The acclaimed Vice documentary series Dark Side Of The Ring covers some of the darkest, most infamous moments of pro wrestling: the personal tragedies, the on-camera incidents, and the strange, often violent lives of the performers themselves. With the vibe of a true-crime documentary, Dark Side Of The Ring also functions as a great crash course on some of the concepts of pro wrestling.
While die-hard fans know about a lot of the topics covered by the show, there have been some legitimately surprising revelations to be had, often coming straight from the mouths of those who were there. Without further ado, let’s take a look at 10 of the most shocking ones.
Attempted Murder in North Korea (Season 3, Episode 4: “Collision in Korea”)
One of the stranger events in pro wrestling was Collision In Korea, a New Japan/WCW card held in North Korea. As the wrestlers discuss their harsh treatment by their North Korean hosts on Dark Side of the Ring, viewers discovered the mounting tension between Western wrestlers 2 Cold Scorpio and Road Warrior Hawk. After several physical altercations between the two, Scorp revealed that he had stolen a set of metal chopsticks at dinner in order to stab Hawk when he got the chance. Ironically, it was Chris Benoit who talked him out of attempted murder.
Kevin Von Erich At The Gun Store (Season 1, Episode 4: “The Last Of The Von Erichs”)
The story of the Von Erich wrestling family is a harrowing one, as the beloved Texas wrestling family suffered a seemingly endless string of tragedies, with Kevin Von Erich emerging as the only sibling to not suffer a sad fate. But it almost didn’t end that way, as Von Erich shared a story of going to a gun store at his wit’s end and openly shoplifting a gun in front of the other customers and employees, all of whom knew who he was. The tragedy was only averted when one man in the story simply said, “Love you, Kev,” preventing Von Erich from going through with his plans.
The Aftermath of Bruiser Brody’s Death (Season 1, Episode 3: “The Killing of Bruiser Brody”)
The murder of Bruiser Brody in a Puerto Rican stadium in 1988 is a curious one due to the elements of kayfabe that muddle the story. But what everyone does know is that José González (a.k.a. Invader 1) stabbed him and was charged with murder. However, González wasn’t convicted, and the circumstances are shocking.
Not only did the kayfabe of wrestling make the situation murky for authorities as to whether this was part of the show or not, but the most shocking revelation was also that witnesses like Dutch Mantell and Tony Atlas were unable to testify in the trial of González. The reason for this is because their summons arrived so late in the mail that the trial was already over.
Dynamite Kid: Bareknuckle Brawler (Season 3, Episode 7: “The Dynamite Kid”)
The Dynamite Kid episode of Dark Side of the Ring focuses on how a wrestler’s dedication to their craft can actually cause them to suffer to the detriment of both their health and even the wrestling itself. Thomas Billington was one of the most gifted workers during his time, but injuries and personal demons forced his retirement in the early 1990s. Aside from a brief and depressing comeback, Billington found work as an underground bare-knuckle fighter, a surprising and depressing pursuit for a performer of his caliber.
“He’s Dead.” (Season 2, Episode 10: “The Final Days Of Owen Hart”)
Season 2 of Dark Side really pulled the heartstrings by putting the Benoit and Owen Hart episodes in the same season. The death of Owen Hart is one of the most unnecessary tragedies in wrestling, where a needless stunt killed one of the most gifted performers. Amid the recounting of the backstage reaction to the tragedy is a shocking, supremely angering moment as WWE producer Kevin Dunn delivered the bad news to play-by-play commentator Jim Ross with only 10 seconds of preparation: “He’s dead. And you’re on in 10, 9, 8…”
Grizzly Smith’s Other Son (Season 3, Episode 6: “In The Shadow Of Grizzly Smith”)
The Grizzly Smith episode of Dark Side of The Ring is particularly harrowing, with tales of sexual abuse and other rough subject matter. Fans likely know that Jake Roberts, Rockin’ Robin, and Sam Houston are all children of Aurelian “Grizzly” Smith, but viewers of the episode may have been shocked to find out that there was another sibling in the family. Richard Nabors was put up for adoption early in his life and never entered the wrestling business. Taking care of Smith in his later ailing years, Nabors expressed awareness of having dodged a bullet given how his siblings suffered in the business.
Attempted Murder At The Hall Of Fame (Season 3, Episode 5: “Becoming Warrior”)
Speaking of Jake “The Snake” Roberts, his beef with the Ultimate Warrior was a big subject on the Season 3 episode about Warrior’s life and controversies. Roberts was slated for a program with Warrior, but the latter’s abrupt departure from WWE led to a huge grudge on Jake’s part, as he was screwed out of a big angle and thus some nice paydays.
Years later, during the 2014 Hall of Fame ceremony, Roberts was ready to turn heel in real life and deck Ultimate Warrior with a roll of quarters. However, much to the surprise of viewers and Roberts himself, Warrior approached “The Snake” to apologize for the incident.
David Benoit (Season 2, Episode 1 & 2, “Benoit”)
Easily the most emotional Dark Side of the Ring episode, the special two-part episode covers not only the circumstances and details of the Chris Benoit double murder-suicide but also the mixed emotions and frustrations of those left behind, including friends, co-workers, and family. There’s particular attention paid to surviving son David Benoit, who found himself shut out from the wrestling business as WWE disavowed his father. Apparently, save personal Chris Benoit friends Chris Jericho and Chavo Guerrero Jr., no one from WWE ever bothered to contact David.
Defending Moolah (Season 1, Episode 6: “The Fabulous Moolah”)
The Fabulous Moolah — forever champion for a huge chunk of 20th-century women’s wrestling and an elderly Attitude Era performer — has got to have the most tarnished reputation in wrestling without having killed someone. The Dark Side episode focusing on her life and influence does not portray Moolah in a positive light, as she may have taken advantage of and abused many of her trainees. While Wendi Richter and the children of Sweet Georgia Brown were none too kind to Moolah’s legacy, some wrestlers interviewed were shockingly defensive of their mentor, including Selina Majors.
Literally Everything About Herb Abrams (Season 2, Episode 8: “Cocaine & Cowboy Boots: The Herb Abrams Story”)
The story of the short-lived Universal Wrestling Federation and founder Herb Abrams is completely wild. With no experience in the wrestling business, Abrams networked his way into a promotion and TV deal, held several disastrous major events, did a lot of cocaine, bounced a lot of checks, and met his maker after a cocaine-induced heart attack. In the end, UWF roster member B. Brian Blair — formerly of The Killer Bees — surprisingly closed out the episode by delivering easily the greatest line anyone will hear in a documentary: “Herb Abrams died doing what he loved: cocaine and hookers.”
Several tag teams like The U.S. Express went under the radar in the ’80s and ended up being massively underrated.
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The 10 Most Surprising Things Revealed On Dark Side Of The Ring