I am a huge fan of documentaries, more so than movies. They tell a story, raw and unscripted, where more often truths are told. Unlike today’s world of professional wrestling which is scripted to the last detail, there’s a new movie that takes us back to the days when most matches were ad libbed. The stories told in the ring drew fans into their world of make believe and made them believers. The characters, the fans, life on the road, the dressing room antics, the thrill of victories, and the agonies of the feet, and hands, and backs, and knees — it’s all told here in the documentary 350 Days.
The title refers to the typical life of a professional wrestler who lived and performed his craft on the road for that many days in a single calendar year. Within those days, it shows what can happen in a 24-hour period of time. The pain, the pleasure, the driving, the drugs, the promiscuity, the broken marriages, the disruption of family, the ups and the downs. The story is told by those who lived it, loved it, and survived to tell about it.
The cast of characters featured in this film are iconic hall of fame athletes who have a story to tell and boy did they spill the beans. Superstar Billy Graham opened up like a broken water main. Bret Hart dug deep into his memory vault. Wendi Richter drew back the curtain on the life of a female wrestler. Greg Valentine, Ted DiBiase, Paul Orndorff, Bill Eadie, JJ Dillon, George Steele and many others detailed the good, the bad and the ugly of their lives as a pro wrestler.
With rotating subject matter such as the travel, homelife, drugs, arena rats, matches, friendships, pain and punishment, each subject was talked about in depth and with brutal honesty. Each person had a tale to tell or word of wisdom to relate. You find yourself hanging onto each word as if it were a prophecy, a life lesson to be learned, a guide of “don’t do as I say, and be careful to not do what I did.”
The toll of 350 days on the road is displayed on everyone’s face and battered bodies. Paul Orndorff and Lex Luger look a shell of their former selves. When speaking of the open drug use, the absence in the lives of their families, the loneliness, the constant pain and how they dealt with it, the viewer struggles to absorb it all, questioning the life they chose to live. You are left to sympathize for those who gave so much, so you, the fan, could be entertained.
Shown in theaters across the U.S. on July 12th, it’s hard to say at this point how well it was attended. At the theater I went to, there was about 40 people, only three of which I recognized from the wrestling world. Reports that as little as single digit patrons were in some venues, while gala premiers with wrestling dignitaries, producers, directors and plenty of fans, were hosted in NYC and Los Angeles to rave reviews.
At the Detroit premier which featured a 30×70 foot screen, the sound was loud and clear for the brilliant soundtrack that accompanied the film. The featured stars were actually bigger than life on the huge backdrop where the roar of the popcorn and the smell of the crowd filled the room.
In my opinion, the documentary was nothing short of spectacular. Knowing many of the wrestlers on a personal level, they spoke eloquently and openly, yet it was sad to see that many are no longer with us. My heart goes out to those who participated and will never know how much their involvement made for such a tremendous film.
Talking with fans after the viewing, all were satisfied and positive in their assessment. There were minor glitches like Marty Janetty moving back and forth so often, causing his image to blur half the time. Another person commented that if Ox Baker was such a great chef, why did he use a flimsy pan that darn near buckled instead of using a cook’s dish to make his hamburger menagerie? Others agreed that many guys in the film seemed to be in kayfabe mode, trying to put themselves over instead of being honest and open.
My one gripe has nothing to do with the quality or content of the documentary. My beef is the lack of support shown by our local indy wrestlers. The invaluable information and life lessons they could have learned for the price of admission would have been far better than learning things the hard way. Also, today’s wrestling fans. So what if your current favorite superstar in not in this film? The history lessons expressed by these stars of the glory days of wrestling, any current TV diva never has and never will experience what a hard adventure they paved for future performers. You become a fan, short for fanatic, only by learning the history of the sport we love, learning the way a human plays a character but also how a character defines a human. It’s a movie worth everyone’s time.
The producers plan on releasing the film on DVD but have yet to set a release date. When it does become available, hop, skip, jump, swim, fly or do whatever humanly possible to have this in your video library.
350 seconds defines a typical old school squash match. 350 minutes denotes the time it took on a road trip to get to and from the arena. 350 hours is the time I plan on watching this in the future. So I give 350 Days 350 stars, in deep appreciation of the likely 350 weeks that it took to put together.
NOTE: 350 Days is back in a select few theatres in the coming days: 7/25 in Rockville, MD at the Regal Rockville Center 13, 7/26 in Summerville, SC at the Regal Azalea Square Stadium 16 and 7/26 in Las Vegas at the Century 16 Santa Fe Station.
- Interview: ‘350 Days’ takes a look at life outside the ring
- Review: ‘350 Days’ could have used a tighter focus
- 350 Days official website