“Whether its 10,000 or 100 people [watching], its all the same to me”
This exceptional BBC3 documentary followed Ireland’s Fergal Devitt on his journey from Bray, County Wicklow, to the biggest wrestling organisation in the world, the WWE.
A fundamental aspect of professional wrestling is the art of good storytelling, and producer Ronan McCloskey employs it well on the small screen.
Not only do we see Devitt’s development as a star of the ring, we also discover how his career has affected his life and relationships.
Anger, cockiness and humility are all shown to be part of his personality, and he works as hard as anybody despite being no spring chicken.
At the time of filming, Devitt was 32 years old and in his 13th year as a pro wrestler – only now is getting his chance in the big time.
McCloskey also makes sure the viewer never forget the physical grind that goes with being a pro wrestler, especially in Devitt’s case. In one scene he recites the injuries he’s suffered in his career to date.
“I’ll start from the top down. Five concussions, separated shoulder 10 times, hyper-extended right elbow, broken left wrist, bruised kidney, broken tailbone, torn knee cartilage, dislocated jaw, burst eardrum and a couple of black eyes!”
This is even more impressive when we learn that pro wrestlers are not on guaranteed contracts like in mainstream sports.
They get paid when they wrestle, so to fight using a physically demanding style while carrying injuries takes courage and toughness.
The tale of Devitt’s journey to Japan to wrestle on the circuit there is fascinating and eye-opening. As a gaijin (the Japanese word for foreigner), he couldn’t speak the language and struggled to fit in at first.
He recalls how he was first introduced to the dojo where he trained in 2006, describing it as having the worst living conditions he’d ever encountered.
Devitt was made to cook and clean, and tried to learn what he could from the older, more experienced wrestlers, which speaks again to the overall message of his humbleness. He was a six-year veteran at that point so it must have been hard to swallow his pride and essentially start from the bottom again.
Smack ‘Em Up portrays one man’s hard work and desire to go as far as he can in this toughest of professions.
Devitt’s rise to WWE stardom is an inspiring and amazing story, and McCloskey relays it skilfully in this documentary.