Back on Badstreet
9:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10, Alamo Drafthouse, Richardson
One of the quirkier entries in the Dallas VideoFest, Back on Badstreet dares to examine Dallas’ role in the Golden Age of professional wrestling and the genesis of one of the city’s greatest gifts to modern music: the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling genre.
Specifically, the tongue-firmly-in-cheek documentary by Keith Alcorn and Steve Barnes of DNA Productions (Jimmy Neutron) delves into the bizarre origins of “Badstreet USA,” the unlikely hit single recorded as entrance music for the pro wrestling team The Fabulous Freebirds that inspired wrestlers across the nation to flirt with rock stardom and boosted the already rising popularity of pro wrestling.
More specifically, it focuses on the two songwriters who crafted the tune: Michael Hayes, frontman for the Freebirds and master of self-promotion; and Jimmy Papa, Hayes’ friend and ersatz business manager. As with any documentary worthy of the term, its premise actually serves as a portal to a larger story, which in this instance is a classic rise-and-fall showbiz of a man (Hayes) who gets within Flying Suplex range of mega-stardom, only to become tangled in the ropes at the moment of truth and have it slip from his Iron Claw. Or something. Lives are changed, lessons are learned, and hearts and heads are broken.
There’s an impressive amount of research featured in Badstreet, including some very rare archive footage and insightful interviews with the likes of Global Wrestling Federation owner Grey Pierson, WCCW promoter and referee David Manning, and iconic wrestlers Iceman King Parsons and Cowboy Johnny Mantell. The elusive Hayes, a camera hog and spotlight stealer in his youth, is conspicuously absent, which works in the movie’s favor in an odd way, allowing for a more objective and interestingly impressionistic take on the man.
Alcorn and Barnes have fun with the inherently absurd subject—the enjoyably juvenile sense of humor of the former and animation flourishes of the latter are fully displayed—but never at the expense of the people involved and never for the sake of a cheap joke. The duo, both of who were fans of wrestling during the heady heyday of the Sportatorium, have a genuine affection for the material, and it shows.
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