Plenty are not willing to accept the many elements that make up professional wrestling: from the fraudulent fighting to the, well, straight-up existence of storylines, the sport has become an easy target for condescension and quick dismissal.
But let’s back up a bit, because before the local veterans center is lit up, Greene does a fantastic job at introducing the players. Tiny interviews are sprinkled throughout and the subjects open up without any sort of shame; similarly, the director treats them with respect but balances his touch well enough so that the proceedings never become overly serious. Each are fairly absorbing in their own right, but what helps build momentum are the varying odds stacked against them. Lead organizer Jeff is the backbone of the entire organization, but an illness may keep him bedridden and cause him to miss his first match in ten years. Gabriel, the rookie, is an all too ardent youngin’ (drinking game -- count how many times the kid earnestly asks another wrestler what they think he could improve on) eager to prove himself in the ring. Will the hazing every newbie goes through keep him from getting his chance? Moreover, can a smaller feller like him even compete with the much larger and much more seasoned showmen? Then there’s Zane of shaggy beard fame, thrust with more responsibility now that Jeff is out on leave. Set for a match in which a loss means the shaving of his bristles, can he run the paperwork and still put on a fine act? We won’t pretend that these stakes are terribly high or that they are life-or-death situations, but their presence is felt because the director presents people we can care for and invest in, even if only for a short time.
As the days pass, families are introduced and glimpses of “real jobs” are spoken of but the most anyone can talk about is the imminent show. Since the build-up is so successful, it’s at first a tad disappointing that the opening match is reduced to general highlights instead of being included in its entirety. Indeed, it’s preposterous to think that there would be time for every full fight to be included (subsequent bouts would go on longer, the third exhibited in its entirety), but its handling and placement as the kick-off can’t help but feel like a let-down. That said, the (relatively) intimate environment is captured remarkably. The crowd interacting with the performers is a ball, and the raw sound of the wrestlers slamming onto the mat is unnerving -- only with this do we realize how gussied up the mainstream matches really are.
Eschewing any sort of melodramatic narrative device (“They’re gonna close us down!” etc.) and instead simply following some wrestlers a few days before a tournament, “Fake It So Real” gets to the the nitty-gritty of the people involved, showing how much passion can go into a sport/art that is too easily dismissed. [B]