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Netflix’s Tiger King is the most pro wrestling thing

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Joe Exotic’s Instagram

As a professional wrestling blogger, I’m already inside staring at screens more than I probably should be. But like many of my fellow humans, I’ve been spending even more time enjoying the great indoors over the past couple weeks. And, following the lead of what seems like the entire internet, this past weekend I spent some of that time with the Netflix documentary series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.

Six-ish hours later... I have a lot of thoughts. Several of them are about this tale - which describes how self-described gay redneck Joe Exotic’s quest to destroy crazy cat lady-on-steroids Carole Baskin led to him losing his private zoo and possibly framed for murder-for-hire by Jeff Lowe, a guy who makes ECW-era Paul Heyman look like an ethics professor - being just the most pro wrestling thing.

That description, which actually undersells the levels of Jerry Springer in filmmakers Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin’s look at the world of big cat owners in the United States, probably sounds like something TNA wished they’d come up with circa 2010. I could rest my “this is pro wrestling” case there.

But it turns out there are actual legitimate wrestling connections to this thing.

And I don’t just mean Undertaker and Michelle McCool’s recent trip to visit Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, the founder of The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.). Antle’s doctorate is in “mystical science”, by the way. And at least by the picture painted of him on Tiger King, he also may brainwash women into being his wives, and kill tiger cubs when they get too big for profitable cuddle time sessions, so... maybe double-check who you’re cutting promos for there, Phenom.

Most of the actual pro wrestling ties come from the documentary’s main focus. Joe Exotic is pretty much a living breathing gimmick, which you can probably tell by the fact he gave himself the name “Joe Exotic” (born Joseph Schreibvogel, his legal surname Maldonado-Passage is taken from a couple of his husbands - like Antle, Joe is a polygamist). He’s Spike Dudley working Adrian Street’s gimmick, if Street was doing a Bob Orton impression.

A fews year back, Exotic got involved as a promoter for NWA Texoma Wrestling (now just Texoma Pro Wrestling since Billy Corgan owns the NWA brand). He even put on shows at his GW Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. Joe’s YouTube channel has videos of several complete “events”, which featured familiar names like Erik of WWE’s Viking Raiders and former NWA Worlds champ Tim Storm.

Capitalizing on Tiger King mania (everybody’s doing it!), the NWA released an entire interview with Storm about his experiences with Joe Exotic.

The NWA Texoma shows aren’t nearly as entertaining as the Netflix series, but wrestling Twitter has been kind enough to pull a few of the more trainwreck-y clips from them.

Oh, there’s also this.

So if you’re on the fence about spending some of your quarantine time diving into Tiger King, just know that it’s a lot like watching pro wrestling - just without the in-ring action. And if you want some of that, just head to Joe Exotic’s YouTube.