First, thank you for the "Last of McGuinness" DVD I purchased that you brought me this past Saturday at Ring of Honor.
I viewed the film in one sitting this afternoon, turning off every smart phone, computer, tablet that I own to pay attention to the film without any of the usual distractions, because I wanted to try and view it as someone seeing the film in a theater at a film festival might, not as someone who's around pro wrestling treating it like just another pro wrestling DVD.
It's going to be easy for a pro wrestling fan to fall in love with the film. The hardcore wrestling fan already knows your credentials as a talent and has an overall awareness of your career highs and lows. To me, the wrestling films that really succeed are the ones that can take that unique world we have all fallen in love with and explain it in such a way that it transverses from the realm true fans live within and educates those who would ordinarily dismiss or mock it.
To make it short and sweet, I was blown away by several specific segments of the film but the discussion of the art of professional wrestling performance with your narration over the ROH bout with Tyler Black may be the most impressive explanation of why the business is something, in its best moments, to be revered and I doubt anyone but a worker of your level could have had the grasp of the inner workings yet been able to communicate it in the literate way that you conveyed it.
Documenting the end of one's in-ring career could not have been easy - especially given the circumstances you were dealt - but to be as honest with yourself and your audience as you were...it must not have been an easy pill to swallow, not when you were documenting the film, not during the editing and not rolling it out for the masses to see. The raw reactions you allowed in the final product - from your frustrated rants to the "Bert & Ernie" moment with Eddie Edwards, took us on a journey of a man not trying to transverse the wrestling ring to say goodbye, but his own ego, his own id, his own heart - and you truly provided the most unique insight into a professional athlete at the crossroads of not just his career, but his life, that I can ever recall. You captured the weirdness of the road, the happiness of the solitude and the inner sadness that invades it as quickly as excitement does, dead on.
As I watched the film, I came to a realization that the film wasn't about you ending your pro wrestling career but the story of someone having to grow up and come to grips with life not taking him the way that he wanted it to lead him. Much like someone who can't accept that someone is gone from their life or that a relationship has ended, the film, to me, is more about you trying to figure out the Rubik's Cube of life now that the answers you assumed were correct no longer are.
I applaud you for not just the breakthroughs that you document in the film, but especially the setbacks you go through, sometimes repeating the same thoughts and concerns and frustrations - because that's how life really is. There was no time watching the film where I shook my had and said, "Well, that was a work." There's no one moment where the story neatly wraps up and you have your resolution - that's how life truly works, where some days you are great and some you are haunted - and I was blown away by your honesty and choice to capture that, when a lesser man could have white-washed it away.
Whether you meant this to happen or not, using the visit with your family as the prism to see how others viewed and measured whether the time spent in your career was a worthwhile investment or not was a great choice. The reactions of your father to you not getting to make millions of dollars in WWE, the reaction of your mother getting to see you wrestle for the first time and your sister's response to how you measured your career were really telling in how one often views their own sense of worth and achievement vs. how others see them - and just like many others in life, what we do achieve is never good enough for ourselves, even though they are blow away achievements to everyone around us.
I also thought that your search for answers and whether it was "worth it" also echoed the age old question of "Why are we here?" Whether you seeking out the wise old wizards Les Thatcher and Robbie Brookside or just the insight of your friend Alan, the reality is that the answer was not whether it was worth it, but whether you are able to make peace with your surroundings, your situation and your past - that is true for not just you, but all of us. It seems like by the end of the film, you have found some solace and I truly do hope that is indeed the case.
As you can imagine, I have seen just about every documentary in and around pro wrestling that I can get my hands on and to me, this was in the top 1% in terms of quality films, just based on the raw emotion that comes with working that final tour. From the brotherhood with guys like Shark Boy to the highs and lows of celebrity life within a certain bubble of fandom to the ending of the tour going awry through no fault of your own - you captured it beautifully with the editing, the musical choices and the personal reflections.
As the film went on, I kept waiting for that inner rage over your personal situation to break through to the surface and when the tour was done, I thought, "Wow, he handled that far better than I would have." Of course, the day after the tour when you finally let loose and vent your anger over the decisions made by those who control the purse and puppet strings of the business, one couldn't help but tear up seeing how close you truly were to the next level.
Suffice to say, I loved the film and the closing narration over your road trip - beyond beautiful, almost something you'd expect to hear cited and read from scripture. I don't know what the future will hold for you, but I sincerely wish you peace and happiness as you enter the next chapter of your life and hope the next project you do work on outside of pro wrestling, you are able to convey that same range of emotion and passion - the same things that made you such a tremendous asset to the business will serve you well in life.
What happened to you was not fair and you have every right and reason to rage against the machine for the rest of your life, but the fact you have tried to turn those negatives into so many positives since, speaks well for you as a man.
As you said to Jerry Lynn over the weekend, "You'll always be over with us." The same can certainly be said for you. Godspeed.
Mike Johnson has never been so happy paying for a DVD. For more on "The Last of McGuinness", visit www.NigelWrestling.com.
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