by Dale Pierce
DALE PIERCE: First off, for those who would know nothing of you until now, tell people who you are and what you do?
PATRICK BURTON: My name is Patrick Burton. I am a part-time wrestling columnist, creative consultant for the Independent Wrestling Revolution and full-time screenwriter.
DP: What interested you in independent film-making?
PB: Well, I do enjoy watching movies. I also enjoy making them, creating something from scratch and watching it up on a movie screen, it's just pure magic. It's like my drug, I can't get enough of it. I am already working on a number of independent films, most of them on the internet or preparing to circle around the film festival circuit. I want my ideas to become mainstream films one day. And let's be honest, just like any entertainment business, you can't get started in the mainstream without starting in the independents.
DP: And in wrestling?
PB: I have enjoyed wrestling all of my life. In fact, there isn't a time in my life where I remember NOT liking wrestling. My mother was a huge fan and when she was younger, hung out with the likes of BlackJack Mulligan, The Late Andre the Giant and Killer Kowalski when they toured around my hometown. She introduced me to wrestling and always encouraged my interest in it. The choreographed "dance" as it were, of two wrestlers in the ring, is just absolutely thrilling to me. The strength, the agility, the talent, when done right, wrestling is one of the most exciting forms of entertainment there is. I wanted to become a wrestler for so long but I never was able to finish the training. After 24 years, I'm still a huge fan of wrestling and I doubt I will ever lose interest.
DP: What might you want to tell people about this projected wrestling project you wish to put to film?
PB: You might think you know wrestling thanks to the hotsheets, the internet and documentaries, but you really DON'T KNOW the life that these independent wrestlers live. I want to show you just how much these guys sacrifice and suffer, just how much drama can happen behind the scenes, so that when you watch two wrestlers in action, whether in your local indie fed or in the WWE, you know and can respect just what they've done. I think this movie will put not only wrestlers but promoters in a whole new light, it's not just another documentary, but a full action dramatic film. It's not just them talking about "back in the day" but showing you what it's like first-hand rather than listening to stories.
DP: Why have you encountered so much opposition to the idea in the mainstream, and how do you plan to overcome it?
PB: I think part of the problem is, people are jealous that I've thought of it first. There are so many documentaries out there about wrestling, Wrestling with Shadows, Under the Mat, and while they are excellent, nobody has ever tried what I am attempting to do. I'm not making a documentary, I'm making a movie. Maybe some people think I'm trying to "sell-out" the business or something. There could be a million reasons, but I really don't let them bother me. I've got enough of them behind me to keep me going. From the movie maker's perspective, it's mainly because they are worried that it won't sell to the public. Wrestling's popularity has diminished since WCW and ECW folded and merged with WWE. It's normal for them to wonder if a movie like this will make ANY money at all. I respect their caution and I plan to overcome it with a number of things.
I have started an online petition that anyone, all over the world, can sign by going to http://www.petitiononline.com/pride5yb/petition.html . I am currently getting as much of the wrestling world behind the idea of a movie like this being made, to show moviemaking producers that this movie will not only sell, but it's a great idea. I will also go through the proper legal channels to Hollywood companies in an attempt to sell the movie thus. Another way is good old fashioned world of mouth. I figure, if enough people talk about it, someone will take notice. I have had many people, columinsts and wrestlers themselves tell me that they are behind my idea in making this movie and that they will help me sell it in any way I can. Brandon "Deranged" Lee and "Uptown" Frankie Capone have been the two most vocal wrestlers to help me so far, with Uptown offering me the facilities of NWA Florida for the movie. I can't thank everyone enough for all of their help so far and hope I don't let them down.
DP: So one way or another, you see the film being made?
PB: I believe that there is too much interest for this movie to NOT be made. One way or another, I believe in time, this movie will be made.
DP: Do you have a URL or a place where interested people could contact you about this or other projects?
PB: The petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/pride5yb/petition.html is open until December 21st, 2004, so everyone go to it and sign the petition. I also can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for any other movie/t.v. projects, whether they be about wrestling or otherwise. I have already worked on a number of projects outside of wrestling, so I invite anyone who has a passion for filmmaking or television to contact me.
DP: Much of the movie is going to focus on Yukon Braxton, correct? Tell people about him, as he was known mainly in the midwest.
PB: The movie will have a character loosely based on Jeff "Yukon Braxton" Dingess as a type of tribute to him. He was an intricate part of the creation of the IWR, but will not be the focus of the film. The IWR is the Independent Wrestling Revolution, based in Detroit, Michigan. The movie is inspired by events surrounding the first year of the IWR. Yukon was a main figure in the Mid-West wrestling world at the time, especially in the IWR. To not at least show what kind of person he was and his influence over IWR's creation would make the movie second rate and slap my friends in the face. This is obviously something I didn't want to do. I wanted to write a story that reflected some of the feelings surrounding Year One, and I think I didn't do a bad job with all of the locker-room stories I've heard.
Yukon Braxton was, quite simply, the next break-out star from Michigan after Edge, Christian and Rhyno. He was a fantastic performer, great on the mic and had all of the tools to be a legit WWE champion. He stood around 6'8 and weighed in a little over 300 lbs and was the heavyweight champ for a number of indie organizations. He was the first ever IWR heavyweight champ and faced Jerry "The King" Lawler in his first Michigan wrestling match at St. Andrew's Hall for IWR's annual "Brawl at the Hall" event on March 2nd, 2002. Afterwards, he was to get a WWE dark match tryout. Unfortunately, before he could flourish and finally get the respect and spotlight he deserved, he died in his sleep just before January 2003.
DP: Being mainly a midwestern indy wrestler, no matter how good he was, do you think the focus on him will fail to interest fans outside the midwest?
PB: Even though the focus isn't entirely on him but on the creation of an independent wrestling organization in general, I don't think Yukon's character's side-story will take away from the overall product. Everyone in life knows of a story that is parallel to his. You see a person, his potential is endless but then suddenly he's taken before his time. It happens all of the time. River Phoenix is immediately a name that comes to mind. I'm sure everyone reading this can think of at least one, whether they were in the public spotlight or not. So it won't just appeal to wrestling fans, but moviegoers in general. Also, if all goes well, Jerry "The King" Lawler will be in the movie, who is always a treat to see for any wrestling fan.
DP: What other wrestlers or promotions have expressed interest in this project?
PB: IWR has, of course, given me full support in the creation of this movie. They are not only the inspiration of the movie, but also my friends and I thank them for being in my corner as I try to put this story to film. NWA Florida has also expressed much interest in the project, specificially from Uptown Frankie Capone, who as I mentioned before, offered the NWA Florida facilities for the film. We have kept a bi-weekly communique on the attempted selling of the movie, encompassing word-of-mouth, alerting others of the petition and just other ways to try and sell this movie to not only the public, but Hollywood as well. IWF in Kalamazoo, Michigan, another former stomping ground for Yukon Braxton, also has expressed interest and their well wishes.
DP: There have been tons of expose' type films and TV shows concerning wrestling in the past decade. What would make yours so blatantly different?
PB: Mine isn't a documentary. I think people have gotten enough of the behind-the-scenes expose style films, they know what goes on, they know the sacrifices, the pain, the travel. Nobody is in the dark anymore. People know how a piledriver is given, they know about hurricanrannas. This isn't one of those movies. This movie is a real DRAMATIC FILM, not a documentary. It takes the viewers where they haven't been before, not just in the locker-room, but people's lives outside of wrestling. It takes people on a roller-coaster of ups and downs on not only a wrestler's life, but the lives of PROMOTERS. To attempt to start your own wrestling fed and keep it competitive is even more difficult, and these people have a story to tell too. Wrestlers AND Promoters, the drama of business, competition and relationships in a specific part of North America, THIS is the story and what makes it stand out from the rest. Nothing like this has EVER been tried before and I want to be the first.
DP: There have been some creative documentaries already, dealing with indy wrestling. I cannot recall the titles, but one or two were focused in the south and one covered California. Have you seen any of these?
PB: No, I have not. Everything I know about independent wrestling comes from the Mid-West indy wrestling scene. I realize there is more to it than just the mid-west, but then the movie is based in the mid-west. However, I would like to learn more about other organizations in the future. I am a huge fan of wrestling and would love to see more of the independent wrestling world.
DP: Frankly, do you feel the midwest is ignored by the fans and the mainstream? Most emphasis nowadays as far as the media goes is on the TNA/NWA and WWE and if indys are covered it is usually west coast or east coast, not central USA?
PB: I do believe that the mid-west hasn't gotten their fair share of media exposure by the mainstream. But then I also believe that independent wrestling in general gets the short end of the stick when it comes to the media. As for fans, I know that many mid-west feds get crowds just as large as some of the "Big-Time" east and west coast feds. I do believe that, no matter where you are, if people enjoy TNA and WWE and want to see a great show, they should check out their local indy fed. Many of the people in the ring are just as, if not better, than many of the mainstream stars that you will see in the WWE. Also, many of the stars on TNA are FROM your local indy fed, if you go out to see them, then you can cheer them on in person, which is always cool.
DP: Among the indys, what wrestlers do you really think are worth seeing?
PB: There are so many that I can't begin to list them. Some of my favorites are Low-Ki, Kid Kash, Amazing Red, Chris Sabin, A.J. Styles, Jerry Lynn, Byer Wellington, Deranged, Mr. Insanity, Krazy, Jimmy Jacobs, Brimstone, N8 Mattson, Anthony Rivera, Elvis Elliot, Sabu, The Bump-N-Uglies, DBA, Simon Diamond, Truth Martini and Zach Gowen...THE GUY WRESTLES ON ONE LEG...I mean...I have trouble enough keeping balance on two and he's MOONSAULTING from the top rope on one...still blows my mind every time I see it.
Yes, you'll notice that many of these guys are from IWR and while I may be playing favorites, they still are the cream of the crop of the mid-west in my book. If you check where and how often they are booked, you'll see that as well.
DP: If you plan to do an "expose'" piece so to speak, do you feel the wrestlers will cooperate? The younger guys might, but a lot of the older guys won't.
PB: I think most wrestlers, young and old, have gotten over this aspect. It's not an expose, it's nothing that any hardcore wrestling fan hasn't seen before. If anything, I think they feel like a movie like this should be made to honor what they all have gone or are going through to become a star. I like to think of it as a tribute of sorts, one that I have made, so that all wrestlers, young, old and retired, can see that we, the fans, appreciate what they have done or are doing to entertain us. I know I appreciate every bodyslam, every chop, because if they make some false move, it's all over for them. I respect their courage and their passion.
DP: What would you like people to do concerning these petitions?
PB: Sign either the online petition or the one being passed around in Michigan. Tell other people about it, tell everyone about it. Sooner or later, I'm sure Hollywood will finally take notice. Hopefully, the will see that a movie like this is not only a good investment, but a friendly handshake to the wrestling world that they respect them as much as they are respected.
DP: Do you think it will prove effective?
PB: I think if anyone wants anything bad enough and you set your mind to it, you can achieve it. There are a lot of wrestling fans out there and I'm sure that someone in Hollywood likes wrestling just as much as movie making. In time, I'm sure word of the movie will reach them and they will take notice. It's the oldest trick in the book, but you can't get better advertising than word of mouth, if it's done properly. Besides, I'm stubborn, I'll continue to plug this movie until they get so fed up of seeing it cross by their desk that they'll make it just so I go away.
DP: If not, do you have a backup plan?
PB: The petitions and word of mouth are just a few methods I am currently using. I will, of course, go through the legal channels to get the movie read by Hollywood production companies. I also have a few more tricks up my sleeve I have yet to use. In the end, if it doesn't take, I'll see if any independent movie companies want to make it. I know someone, somewhere, will want to make this movie.
DP: Closing comments?
PB: Thank you for the opportunity to share my attempt at making this movie a reality with Wrestlingthenandnow.com. I currently have over 400 names on the online petition in three weeks, and it grows daily. I have had not only fans sign the petition, but wrestlers as well. I hope to have as much of the wrestling world, wrestlers and fans alike, behind me as I try to make this film a reality. I cross my fingers and hope that, if it does get the green light, that I don't let any of the people who have put their faith in me down. I realize that I can't please everyone with it, it's a fact of life, not everyone will like what you do. But I do hope that everyone can at least respect the movie when it's finally done. I also hope that people everywhere, whether they are fans of wrestling or not, will have more respect for the wrestling world as well.