- Hamish Hart
Dark Side of the Ring Season 3 Review
DESPITE peaking early with the two-part season premiere of Brian Pillman's tragically-short career, Dark Side of the Ring's third season still provides valuable information and professionally describes some of wrestling's most infamous events and personalities.
From lost battles with addictions to ultra violent deathmatches and backstage confrontations, Dark Side of the Ring is an episodic documentary series where each episode focuses on a particular story or wrestling icon, with one episode being split into two for more well-known and deeply-entangled tales such as Season 2's heart-wrenching two part documentation of the murder-suicide of Chris Benoit, his wife Nancy and son Daniel.
In order to garner viewer interest, many of wrestling's most interesting and egregious stories of fantasy blended with reality were used in the series' previous seasons, leaving little for the third season to work with. However, despite being left with pittance, high-profile historical content, Dark Side managed to produce a masterful two-part season premiere on Brian Pillman; a gifted wrestler who blurred the lines between fiction and reality with his "Loose Cannon" persona, but tragically passed away aged 35 after substance abuse caused by never-ending stress from home and work. The double episode special focused on Pillman's controversial career, discussing his failed familial relationships before ending with emotionally-charged sit-down interviews with friends and family, including his son Brian Pillman Jr, who now wrestles to carry on the legacy of his late great father.
The quality of the premiere episodes were too high to match as the rest of the season, while good, failed to match the high expectations set by Pillman's documentary. Episodes such as "The Collision in Korea" and "The Ultra-Violence of Nick Gage" focused on wildly-different subject matters; a group of wrestlers being held hostage in North Korea and a deathmatch wrestler who lives every day as if it were his last, respectively, and while each had their own unique quirks and shocking moments, they lacked the emotional connections that the series had been known for, opting to showcase spectacle rather than sentimental material.
One of the major aspects Season 3 has going for it as appose to previous seasons is its production quality. Professional wrestling legend Chris Jericho returns to narrate all episodes, doing a fantastic job as his voice simmers in the background and blends well with the shadowed recreations of superstars old and new, and even small details such as introductions to interviewees feel more natural, using lowered camera shots to express their larger than life personality and prominence in the tale they are telling.
Dark Side of the Ring's third season may not hold a candle to its previous seasons, but the episodic documentary is still a testament to the wrestling industry as a whole, showcasing how the "fake sport" houses harrowing consequences and plagues the bodies of those who endure its legitimate pain and agony.