Beyond the Mat is a 1999 documentary by filmmaker and wrestling fan Barry Blaustein, profiling the careers of several prominent wrestlers and touching on many more as they attempt to make it from the bottom of the totem pole to the top, in gory, grueling detail.
The main focus is on three wrestlers, all different in how they approach their career but all willing to punish their bodies for the entertainment of their fans, and to the horror of their families.
Main wrestlers showcased:
- Terry Funk, the great Determinator, who continues to wrestle way past his prime;
- Mick Foley and his interactions with his loving wife and children, as well as The Rock;
- Jake Roberts, whose double-tragic status of being a Child by Rape and being a crack addict has estranged his daughter.
Wrestlers featured or mentioned:
- Tony Jones
- Michael Modest
- Koko B. Ware
- Spike Dudley
- Jesse Ventura
- Vince McMahon himself, both as some of the glue that ties the narrative together, and as a wrestler himself
- New Jack
- Dennis Stamp, then an exterminator in Texas, none of whose 800 matches were top-billed and remains relatively obscure
ALSO features Jim Cornette briefly, and Roland Alexander, a promoter and the head of the All Pro Wrestling school in Heywood, California.
"Beyond the Tropes":
- Advertised Extra: The Rock gets prominent placement on all box and poster art, but unlike Foley, Funk, and Roberts, he does not get a narrative POV and is included solely for his participation in Foley's final chapter, where his malicious mid-match beatdown of Mick Foley at the 1999 Royal Rumble causes distress to Mick's family and has Mick reassessing the risks he takes.
- Becoming the Mask: McMahon worried that this had happened to Jake: "I don't know that you can separate Jake Roberts the performer from Jake Roberts the person, because, quite frankly, I never knew which one I was talking to, and I don't know that they're not the same."
- Big "NO!": Several of these from Mrs. Foley as Mr. Foley takes several chair shots to the head from The Rock.
- Blood-Splattered Warrior: Mick Foley at the end of his match with the Rock, though almost all of the blood is his own. Mick reassures poor Noelle it's just a big boo boo.
- Blood Knight: Mick Foley is this towards himself! More accurately, his fans mostly consider him to be this, but he realizes that he can take a lot more pain than the average person and this makes him marketable.
- Changed My Mind, Kid: Though it's obviously between two much older people. Terry Funk sorely wants his friend Dennis Stamp somewhere in his "final" night as a wrestler but Dennis has other plans, mainly from his bitterness that "he's not booked" and Terry simply overlooked him; eventually Dennis comes to the arena saying it cost him a hefty amount to change his ticket.
- Double Entendre: Mick saying to his wife that they probably touched a lot of people with their wrestling, and that "I might touch you later..."
- Drugs Are Bad: Witnessing Jake strung out mere hours after seeing his daughter sure drives this home. He admits it's a trap, that the drugs speed him up so much that he doesn't think about his past, that he doesn't have to be responsible.
- Extreme Libido: According to Jake Roberts, the wrestling lifestyle can lead to this, and it can really mess up the sex life at home.
- Foreshadowing: Of simple human nature to be sure, but reaction shots of aged Terry's wife and daughter to his horrific bumps foretells Mick Foley's wife and children's reactions.
- Game-Breaking Injury: Terry Funk's knees should have been this. He was urged to get knee replacement surgery on film in 1997; he finally got the surgery in 2012.
- Gorn: Lots of it. Barbed wire and chair shots to the (extremely vascular) forehead will do that to a person.
- Groin Attack: The camera pans off before we see it, but Mick's wife and kids do; poor Rocky!
- Guile Hero: Heyman on Roberts: "He's probably one of the — also, when it comes to the psychology of how to control the audience, one of the most ingenious performers the industry has ever seen." Jim Ross also had similar sentiments. Apparently this way out of the ring as well; see Becoming the Mask above.
- Happily Married: Mick Foley; indeed, much of the conflict in his segments come from his wife and children being very highly disturbed by the torment and pain he puts himself through every time he wrestles.
- Harmful to Minors: Mick's kids don't exactly have a neutral reaction to their daddy's injuries.
- Heel Realization: Mick watches the footage Barry's cameraman took of Mick's family's reaction shots, with audio of his kids crying, and says, "I don't feel like such a good dad anymore..."
- Many people pointed out the irony of overweight promoter Roland Alexander asking about a potential student's nutritional awareness. Admittedly, Roland is a businessman rather than an active wrestler, so his job doesn’t require him to be in that kind of shape.
- Everyone around Jake does not figure he's long for life with his heavy drug addiction and lack of self-care. Nearly 25 years since the release of the film, Jake has not only stuck around from a cleaner lifestyle and got himself in better shape (famously thanks to Diamond Dallas Page), but outlived several other subjects in the movie such as Terry Funk, Chyna, New Jack, and Darren Drozdov.
- Kayfabe: Very much Deconstructed; it's the whole point of the movie! Namely, wrestling is scripted up to a point; the physical and mental anguish suffered is very real.
- When Foley is discussing the aftermath of the "I Quit" match with McMahon, Vince says that when [the fans] get the story that Mankind was screwed, then that's just show business.
- Large Ham:
- Yep. It's wrestling, after all. Deliciously so during a promo Rock shoots before the "I Quit" match at Royal Rumble, which hit all (EVERY SINGLE ONE) of his late-90s catchphrases and cliches. IF YA SMELLLLLL... what The Rock... *Glasses Pull* is cooking. *Fascinating Eyebrow*
- Also invoked with Vince's interview of Droz very early in the movie, when Vince asks Droz to puke into a garbage can (as this is Droz's reported ability, to puke on demand). "Is he— is he— He's gonna, he's gonna, he's gonna, he's gonna PUKE! HE'S GONNA PUKE!" Makes an Anti-Climax when all Droz can produce at that point is a rather large spitwad.
- Mistaken for Gay: Chyna by her parents, because she lifted weights.
- Parental Abandonment: Jake Roberts feels very awkward and perhaps guilty around Brandy because of this, and leaves after five minutes of their first meeting in four years.
- Rousing Speech: Paul Heyman of ECW gives one to his roster (including Terry Funk) before their first Pay-Per-View.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Mick Foley taking a bloody beating in the ring in front of his crying children, interspersed with happy home footage and set to "Stand By Me".
- 10-Minute Retirement: "Terry Funk's retirement lasted all of three months. He continued wrestling until he retired on June 7, 1999. That is, until the next offer comes along." He wrestled until 2017 at the age of 73, before health issues, namely dementia, finally ended his ability to wrestle, and passed away in 2023.
- Trauma Conga Line: Roberts knows this trope well; aside from his daughter wanting nothing to do with him, his sister was killed by the ex-wife of her husband, they Never Found the Body, his mother was 13 years old when she had him because his father raped her, and his stepfather whom he felt very close to was electrocuted in the attic of their house at the time.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Grizzly Smith, Jake's father. "Well, he's got a lot of good qualities... and he was born out of love, and I still love him."
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: At the end, as befits a documentary like this.