The Wrestling Road Diaries is the loveable tale of three independent pro-wrestlers touring the United States, taking in shows, seminars and thrift stores. It follows Bryan Danielson (of WWE fame), Colt Cobana and Sal Rinauro. The timing of the film coincides with Bryan’s signing with WWE. He has joined two close friends to take part in his last tour of the independents, mostly working shows for Ring of Honor. He went on to turn vegan shortly after the making of this film, in order to battle health issues which seem to present a possible roadblock to his joining the big leagues.
This movie initially made me wow because of the sheer list of legends of the big time and of the independent scene that pass through it. Off the top of my head, you get to see Jim Cornette, Bret Hart, Austin Aries, Kenny King, Chris Hero, and most notably Antonio Cesaro. The Swiss Supremo regularly shows up sporting some awesome glasses and cracking wise. A lot of the wrestling side of it revolves around Ring of Honor, the company these guys loved and helped build. The film really makes it seem like a fun, cool environment, and you get to see some really amazing spots from some of the great matches that were happening there.
The movie is nearly three hours long, so you get a really in-depth look at life on the road. This makes it easy to build up a really tangible connection with these guys. You get to see all of the sleeping on sofas, trying to work the satellite navigation, pranks and ribbing and getting lost. In that way, it reminded me a lot of the movie that me and my two buddies made on tour earlier this year. It’s about music, not wrestling, but you should check it out. There are a lot of similarities, only this one is a million times better than ours.
There are a lot of poignant, touching moments in this film. The smaller shows they were working reminded me of the ones I go to in my local area. The tearful goodbyes after each one, leading up to Bryan’s final match for the company in New York, were really moving. You get such an insight into the behind-the-scenes nature of the business, from producers to booking agents. Ring of Honor looks like a good team to be on. It also shows the connection that independent wrestlers have with each other, inside and outside of respective companies. That reminded me of the hardcore punk scene I was a part of as a teenager. There is nothing more special than seeing people coming together and making their own movement, for themselves, helping each other. It really does away with the old school don’t-trust-anybody mentality of the past.
The boys dropped in on a few wrestling seminars between dates along the way. They were a revelation, let me tell you. I wish I could have watched another three hour movie, with just Daniel Bryan teaching wrestling moves. If he isn’t the Head Trainer at WWE Developmental immediately after he retires, the business will miss out. He also showed in this film that he can sneeze with his eyes open, something I don’t think anybody ever thought possible. I guess this guy has just always been about making history.
This film isn’t propaganda, but it just naturally puts over Ring of Honor, and naturally makes you adore these guys. That makes Bryan’s emotional farewell at the historic Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City all the more emotional. He had an iconic main event match with a man also competing in his final match, Nigel McGuiness. This was both emotional and inspirational, despite the Brit looking pretty damn banged up come the end of it.
As for the other two guys, they are a joy to watch. Bryan mentions choosing to ride with those guys because they have the rare quality of being people you wouldn’t mind driving for eight hours with. I can see why. They just seem to be a barrel of laughs throughout, really taking the edge off when Bryan might be worrying about his health situation. Colt Cobana comes off as such a good guy and a good worker too. You get to see a lot of him and Bryan in the ring through the film, and he just seems like a good, not-hateable Santino. That’s not an insult. I didn’t get to analyse Sal much, and he was the guy that I was unaware of going in. He did get whooped in a watermelon eating contest by Colt though.
This movie makes you smile, it makes you love these dudes, and it makes you really want to be a wrestler. It’s essential viewing for any Daniel Bryan fan. I’ve reviewed a fair few wrestling documentaries on here now, but I don’t think I’ve ever given a perfect score. This was a perfect movie. For a low budget, no thrills film about a trio of indie wrestlers, it has everything you could want in a documentary. It’s not just a good wrestling film, it’s just a plain good film about three guys on the road living their dream. Check it out!
Thanks for reading,