Professional wrestling has always been a guarded, elusive industry. Perhaps more fascinating than the in-ring show is learning about the people who devote their bodies to this oft-maligned performance art. Aiming to explore the candid sides of some performers, David Sinnott spent four years assembling “Bloodstained Memoirs,” a documentary available for online view by subscription at bloodstainedmemoirs.com.
The result is a well-intentioned but muddled narrative. The film features nine accomplished and mostly eloquent wrestlers — the list includes Jimmy “Duperfly” Snuka, Christian, and “The Great Muta,” Keiji Mutoh — appearing in self-contained segments analyzing one or two elements of their careers. Unfortunately, much of the material isn't riveting enough to justify the weight of a feature.
The wrestlers' expounding on topics that receive little coverage elsewhere can make for compelling moments. A forward Roddy Piper recalls being stabbed by an overzealous fan, and Nora Greenwald — best known as WWE's Molly Holly — amicably explains how she remains a good Christian on the road. But more pieces fall flat: Chris Jericho is asked more about his hard-rock group than his wrestling and Rob Van Dam is amusing at first but gets dull quickly. The woefully docile climax is uninspiring footage of Mick Foley (aka Mankind) signing autographs and making small talk with fans at a bookstore.
Though the film's visuals are crisp, the majority is made up of one-camera setups of talking heads: Expect little in the way of in-ring action. Plus, the interviews tend to jump into nitty-gritty wrestling knowledge without setting up scenarios so that casual fans will get lost in the details. If you're deeply into pro wrestling, “Bloodstained” has a handful of intriguing revelations. Otherwise, the stilted story lacks the focus to be captivating.