By Haydn Gleed, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@haydngleed)
“There is no Hollywood ending to the story” – Nigel McGuinness, The Last of McGuinness
When people have asked me to name my favorite wrestling documentary over the years, I have always pointed to The Last Of McGuinness documentary on Nigel McGuinness, which is just a tremendous piece of art more than anything else.
Funded by a kickstarter campaign, that documentary is a very moving and very emotional tale of one man trying to achieve his dream and coming to the realization that it would never happen. The premise of the documentary was one final tour before he quit on his dream forever for himself and for his health. At the time of the actual documentary, it looked like the dream was truly over.
Fast forward six years and Nigel McGuinness’s dream finally came true in that he became an announcer for the WWE UK expansion. The documentary that premiered Saturday on the WWE Network tried to show what led to Nigel’s dream becoming a reality.
It would obviously be very difficult to recapture what made The Last of McGuinness so special. The majority of the original documentary was recorded in real time and therefore it felt a lot more real and emotionally raw. While the network special did a decent enough job of showing the career of Nigel prior WWE rejecting him due to medical issues, it does feel like a sanitized version of the last The Last of McGuinness. WWE told the story and it was a very honest and open account. I did wonder whether they were going to feature any information about the difference of opinions on his bicep injury and then his run with TNA and other medical issues, but all this was covered in the new documentary so therefore I have to applaud WWE for being open and honest about his story. Again, though, it just didn’t feel as raw and I didn’t empathize with McGuiness as much as I did during his own production.
One of the characteristics shown of Nigel in The Last of McGuinness is the fact that one minute he seemed to be on top of the world and the next moment he was back down again. That was evident on the new WWE documentary as they showed a clip of him in the hotel getting ready to go to the Royal Albert Hall and talking excitedly about the evening’s event and then the next minute they show him in the hallways of the arena seemingly quite down while wishing he had had the opportunity to wrestle there. This was a constant in The Last of McGuinness where he felt the need to reassure himself that despite the way his career ended that he’d had a decent run. Some people might see this as annoying trait, however I see this as a man who is never satisfied with what he’s achieved and always wants to strive for more.
Going into watching the WWE documentary, I rewatched The Last of McGuinness documentary and feel that it is far superior to the WWE offering. If you have never seen The Last of McGuinness, I would strongly recommend the network special and then watch the original documentary. Not only do you get the sense of some of the highlights of his career with the network special, but you also get to see the dream being achieved, which makes the last McGuinness and a lot more palatable. When the original documentary was released in 2013, watching McGuinness spiral into a depression and seemingly out of control was very disturbing. With the knowledge that he has achieved his dream and is now happy in comparison is wonderful to watch.
The network special is better in terms of having access to the talent who wrestled McGuinness in Ring of Honor such as Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins and Cesaro, and other places such as Kurt Angle in TNA. They have wonderful stories to tell regarding McGuinness and his influence in the industry, especially when you consider how unlikely it was for someone from the UK to achieve what he did in the early 2000’s. There’s also noteworthy admission from Bryan regarding his original WWE medical exam, which I applaud WWE for not editing out.
One fun moment from the original was seeing a lot of UK talent roughly seven years before they appeared on Saturday’s NXT UK Takeover: Blackpool special. Wrestlers such as Trent Seven, Jack Gallagher, Zach Gibson were involved in Nigel’s retirement tour and it’s fun to watch Robbie Brookside before he became a noteworthy coach in NXT. Seeing how far the UK Independent scene has come in seven years is interesting in itself, and McGuinness should be proud that he had a hand in that.
In conclusion, I recommend the WWE Network special on Nigel McGuinness as an honest story. It doesn’t pull any punches and I didn’t feel that it was necessarily a fluff piece, as they were open and honest regarding the issues that held McGuinness back over the years. Again, though, The Last of McGuiness it still is the definitive documentary on Nigel McGuinness. Watching it back this weekend and knowing how Nigel’s story ends left me feeling good in terms of knowing that Hollywood style endings can occur in the wrestling industry.
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