The best wrestling documentaries you can watch online right now
Professional wrestling is fascinating
And sometimes what is going on behind the scenes is actually the most interesting part – which is what makes wrestling documentaries so great.
Two new major wrestling documentaries were announced this week – one focusing on WWE owner Vince McMahon, the other on Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Those won’t be with us for a while though. So with that in mind, we’ve put together a list of some of the greatest wrestling documentaries you can stream right away.
Beyond The Mat (Available on Netflix)
Fans have always known that professional wrestling wasn’t quite on the level, but in 1999 Beyond The Mat gave us a look behind the scenes of the industry like never before. In an age where every wrestler has their own podcast, it is easy to underestimate how rare it was to see people speak so openly about how the business really worked.
Filmmaker Barry W. Blaustein got access to all levels of American wrestling: in the WWF creative meeting with Vince McMahon, backstage with cocky young upstarts ECW, and on the road with the melancholic legends of yesteryear. But like all great documentaries, what makes it truly special are the characters it captures, like the loveable Mick Foley, the tragic Jake Roberts, or the unintentional comedy of veteran Dennis Stamp, who just wants to be booked.
Dark Side of the Ring: 'Benoit' Parts one and two (Available on All4)
Each episode of Dark Side of The Ring covers a different tragic story from wrestling’s past. Subjects have included the murder of Bruiser Brody, the death of Owen Hart and the insane life of the infamous New Jack. But if we had to pick just one to recommend, it would be the two-part season two opener on the Chris Benoit murder-suicide.
Widely regarded by fans as one of the best talents of his generation, Chris Benoit killed his wife Nancy and their son Daniel before taking his own life in June 2007. It is one of the industry’s greatest traumas, which WWE refuses to talk about to this day. The episode follows Benoit’s career alongside that of his best friend Eddie Guerrero, who died in 2005, and features interviews with Chris Jericho, Jim Ross, Nancy Benoit’s sister Sandra Toffoloni, and Chris Benoit’s surviving son David. It is a difficult watch, but also a powerful and engrossing one.
Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends: ‘Wrestling’ (Available on iPlayer and Netflix)
Louis Theroux is obviously a national treasure, but hardcore wrestling fans might think his humorous take on things wouldn’t have much to offer them. They would be wrong, as Theroux gets to go backstage during the dying days of WCW, and interact with the likes of Roddy Piper, Randy Savage and Goldberg.
The most memorable scene comes when he gets to try out at the Power Plant, WCW’s infamous training centre. Theroux is subjected to borderline torture from trainer DeWayne Bruce after Theroux has the gall to suggest that the match results might be pre-determined. If it is any consolation Louis, he did pretty much the same thing to Dave Bautista.
Gaea Girls (Available on YouTube)
Wrestling isn’t just about American glitz and glamour. Japan has its own diverse culture of wrestling that spans everything from ultraviolent deathmatches to MMA-inspired grappling.
Gaea Girls is a great insight into this world. This brutal verité doc follows the trainee wrestlers at the women’s promotion Gaea Japan. Their incredibly tough training becomes a hard watch at times, but it is fascinating viewing, and a good way to disprove anyone who think wrestlers have it easier than ‘real’ sportspeople.
The Last Ride (available on WWE Network)
The WWE Network is filled with hours and hours of wrestling documentaries. There’s loads of interesting stuff on there, but WWE definitely have a tendency to airbrush their own industry, and you sometimes feel you are only getting one side of the story.
One documentary definitely worth pointing out in particular though is The Last Ride. This six-part series follows the last few years in the career of The Undertaker, as he faces up to retirement. The fact that the title echoes that of The Last Dance cannot be a coincidence, and this can definitely be seen as the wrestling version of that epic series, chronicling the last bow of one of the sport's most iconic figures.
Andre The Giant (available on Sky Go)
There will never be another figure like Andre The Giant. Standing 7 ft 4, in a time before camera phones or even regular wrestling on TV, he travelled from territory to territory as a special attraction, wowing the crowd and then moving on before his mystique could fade.
The slick HBO documentary probably won’t tell wrestling fans anything they don’t know about Andre, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. Executive Produced by Bill Simmons, the co-creator of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series, it features contributions from everyone from Hulk Hogan to Arnold Schwarzenegger, and is packed with wonderful archival footage.