Wrestlers review: An explanation into the world of pro-wrestling through the Ohio Valley Wrestling
Last Updated: 04.43 AM, Sep 18, 2023
Review: The world of professional wrestling peaked in the late ‘90s when two giant wrestling promotions, WWE(formerly WWF) and WCW, went head to head in an unprecedented ratings war which came to be known as the Monday Night Wars. Vince McMahon’s WWE with their flagship show Monday Night Raw and Eric Bischoff’s WCW. WWE eventually came out on top and bought WCW thanks to the rise of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, and HHH (who is currently the head honcho at WWE). But the mid-2000s presented a new problem for the company. Injuries essentially ended Steve Austin’s career and the Rock moving on to Hollywood, WWE had lost its two biggest stars and there was no rival company to keep them on their toes. So the company turned to the Ohio Valley Wrestling to produce the next big superstars of wrestling. And the OVW did not disappoint. As WWE’s developmental partner at the time, OVW would develop arguably four of the biggest stars in the post-Attitude Era – John Cena, Randy Orton, Batista, and Brock Lesnar.
The new Netflix docu-series follows the lives of the OVW stars, their boss Al Snow, and everyone involved with the promotion. The first episode serves as an introduction to pro wrestling for the unversed – which is essentially an episodic TV show with scripted storylines, characters, and wrestling matches. It also emphasises how WWE has essentially bought off its competition and started its own developmental centre, first as the Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) and then as NXT in 2010. WWE shifting its developmental centre from Ohio meant that OVW longer served as the launch pad for future wrestling stars. The series showcases how former WWE star Al Snow fights tooth and nail to keep the company afloat. Wrestlers also follows the stars of OVW as they prepare for their biggest event of the summer in the hopes of reviving an iconic promotion.
The series offers plenty of interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, reality television-esque footage, and even archival images and videos from the WWE. Like all great wrestling stories, be it Kane debuting to cost Undertaker the world title or Becky Lynch becoming the first woman to main event Wrestlemania and walk out with both Women’s titles, the docu series tells compelling humans stories about those involved with OVW. Hollywood Haley J takes centre stage among the OVW’s in-ring talent and there is also a focus on the OVW’s top male star Mahabali Shera. Both Haley and Shera’s contrasting journeys to pro-wrestling, and by extension OVW, are pivotal to the docu-series – the glue that binds all seven episodes of the series.
Despite offering a gripping narrative and an insight into the indie circuit struggling to stay afloat in an era dominated by WWE and AEW, some of the stories, both in and outside the ring, are cliched. However, those unfamiliar with heels, babyfaces, kayfabe, and pops, will undoubtedly find the docu-series profound and captivating. It also serves as a tribute to Al Snow – an under-appreciated legend of the business. There is also a spotlight on the severe physical and mental toll on the wrestlers.
Verdict: Netflix’s Wrestlers may not be on par with a 5-star rated match by Dave Meltzer, but it is a heartwarming love letter to pro wrestling. The docu-series puts former wrestler Al Snow and his struggling indie wrestling promotion, OVW, at its centre – a company that once moulded future WWE legends.