I believe this one is a little more well-known than my previous two entries, but it's too good not to document here!
Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction was - in many ways - a poor man's version of "Unsolved Mysteries", but with a twist ... Each segment presented itself as a recreation of a weird and/or supernatural story which (supposedly) occurred in real life. There were five segments per episode, but the audience was left "hanging" until the very end of each show with the reveal as to which of the stories were really based on (supposedly) true events, and which ones were the writers just making shit thing up (hence the aforementioned "Fact or Fiction" subtitle).
I used to really enjoy this show back in the day, but the segment that's really stuck with me over the years featured the legendary Terry Funk in a truly bizzare pro wrestling match (Spoiler alert! It never happened):
Originally posted by TV.Com Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction Season 2 Episode 10 Aired Wednesday 8:00 PM Feb 13, 1998 on FOX
Friday the 13th Episode
Segment 1: "The Wrestler" A professional wrestlers last match turns out to be his best only to find out that he was wrestling a dead man for the last part of the match.
Funk played Dirk Simmons (going by the moniker "Dazzling" Demolition Dirk), a perennial jobber who wrestled with a kind of "construction worker" gimmick, including wearing a hardhat and carrying a jackhammer to the ring ... Maybe not as ridiculous-looking as Chainsaw Charlie, but damn close!
As the story opens, Dirk is preparing in the locker room alongside his manager Tony (veteran actor/comedian Jack Carter), secure in the knowledge that after twenty years, he's going out on top in the main event for his retirement match ... It's actually kinda sad, especially when Tony asks him what he's going to do for an income at his advanced age ("My brother's got word in to his boss at the engine plant, they're looking for part timers").
Then, the young upstart wrestler whom he's scheduled to defeat enters; played by Nils Allen Stewart, he's the "evil foreigner" Moammar ("The Pharoah of Phear!") ... Now, his manager is unnamed in the credits (although Tony calls him "Grant") and barely recognizable with a ridiculous overblown pompadour and "Million Dollar Man"-esque white-and-gold tuxedo, but he's played by Larry Thomas (The Soup Nazi himself!).
Anyway, the plans have changed, and now Dirk is scheduled to go out on his back ... The villains gloat and smirk before leaving, while Tony sees the writing on the wall ("He'd faced him eight times before and my guy lost every bout!") and tells his charge to just "stick to the script" and bow out gracefully.
Now, it's at this point where the logic of this story gets rather fuzzy ... They've obviously "revealed" that the result of the match is pre-determined, and yet (once the match actually starts) it's portrayed as some kind of weird amalgam of work and quasi-shoot. I mean, Dirk clearly does not want to lose, but it's never really portrayed as "going into business for himself"; more like he was just trying a little harder than his opponent. I dunno, watch the match for yourself and see what I mean:
In voice-over, Tony provides "commentary" on the match ... Again, it's a mix of vague "insider" lingo and legitimate cheering for his boy to pull out the upset. Very confusing, and worthy of a transcription:
Everyone knew that Moammar was younger, stronger, and meaner than Dirk. They were both showmen who liked to excite the crowd.
[Dirk puts Moammar in a headlock]
Dirk was trying to turn back the clock.
[Moammar gives Dirk a forearm that knocks him out of the ring]
But Moammar brought him back to reality. Fast.
[Dirk staggers around outside of the ring (even taking one of his patented exaggerated swings at someone in the front row]
Dirk was acting the part of the loser right now. This was the part he played the best. He didn't belong in the same ring with Moammar! And Moammar wanted to prove the point.
[Moammar rams his head into the turnbuckle, then drags him back into the ring]
My guy was using all his acting techniques to make Moammar's attack look worse than it was ... and he was fooling the crowd, me, and Moammar at the same time! Moammar gave him the airplane spin--
[really a bodyslam ;)]
but Dirk knew how to fall to absorb the punishment.
[See, is he saying that wrestlers train so that they know "how to fall" ... or that Dirk is such a good wrestler that he can keep himself from suffering too much "damage" from Moammar's "legitimate" attack?]
Usually, blows like that are choreographed ... but this night, Moammar didn't look like he wanted to dance.
[Moammar charges at Dirk in the corner, but he moves at the last second]
When I first met Dirk, he seemed to have eyes in the back of his head ... That's my boy!
[Dirk goes on the offensive]
These two guys were great performers, who knew how to give the crowd what they wanted ...
[Moammar puts Dirk in a chokehold]
I try to keep tellin' myself, "There's no business like show business."
[Moammar gives Dirk the ol' Hogan leg drop]
Moammar was sending Dirk a message.
[he leans in and tells Dirk "I'm just gettin' started!"]
Loud and clear ...
[after some trash talk from the Soup Nazi and some words of encouragement from Tony, Dirk slowly gets up to begin the (unrehearsed?) comeback]
Suddenly all the years of sweaty locker rooms, cheap hotels, and broken marriages were showing on Dirk's face!
[Dirk lands some punches]
Moammar seemed to be standing for every failure in Dirk's life, and he was not gonna get even!
[Dirk delivers a clothesline in the corner, then yells "I'm just gettin' started too!" before following it up with a DDT (in slow motion) as the crowd starts chanting "Dirk! Dirk! Dirk!"]
The crowd was with him now, and he suddenly seemed twenty years younger!
[Dirk picks him up and delivers another DDT, as the camera pans down to show the ringside clock fade from 8:26 to 8:54pm (this will be somewhat significant later)]
I don't know how long the bout really lasted, but for me, it was a lifetime ...
[the camera pans back up to show Dirk delivering more punishment in the form of a Samoan Drop]
But at least my guy was goin' out like a champion! Moammar's corner always thought he could come back against Dirk, but now they were starting to believe their man could lose ...
[Dirk then goes for the Spinning Toe Hold (!), and the ref starts asking Moammar if he gives up]
Moammar's shoulders were on the mat, ready to be counted out ...
[Moammar doesn't move, so the ref makes the three count and signals for the bell (actually, he just points at Dirk and screams "Winner! Winner!")]
I couldn't believe it! Against all odds, against a superior opponent, Dirk had finally beaten the man he could never beat! What a way to go out!
So it looks like Dirk Simmons goes out with a happy ending, right? Welllll ...
As Dirk and Tony celebrate their victory, the ringside doctor checks on Moammar and makes a "shocking" announcement:
This man's dead, he's ice cold! Been dead for at least twenty minutes ... You've been wrestling a dead man.
Uhhh ... what?
So, I guess we're to believe that Dirk was dragging an unresponsive corpse around the ring "Weekend at Bernie's" style? I mean, even if this was a "shoot" match in some respects, you'd think Dirk would've gotten at least a little suspicious when Moammar stopped calling spots ... and could he really have dead-lifted Moammar up on his shoulders for that Samoan Drop without at least a little help?
Anyway, everyone just kind of stands around with a dead man in the ring ... Even Tony's monologue seems unnecessarily harsh ("I'll never forget the look on Dirk's face. Even in victory, he was a loser. Now, he couldn't take away with him the satisfaction of beating his archrival.").
After a "dramatic" reveal of the poster advertising the bout ("Friday 13th Wrestling Extravaganza"), we jump to host Jonathan Frakes who tries to make sense of what we just witnessed:
So what really happened in the ring? Was Dirk Simmons really wrestling a dead man? Could his own adrenaline have been pumping so hard that he didn't realize that he was getting no resistance from his opponent? It certainly didn't look that way to the crowd. Perhaps the doctor was mistaken about the time of death? Maybe Moammar really did die only moments before the doctor examined him. Then again, maybe Moammar was so determined to win, that his inner spirit kept fighting after his heart stopped beating ... Was this story fact or fiction? That's a problem we leave you to wrestle with.
Nice work clearing things up, Riker ...
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