I’ve known Joey Ryan for nearly two decades. In that time I’ve seen him go from a green rookie trying to figure out his gimmick to becoming one of the most polarizing figures in professional wrestling. He is also now the subject of a new film by James Agiesta and Katy Dierks titled This is Wrestling – The Joey Ryan Story. I had a chance to see the film, and here is my spoiler-free review of it.
The film starts with a brief overview of Joey Ryan’s early career, leading up to his teaming with Candice LeRae and the origin of his infamous dickflip. From that point, the film follows Joey (and for a large part Candice) around and gives a glimpse of what his life on the road is like.
The filmmaker’s decision to keep the story of his background brief and focus mostly on his daily life was a great choice. Joey’s story has been told many times, and if someone needs more info they are just a Wikipedia search away. I thought the day-to-day grind look behind the scenes was far more interesting and am glad the majority of the film was focused on that.
Joey Ryan is a very likable person and definitely comes across as such in this film. Having known Joey for as long as I have, I think Agiesta and Dierks did an excellent job of capturing the person that I know. He comes across as likeable and genuine throughout the film.
The hate Joey gets from some in wrestling is addressed as well. Joey addresses it himself early on, but I felt like Dave Meltzer, who admittedly didn’t care for the dickflip at first, and Mick Foley did a much better job later on diminishing the people who hate his gimmick.
The film also heavily features Candice LeRae. I felt like all of the parts with her really highlighted how badly WWE has misused her since she has been there. She has so much natural charisma and comes across so likable that she could be such a big star there if given the chance. This film did more to showcase her personality than WWE has the entire time she has been there. She also was not referred to as Johnny Gargano’s wife once in this.
I don’t think Joey gets the credit he deserves for his role in the independent wrestling boom of the last five years, and while no one in the film ever tries to portray Joey as someone who helped usher in this era of independent wrestling, the crowd reactions throughout help tell that story. The film follows him across the world, and the crowds eat up the dickflip every time.
While this film is ultimately a film about Joey Ryan, I think it was one of the better documentaries showing a behind the scene glimpse of independent wrestling and the grind wrestlers go through. I think people who aren’t familiar with this world will be shocked at things like the travel and wrestlers using a place that looks like it should be condemned as a dressing room.
I really liked this film. I am obviously someone who has an interest in independent pro-wrestling, but I think that even if I wasn’t the film, Joey’s story, and his and Candice’s lives would be compelling enough to keep my interest. But since I am a pro-wrestling fan and most people reading this review on a pro-wrestling website are as well, I would highly recommend checking it out if you get the chance.
There was an advance screening of the film during WrestleMania week in New York last month, and it showed today at the IFS Film Festival in Los Angeles. It will next be showing on May 23rd in Las Vegas at 6:30 p.m. as part of the Starrcast convention. Beyond that, there hasn’t been any other showings or distribution announced for the film yet, but I’m sure there will be additional ways to watch it in the near future. Updates can be found on the film’s Twitter at @JoeyRyanDoc.