Dark Side of the Ring (Season 4) Review
BENEATH the spectacle of professional wrestling lies a dark and grizzly truth littered with deception and heartbreak. The lives of wrestlers are often long-lasting, but for those unfortunate few, what awaits is a short life of wasted potential or a long life of sorrowful regret. Dark Side of the Ring returns for its fourth season to recount new stories from the past and present in an all-to familiar manner that feels too humdrum considering this is the docuseries' fourth straight year.
Narrated by wrestling legend Chris Jericho, Dark Side of the Ring once again tells 10 real-life stories from the wrestling world, including tragedy striking wrestlers in their prime due to substance abuse, behind-the-scenes scandals costing entire companies, and the day one wrong move results in a lifetime of regret and pain for all parties.
The appeal of this long-lasting docuseries has always been what tales from the wrestling diaries will be told; a reason to why Season 2's two-part premiere Benoit remains the series' greatest episode due to the mystery and heart-breaking circumstances surrounding it. The long-lasting impact of tragedy is something that will always bring in viewers, and in turn, improve the quality of the product due to the amount of information showrunners have to work with. The unfortunate truth of Season 4 is that it's been dampened by the sheer quality of its previous ones, and while this doesn't discount the sadness of any hardships mentioned in Season 4, the magnitude of horrors seen in previous episodes is not present this season; a blessing for the world and a curse for this latest season.
Season 4 kicks off in similar vain to Season 1's premiere by revolving around another tumultuous relationship: Chris Candido and Tammy Sytch. The episode focuses on their rise in the early 90s before their inevitable fall in 2000s following constant cheating accusations and drug abuse, resulting in the death of Candido in 2005 after complications from surgery left the wrestling star in a worsened state. The episode also follows Tammy and her present blacklisting from the wrestling world after numerous arrests and drug complications. While an interesting choice to kick off the season, the premiere still maintains enough intrigue to keep the story flowing over the course of an hour, but its solid opening leaves the rest of Season 4 struck by badly-paced episodes feel, begrudgingly, too similar in style and substance.
With the exception of three episodes at the end, the entirety of Season 4 is continuous stories revolving around wrestlers hitting their stride before succumbing to their own addictions in the form of prescription drugs. It is a sad turn of events where a whole series is hurt by the fact most wrestlers suffer from the same problems, but it is the truth regardless. However, the other three episodes do feature wildly different stories, including Hulk Hogan's infamous Bash at the Beach 2000 incident, Abdullah the Butcher's blood-filled career falling following self-inflicted harm ironically causing more damage to his opponent them himself, and Marty Jannetty's constant strive to be in the lime light - even if it means lying about murder. These three episodes, while incredibly different, shift the tone of the show from foreseen tragedy to intriguing mysteries and two-sided stories that seek to bring the viewer along for the ride rather than have them as a third party spectator.
Dark Side of the Ring's fourth season continues to open up the world of professional wrestling beyond the squared-circle, and although it achieves that in spades, the manner of which it showcases these stories remains monotonous and unchanged; a major problem for a docuseries going on four years. Most of the tales are very similar in structure and take up the entire middle portion of the season, but if you only check out the final trio of episodes, Dark Side of the Ring's latest season will keep you engaged for the whole ten-count.