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'Bipolar Rock'n'Roller' is a gateway to understanding mental illness

Mauro Ranallo

In the era of never-ending content and social media overload, it feels like we know everything about everyone. While some of that information comes organically, much of it, especially with celebrities, is choreographed and executed like a reality TV show. A recent example: the relationship woes of John Cena and Nikki Bella, portrayed as real while actually a soap opera plot device.

Despite his over the top persona, the Mauro Ranallo Showtime biopic 'Bipolar Rock'n'Roller' is more the former than the latter. Assembled by a friend of Ranallo's who got full access to Ranallo's rollercoaster life and a treasure trove of archival footage, the film is educational, arresting, and entertaining in a 70-minute package.

Ranallo didn't have to do this, nor did he have to be as open about his battle with bipolar disorder as he is. His resume is long enough where he could have simply continued to do his job, battle behind the scenes, and rinse/lather/repeat until someone callously outed him before he was ready to discuss his struggles.

Instead, he is taking the stigma behind the illness head on and in doing so, he is opening up a gateway for others to not only admit they are dealing with the same thing, but to seek help instead of suffering in the shadows. His recent comments give the impression he wants his legacy to be that of a mental health advocate as opposed to a fight broadcaster. 'Bipolar' shows he's on the road to achieving both.

The doc itself runs through his rural upbringing and his early days as a pro wrestling announcer and manager with promos so passionate and strong that you wonder what would have happened had he got the call from WWF or WCW back in the day. We learn about the tragic event that was the first domino in his struggles, something he still carries with him today.

Not only do we get visuals of Ranallo's struggles throughout his younger years but doctors explaining what was happening which helped a viewer like myself better understand bipolar disorder, one of the strengths of the doc.

The incredible thing is that Ranallo's talent was/is so strong that he kept getting opportunities to call action even when he was at his worst. Whether it was PRIDE or Strikeforce or Showtime boxing or eventually WWE, he found employers that were willing to work with him, even in an era in which a lot of other traditional employers would not. Buoyed by his family and friends like Frank Shamrock and Bas Rutten, they wouldn't let him quit on life even when he felt like he wanted to.

Ranallo touches briefly on the Chicago airport incident that caused his SmackDown run to come to an end and we see his full NXT return in full with insights from Paul "HHH" Levesque and Michael Cole. It's a shame the JBL bullying incidents aren't addressed, nor even brought up once. While I understand the political reasons why it wasn't included, it was a miss to bring to light what that level of harassment can do to someone dealing with mental illness. 

One of the stronger aspects of the doc is that it doesn't wrap up with a nice bow that just because Ranallo is open about being bipolar, that suddenly everything is ok. Even after calling the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao superfight, we see hi dealing with self-doubt back in his hotel room, beating himself up for how he called the show.

And, ultimately, that's the point. Even if someone appears happy, successful, and cheery on the outside, we don't know what they are dealing with on the inside. Having empathy and compassion for those dealing with mental issues and being comfortable being uncomfortable as they work through them is a must. Mauro Ranallo opened up that gateway for us to understand bipolar disorder; it's up to us to walk through and look around.