The series is called Dark Side of the Ring, but the April 30 episode based on “The Sandman” James Fullington felt a lot lighter and failed to reveal much new information about the man many consider a hardcore icon.

The show opened with Sandman musing that he wanted to do things no one else had ever done in wrestling – in this case it was bleeding before he entered the ring for a match.

It was that kind of insight, not only from Sandman but from his ECW cohorts, that was shared throughout the episode. It felt more like an extended shoot interview with colleagues telling some of the wild, but not necessarily new, tales of the man’s life and times.

Sandman explained he grew up on 1970s WWWF and wanted to become a wrestler but his poor decisions prevented that initially.

He claimed he was coked up and drunk and then proceeded to burglarize a home. He subsequently went to jail. While serving time he got into even more trouble for punching a prison guard in the face after an argument over the jail’s TV got out of hand.

He stated he had to serve six months in the hole for that transgression. Personally, I would have liked to have heard more about that experience.

Sandman then shared that after drinking heavily in a club, he was approached by a woman to be a Chippendales dancer. He took that job and worked it for about a year before he was fired for arranging paid sexual encounters for himself and the other dancers.

He finally met Lori Fullington (aka: Miss Peaches), fell for her and married her before she delivered the couple’s first child.

Wrestling entered the picture in the early 1990s when he caught on with the Tri State Wrestling Alliance and then Eastern Championship Wrestling (which would transform into Extreme Championship Wrestling).

His original character was a surfer and he wore a wetsuit, carried a surfboard and had suntan lotion on his nose. ECW founder Tod Gordon admitted that the gimmick was bad, but Sandman had size, a good look and was athletic.

When Paul Heyman arrived to the company in late 1993, one of the first things he did was tell Sandman that the surfboard was being broken over his head. Weeks later Sandman apologized to Heyman for not remembering his wrestling boots, to which Heyman said he didn’t care if he wore wrestling boots or not.

The Sandman lights up. Photo by George Tahinos,

The Sandman lights up. Photo by George Tahinos,   MORE IN GEORGE TAHINOS’ PHOTO GALLERY OF THE SANDMAN

Those comments set a light bulb off in Sandman’s brain and he decided to just be himself. The surfer character transformed into a cigarette-smoking, beer drinking, unpredictable and violent drunk who dressed in street clothes.

Sandman himself described the new character as the type of guy who loses a game of pool at the bar and then wants to fight the guy who beat him.

The drinking was legit and he stated that he would often drink six or more beers while walking through the crowd to the ring as “Enter Sandman” by Metallica blared. His colleagues didn’t seem to mind that he often wrestled while drunk, with both Rob Van Dam and Sabu stating he was a better wrestler when inebriated.

A lot of time was spent on the Sandman-Raven feud that saw Raven steal Sandman’s wife and child. This is a topic that has been done to death in wrestling magazines, shoot interviews and podcasts and I felt too much time was devoted to it.

It was interesting to get the perspective of Tyler Fullington (Sandman’s son), but because he was only five years old at the time of his participation in the angle – there wasn’t a lot of insight there. The infamous cross angle is also discussed – again another topic that has been spoken about a lot. Kurt Angle being in the arena for the angle is a well-known and established story and at this point the show just felt like a look back at ECW and not Dark Side of the Ring.

A ridiculous story about Heyman hiring Macauley Culkin to portray Sandman’s son is told by Sandman, but that is shot down instantly by Gordon who said Heyman was lying.

The years in ECW took a tremendous toll on Sandman, as he shared he’s broken 27 bones and many other injuries. The ECW style caught up to him and he got hooked on pain pills. He combined that addiction with his existing issues with booze, other pills and cocaine and it turned into a dangerous mix.

Raven and Bill Alfonso told a story about Sandman nearly overdosing on heroin while they were travelling in the car and having to call 9-1-1 when his lips went blue and he stopped breathing. He did receive the lifesaving care he needed that night though.

Sandman’s brief time in WCW was touched on, but that was where his family life took a drastic turn.

To try to compete with the muscular giants at WCW, Sandman began taking large amounts of steroids and that use changed his mood for the worse.

His daughter Kelly Fullington recalled that he became abusive to her mother, while her mother was subservient and scared of his violence.

Lori said she had her hair pulled, had a pillow stuffed on her face and also suffered significant mental abuse from her changed husband.

The Sandman and Lori Fullington. Photo by George Tahinos,

The Sandman and Lori Fullington. Photo by George Tahinos,  MORE IN GEORGE TAHINOS’ PHOTO GALLERY OF THE SANDMAN

Alfonso recalled being at their house one night and Lori had enough. She poured out $10,000 worth of steroids to Sandman’s shock.

Sandman and Lori divorced and he remains apologetic for what happened with her. He admitted that he put her through hell and it was all his fault.

The show concludes with a very brief look at his run with the WWE’s version of ECW. Sandman did not seem to be a fit on the brand and the show described it as unremarkable.

Personally, I would have liked to see a bit more time spent here. Sandman was involved in the first match for the brand, had a match at WrestleMania 23 (which wasn’t even mentioned) and had a great throwback moment at the first One Night Stand show. I would have liked more insight from those moments.

The show also ended off on a bit of a whimper, as his kids tell a story about bailing him out of jail after a drunken rampage. It’s not explained what he’s done since disappearing from WWE’s ECW or what he is up to now. It left a bit of an empty feeling.

His wife and children both came off very well in the show and made a logical case for why they feel the way they feel. The other wrestling personalities added very little and what they did add was things they’ve already said before on other platforms. Tod Gordon had some interesting thoughts and I do think his story would make for a good Dark Side of the Ring.

Ultimately I was disappointed with the show. I’m not sure how to feel about Sandman after it or what the story was that they were trying to tell.

He was a violent, but simple wrestler and, much like his character, this show didn’t go very deep.

TOP PHOTO: The Sandman in ECW at a show in Buffalo, NY. Photo by Terry Dart