“Beyond the Mat”
Season 11, Episode 15
The Supernatural Bros., Sam and Dean Winchester, investigate the sudden death of a wrestler. Which, in the world of professional wrestling, isn’t really that strange until you factor in that the death wasn’t due to heart failure, suicide, or drug overdose. Okay, maybe that’s not the best way to start this post. Did I mention The Miz makes a cameo? Wait… come back.
We open with your average indie wrestling show. It’s in a VFW-type hall, somewhere in Missouri, and there’s a sellout crowd of about 25 people. “The Hangman” Larry Lee, who looks like David Lee Roth lost a haircut bet, and wears so much eyeliner that even The Undertaker would be like, “Dude, take it down a notch,” is taking on “The Electric” Shawn Harley. The only thing electric about Shawn Harley are the lightning bolts placed alongside his name on the banner. Also, why is there a banner promoting only one match on the card? Do they switch it up for every match? What kind of indie wrestling promotion has that kind of budget? Sadly, these questions are never answered.
It should be noted that this is more along the lines of an indie match that you’d see back in the mid-90’s, and not a current PWG or Evolve show. Which makes sense, as The Hangman definitely looks like a 90’s indie wrestler who would do jobs for the WWE for their TV tapings. Instead of trying to win the match and then hang his opponent, The Hangman calls for his noose which automatically drops down from the ceiling. Again, what kind of budget does this promotion have? The referee tries to stop him, but the Hangman takes him out and proceeds to literally hang Harley. And I start shuddering as flashbacks of the ending to WrestleMania XV’s Hell in a Cell begin to replay in my brain.
I guess the match ends when Harley passes out because the referee never disqualified The Hangman. We then cut to them in a locker room. Shawn Harley is fine, but he’s not cool with Hangman almost killing him out there and for being a drunk. I guess I forgot to mention that. Hangman was full-on blotto while wrestling Harley. It’s kind of funny seeing The Miz act as this tough guy backstage. Looking back, it was also funny seeing The Miz as this indie wrestler working at a VFW hall. The Miz, the most WWE-produced wrestler ever.
While roughing up The Hangman, head booker of Top Notch Wrestling, and veteran wrestler himself, Gunner Lawless steps in to keep the peace. Props to The Miz for working in his catchphrase “really?” during the altercation, and only using it once. Harley accuses the vets of sticking together. So far, this has all been a pretty decent portrayal of professional wrestling. At least, from what I’ve read online. Later on, after everyone has left, The Hangman gets a taste of his own medicine and gets hanged for real. Foul play is at hand.
Cue the Supernatural Bros. Dean learns of The Hangman’s death the same way most IWC members do, via online dirt sheets. Apparently, the guys used to attend Top Notch Wrestling shows back in the day with their deadbeat dad. Dean thinks they should go pay their respects to The Hangman. There’s also a b-story concerning Lucifer, as in the devil, but I’m not going to get into it because it has nothing to do with the wrestling part of the show.
At the funeral, the brothers see a bunch of the old timers grouped together looking battered and broken. Which has now become a popular trope when it comes to portraying older wrestlers on TV shows, thanks to The Wrestler. Dean marks out over meeting Gunner, while Sam tries to downplay his young boy crush on Rio, the announcer/commentator. It’s like the ideal version of us guys who were teenagers in the mid-90’s finally getting to meet Sunny, without having to pay $50 per Skype session and feeling sad about the whole thing. Rio used to manage a guy named Superbomb Sanchez, who I originally misheard as Super Bob Sanchez and thought was the greatest wrestling name/gimmick I’ve ever heard. Rio reveals that Hangman actually killed himself, once again proving that you can’t believe everything you read in the dirt sheets.
The brothers decide to take in the memorial show the wrestlers are putting on that night in memory of Hangman and recall Top Notch Wrestling being more… top notch. Apparently, a memorial show for a supposed legend isn’t enough to draw a bigger crowd. During the show, the brothers draw a parallel between their lives and the lives of pro wrestlers in that they both put their bodies on the line for little pay. Right, but can Sam or Dean Winchester pull off a shooting star press?
Gunner Lawless wrestles some dude named Hellraiser, who has a very uninspiring costume considering the name. And speaking of costumes, Gunner’s love of tassels is enough to make Banda Machos envious. Gunner does a Bret Hart thing at the beginning of the match in which he gives some kid a giant over-sized white glove. Which is infinitely less cool than getting a pair of wraparound shades. Gunner is a big guy so he wrestles a slow, methodical style, using big man moves. Like, a big boot to the face. He does dive off the second rope for a double axe handle, but it backfires. At one point, Hellraiser nails him with a chair and doesn’t get disqualified, which makes sense considering The Hangman almost killed Harley via hanging. Top Notch Wrestling might just be another ECW rip-off. The finish sees Gunner deliver a chokeslam to Hellraiser for the 1-2-3. It’s nice to see they gave Gunner a finishing move that fits a seemingly big guy and not just some random-ass transitional move that generally isn’t used as a finisher, like a suplex.
Some kid’s annoyingly drunken father goes for a piss outside and gets murdered. Once the show’s over, the brothers finally decide to investigate, but not before Dean can slide into the ring and do what I’ve always wanted to do, act like an overgrown child inside a wrestling ring. Rio surprises him and he decides to question her. She then tells him that dead bodies have been popping up since they started touring. Dean decides to interrogate the boys at the nearest bar. Meanwhile, Sam finds out that it’s all connected to Hangman’s death as well. Some kind of demon crap.
When spiking the wrestler’s drinks with holy water fails to produce a demon, Dean and Sam suspect Harley since he left the bar early after a scuffle with Gunner. They find out he was kidnapped in the middle of the night by Gunner, which I’m sure has happened in real life after a wrestler has refused to do a job. Bookers are shady, man. Gunner has Harley tied up in some warehouse, where a demon named Duke is offering Harley all the success in the world if he gives up his soul. Something Gunner did a while back for a shot at the title. Which even in wrestling storytelling logic wouldn’t make sense. How the hell do you sign away your soul for a make-believe championship, when ultimately a booker is the one who decides who is going to win? Kind of hard to seal that deal when the guy who previously did it is standing before you, old and broke.
Harley refuses, obviously, but then gets murdered by Gunner. When the Supernatural Bros. show up, Gunner has a change of heart. If only they had gotten there in time to save Harley. Oh well. Gunner saves the brothers by murdering Duke, the demon, and tells them to scram as he awaits the hounds of hell. I thought Sam and Dean were wrestling fans? Two wrestlers still ended up dying under their watch. On the plus side, this episode would probably make a cool storyline for Lucha Underground. If anybody could cover the plot holes, it’d be them.