Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Developmental Hell


After an unavoidably staggered start last spring, Beyond Wrestling made up for lost time, with five DVD releases in a year, not including "Pop" Culture, which the guys released Radiohead-style for free on YouTube.  The first two established BW's hectic and anarchic tone--with cutting-edge wrestling of, by, and for wrestlers ... no fans, thus no pressure from promoters to give fans what they expect for their money.  Wrestletopia merely confirmed what the first two videos set up, that Drew Cordeiro's goal for Beyond Wrestling was achievable:
to compete with those who value self-expression, craftsmanship, and camaraderie more than popularity, stability, and tradition.
The next release, Keep the Streak Alive, didn't work for me at all.  The talent and the energy were there, but it was all over the place.  Compared to the rest, it looked rushed and amateurish ... spontaneous, sure, but also directionless, disorienting.  But that disappointment has preceded BW's strongest effort yet.  Ordinarily no fan of WWE-flavored soap opera, I was surprised at myself for enjoying the guys' foray into melodrama in Developmental Hell.  On the whole, it is done very well, with a hint of kink to whet my appetite for more--and barely enough homosexual panic to fuel a small bible college.  (You can buy all five disks on Smart Mark Video and Facebook--they are sharply produced for the price.)  

The overarching storyline of Developmental Hell is that Chris Dickinson, BW's hottest and most ruthless competitor, is plotting against the organization.  Noted for crippling his opponents and thus also their careers in wrestling, Dickinson is no longer satisfied with being a mere heel.  Now he wants either to rule BW or, insanely, to demolish it, "insane" because it has been the springboard for his own bourgeoning pro-wrestling career.

Corvis Fear, the closest thing BW has to a champ, warns Denver Colorado (Cordeiro's character) of Dickinson's bad ambitions.  Colorado naively interprets it all as personal animosity between Dickinson and Fear and ignores the clear signs of danger ahead.  Fear pulls together some proteges--Chase Burnett, Zane Silver, and Zack Novack--to insure against the havoc that Dickinson's machinations will likely produce, determined that, if BW does go down, at least his crew can support each other and survive.

There are subplots of interest, too.  Anthony Stone, sensing the dog-eat-dog vibe, looks for a partner in new meat Nick Talent.  He lavishes praise on Talent as a competitor and touts his own strengths as a potential tag partner.  Talent, enmeshed in tweeting, is disrespectful and aloof, unimpressed with Stone, whose record at BW has not exactly been stellar.  So Stone strikes a deal.  If he can whip Talent in a singles match on Night One, Talent and he will join forces on Night Two.  The subsequent battle between these two is fast and furious.  The men's impressive chemistry and array of moves ensure that down the line these two will form a team to reckon with, all but unbeatable, but erratic and highly combustible, too.

Developmental Hell showcases BW's by now established cast of characters, energetic, inventive, and original.  Burnett and Silver astound once again as their ring acrobatics and apparent lack of concern for safety push the limits of sport.  Solo or teamed together, they come off like the bioengineered spawn of crash-test dummies and M1911s.  In Beyond Wrestling's trademark four-way match, Johnny Cockstrong, who uses his (as Cordeiro delicately states it) "genitalia" to batter his opponents' faces, dominates.  His patented finisher is usually a piledriver with the other wrestler's head shoved down the front of his tights.  Here's a gimmick I'll be surprised ever goes over on WWE or ROH, but Cockstrong is popular with his fellow wrestlers at BW--a force of nature and unruliness.

Cordeiro's color commentary (optional on the DVD) is informative without being intrusive.  It provides much needed background on the various angles, cross-referencing BW's earlier outputs, as well as identifying the wrestlers' signature moves.  That what we're watching is mind-blowing is fairly obvious, but Cordeiro does an outstanding job of explaining why it is mind-blowing.  Once again, BW has produced a tightly edited product, with multi-perspective replays of the I-can't-believe-my-eyes moments.

Night One climaxes, as foreshadowed, with Dickinson and his cohorts attacking and dragging Colorado into the ring.  While his henchmen hold Beyond Wrestling's founder and guiding light down, Dickinson rakes a dinner fork across the defenseless man's face and scalp, all the while raving about bloody pigs and whatnot.  Fear's crew arrives too late to save Colorado, but the setup for Night Two is in place.  The other wrestlers rush Colorado to the hospital, and in a bizarre and sinister coda, we see Dickinson invading Colorado's private bedroom, videotaping vaguely maniacal threats in a hoarse (and, yeah, sexy) whisper, and then dozing off in Colorado's bed, the stainless steel weapon still clutched in his fist.  Creepy ... and, yeah, weirdly sexy, too.

Still, we know the drill.  This man has got to be stopped.  He's an animal.  And someday soon, we hope, a hero arises to halt Dickinson in his tracks and put him down like the rabid beast he has become.



(Photos property of Beyond Wrestling, used with permission)

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