I can’t tell you how much time I spent searching for old matches from Memphis back when I was big into pro wresting!
Directed By: Chad Schaffler
I grew up on professional wrestling, and I don’t mean World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE if you prefer. I grew up on the National Wrestling Alliance, Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, and the idea of a hot crowd on a Saturday night. Oh sure, I loved what the then World Wrestling Federation had to offer, as well as matches from different feds from all over the world (I still have very fond memories of spending Saturday afternoons watching CMLL or AAA on Galavision) but there was something about the harder edge to the NWA that appealed to me. As I grew older and discovered the wonderful world of tape trading, how’s that for a blast from the past, I became enamored with even more federations and now defunct territories. The South held a special appeal for me because any footage I could get my hands on from the Memphis Territory was full of insane energy, great wrestling, and heat the likes of which most other feds and territories could never hope to mach.
I think it should be obvious why a documentary entitled Memphis Heat: The True Story Of Memphis Wrasslin’ appealed to my wrestling sensibilities. A wrestling documentary that focused on the characters I loved from my tape trading days- Jerry Lawler, Jimmy Hart, Bill Dundee- drew me in like a fly to a burning light. At the same time being given the chance to take a deeper look at wrestlers like Sputnik Monroe and Jackie Fargo, who I had never really been exposed to, interested me in a different way. For these reasons, and more, I was excited when I finally got the chance to sit down and watch Memphis Heat: The True Story Of Memphis Wrasslin’.
When I had finished watching Memphis Heat: The True Story Of Memphis Wrasslin’ I knew that I had watched a well made documentary and a good film. But, I hadn’t watched the great film I was hoping for. It wouldn’t be fair to lay the lack of greatness in Memphis Heat: The True Story Of Memphis Wrasslin’ at Chad Schaffler’s feet. I had certain expectations of where I thought this documentary was going to go. Mr. Schaffler’s film didn’t go to all of those places and that left me with a feeling of discontent. That’s not Mr. Schaffler’s fault, he made the film he wanted to make, and I cannot hold him to any sort of fault for that.
I do wish that Memphis Heat: The True Story Of Memphis Wrasslin’ had expanded somewhat beyond just the key players in the Memphis scene. I was interested in the stories being told from and about those key players. But, I felt that Memphis Heat: The True Story Of Memphis Wrasslin’ only scratched the surface of the Memphis Territory. I didn’t want all the stories to be told, that would have made for far too unwieldy of a film. Still, I’d have liked for a bit more beyond Jerry Lawler, Jimmy Hart, and the tent pole wrestlers. How about some more on Roy Welch, or anything on Angelo Poffo and his renegade Memphis promotions?
Like I said, my complaints are about what I wasn’t given, but judging a movie based on that isn’t doing justice to the actual movie. With that in mind Memphis Heat: The True Story Of Memphis Wrasslin’ is a pretty darn good documentary. Mr. Schaffler does a tremendous job of getting across the information he wants to get across without allowing the film to ever lose its forward momentum. The footage is intermixed with the interviews in such a way that both take on a greater meaning and help to bolster the other. Mr. Schaffler doesn’t have any other films to his credit, but Memphis Heat: The True Story Of Memphis Wrasslin’ shows that he has the promise to produce other documentaries of a good quality.
Memphis Heat: The True Story Of Memphis Wrasslin’ is nostalgic without being cloying. It evokes the passion that many people had, or still have, for Memphis wrestling. It does this by integrating thorough interviews with footage of Memphis wrestling action. I won’t deny that I hoped for more about the ultimate demise of the Memphis Territory, among other topics, but the movie I was given was an interesting and ultimately a film well worth watching. I also won’t deny that Memphis Heat: The True Story Of Memphis Wrasslin’ will only appeal to a very specific demographic. But, what I can’t deny most of all is that I enjoyed watching Memphis Heat: The True Story Of Memphis Wrasslin’. It’s a well made documentary about a topic that interests me. The only downside is now I’m left wishing for the Memphis territory to return, and I know that can never happen.