Earlier this year, we told you about the documentary from ESPN that was filmed at The WWE Performance Center. Well, E:60 Pictures Presents - WWE: Behind the Curtain premeires tomorrow night (May 5, 2015) on the Sports Leader, and advance word is starting to trickle out from media types lucky enough to have gotten eyes on the thing.
And the thing sounds as great as the trailer made it look. It's possible, as I'm sure was the aim, this could be a key piece of Vince McMahon's vision of being seen as a sports entertainment company.
That also means further burying the concept of kayfabe, where wrestlers keep up the veneer of their characters and play out their conflicts with one another a little (or sometimes a lot) farther than a regular actor would.
ESPN Coordinating Producer Ben Houser talked to The Post & Courier's Mike Mooneyham about the doc, of which the long-time chronicler of pro graps has seen an advance copy.
Houser is up front about the ESPN team's desire to get further into the process of creating a WWE star and show than anyone else has before. Deep enough that there was some pushback from employees who are used to keeping up a veil of secrecy.
Our goal was to tell a story that hadn't been told about the WWE and their talent development system, NXT. Who are the real-life people behind the characters? How does the WWE create characters? Evaluate performances?
At our first behind-the-scenes NXT shoot in Orlando, Fla., at Full Saill University, we got resistance from some of the WWE television folks. No one had ever before been allowed to film rehearsals, backstage during an event, in the locker rooms, or interactions between agents and performers before and after matches.
As fans who spend time reading and writing about pro wrestling on the internet, this level of access might be new, but the knowledge of the kinds of things that go on backstage are not. So even while the grumpy old fan in me complains a little bit, I am excited to see a slickly produced film from one of the biggest sports companies in the world that will hopefully give me some answers, or at least new perspectives on the artform I love.
But I do wonder if we're not stripping it down so far that we're taking away some of what makes wrestling so special, something that helped a lot of us fall in love with it in the first place.
Mooneyham's final thought on what he saw both sums up my excitement and fear:
The documentary is a riveting can't-miss for wrestling fans. And when it's over, you'll never boo Adam Rose again.
But what if I want to boo Adam Rose? Or, what if the story WWE Creative is telling needs me to?
Here's the network's promotional copy:
E:60 Pictures presents WWE: Behind-The-Curtain, a new one-hour documentary film featuring unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to Vince McMahon's billion-dollar global empire. The show will follow three amateur wrestlers on their grueling, high-stakes climb with dreams of making it to the big show, complemented by candid interviews with WWE President Vince McMahon, his Executive Vice President of Talent Development, Paul Levesque (or ‘Triple H') as well as former WWE talents Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock - Dwayne Johnson, and Hulk Hogan. The result is an inside look into what is perhaps the greatest spectacle in sports entertainment - with its extravagant productions, flagrant drama, and sold-out arenas.
With flagship show Monday Night RAW drawing four million viewers per week, storied WWE owner and CEO Vince McMahon reveals the reason behind the brand's success: "Talent is the only natural resource we have, without it we have nothing. There's no product. There's no shows. There's no anything."
For decades, McMahon and WWE have created some of the most iconic characters in pop culture — Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Rock and John Cena.
But before they become household names, WWE characters are carefully developed in a minor league system, NXT - led by WWE icon and current Executive Vice President of Talent Development, Paul Levesque, aka, "Triple H". It is a backstage world no one has ever had access to - until now.
E:60 Pictures Presents - WWE: Behind the Curtain airs tomorrow night at 8PM Eastern on ESPN.