A wrestler delivering an elbow drop off the top rope will hit the mat and his opponent at 25 kilometres per hour — one of many facts mentioned in Slam Bam, a two-hour documentary heralded as a scientific adventure through pro-wrestling. Though there may be a science involved in wrestling, this program exposes the painful trek of becoming a wrestler more than the physics of sports-entertainment.
Premiering December 19 at 8 p.m. on Canada’s Discovery Channel, Slam Bam follows the life of wannabe wrestlers as they train for several months for an upcoming card, entitled “The Big Show” (not to be confused with WWE’s Paul Wight). The two-part documentary shows what is involved behind each high flying move and the often dangerous outcomes of miscalculation.
The first part of Slam Bam, “That’s Gotta Hurt,” serves as an introduction to professional wrestling and answers the age old question: “Is wrestling real?” A montage of accomplishments and stats introduces wrestling legend Bret “Hitman” Hart, who would provide his personal insight on various aspects of wrestling throughout the show. Viewers are also treated to a nice introduction to the students and trainers of Squared Circle Training, the show’s main cast of characters.
Comments from Hart and trainers Rob Fuego and Steve Cvjetkovich that emphasize the realness of this sport do very little to captivate the audience. However, this emphasis becomes ever poignant when each student provides a roll call of their injuries with the painful aid of bone crunching sound effects and illustrations of the human body, which show the various points of injuries. This makes for a very agonizing, yet humourous audio and visual experience.
Part two, entitled “The Show Must Go On,” is highlighted by the students’ training in the weeks leading up to “The Big Show.” Several moves such as the cross body press and head scissor takedowns are demonstrated in great detail. Each move is then repeated several times to show the severity (again with graphics and sound effects) of the move when it is improperly executed.
Several trainees are injured along the way. One key moment is when a student Shantelle Malawski performs a cross body press and her opponent, Tiana Ringer fails to land properly, receiving a concussion in the process from a knee to the side of her head. This footage would replay ad nauseam several times throughout the show. Trainer Rob Fuego and a few students provided some interesting insight into a wrestler’s psyche, showing that wrestlers will do anything to make it to the main event — including taking steroids and working hurt.
The documentary concludes with “The Big Show,” where the students performed in front of a live crowd of several hundred fans. It can be said that each wrestling move involves leverage, momentum, and velocity. The show subtly incorporates the subjects of physiology and kinesiology through computer animation and descriptions. This makes for a more entertaining program, not typical of those shown on the Discovery Channel.
Slam Bam is well packaged with a selection of generic rock tracks combined with an “old school ring announcer” voice for narration. Although the narrator’s voice became a slight annoyance after a while, the audio and visual presentation did compliment each other very well, embodying the sometimes sarcastic and colourful theme of professional wrestling.
Overall, Slam Bam was more of a behind-the-scenes look into the pro-wrestling industry than a scientific trek. For both fans and non-fans of wrestling who are curious about what it takes to be a wrestler, this documentary is a fun and worthwhile viewing — especially among a group of friends.
Slam Bam premieres Sunday, December 19 at 8 p.m. on the Discovery Channel in Canada.