Out in the Ring is a documentary that covers an important part of professional wrestling’s history. Screening at the Fantasia Film Festival, the film looks at LQBTQ representation in sports entertainment. Using interviews and footage, it spans the major companies and independent promotions. Things start with a fiery promo about inclusion at an indie show . This sets the tone for Out in the Ring. It is a passion filled watch that speaks to fans about the sport they love while also engaging non fans with interesting stories and facts.
Out in the Ring discusses the inherent homoeroticism found in professional wrestling. This leads to a no holds barred look at its past that includes discussion of Pat Patterson, Adrian Street, and Adrian Adonis. The parts about Street and Adonis are particularly interesting as the pros and cons of both are touched on. This is far from the norm as Street’s contributions are usually only talked about positively while the WWF’s portrayal of Adonis is always seen as a company lowlight. The film does not diminish Street or reevaluate Adonis, but it does offer a different point of view.
The film does an excellent job of getting different perspectives. Along with interviews with members of the LGBTQ community, there is lots of involvement from people of color. As is stated in Out in the Ring, white men had a good 2,000 year run in wrestling. The sport has always had problems listening to underrepresented voices and it is refreshing to hear other opinions and viewpoints.
Out in the Ring is constantly weaving personal stories of inspiration and redemption into its narrative, but it is about halfway through that the interviews become more intimate. These stories add an authenticity that is missing in modern wrestling. The documentary is also unafraid to tackle how the WWE has handled queer characters.
Again, it is interesting to hear the differing perspective. There is talk about how Darren Young was pushed as an ally and ambassador outside of the ring, but how Stephanie McMahon made it point to tell people his character was not gay. The lack of push for Sonya Deville is also brought up, but the most interesting discussion is about Finn Balor.
Many wrestling observers rushed to point out Finn Balor’s WrestleMania 34 entrance. He had subtle rainbow coloring on his gear and was flanked by fans wearing shirts with his rainbow colored logo. Of course, the WWE was quick to promote this everywhere. Out in the Ring points out that as nice of a gesture it was, the sincerity is doubted. After all, the company has a poor track record and Balor is a straight cisgendered white male.
The part that stands out most about Out in the Ring are the fans. As passionate as people who like wrestling are, it can also be a toxic community. This may be more a symptom of a sport that usually leans into things that people react strongly to, but it is a noticeable problem. In a nice surprise, the fans here are very welcoming and open. Hopefully, it is a sign of the type of change the documentary is calling for.
Out in the Ring is screening at the Fantasia Festival
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