When watching a documentary on the life of a professional wrestler, more often than not you are in store for a story that has its share of triumph and tragedy.
Some stories are heavier on the tragedy, but one of the most screwed up stories that I have come across is that of Ian Hodgkinson, better known to wrestling fans as WCW, WSX, and Mexican wrestling superstar Vampiro.
Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, Vampiro, like many young Canadians played hockey as a child and was well on his way to making it to the pros as a star goaltender, but his punk rock personality would eventually cause him to quit hockey, move to Montreal and begin training to become a professional wrestler.
Like many others coming into the business he had no money, and no place to stay. So alongside his new friend Robert he turned to a life of crime, attacking and robbing pimps and drug dealers on the streets of Montreal.
From there he worked security for Milli Vailli, stole money and merchandise, and watched as Vanilli’s career went down in flames.
Eventually he would go on to become an international wrestling superstar, and now his life has come full circle as he leads his own chapter of the Guardian Angels in Mexico, which is a volunteer organization of unarmed citizen crime patrollers.
Now fans can learn about Vampiro’s story in Anchor Bay Entertainment’s latest DVD release, Vampiro: Angel, Devil, Hero.
For the documentary Ottawa area director Lee Demarbre followed Vampiro on a indy wrestling tour in Europe in early 2006.
At the time, Vampiro was contemplating his retirement from the world of pro wrestling, but decided that in August 2006 he would form his own promotion in Mexico called Revolution X, DeMarbre also paid visit to Vampiro during this time and documents the hectic 36 hours leading up to the promotion’s debut.
Running 90 minutes in length, the documentary offers a look in on both sides of the wrestling business. On the independent European tour you get to see just how much of an impact the fans have had on Vampiro’s career and how much of an impact he has had on the swarms of loyal fans around the world.
Dealing with burnout, insane travel, shady promoters, and wrestlers hoping to climb the same ladder Vampiro once climbed you get a feel for what its like for a guy who was a top star coming back down and dealing with the locals, this part can be called the real version of “the wrestler” as Vampiro is no actor.
On the other side of things, you get a look in on just how hectic running your own promotion can be. 36 hours before the debut show, Vampiro is in need of $18,000 before showtime, his sponsorship of $500,000 will only be paying in a week, so deals with money launderers, drug dealers, and other promoters need to be worked out, not to mention that the entire show needs to be booked, and the venue needs to be prepared.
Meanwhile there is the crazy life that Vampiro has led. From the story of his father leaving he and his mother when he was 5 years old, to being molested at the age of 7, to growing up in Thunder Bay, moving to Montreal and being homeless, committing crimes to get by, moving to LA to tour with Milli Vanilli, becoming a pro wrestler, meeting the woman of his dreams, losing the woman of his dreams, moving on and doing what he needs to do to support his daughter Dascha.
This part of the story is told by Vampiro himself, his mother, his ex-wife, his pro wrestling trainer in Montreal, Louis Laurence, his partner in crime Robert Martin, and the one and only Norman Smiley.
Using the footage shot during those periods of time, as well as the interviews with the family and friends of Vampiro, the film takes a unique approach to a documentary presentation by telling all three stories at the same time.
One might think that the format sounds like a guaranteed way to confusion but having won awards for its excellent editing, the film turns out to be one of the better wrestling documentaries I have seen to date.
Bonus materials include 34 minutes of deleted + extended scenes, as well as an alternate ending to the documentary, trailers, teasers and a photo gallery.
Vampiro: Angel, Devil, Hero will available on DVD May 5th from Anchor Bay Entertainment.
Also being released in conjunction with the documentary is the film “The Dead Sleep Easy” which starred Vampiro as The Champ, a broken-down, drugged-out former wrestling champion barred for life from wrestling because he killed a man in the ring, who is now earning his drugs as a mob enforcer.
I had the chance to interview the director Lee De Marbre about both films last year, a recap can be read via www.maineventradio.com/leedemarbre.html and a review of The Dead Sleep Easy by my colleague Michael Ryan can be read via http://the-w.com/thread.php/id=35167
For more information on the Vampiro: Angel, Devil Hero, or The Dead Sleep Easy check out www.vampiromovie.com and www.thedeadsleepeasy.com, And to read my previous DVD reviews check out www.wrestlingdvdreview.com