DVD Review: Breaking Kayfabe With Troy "Shane Douglas" Martin

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As anyone should imagine, a shoot interview with Troy Martin, better known to the hardcore world as Shane Douglas, is full of controversy, strong opinions and difficult (personal) subjects.
I found the interview quite interesting, but writing about it isn’t as easy as I figured.

There are aspects of reviewing that always cause some twisting and turning and finding the proper perspective. As I told Sean Oliver when I got the message about access to this documentary, Shane’s a Western Pennsylvania talent. I know I reach a bit to call myself talented, but I am a Western Pennsylvania kid, grew up in the same sort of rust belt steel mill towns, went to the same sort of schools, and even spent some time in Beaver County, where Martin taught one of my sisters-in-law, and where my wife hails from.

Perspective and cynicism are often conflicting concepts. I know that when I joked about a guy with a sign begging for food, his family in tow, I figured he makes more money than me. My wife cried because she saw the small kids. Being a professional wrestling fan makes you question everything. Sometimes it isn’t fun to look back and realize how jaded you are, but then again how much cool-aid you can drink.

Those conflicts abound in watching and reviewing Breaking Kayfabe with Troy Martin (available on DVD and On-Demand).

I’d never call Shane a personal hero, but I’ve had more than a few conversations with him. Once was when TNA was getting started and I wasn’t jaded to Dixie and Shane was pitching their potential, another time was when I helped conduct an Internet interview with him (with a lot of audience participation… “chat session”, we may have called those things), and I still remember that time at the Beaver County Mall when I saw him, and did my typically ‘maybe I shouldn’t go up and talk’ shtick (he did just break the Pitbull’s neck).

The other thing about Shane, which the details seems to be sidestepped here, is that he’s seemingly someone who takes the other fork in the road, when in hindsight he should have taken the other. Lord knows I have that same gut instinct of doing the opposite of what appears to be the obvious step. Whether its Shane or Troy or a combination of wrestling/reality, I get what he says about that oppositional tendency.

Coincidentally, I am usually always at odds with fellow Beaver County guy Mark Madden. Those who know Shane well know that he’s gotten a heck of a lot of mileage out of Ric Flair. Those who know know that Madden wrote Flair’s book and if there’s anyone that hates Flair, it’s some guy that lives in Western Pennsylvania. Well, Shane has spent more than two decades proclaiming it. (Stick with me to the punch line, I just have to give that one away).

But enough meandering, even though I think I’ve spelled out enough conflicts and coincidences and comparable conditions.

Several major subjects form the bulk of this two hour extravaganza (I think the wrapping-up, with the music motif and the expected Deep Purple reference and the obvious KISS stories, is rather trivial). One subject mostly set aside was how Martin kicked his habits and beat his personal demons, but that was handled with a previous DVD by Kayfabe Commentaries. But the main subjects are his involvement in promotions, including a new one, his stories about teaching public education in Western Pennsylvania, his life history, his schooling, breaking in and a lot about his family.

Much of the detail is left for the viewer to watch. I’m not one for heading into the depth of details of his childhood and the scars of divorce, the deaths of his father and sister, or the peculiar details of his marriage. Strangely enough, this is one DVD where the bleeps came out, and came out to cover the name of his ex. There is obviously a lot of intense issues with that, many are explained, but these are better left for watching.

For the intense wrestling fan, there is a lot more than the personal, even though the perspective is what makes these details more important. We learn so much about Martin that the Douglas persona becomes more understandable, that his career decisions and choices – his path to being a professional wrestler all the while not having the need, not having to be stuck in that business – play into his reputation. One comment really stood out, one where he notes that people in this business are “great liars, even to ourselves”.

There’s a definite sense of psychology involved here, with Troy talking about obligations and responsibility. There’s a definite drive of his related to fear of failure. This plays through his talk about promotions he’s been involved with, his life, and his career. All this is fascinating, but then again, more so if interested in Shane Douglas the wrestler, if interested in Troy Martin the person.

What I tout as the fascinating part of the discussion comes as the hard part. When Martin talks heels and babyfaces, about how Bruno and Ivan worked in a cage, about how he broke in and learned the ropes, learned his place in the business, learned that he didn’t need professional wrestling because he had a trade – all this is solid, all this kept my attention because of that curious mix of Douglas as Martin as Shane Douglas.

He definitely shines with “the Franchise” attitude. But then, where does the Franchise start, and where does it end?

The discussions about promoters, promoting and the problems involved are very much interesting. I was astonished to learn how much TNA lost over the years, as I’ve heard the rumors, expected the worst, but Martin names a number. His take on independent contractors is very problematic for this industry, although I definitely welcome his point of view and feel that this industry would be best served by true independent contracting, not the employees but we’ll call them something else approach these days. The logic that wrestlers work on contract, pick-and-choose their employer and have any sense of control isn’t just laughable...even with a Shane Douglas cackle.

His take is based on his understanding, and they seem complete and compelling. Where things get difficult for me is the talk about this new promotion he’s involved with, the billionaire backer, the business oriented approach, the healthcare, the 401ks, the various differences, the 22-35 hours of content that will be delivered.

All this (setting aside the responsibilities and the realities of the wrestling industry today, which I see that Martin has a great sense of things and a great take on things, which gives him great credibility) leads to another direction.

With most interviews of most guys in this business, there’s the work and the shoot and a café au lait blend of it all. After watching this and learning much, and glimpsing parts of Douglas/Martin that I don’t think I would have thought revealed, I reflect back and start my wondering, start my damnably jaded self towards thinking about it all, start to put my wrestling reviewer hat on, and I start down that dreaded path of not liking where I am going. When I heard the clinching comment, I was marking out.

When I think back upon it, all I know is that it wasn’t Martin telling really funny joke about what St. Peter would tell him at the Pearly Gates, and the response being that he wasn’t the only one that hated Ric Flair. I know that was Shane Douglas talking, and I realize I can’t figure out if he suddenly made a cameo, or if he was lurking in the shadows all along.

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