Judge Daryl Loomis has a finisher called "The Gavel," though he rarely gets to use it.
As a lifelong fan of professional wrestling, I've developed some very mixed feelings about the industry. While watching a match, I can stay in the here and now, and a tightly worked match is exciting as hell and, for years, wrestling was my favorite form of entertainment, bar none. At its best, wrestling is the perfect combination of athletics and performance and a true delight to watch. Once the match ends, though, I'm left to ponder the industry as a whole, and doing so makes me sad. Wrestling kills the people who love it most: the wrestlers themselves. They break their backs (and any number of other body parts) for the audience, and in return, they receive twenty bucks and a couple of slices of pizza, if they're lucky. Those minute few who make it into WWE, TNA and, arguably, Ring of Honor, are the exception to that rule. Either way, the sacrifice on the body and mind of wrestlers is massive for paltry rewards.
Card Subject to Change attempts to deliver a slice of that life, and is occasionally successful. The problem with the film isn't the stories in themselves, some of which are funny and some tragic. The problem is in the overall narrative, insofar as it doesn't exist. There are a few running threads, but they don't cross and, in one case, only evolve by circumstance. For fans of indie wrestling, there is a lot of interest, but as a cohesive documentary, it doesn't really work.
The three main stories involve Johnny Falco, a small time promoter out of New York, legendary wrestler Kevin Sullivan, and young indie darling Trent Acid. Falco runs a promotion that gets a lot of talent coming out of the big companies and, though he runs VFW halls and Elk's lodges, his shows look dramatically better than many of the independent promotions you will find, including the one I frequented, and loved so much, in Sacramento (which, incidentally, produced former WWE champion John Morrison). He seems to know what he's doing, though I wouldn't trust him has far as I could body slam him, and he runs a lot of shows, so one can safely call him a success in the industry. Kevin Sullivan, while a crazy person, is the true success of the film. He's a legend and listening to a guy like him is essential to navigating through the pro wrestling world. Trent Acid, sadly, is the cautionary tale of the group. Having starting wrestling at age 14, he worked his way up to become one of the young lions of the modern age. Influence got the better of him, though, and drugs became the way he coped and the way he died, just over 13 months ago. That's the best lesson of all.
Ultimately, what caused me to basically stop watching wrestling was the knowledge that these people, awesome as they may seem, are people with demons, forced to live with brutal work and little money, simply go through the grinder. They are spit out for our entertainment and I've solemnly watched too many ten-bell salutes to men and women who died before their fortieth birthdays, leaving the world with cool video and little else. That's the hardest and best part of Card Subject to Change. Acid's story, as well as what turned out to be the final video interview with the legendary "Sensational" Sherry Martel (an incoherent and drunken piece that makes sickening sense with her death), drive home a point that I don't believe director Tim Disbrow intended, one that continues to depresses this old rasslin fan.
Cinema Libre has released a decent disc for Card Subject to Change. The image is full frame, kind of blotchy, and not that great, but I wouldn't expect more from a doc on indie wrestling; shoddy production is the name of the game. The stereo mix is fine, but nothing special. For extras, we have a few promos cut about the movie by various wrestlers, promoters, and writers. Some deleted scenes and outtakes give more info and some funny moments, especially with Terry Funk describing a moment with Sullivan surrounding his idea of using a snow shovel in the middle of July; that guy can tell a story like nobody else.
I wish Card Subject to Change was a more cohesive documentary, but the interviews and stories as they stand are still good and for fans, either those who still watch or those who are too cynical to continue, will get something out of the film.
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