Moderator: Welcome to our special chat with Beyond The Mat director – Barry Blaustein. The chat will begin in a few minutes. Please feel free to submit your questions. Barry will do his best to answer them in the time that we have. A reminder that the film will be released in Vancouver and Toronto on June 16th.
Argo: After producing Beyond The Mat, do you have more or less respect for the wrestling business?
Barry Blaustein: I have more respect for the wrestlers and less respect for other people in the the wrestling business.
Iman: Why did the WWF allow you to film material backstage and then come out against the film later? The same thing happened with the Bret Hart documentary a while ago.
Barry Blaustein: Many times during the filmmaking process, the WWF tried to invest and then buy my film. I refused to sell it to them, despite the fact that I would have made a nice profit. Vince is not use to hearing the word “no”. If Vince can’t own it, he’ll try his hardest to make sure fans don’t know about the film. In addition, Vince was VERY uncomfortable with the scenes of Mick Foley’s children watching him wrestle. It was a little too real for him.
Mr. Maestro: Will there be any extra footage or commentary when Beyond The Mat is released on video and is there plans to make it available on DVD?
Barry Blaustein: There will be some additional footage for the video and DVD, along with commentary by myself and many of the wrestlers in the film. However, I think the best way to see the film is in the theaters.
MachoMan: What footage was cut from the documentary that you would’ve liked to have kept in?
Barry Blaustein: Sometimes footage is cut because of time restraints. I had lots of good footage with Chyna and also really good stuff in the indie world where a woman wrestler didn’t show up, and Chris Adams had to go around this small town in Nebraska to find a local woman to participate in a “cat fight”.
Bill Bramley: Why weren’t there any WCW superstars featured in Beyond The Mat?
Barry Blaustein: WCW wouldn’t sign my release. They wanted editorial control over the film and I wouldn’t give them that. After the film opened, they called me and said they wished they had signed the release.
Erin King: Is New Jack really a convicted murderer…or is that part of his gimmick? What did you think about him?
Barry Blaustein: He really has four justifiable homicides and has done jail time for extortion and stabbing someone unrelated to his bounty hunting work. I like New Jack and even if I didn’t I’m smart enough not to say anything else. He’s a lot like his character.
Sheldon Harvey: Were there any wrestlers you wanted to interview or feature in the film who turned you down?
Barry Blaustein: Not really. Some turned me down, but most weren’t all that interesting.
Ernest Westa: Being a fan, how did you stay objective as you filmed Beyond The Mat?
Barry Blaustein: I approached the film as a filmmaker and not as a fan. I was interested in the wrestlers that I felt had the most compelling stories. As someone who has worked in LA for years, I long ago learned there is a big difference between a performers persona and their real personality.
Wes Wetanko: Are you interested at all in doing a film based on the book written by Mick Foley? I believe the life of Mick Foley is a great movie just waiting to be made.
Barry Blaustein: You never know. I think a good movie could be made from his book a la Private Parts.
Mr. Roboto: What did your family think of you taking three years to shoot a film about wrestling? Were they supportive and are they fans as well?
Barry Blaustein: They were supportive, but are starting to say enough is enough. My two children don’t like wrestling at all and wonder what has gotten into their father. My wife hates wrestling too. Though they’ve met a number of the wrestlers in the film and like them as individuals. They’re proud of the film. My son is the kid doing the yo yo tricks for Jesse Ventura. Nepotism lives!
Sandman: What exactly happened between you and the WWF over the making of the film?
Barry Blaustein: At the beginning of the film, the WWF was supportive. As they grew in popularity, their support waned. Thank God for strong contracts!
Turnbuckle Head: I’ve heard that the WWF is starting a policy wherein they won’t provide any of their talent to Internet sites for interviews…etc. Does this move surprise you? Why or why not?
Barry Blaustein: Nothing Vince does surprises me anymore.
Sheldon Harvey: Have you spoken with Jake the Snake Roberts after the movie was released and, if so, what was his reaction to the segments about himself.
Barry Blaustein: I spoke to Jake about a week before the movie had it’s Academy run in October. He hadn’t seen the film, but heard that Terry and Mick came off better than him. I told him they actually spend time with their children, so I guess they do. I do not know if Jake has seen the film. His daughter has and found it very cathartic.
DTC: Any plans to make another wrestling movie? How about a sequel to Beyond The Mat?
Barry Blaustein: I have enough footage probably for another film. But my family would leave me.
Chris: What is your personal opinion of Vince McMahon? Is he a genius promoter, or a heartless slave-driver?
Barry Blaustein: Both. I think Vince is an incredible promoter, a genius in marketing, but unfortunately like many in wrestling, he’s played a role on TV so long that he feels he has to be that way all the time in real life. There’s a good side to Vince, however that side becomes smaller every day.
Angel: What was it like to film backstage at WWF events? I hear they are very protective of their image and product? How did you get clearance to film what you did?
Barry Blaustein: It took a number of years to get their cooperation. And once I did I spent about 18 month on and off with them on the road. So when I finally brought in cameras, they were used to seeing me hanging around.
Mat Man: What other projects are you working on at present?
Barry Blaustein: I wrote with my writing partner, David Sheffield, Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps which comes out July 26th. See it after seeing BEYOND THE MAT.
Cuga: Do you still watch pro-wrestling and what do you think of the current happenings? Is there anything that’s going on currently that interests you more than the rest?
Barry Blaustein: Sadly, I still watch way too much wrestling for a grown man. Right now, it seems to be in a little creative rut.
Sheldon Harvey: Do you think professional wrestlers should have some sort of benefits package, or even a union?
Barry Blaustein: Definitely. Though there is so much paranoia among the guys, a union would be hard to form. But it is needed.
Shelly Ramma: Who was the easiest federation to working with during the production?
Barry Blaustein: All had their difficulties. WWF is hard because of the bureaucracy. ECW is great once you can get Paul Heyman to sit down, but that is incredibly difficult. I was going to call the movie “Waiting for Paul E.”
Wes Wetanko: Do you personally have a website or an e-mail address that fans can write to?
Barry Blaustein: There is a website for the movie, www.beyondthemat.net. Unfortunately beyondthemat.com is owned by a carpet cleaning company.
Danny Middaugh: What was it like working with the guys in the film(Funk, Foley, Jake)?
Barry Blaustein: All were different. Mick and Terry were very reliable. I used to kid them that they were in the film because they were the only wrestlers to actually return phone calls. Jake is a little less reliable, though the week I spent with him on the road was one of the great weeks of my life.
Greg Kinnean: Looking back who are your favorite wrestlers in the sport?
Barry Blaustein: Growing up, I liked Bruno Samartino and Bobo Brazil. Currently, I like anyone who is good on the mic.
Ken Yost: What was the most disturbing part of the movie for you to deal with on a personal level?
Barry Blaustein: The most disturbing parts for me were Jake visiting his daughter and Mick’s children watching him being beaten up.
Dave Sims: What is your most favorite match of all time?
Barry Blaustein: My favorite match of all time is the ladder match between Shawn and Razor at Wrestlemania X. I was there and I became totally involved in the match.
Mick Rude: Why did it take so long for Beyond The Mat to be released in Canada? Usually motion pictures are released in the U.S. and Canada at the same time.
Barry Blaustein: I really don’t know. I’m just grateful that it is opening in Canada on June 16th. PS: My wife is Canadian and from Toronto.
Wes Wetanko: Who have been your biggest influences as a director?
Barry Blaustein: There is no one big influence. There are so many I admire. Scorsese for one.
Mat Man: How did you get into film-making?
Barry Blaustein: I used to write on the side. Submitted sketches to Saturday Night Live. Got hired. Met my partner and then Eddie Murphy. And from there, I started writing movies.
Wes Wetanko: Is there still any interest on your part in making a film about the younger athlete’s trying to break into wrestling (a la Hoop Dreams)? I heard you mention before how this was your original idea for BTM.
Barry Blaustein: I’ve made my wrestling film. Though I think a film concentrating on the young guys could work, if you found the right guys.
Daniel Bradshaw from Toronto, Ontario: What do you think about the recent going-on’s behind the scenes of the big 3 federations regarding the networks role in each fed? i.e. WWF wanting to leave USA, ECW fighting with TNN…WCW’s big surprise?
Barry Blaustein: As a fan, I’m interested to see how it will all come down. Wrestling is at an all time high, and I question these networks who are ready to make such a huge investment in a business that has always been cyclical.
Rascal: Do you still keep in contact with the people you met during the filming?
Barry Blaustein: Some I do. I still speak with Mick and Terry on a regular basis and talk to New Jack every once in awhile.
Danny from VA: What was the most touching moment you experienced during the filming of Beyond The Mat?
Barry Blaustein: The most touching moment for me and the essence of the film is Mick hugging his daughter right before the Royal Rumble.
Rad: I know what we saw on camera…but what did Mick say to you about seeing the video of his kids’ reaction to what happened to him on pay-per-view.
Barry Blaustein: That was pretty much unedited. Mick was devastated by the footage.
Wes Wetanko: Are you a fan at all of Japanese or Mexican wrestling? It would have been interesting to see how many North American wrestlers must adapt to the lifestyles of these countries where wrestling is so popular because they have difficulty “making it” here.
Barry Blaustein: I would have liked to cover that, but my budget did not permit it. There are things I like about all the style of wrestling.
Mega Cage: Though Beyond The Mat depicts him in a bad light, what are your personal feelings towards Jake Roberts?
Barry Blaustein: I have mixed feelings about Jake. He is ultimately a very tragic figure, someone undone by his demons. Jake knows how messed up he is, yet can’t stop it. I hope he can get his life together.
Sheldon Harvey: Are the current ratings problems in the WCW an indication that pro wrestling may have finally peaked?
Barry Blaustein: I think wrestling has probably peaked. But I said that a year ago, so who knows?
DTC: Did you see Hitman Hart-Wrestling With Shadows and Ready To Rumble? If so, did you like them and how would you compare them to Beyond The Mat?
Barry Blaustein: I liked “Wrestling with Shadows.” I did not see Ready to Rumble.
Chris Schramm aka The Living Legend: When will it be out on video? Also, was there any wrestlers that have shown anger over how they were shown in the video? How bad was their reaction? Also, any good reactions?
Barry Blaustein: The movie will be out on video towards the end of August. The response from wrestlers both in the film and in the industry have been extremely positive. The only negative reaction I have gotten is from the McMahons.
Michael Freudberg: My girlfriend is interested in becoming a wrestler, with all your experience with making the movie, can you tell me if you think its worth it going into the wrestling business?
Barry Blaustein: NO. It’s an extremely hard business to succeed in, especially for a woman.
Sheldon Harvey: Are wrestlers today pushing the envelope too hard resulting in an increase in injuries. Is it the wrestlers who are pushing it, or are they being pushed by management?
Barry Blaustein: I think it’s a combination. Wrestlers push themselves further and further to get over and the promoter do little or nothing to stop them.
Daniel Bradshaw from Toronto, Ontario: Would you ever work with Vince McMahon again, after the difficult time he put forth in making and releasing Beyond the Mat? A&E and High Road Productions already made an Owen Hart Documentary…would you ever consider doing one on the entire Hart Family?
Barry Blaustein: As far as Vince, never say never. As far as the Harts, I feel Wrestling with Shadows covered that.
DTC: What is your opinion of Vince McMahon, Eric Bischoff, Vince Russo and Paul Heyman? Likes and dislikes about these 4 men?
Barry Blaustein: I think Paul Heyman has an incredible mind and could probably rule small countries. Vince Russo was always pleasant to be around and you have to admire what Vince McMahon has accomplished.
Wes Wetanko: Being a wrestling fan yourself, did your perception of the business and your perception of say, some of your favorite wrestlers, change during filming?
Barry Blaustein: Not really. I realize sometimes there can be a great difference between a wrestler’s persona and their real personality.
Barry Blaustein: I would like to thank all the internet fans for supporting the film. Without your help it would have never gotten a theatrical release. I hope the fans in Canada go to see it in the theaters on June 16th. Other fans can tell you, seeing it in a theater with other fans is a special movie experience.
Explore more articles in Slam Wrestling’s Beyond the Mat story archive.