I have seen heaven and it is the “Wrestlestock” episode of the second season of The 5th Quarter from OBB Pictures on Verizon Media’s go90.
This nine-minute episode about a three-day Wrestling Festival in the Summer of ’68 ticks off all of my comedy and wrestling boxes, as if The 5th Quarter folks had submerged me into the machine from Altered States and recorded my thoughts verbatim. Produced in fine mockumentary form, this episode features John Morrison, Joey Ryan, Damien Sandow, Rocky Romero, Ryan Nemeth, JTG, Adam Shapiro, Jon Gabrus and oh my god shut up and take my money.
I highly advise you to watch the whole thing before you read the rest of the article, because thar’ be dragons and SPOILERS.
Gabrus and Shapiro
From jump street you know you are in good hands with these filmmakers. Adam Shapiro and Jon Gabrus have been well-respected on the comedy scene for a long time, and their improv chops are top-notch. When making a mockumentary, the ability to riff extra jokes and keeping a natural feel to the characters is of the utmost importance. I knew this was going to be good even before we get to the wrestling bits. It’s like a horror comedy; you came for the blood and you know it’s going to be there, but if the jokes land, it goes from being a pleasant diversion into an instant classic.
I’m also an immediate sucker for that “washed-out, scratchy Kodachrome” look in color correction. The Hammond B3 Doors-lite soundtrack is also an inspired choice.
Adult Zimmerman and Calhoun
C’mon, son! This is inspired casting. Judd Hirsch and Ed Asner still got it (clap, clap, clapclapclap) and they deliver performances here that are so relaxed, effortless and well-worn you would think they were the love child of Bruce Pritchard and Wavy Gravy. That is Lou F’ing Grant right there, and you will find few bigger marks for Judd Hirsch than one Brian James O’Connell. Do yourself a favor and check out a little sitcom called Dear John and remember to pack a lunch. The theme song is really good. [Damien Sandow Voice] You’re welcome.
Speak of the devil! We get our first professional wrestler appearance, and our man Damien Sandow hasn’t lost a damn step. It’s taking everything in my power to not give away his first joke in case you decided to read this before watching the whole thing, because it is such great proof that this man is fantastic on the stick. I miss him so much. Does Breezango need a manager? Can we bring back Sandow in this Gorgeous Gary gimmick and let him be the Magnum P.I. to their TC and Rick? Please?
Steel Chairs Three Dollars
We’re two-and-a-half minutes into the actual story before we get our first chair shot. I love efficiency in my comedy more than anyone I know, but the small attention to detail is what I really enjoy. Ryan Nemeth fully selling that chair shot. The handmade sign advertising “Steel Chairs. $3.” The Joe’s Garage version of the Legion of Doom in the background. Bellísimo.
As a lifelong wrestling fan and someone who has gone to over 30 Phish shows (including their “last show” in Coventry, Vermont), let me be absolutely clear in saying this is dead(head) center in the Venn Diagram of pro graps and crunchy kind. All I need now is a grilled cheese, a goo ball and Hulk Hogan asking for a miracle ticket from a sleeper hold. I want to start my own wrestling faction based on The Twelve Tribes now. That’s how you do a cult gimmick, WWE.
People I Know!
I don’t think I have to tell anyone about Joey Ryan or Johnny Mundo’s bonafides, but what I’m most happy about is seeing my boy Scott Subiono in this clip. This guy is super funny, really talented and a genuinely sweet dude. His IMDb page is a ridiculous cavalcade of one guest role after another on every TV show you can think of, because he’s a damn chameleon. He’s also clearly a better straight man than me now as well, because I have no idea how he didn’t lose it during that superkick. I’ve watched it nine times and haven’t stopped laughing yet.
How rude! I can’t believe that Joey Ryan was nice enough to loan Mundo a pair of his trunks so they can have matching tag team gear and this is how Johnny Impact repays him! Where does Hennigan get off, and how many more of his aliases can I jam into this article? “Peace beat the everloving sh*t out of love” sounds just as great coming out of Alex Reiger’s mouth as it would being barked by Jim Ross.
You can tell this is really from 1968, because the piledriver hasn’t been banned yet. Extra points for the slow windup and delivery. This would be right at home in a Dundee/Lawler feud in Mid-South.
Proto Jake The Snake
This Ginger Baker-looking sonofabitch right here comes on screen right after the line “A lot of the things in pro wrestling today started at Wrestlestock,” and that is either next-level subtlety in a joke by the filmmakers, or this extra has better comedic timing than anyone else on the planet. “What’s the project? Man, I gotta bring my rubber snake and pretend to talk to it!” Rubber snakes are now the new rubber chickens, thanks to this dude right here.
Vince Russo’s Sketchbook
I’m not really one for blue humor, but a well-placed censorship blur can result in some truly solid comedy. Delocated got a couple of seasons out of it, but that’s because Jon Glaser is a genius. If you don’t believe me, go ahead and watch The Fuggedabuddies Part 1 and Part 2 and get back to me.
What I love most about this frame is all of the bored extras having polite conversations while there is supposed to be an orgy going on in front of them. Inspired direction? Happy accident? Who. Cares.
Talkin’ About My D-Generation
Why yes, that is the leader of the most dick kicking-est faction in the history of Lucha Underground giving a hilarious and intentionally monotone “suck my dick” crotch chop to the the guy famous for flipping people with his junk, right after an orgy scene. Like Bill Clinton reviewing Independence Day, I love this movie.
Wooden Ladder Match
Ah, of course it would be a wooden ladder. The attention to period detail is so wonderful. This is how you can tell the difference between filmmakers who are real fans that want to make a love letter to the all the stuff that makes wrestling great/dorky/fun and, I don’t know, the episode of That 70’s Show where The Rock shows up, I guess?
All in all, this whole thing could have been 90 minutes and I would have watched it twice, back to back. Way to production coordinate the sh*t out of this, Mary Bonney. I owe you a beer.