Like many of you, I have become a huge fan of Dark Side Of The Ring.
Over the last year, Jason Eisener and Evan Husney have teamed up to deliver us 13 (aired as of the moment I type this) excellent documentary episodes covering some of professional wrestling's darkest and most controversial happenings, both in and out of the ring. Some episodes feature the sad story of a wrestling personality that passed away at far too young an age, while others feature angles that turned out to be disasters for one reason or another. No matter the topic, Eisener and Husney and the rest of their team approach them with copious and equal amounts of research and respect.
A third season of the show is all but guaranteed at this point, with ratings and viewership staying high, so it got me to thinking about what topics we're missing. First and foremost, I wanted to be as realistic as possible with these topics. They had to be things that could be turned into an hour-long television episode. There have been plenty of "dark" moments that would make for an entertaining YouTube short or something of that nature, but they don't have enough meat on the bone to stretch the topic for an hour. Perhaps more importantly, though, it has to be subjects that we could actually see. You're not going to see a lot from modern day WWE, as Vince McMahon isn't exactly going to give the green light for people under his employment to be on the show bad mouthing things that were undoubtedly his doing. That narrowed the list down for me, which was nice.
Without wasting any more time, here are some of the things I'd personally love to see Dark Side Of The Ring cover moving forward, in no particular order.
The Death Of Miss Elizabeth: The very first episode of the show covered the story of "Macho Man" Randy Savage, Miss Elizabeth, and their time together, both as a real-life couple and as an on-screen duo. Now it would be time to focus on one of the more surprising deaths in the history of the business, with Elizabeth Hulette passing away due to acute toxicity at the age of 42. She was always viewed as being the classiest of the classy, and for her to essentially die of an accidental overdose of painkillers and vodka seemed insane to everyone. Of course, making the entire thing even wilder is that she was with her boyfriend at the time, and that boyfriend just so happened to be wrestling legend Lex Luger. If you're wanting to add even more drama to the story, Luger was arrested for battery after an attack on Elizabeth left her with two bruised eyes, a bump on the head, and a cut lip. That attack took place less than two weeks before her passing. When news of her passing first came out, a lot of people naturally assumed Luger had more to do with it than just finding her unconscious body and calling 9-1-1. This is the kind of tragedy-shrouded-in-mystery-covered-in-tragedy that DSOTR excels in covering.
Magnum TA: In 1986, the National Wrestling Alliance was trying to match the success that rival promotion WWF was having with Hulk Hogan and the newfound WrestleMania franchise. It sure as hell seemed like they had a possibility of matching Hogan's success with Magnum TA, who was on an astronomical rise up the promotion's ranks. He was the epitome of those weird sayings that were often said about celebrities in that era, where every man wanted to be like him and every woman wanted to be with him. He had already been the United States Champion on two occasions and was being groomed for a run as the World Heavyweight Champion when he was injured in a car accident, ending his career instantly. In the blink of an eye, the NWA was left scrambling and looking for a top tier face to take Magnum's place. What happened was almost unheard of back then, with NWA Booker Dusty Rhodes deciding to turn vicious anti-American heel Nikita Koloff face, right as Koloff and Magnum were feuding. You just didn't see anti-American wrestlers turning face in the mid-80's. I'd love to see more in-depth interviews with the likes of Magnum, Koloff, Barry Darsow (more famously known as Repo Man or Demolition Smash, but who was known as Krusher Khruschev at the time and was feuding with Magnum), and many of the other names from the mid-80's NWA scene talking about what one of the greatest "What if..." scenarios in the history of wrestling.
The Death Of Chris Kanyon: While Chris Kanyon isn't on the same level as the other deceased wrestlers that the show has covered as far as career accolades and being a household name, but his story is an important one nonetheless. While he was an active in-ring competitor on big stages, he was always one of the more underrated and underappreciated performers around, but it was his post-spotlight time that should get a lot of the attention here. Starting off as an openly gay wrestling character, while saying that it was just a work, only to come out and admit that he truly was a gay man that had spent his career being closeted. Pro wrestling usually isn't the most forward thinking scene, with homophobia, sexism, and racism (more on that later) running rampant through the years. With more and more openly gay, bisexual, and transsexual wrestlers popping up in the business these days, it would be interesting to hear from some of them in this type of episode, as well as from the likes of Diamond Dallas Page and the people who knew him best during his career. He wasn't the first wrestler to fall under the LGBTQ umbrella, but he helped open doors for a lot of people that showed up after him, and his story deserves to be told.
The Sid Vicious & Arn Anderson Incident: One of the more bizarre incidents in wrestling history, this is a story that almost didn't make the cut (pun intended) because I had to really think about how much meat it really had. Initially, I didn't include it, but then I figured Sid's career could get more inclusion in the episode, from the "squeegee" incident with Brian Pillman to his gruesome broken leg in 2001, and a few other strange twists and turns along the way. The infamous fight with Arn gets the bulk of the time here, though, as it was very close to ending up as one of the sport's great tragedies. It's not even an exaggeration to say that Sid was nearly stabbed to death by Arn Anderson at a hotel in England in 1993. Personally, I've always been a fan of how 2 Cold Scorpio has described what happened on that night, as he was one of the first wrestlers on the scene after the fight broke out. The man has a very, let's say, colorful way of telling a story, and it would make for fun television for those who haven't heard him before. As someone who ranks Sid Vicious as his all-time favorite "guilty pleasure" wrestler, I'm glad he didn't suffer worse that night, but this is a story that is almost too ridiculous not to be shared.
The Death Of Brian Pillman: If you don't know anything about Brian Pillman's life story, you're missing out. It's a fascinating roller coaster ride, full of ups and downs. Dozens of surgeries on polyps in his throat during the first three years of his life, permanently giving his voice a gravelly rasp. A college football star at Defensive Tackle, despite being incredibly undersized for the position. Seeing his football dreams die, only to switch to pro wrestling and begin training at the Hart Dungeon, of all places. Lots of success with WCW, from Light Heavyweight Title and Tag Team Title reigns to a spot in the Four Horsemen. Scamming Eric Bischoff on his way out the door in WCW. A car accident that nearly ended his career shortly before he signed his WWF contract. The "Pillman's Got A Gun" segment. The Hart Foundation. Found dead in his hotel room on the day of a WWF pay-per-view, taken down by a heart attack brought on by heart disease at the tender age of 35. It's all there. As I said, there are ups and there are downs, but all of it would make for must-see television.
The Plane Ride From Hell: This is an event that has risen to almost mythical proportions over the years. How can so many people completely lose their minds at the same time on the same flight? Obviously, alcohol and pills played quite the role here, but my goodness, the sheer amount of happenings on this plane ride in 2002 is insane. You have Curt Hennig and Brock Lesnar having a shoot amateur wrestling match in the aisle, before both men reportedly slammed into the plane's emergency exit while the plane was somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. There's the story of Vince McMahon and Kurt Angle having a more playful shoot wrestling match, only to awaken a sleeping Undertaker, who thought Kurt was attacking their boss, forcing Taker to lock Angle in a chokehold until he was told that the fight was all in fun. There's Michael PS Hayes punching Bradshaw (before he became JBL) after a verbal altercation, only to have Sean Waltman cut off his hair after he passed out. Oh, and before the incident with JBL, Hayes reportedly tried whipping his penis out in front of none other than Linda McMahon, thinking that he was in the restroom and looking to urinate. Ric Flair, asshole naked except for his ring robe, flashing himself to flight attendants. Dustin Runnels taking control of the plane's P.A. system so that he could sing drunken love songs to his ex-wife, Terri, who was also on the plane. Conflicting reports about Scott Hall, ranging from him doing nothing wrong on the flight to him being so blacked out that people had to check his pulse to make sure he was still alive. This all happened on one seven-hour flight! Hall would be released from his contract soon thereafter, as would Hennig and Runnels. The event would change how the company handled chartered flights, and for good reason.
Racism In Wrestling: As I said before, pro wrestling has a very lengthy history of not having the most forward thinking ideas and people making the final decisions on things. Even to this day, you'll see wrestlers of different ethnic backgrounds playing into common stereotypes that they've had to deal with for decades. Black wrestlers almost always have to rap or dance. Asian wrestlers almost always have to be Martial Arts practitioners. You're Polynesian? You're now a "savage" of some sort. I will freely admit that a lot of those gimmicks don't always come from a place of true malice, but it has always been something that stands out in the business. Recently, with KofiMania exploding onto the scene, we were constantly reminded about the lack of black main event wrestlers through the years, despite some very, very talented names that have come and gone in different promotions. There are some people who believe the entire idea of racism in wrestling is overblown, either because they think the general idea of racism as a whole is overblown or because they just think it's more about doing (and not doing) things to get heat in the business, but this could be a very fired up hour of television for everyone if you present the right "cases" and interview the right people about them.
Chris Candido & Sunny: I was thinking a lot about this one, and I initially had both Chris and Sunny/Tammy getting their own episode. Their stories have a ton of things to discuss, but if you were to focus strictly on Candido, a lot of things disappear because Sunny is directly responsible for them. Putting them together for one episode is just fine. At one point, they seemed like a good old-fashioned All-American couple. High school sweethearts who joined the wrestling business, with Sunny regularly being a valet for Candido as he began rising through the ranks of various independent promotions throughout the United States before making it to the "big time" and signing with the WWF together in 1995. That's when things began to unravel, though, as Sunny had an affair with Shawn Michaels (and had rumored affairs with the likes of Bret Hart, Davey Boy Smith, and others). Candido was out of the WWF within 18 months of his debut, while Sunny had a legitimate claim of being the hottest woman on the planet, as America Online (look it up, kids) announced she was the most downloaded celebrity in all of the internet in 1996. Candido had a respectable post-WWF career, winning championships in ECW and WCW, but his career and life would come to an end in 2005 while he was working for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling after he came down with a severe case of pneumonia. It's sad to even have to say this, but it's almost stunning when a professional wrestler dies of something like pneumonia versus dying of something like suicide, a drug overdose, a heart attack, or a car accident. Sunny's post-WWF career has been absolutely riddled with substance abuse and legal issues, putting her in and out of jails and rehab facilities across the northeastern part of the country, as well as some dabbling in the adult entertainment business along the way to earn some extra money. The whole thing is just sad to sit back and look at.
Vince McMahon On Trial: Admittedly, I'm not even sure of how much you could get people to say in this episode. You're certainly not getting Vince McMahon, or any of his family members, to talk about him being on trial in 1994 and being accused of being a steroid distributor to his employees through a doctor in Pennsylvania that was more than willing to write prescriptions to wrestlers for whatever type of medication they could ever dream of. You're not going to get Hulk Hogan, who was called to testify in the trial and who was viewed as someone who could have played a big role in a potential guilty verdict for Vince, to say much of anything. You could get Kevin Wacholz, who wrestled for the WWF as Nailz in 1992, to talk because he has always had a lot to say about Vince McMahon, but his credibility was torn apart during the trial when he was painted as nothing more than a disgruntled ex-employee with an axe to grind and revenge to seek. No matter who you can and can't get to talk, this is a story that could've destroyed the WWF. There was serious, serious doubt as to whether or not the WWF could survive a guilty verdict, as they weren't exactly at their financial or creative peak at the time, and Vince was facing nearly a decade in prison. Think about that for a minute. Think about everything the WWF did from 1994 through, say, 2003. The Montreal Screwjob, the Attitude Era, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, DX, WrestleMania going from arenas to stadiums, the list goes on and on and on... we might not have seen any of it if Vince went to prison. With WCW on the rise, and without Vince to steer the WWF ship, would Ted Turner's promotion have dominated in every aspect, eventually putting the WWF out of business? That type of "fantasy booking" would play a big role in an episode like this, and again, it might have to if you can't have any of the big names involved in the trial appearing on-camera for interviews.
The Sandman's Crucifixion: If there's an entry here that would fall under me breaking my own rules a bit, it would be this one. At face value, I don't think you could stretch this one thing out into a 60-minute (including commercials) television episode. It was a very controversial event, sure. That part isn't up for debate. If you're new to the ECW scene, it happened at an event in 1996, while The Sandman was feuding with Raven. After an ambush attack on Sandman, Raven had him tied to a giant wooden cross with a barbed wire "halo" around his head, mirroring the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. ECW crowds were notoriously vocal, bloodthirsty, and supportive of anything their "home" promotion did, but this was different. They sat in stunned silence for the entire thing. Paul Heyman, as always, was able to read the room and noticed the crowd was upset, so he made the unprecedented decision to send Raven back out to the ring later in the show to break character and apologize for everything that happened earlier. Perhaps the most important part of the entire thing was that Kurt Angle was in attendance. This was before he was ever signed with the WWF, and Heyman was trying to woo him to sign with ECW. Angle, a religious man, was so offended by the storyline that he stormed out of the arena and told Heyman he wanted no parts of his company. Imagine if Angle had signed with ECW. Would he have still been the pro wrestling "natural" that he ended up being with the WWF? Angle's in-ring style certainly matched what ECW wanted to do as far as their non-hardcore matches, but could Heyman have marketed him properly to help the company bring in extra eyeballs on their product, and therefore, extra dollars? Looking at the timeline of the entire thing, this was almost two full years before Angle signed a WWF contract. Even though Angle was known to have a negative opinion of pro wrestling at the time (even before the Sandman and Raven stuff), he could've made quite the mark on the business for ECW. I'm not saying he would've helped them defeat WCW and the WWF or anything, but he proved he had all the potential in the world. Once again, these are the kinds of "What if..." scenarios that could really add content to episodes like this. Mix that in with a little bit of general ECW talk about the characters, stories, and moments that made them famous, and you have yourself a full episode of DSOTR with no problem.
What say you, Fightful Fanatics? Using my loose criteria for potential episodes (things that could be turned into a full episode and things that would actually happen without things like WWE interference, etc), what are some topics you'd like to see covered on future episodes of Dark Side Of The Ring? As per usual, hit me up on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage) or in the comments section below and tell me some of your ideas.
Until the next time... you better lose yourself in the music, the moment. You own it. You better never let it go. You only get one shot. Do not miss your chance to blow. This opportunity comes once in a lifetime.