Professional wrestling perhaps had it’s biggest successes in the 80’s and 90’s, even if you didn’t watch it you knew who Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, Goldberg, The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin were and each of those names have crossed over into pop culture. Today professional wrestling is still going strong, and in some places it remains as mainstream as it ever has been. On the surface, while the art of wrestling still maintains an aura about story lines and characters, we have been exposed to the business behind the curtain. There is more of an understanding about how things work now as those walls slowly came down. With the rise of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram we get a glimpse into the private lives of those athlete’s who make their living with wrestling.
This brings us to Nail in the Coffin: The Fall and Rise of Vampio (2019), a documentary that takes more than a look behind the curtain, it takes the audience on a raw and genuine journey with Ian Hodgkinson aka Vampiro as he talks about his life in the business, how it has changed him and his relationship with his daughter Dasha. The documentary holds no punches, and no story is left behind as Ian opens himself up and tells it like it is. Nail in the Coffin is at times a hard watch, but an important one, much like the documentaries of other wrestlers in recent years The Resurrection of Jake the Snake (2015) and The Sheik (2014), it dives right in and shows you an honest look at life in and away from the ring.
The documentary itself takes place during Mexican wrestling promotion Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide’s Triplemanía XXV event, their biggest yearly event. It shows Ian Hodgkinson helping to run the show, the backstage happenings, appearing as Vampiro all the while trying to have some meaningful phone chats with his daughter Dasha. Immediately it is clear that professional wrestling is his life, he has a passion for it, but his focus is with his daughter as much as it is anything else. Even in these early scenes, Ian can be seen hurting physically and mentally from the passion of this sport he’s been involved in since 1991, the toll is great and at times it is difficult to see the pain he is in daily from it. One may question why anyone would put their physical and mental health through this life, being treated so poorly at times, and being on the road performing more than they have home time, but once the film gives us a look into Vampiro, his creation and where he came from, the passion comes in and the life we see with Ian starts to make more sense.
There is no doubt that Vampiro the character is an icon in professional wrestling, he is one that easily gets remembered, his character isn’t one you just forget about and the film explores this and shows just how popular he was and still is. While his career really took off in Mexico, Ian is from Canada and growing up he thought he would be a hockey player, but that pull from wrestling as a teenager sent his life in that direction. It is interesting to hear about how he got started, his stories about working for Milli Vanilli, what brought him to Mexico and how Vampiro became a legend in the business. Told through candid interviews and home movie’s, the insight provided is extraordinary, nothing is left out, Ian from the start shows he’s always been an honest guy about who he is and being on camera doesn’t hold him back at all. To have a subject that is genuine and open must have been an incredible experience for director Michael Paszt, being able to capture the good, the bad and the ugly showing a full picture of his subject.
While it is interesting to see all about the wrestling industry, and Ian’s work in it, the most hard hitting and heart felt moments are everything with Ian and Dasha. Their relationship isn’t perfect (let’s face it none genuinely are) but their love for one another is strong, the dedication Ian shows for Dasha is the soul of the film. Dasha also speaks very candidly and doesn’t hold back, while she’s still young, she’s a strong person and cares so much for her father. The home videos from when Dasha was younger really contrast to the more recent footage of Dasha and Ian, Ian isn’t as physical as he once was and Dasha is no longer a child and their relationship changes. He wants to care for her, make sure she’s got everything she needs, at the same time Dasha wants to be a support for her father and look after him as well. They have a special bond, it’s amazing to see it unfold, and some scene’s are truly heartwarming that tissues may be required.
As a whole Nail In The Coffin is a great documentary, the only agenda the film has is to show a raw hard look at its subject matter, no biases, it’s just Ian and Vampiro with no filter and the audience is along for the ride. This is a must see for fans of professional wrestling, particularly if you did watch Vampiro perform back in his early days, to see his story and where he is now is quite an intense experience but a rewarding one. Even those who may not like or not know much about professional wrestling will have a lot to take away from the film, the heart of this film is a story of a father and daughter and their road together navigating the ups and downs of life. This one is hard hitting and ever so rewarding of an experience.
Review written by Marcella Papandrea