[Tribeca] Bodyslam: Revenge of the Banana! Shows Why Some Wrestling Gimmicks Succeed and Others Fail

In the documentary Bodyslam: Revenge of the Banana, directors Ryan Harvie and John Paul Horstmann follow the bizarre story of Seattle Semi-Pro (SSP), an independent wrestling promotion whose existence is put in danger by an outsider who becomes part of their roster.

SSP is different from other indie wrestling promotions. There’s no ring, for one, just a stage and some mats. Gone is the illusion of athletic competition. SSP is also a comedy wrestling promotion, but it’s not a witty meta-wrestling cartoon like Chikara Pro. In Chikara, wrestlers will lob invisible hand grenades at one another, or sometimes wrestlers (and the crowd and the commentary team) will spontaneously perform in slow motion. At SSP, one of the headliners is a drunken clown named Ronald McFondle, and another is a guy in a banana costume who dances to The Buckwheat Boyz’s “Peanut Butter Jelly Time,” recreating a 13-year-old internet meme.

Even though SSP is not my taste in terms of wrestling, it’s an irreverent family and there’s nothing wrong people coming together and building that sort of kinship.

A lot of drama in Bodyslam: Revenge of the Banana hinges on the clash of personalities both inside and outside the ring (or, in this case, on and off the stage at a dive bar). What the film illustrates in an oblique way is why some wrestling characters succeed and fail, and what makes a good hero (babyface) and a good villain (heel).

Hubert Vigilla

Hubert Vigilla is a writer living in Brooklyn, which makes him completely indistinguishable from four-fifths of people living in Brooklyn.

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