Wrestling documentaries are typically pretty grim. Breaking into the industry is relatively easy, all things considered. Getting out of it? Generally speaking, that's a different story. A lot of folks hear the phrase “it’s scripted” and assume that these men and women aren’t putting their bodies on the line just like every other athlete. Enter men like Ian Hodgkinson or, as most know him, Vampiro.
The amount of injuries Hodkinson has experienced isn’t what makes him unique. All of your favorites have destroyed their bodies time and time again for the sake of the industry they so love. It’s not the drugs, either. So many wrestlers find themselves wrapped up in substance abuse, whether it be because of the chronic pain from their injuries, or the crushing depression that can come with being on the road and away from your family the majority of the year.
What makes him unique is his origin, and the understanding that he was never meant to be a wrestler. Hodkinson outright admits that he could never do many of the classic wrestling moves early on in the film. His rise to stardom was never about his technical ability. It was about his charisma and his willingness to do the most insane shit possible. Not being hard to look at certainly worked to his advantage as well. That level of self-awareness isn’t necessarily common in the wrestling world.
Nail in the Coffin: The Fall and Rise of Vampiro, while a documentary focused on the wrestler, starts off as a love letter to Mexican wrestling. Hodkinson repeats several times throughout the doc that he hates wrestling. Though the statement’s probably not untrue, it’s also made evident just how deeply he loves it. The film’s focus evolves shortly after to include the love for his daughter, Dasha, and continues on to illustrate his complicated relationship with an even more complicated industry.
It’s Dasha that makes this heartfelt documentary a little less grim than the others of its kind. All of the devastating factors are present. Vampiro’s broken his neck, back, and most of the other bones in his body, as well as suffered from somewhere around twenty-seven concussions. He has the aforementioned history of substance abuse, and was recently diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. But above all of that pain is his love for his daughter.
Michael Paszt’s documentary on the wrestler weaves all the pain and love of Vampiro’s history into something truly special. His vision combined with Hodkinson’s dark humor and seemingly ever-present self-awareness make Nail in the Coffin: The Fall and Rise of Vampiro so much more than your standard wrestling documentary. It’s heartbreaking while still being hopeful and refreshing. More documentaries focused on the industry could really benefit from following the model set up here.