Breaking Kayfabe: Sean Waltman
Hosted by Sean Oliver
Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
Sean Oliver, and Kayfabe Commentaries, just reinvented the Shoot Interview.
From the music to the subject matter, from the backdrops to the seriousness of the questioning, from the demeanors of the interviewer and interviewee, this isn’t your typical DVD. While Sean Oliver isn’t playing the role of adversary, he’s pushing buttons, bringing out the tough questions and making pointed comments, not just playing for laughs.
Not that Kayfabe Commentaries was always about the laughs, but there was always too much nonsense to take things seriously, and serious statements intermixed with games, outlandishness and inexplicable video clips from supposed wrestling aficionados, always more interested in the gag than the response.
From the opening, we have a different perspective. Jazzy music, an almost 1970’s style talk show presentation, a sense of covering up the hotel room, putting the guys together for a serious discussion, and from the body language of Sean Oliver, he’s here to dig deep, ask the important questions and get to the reality of it all.
It helps, tremendously, that the person here is Sean Waltman.
As this proceeds, and I certainly hope this is a changeup that takes, it will be interesting to see who agrees, who wants to spill their guts and bare their souls, and how well they handle having their lives discussed in a more intimate setting, for a more serious audience.
I’ve seen YouShoots with a wide variety of individuals, but most of them have that sense of kayfabe, on various levels, but still there, still having guys and gals working the questions, dodging the tough questions, spinning the scenarios to find the better angle.
Here, there’s no sense of it. Sean Waltman is a guy who survived this business, who has seen so many not survive (like Curt Hennig) and who is close to one of the guys that, let’s be honest, is the at the top of any list of potential tragic endings (Scott Hall).
My impression of the DVD is that Sean Waltman is coming clean on a lot of subjects. On a lot of those, there seems to be inside explanations, brutal honesty and poignant observations. There’s also enough references to the cynicism of professional wrestling, the oft-inability to truly differentiate the work and the truth, and a sense that there’s a lot of places Waltman still won’t reveal.
But in that avoidance, there is more honesty than when stuff gets said, just to fill out a few hours, just to get a personal take on certain subjects. When Waltman says “I can’t answer that” or when the names of his children are *bleeped*to help protect their identities, I’m getting it. I’m getting that this is something different, something more honest, something more important.
“Breaking Kayfabe” is meant to be more about the person than the work, more about reality than a reality TV show, more about exposing the impact of the business than exposing the inner working s of the same. On all counts, it is appealing.
Is it real, or is it a work?
Let’s just say that I’m a lot more convinced about the realities and unrealities of Montreal than I’m concerned about figuring out if Sean Waltman is the Sean Waltman I’m listening to for an hour here, and that’s meant to be a good thing, not a bad thing.
We open with Mr. Oliver telling Mr. Waltman, repeatedly, that he “likes” him, but he is worried about him. The references to Benoit and Johnson, as two potential avenues of what happens outside of the business, is incredibly pointed. And Oliver pointedly asks …. “Which way are you going”.
After a few minutes, Waltman is begging to be steered back from the depths of where his life has lead, and it is this opening that obliterates everything I’ve known about YouShoot and Kayfabe Commentaries and the expectations going forward.
Sean Oliver is concerned.
Sean Waltman is being asked tough questions.
And as they work it out, the viewer is not merely entertained, but informed.
The concern turns into questions about perspectives, about being in trouble, about why Waltman does what he does. Oliver asks him if he can work without hurting himself, and Waltman talks about his four songs, and that the fans want to see those, because that’s who he is.
But Waltman does admit that he no longer takes chairshots to the head.
The path of questioning leads to Waltman’s history of addiction. It began with the WWF, but not with the Kliq. It began with a kid 19 or 20 years old, and we should all realize that the WWE’s policy about keeping such youngsters off the roster is a good thing, even if the side-stepping and inconsistencies about drug testing also show the other side of that company’s intents.
Sean Oliver: “Did you take pain pills for pain or for partying?”
That’s the level of questions being asked, and you must watch to get the answers, even if “Going down that road is a slippery slope” is part of that answer.
They digress into talk about Joanie…. Chyna or Joan Laurer or however you want to address the lady who is now an actress for Vivid Video, and who is also an individual of great concern among certain circles, and who has a controversial history with Mr. Waltman.
The subject matter, the personal opinions, the questioning, the conversation – all of it cannot be fairly or justly put down in words, because we’re talking levels of privacy and levels that should make the viewer uncomfortable but understanding. Oliver weaves Waltman through the discussion, never letting him off the hook, always steering him to more poignant revelations.
Here is where the meat of the matter comes into play.
Is Sean Waltman spinning tales or addressing his concerns?
It is impossible to figure out, which makes it vastly more honest, especially in the explanations and the challenges and the details.
At some point they segue back into Waltman’s life, and talk about the abuse, the combinations of drug issues and mental, psychological, sexual and child abuse that almost always is at the root of problems. Waltman admits that all that is consistent, and while he sidesteps some of the details, he openly admits to most, and explains his situations.
They talk of others, they talk of drug testing, they talk of suicide.
Waltman is prepared, but it is not so easy to discuss his own brush with attempted suicide. They talk of addiction, depression, anti-depressants, and that “untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide.”
Which should be a siren call to anyone who knows of anyone in that situation.
Oliver asks: “How does it go from an inability to cope to trying to end your life.”
Waltman knows it was asked because he went through it, but calls it “a split second lapse of judgment.” It that, he says it all while saying so little.
From there, things get really personal with his family and his impact as a father, which we learn repeats a cycle, even though he was kept from the identity of his real father.
Emotions are high when talking about how his children learn about him more from TMZ than from himself.
Oliver tells him “It’s not over” when Waltman says “I failed miserably”.
And much much more that is even more personal in his family life.
Things get a little lighter when they talk about the impact of shoot videos on the Mainstream product. It’s a way, I’m sure, to bring Sean Waltman – and the viewer – down from that crescendo of emotion. They talk about MMA, and the typical wrestling take on how fake that industry is. Waltman makes good points about Japan, those promotions and those referees (but not about the booking and that MMA booking in Japan was the biggest part of calling it fake, in my opinion…)
And then they get into Montreal, and the points are interesting even though the subject is overdone on shoot videos. I’m convinced that Oliver is convinced it was a work, Waltman a little dubious (mostly because he doesn’t want to ask certain people the tough questions because he may not like to know he was lied to….)
We end up with Waltman defiantly saying that he has a lot of good friends in the business.
In a certain sense, the end comes abruptly, but I’ve learned that when you’re left wanting more, you’ve just seen something vastly informative and you just don’t want it to end.
Breaking Kayfabe is definitely something I want to see much more of, with a lot of interesting people, as guided by Sean Oliver, who knows how to ask the tough questions.