the WWE. He’s doing what he loves and just wants to keep doing this and make OVW bigger along the way.

C$sh Flo sits on the edge of the ring
Image courtesy of Netflix

For “HollyHood” Haley J, the dream is the bright lights of WWE. She’s 22 and ambitious. Her story is perhaps the most captivating of the entire series and she has true breakout potential. Haley is a young mother, just like how her mother was. She had a difficult childhood and has resentments towards her mother, veteran wrestler Maria James, who is a backstage official for OVW. Haley and her mother get to work through so much of their complicated relationship as a result of a storyline feud, where art was imitating life and lead to arguably the highlight of the whole series when they had their big match to end episode 5.

In many ways, Haley J and Maria James are the emotional climax of the series with their grudge match in the fifth episode. It’s bloody, yet artistic like a giallo film. It’s the best that pro wrestling has to offer in the sense that while we, the audience, know that it’s a story with a pre-determined outcome, it doesn’t matter. There are two artists, telling this complicated, multi faceted story with their bodies that we know has elements of reality mixed in. For non wrestling fans viewing this documentary, this is their gateway drug. “HollyHood” Haley J and Maria James blurred the lines of reality and got us to suspend our disbelief, all while taking us on a roller coaster of emotions. Art in every sense of the word.

HollyHood Haley J in the ring
Image courtesy of Netflix

One of the other most captivating stories throughout Netflix’s Wrestlers is the tale of Mahabali Shera, “The Indian Lion”. Shera is all heart and his story of having opportunities with larger companies that didn’t work out, combined with the sense of self imposed pressure he feels to succeed in this business is both relatable as well as heart wrenching. You want Shera to succeed and his journey throughout the series doesn’t always feel fair, but is very true to pro wrestling. Much like with “HollyHood” Haley J, you want Shera to achieve his dreams and feel every ounce of his struggle.

A Fresh Story

Netflix’s Wrestlers feels fresh. It’s not doom and gloom like Dark Side of the Ring. It’s uplifting and inspirational, all while being very honest about the realities independent wrestlers and promoters face. It’s gripping because you feel invested in these people and their journey. You want Bryan Kennison to keep his job. You want Al Snow to be able to finally take a deep breath and feel less stressed. Pro wrestling at its core is about characters who tell stories with their bodies and here, we are deeply invested in the characters.

Mahabali Shera stares down James Storm in the ring
Imagine courtesy of Netflix

The dilemmas of the story also feel fresh and modern. Al Snow represents how things were done in years past and Matt Jones represents the changes we’re currently seeing in society. Is change for the best? How does the tried and true playbook mix with new philosophies and strategies? The world is changing but does that mean everything changes? Nobody knows the answers to these questions but Netflix’s Wrestlers asks these questions without beating us over the head with it.

This documentary is absolutely for both wrestling fans and non fans alike. It’s a love story about a business that doesn’t always love you back. It’s a story about chasing your dreams despite the odds stacked against you. It’s a story about pain, healing and moving forward. It’s a story about giving it your all. We can all relate to these things, which makes this a story for everyone.

Written by Andrew Grevas

Andrew is the Founder / Editor in Chief of 25YL. He’s engaged with 2 sons, a staunch defender of the series finales for both Lost & The Sopranos and watched Twin Peaks at the age of 5 during its original run, which explains a lot about his personality.

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