To those in the know, there is no name quite as synonymous with fear and violence as New Jack. A hardcore wrestling boogeyman that was known for his violent antics and dedication to shedding as much blood in-ring as humanly possible. It was only a matter of time before he’d fall under the lens of the Dark Side of the Ring team and have his stories told. The big question is, how do you approach a person who’s name still sends ripples of fear and revulsion through so many wrestling communities today?
The documentary acts as a timeline for New Jack’s career from comments on his training with Ray Candy all the way to his last big controversy. It unflinchingly shows the dangerous and deadly things New Jack has done whilst allowing the man himself to narrate them and explain the thought processes and stories behind them. From pissing off the Smokey Mountain Crowds in the early 90s to how he infused his character to fit the world around him to how he straight-up tried to murder one of his opponents. No topic is considered too off-limits for New Jack to talk with glee about.
To me though, one of the most interesting talking points of the episode is the stories of the Gangstaz and the behind the scenes stories of Mustafa Saed as they riled up America by, as D’Lo Brown quoted, ”Telling every white person what every other black person wanted to tell them but couldn’t.” There are several horrifying/humourous stories of Mustafa Saed smoking weird substances and having to escape from angry crowds all before ever setting foot in ECW.
Taking quotes from D’Lo Brown, Sandman, Jim Cornette, Tiny the Terrible, and more, it also tries to portray how New Jack’s addiction to being the most extreme man in the room caused a lot of harm to other people and to himself. It also reflects on the nature of ECW and the potentially harmful nature of its obsession with realness, something that other documentaries try to gloss over as the nature of the company. We also got the details on the most infamous incident in the ECW history, Mass Transit. Whilst being a story echoed throughout the annals of wrestling history, the documentary still managed to shed new light on the story, and Jack tried to explain why he treated Erich Kulas the way he did.
As events spiral on, it touches on countless other horrific incidents, some caused by New Jack, some caused by coke and some caused by other people. It is a whirlwind of violence, all narrated by a swearing New Jack keeping it as real as possible. He tells the honest truth with no f*cks given, remaining almost true to his character. He seems completely unfazed by anything that can be used against him and talks with complete honesty. It also speaks to his dedication to his craft as he talks heavily about the rules of wrestling and what would happen if you don’t play by them. One of those consequences being attempted murder.
Eric Kulas aka Mass Transit was a novice wrestler from Rhode Island. On November 23, 1996, he had an unforgettable match with New Jack that would spawn national media controversy and a criminal court case.
— Dark Side of the Ring (@DarkSideOfRing) March 31, 2020
However, when it’s all over, and we get to the end, you remember New Jack is a human. He shows regret over some of his actions, has revealed the consequences of his matches and injuries, problems with racism, and a broken home life. Through all the shocking antics, unrepentant speech, and people laughing off the borderline homicide, we saw a human. He might have been a lightning pole of controversy, but he is just as much a human as any of us with flaws and ideals. The documentary never condones what New Jack did and how he carries himself, but it also gives him a platform. It’s a window into the mind of one of wrestling’s boogeymen, and you could see through the people interviewed that he truly was one of the most believable men in wrestling, for better or for worse. In a world where work and shoot have become blurred, it’s clear to see New Jack was ahead of his time. He was unrepentant in his loyalty to his character, to his craft, and to being the most extreme guy in the room. You don’t have to like him, but I’d say you need to see the car crashes he left behind. As a deathmatch and hardcore fan, this was 100% a must-watch. Whether you love him, hate him, or have never heard of him, I’d give this a watch as it is the perfect microcosm into hardcore wrestling and the things it could produce.
The Life and Crimes of New Jack airs on Vice TV UK tonight at 10 PM.
All images courtesy of Dark Side of the Ring Twitter and VICE TV, and Video courtesy of Vice TV YouTube.