Desmond Wolfe should still be working for TNA, their loss. - Photo courtesy of ImpactWrestling.com
The mystery behind Nigel McGuinness' rescinded WWE contract and sudden departure from TNA television in September 2010, has now been revealed by the good man himself in his fascinating documentary, The Last Of McGuinness. Read more to find out how the rumours matched up to the reality.
Author's Edit: Just to clarify, the views in this article are mine alone solely based on watching the documentary and also contain spoilers of the movie itself, to clear up past misconceptions that received coverage on this site. I encourage those who want to see the film unspoilt to read this article at a later date, and hope those who have already done so, aren't put off from buying the DVD.
So, now the story can be told about how Nigel McGuinness' / Desmond Wolfe's childhood dream to be a WWE superstar turned sour, despite being one of the best all round workers in the whole damn business, after the release of his fascinating documentary, The Last Of McGuinness.
It's easily one of the most introspective and honest DVD career accounts ever released in wrestling history, thanks to the independent nature of the project, which was funded entirely by Kickstarter and almost exclusively put together by McGuinness himself. There's a refreshing lack of corporate spin, which goes part and parcel with every WWE or TNA produced career retrospective or history piece, even the best ones.
I highly recommend our readers to treat themselves for Christmas and pick up a copy of the DVD from Nigel's official website, NigelWrestling.com, while copies are left. I don't think you'll regret the purchase.
It's a breezier, but not as happy go lucky, version of Colt Cabana's excellent Wrestling Road Diaries DVD, focusing on following Nigel as he travels back and forth between the United States and the UK for his bittersweet retirement tour that was held last year.
Unlike Cabana, who is still one of the most jovial and respected hands on the indy scene, we see McGuinness struggling to come to terms with the fact it was time to move on with his life; as despite his immense talent, it had become palpably clear to him that his life long ambition of wrestling for WWE would never come to fruition.
There's also some eerie real-life parallels to Darren Aronofsky's 2008 movie The Wrestler. Similar to Mickey Rourke's character Randy "The Ram" Robinson, after having a taste of the fame of being a national wrestling star, Nigel ends up working at a deli counter too, before seeking closure by stepping into the squared circle for one last run on small time shows.
However, the lasting message of the film is the same one as Devon Nicholson's documentary, Don't Bleed On Me... that from personal experience, allowing blading in wrestling matches today is an archaic, foolish risk due to the danger of spreading blood-borne diseases:
"It's my hope that people will stop intentionally bleeding on shows, promotions will stop allowing it, fans will stop supporting it and wrestlers will get tested and will get vaccinated."
McGuinness was relatively lucky compared to Nicholson, as he didn't contract Hepatitis C, like had previously been rumoured, but the less serious Hepatitis B virus instead, while working for TNA. Still, it took him a course of anti-viral medication to be cured of the illness after the infection didn't clear his system naturally, by which point the trigger happy TNA had prematurely fired him.
After watching the movie, it would be hard not to agree with Nigel that an industry wide ban on juicing is necessary and long overdue, but the likelihood of it happening is unfortunately very slim, as there will always be a niche group of fans that will crave their gore and a bunch of wrestlers that are willing to mutilate themselves to satisfy that blood lust in return for a big crowd pop.
Even TNA, who should know better by now, allowed James Storm at this year's Bound For Glory to bleed a crimson mask in his grudge match with Robert Roode. The fans ate it up, but in the end, they'd likely have still got the exact same "This is awesome" chants they were seeking, even without that unnecessary shortcut.
Though Nigel withholds from strongly criticising his former employer, the movie does come off as a sad indictment of them as a company. They have a plum spot on prime time on Spike TV, which is available in almost as many homes as the USA Network, yet Nigel is constantly reminded on his travels at how that exposure meant jack-shit for his public recognition.
This was yet another example of TNA's appalling treatment of talent; as mentioned earlier, like Taylor Wilde before him, he had to get himself a menial job, after the promotion dragged its feet in giving him a non-wrestling role as promised, so he could still afford to pay his bills while being on the sidelines.
In the end, they didn't stick by him in his hour of need, impatiently giving him his marching orders just one month before he was cured of his disease. He ended up with nothing to show for two years of loyal service to the second largest wrestling organisation in America, so hard done by, his parents even had to pay for his flight back to the UK to return for Christmas and his British farewell matches.
Nigel's frustration was more with WWE, as he felt they unfairly rescinded their developmental contract offer to him in October 2009, after a disagreement between his own personal physician and their company doctors, who have final say on whether someone is medically fit enough to be hired. Instead of trying to hide his history of bicep injuries caused from using a stiff lariat as one of his finishers, he was upfront about it, passing on all of his medical records to WWE, which related to him rehabbing them without surgery.
However, that bit him in the butt, as when the WWE doctors saw the MRI of his left bicep, they argued it should have been, and still needed to be, surgically repaired, which would have set him back $5,000 and six months without pay with no guarantee WWE would give him a contract at the end of it, something he couldn't afford at the time. So the decision to take TNA's contract offer instead was a no-brainer.
It's a shame WWE wasn't willing to sign him and pay for his surgery, he was such a great prospect it would have been worth the financial risk - maybe if they had done so, then he'd now be rubbing shoulders with CM Punk and Daniel Bryan on the main roster, and WWE's talent depth problems would be slightly reduced.
Part of what makes this movie a real pleasure to sit through is that Nigel's love for the art form (perhaps even bordering on an obsession at times) and strong understanding of ring psychology really shines through, despite all his trials and tribulations. This is reflected by how the wrestling footage is edited together, perfectly capturing the buzz of the crowd and the thrill of the moment. The story he tells is also aided by the interaction of his colleagues, friends and family, who all have starkly different perspectives on the value and worth of his career.
My only major criticism of the film is that Nigel doesn't probe in any great detail, the important issue of head trauma in professional wrestling, which was falsely believed to be the cause of his health problems at one point.
Even though concussions didn't directly end his career, one can't help but think that the depression he sinks into after losing his TNA job, and the mood swings he exhibits whilst filming his documentary, may have been exacerbated by all the brain bashing he took from working such a hard-hitting wrestling style in Ring Of Honor and Pro Wrestling NOAH for six years.
However, that's partly understandable, as it may have got in the way of the movie's narrative flow and muddied the waters a bit too much, and to be fair this may be covered in the DVD version with extra features.