Greg Whiteley is an expert at portraying the underdogs as heroes, and he’s no different in this winning documentary.
The OVW are practically nobodies outside the pro-wrestling scene, and they know it. They describe themselves as a “third tier” that trails behind more well-known companies like WWE and AEW, with one manager even likening their team to an indie film. If the WWE and AEW are Michael Bay movies, he says, then the OVW is like the highly-rated but little-seen movie The Squid and the Whale. But though their underdog status is bad news for their dipping financials and fanbase, it makes for a compelling story in Wrestlers. The docuseries pulls the curtains on the OVW and acquaints us with the owners, managers, accountants, and of course, the wrestlers, who are all struggling to keep afloat this act they love so much. “Wrestling is the art of physical storytelling,” CEO Al Snow says, and it’s clear that director Greg Whiteley believes him. He captures the OVW lovingly, intimately, making us privy to their highs and lows, celebrations and disagreements, and everything in between. He never forces us, either, but rather invites us to this world as naturally as possible. You may start watching this knowing very little about the OVW, but you’ll leave knowing and caring about them a little more.
There is a nostalgic feel to Wrestlers that makes it stand out from others like it. It’s shot in what appears to be a film camera, accompanied by old folk-rock songs, and mostly set in small towns around middle America, which makes certain scenes feel like they were fished straight out of the ‘70s. In the second episode, there is a montage played to the classic rock ballad Come Sail Away by Styx, and it is absolutely perfect. It shows the wrestlers’ bodies viscerally flying and slamming to the ground, the audience cheering and booing, and the owners of OVW pushing and pulling in their own way. It’s such a beautifully visceral scene, edited in a way that shows how closely Whiteley understands both the subjects and viewers of his documentary.
What did you think? Who should watch it?