When I was a kid, I loved the larger-than-life professional wrestlers of the 70s an 80s, such as “Superstar” Billy Graham (WWWF Heavyweight Champion), Bret “The Hit Man” Hart (Two-time WWF Tag Team Champs with Jim ” The Anvil” Neidhart and multi Heavyweight Champion in the WWF and WCW), Greg “The Hammer” Valentine (WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion and WWF World Tag Team Championship), Ted “Million Dollar Man” DiBiase (WWF World Heavyweight Champion) and Wendi Richter (WWF Women’s Champion).
Therefore, I jumped at the opportunity to interview Evan Ginzburg, an associate producer on the documentary 350 Days, a tremulous, behind-the-scenes look into the lives of pro wrestlers who spent almost the entire year either in the ring or traveling on the road to get to a match.
The creators of 350 Days set out to make a film that displayed raw, human emotions, fit for a variety of audiences.
“We wanted to do a movie that you didn’t have to be a wrestling fan to enjoy,” said Ginzburg, who also was an actor and producer on the 2008 critically-acclaimed film The Wrestler, starring Mickey Rourke. “We are very excited with the response so far. We think wrestling fans and non-wrestling fans alike will like it.”
While most pro wrestling enthusiasts only see the glamorous side of the business on TV, 350 Days depicts the ultra-harsh realities of the industry.
You see everything through the eyes of these battled-tested pro wrestlers, including family absenteeism, enduring brutal injuries, struggling with drugs and alcohol addiction, and lack of financial security, which forced the grapples to wrestle non-stop in order to make a decent living, despite being in constant, agonizing pain.
“It’s a brutal business, much like boxing,” he said. “It’s not a cartoon. You’re throwing your body around (all the time). They went from town to town (to wrestle). They weren’t paid what they deserved. There weren’t health plans or 401Ks and pensions.”
Ginzburg clearly remembers what one of the female greats — the late wrestler and manager Sherri Martel, who once told him what life was really like for a pro grappler, traveling constantly while sacrificing the dearest things to her.
“Sherri Martel told me she was on the road for 15 straight years, basically,” the 59-year-old East Flatbush, Brooklyn, native recalled. “‘I didn’t get to see my kid grow up,”‘ she said.
A wrestling agent to former pro wrestling legends like the late Johnny Valiant and Nikolai Volkoff and Lanny Poffo, Ginzburg did say that the pro wrestlers weren’t all doom-and-gloom regarding the sometimes thrilling, sometimes dank industry.
“There were extreme pluses and extreme minuses,” the Forest Hills, Queens, resident explained, “but many of the wrestlers said they would do it all over again.”
Ginzburg said the filmmakers of 350 Days interviewed approximately 90 wrestlers, but only 38 made the final cut due to length constraints, with everyone displaying the utmost candor. He said the one of the few drawbacks to the movie was that some aren’t alive today to see the final product.
“Everyone was cooperative in making the film,” Ginzburg said. “For the most part, people like to be heard. But they’re about 12 wrestlers in it that this was their final interview. We’re lucky we got to them before they died, but I would’ve loved for them to see it.”
For more information on 350 Days and see its trailer, like it on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/350daysthemovie/.
— Jerry Del Priore