Vice’s Dark Side of the Ring series peels back the curtain on some of professional wrestling’s wildest and, in some cases, darkest stories. From the life of ECW’s Original Gangsta New Jack to the harrowing tragedy of the Benoit family, Vice’s docuseries has never been shy about tackling a variety of topics from behind the curtain of professional wrestling. Their upcoming continuation of season 3 promises to deliver more of the same analysis that has attracted both casual and hardcore fans alike.

In preparation for the debut of the upcoming season on September 16th, series co-creators Jason Eisener and Evan Husney sat down with Screen Rant to talk about the balance they strike in the series’s stories, their approach in bringing WWE talent on board for the series,  and if they wanted to do more with specific episodes. They also provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their own series.


Screen Rant: So, first off, how’s everyone doing? How’re you guys?

Jason Eisener: Great! Still in the middle of finishing the rest of season 3, but it’s going good, and we’re almost there!

Evan Husney: Yeah I can’t believe it’s 14 episodes we’ve done in the past year. It’s like a total blur.

Especially with the topics you’ve covered in those 14 episodes. So, you’re still producing the last bit of season 3B basically?

Evan Husney: Just finishing it up! Lock in the edits, doing the sound mix…

So the last-minute production stuff. It’s content-done, so just editing now for the most part.

Evan Husney: That’s right!

One question I’ve always wondered watching Dark Side of the Ring: How were you able to get some of the interviews that you got from WWE contracted talent/legends? For instance, in the Brian Pillman episode, you managed to get Austin, and Stone Cold Steve Austin is obviously doing stuff with the WWE through either his appearances or the Austin show [on Peacock]. I’ve always wondered how you were able to get some of the WWE talent to get on board with that.

Evan Husney: Well I mean…at the end of the day, we usually just make an effort to ask. In terms of Steve, it was because the subject of Brian Pillman was so interconnected with his own career, and he was friends with Brian. Came up in the business with Brian. It was like, “Let’s reach out”, and we didn’t know if it would be possible or not, but we reached out directly, and lo and behold!

He had watched the show, he had liked the show, and he wanted to be a part of it and that was it! In some cases, without naming names, when we reach out to certain talent, we find out that there might be a conflict of interest and we can’t do it, or they’re worried about potentially jeopardizing an opportunity with WWE, so they don’t want to do it, but it is kind of an interesting thing because with regards to our season finale episode this year talking about the Steroid Trials, we were able to get WWE’s lawyer Jerry McDevitt to be a part of it, so I don’t think there’s a “hard-and-fast” rule. It just kinda comes down to when it makes sense and for what story and if we can get the access or not. So, we have been fortunate in the past to be able to get that, but sometimes, it hasn’t worked out as well.

I see your Jake Roberts painting in the background, and it drew to mind the episode revolving around his family with Grizzly Smith, and that really harsh story by comparison to some of the other episodes of Dark Side of the Ring. Is there a balance that you guys try to strike with some of the darker stories vs. the relatively lighter stories? Like the stories of Owen Hart and Grizzly Smith vs. talking about New Jack. 

Evan Husney: I think that it’s something that we are mindful of, but I think we always just wanna choose the best stories. No matter what the most interesting, captivating stories are. No matter if it’s dark, if it’s a Herb Abrams “lighter” story, and you can even look at that story and say it’s not light. You can look at Brawl for All. My girlfriend thinks Brawl for All is the darkest story of them all, so it’s interesting how different people kinda perceive it. I think, for us, we always just go for what the best story is and kinda go from there, although we are very mindful.

I know when we went into doing the Grizzly Smith story and it looked like it was gonna move ahead, we knew that this was gonna be probably some of the darkest areas we would explore in the show, so we’re always mindful of that and also mindful on how the whole episode is gonna come together. We really try to justify bringing an audience that far down into the depths. We really try to find the light at the end of the tunnel. That’s something we’re definitely mindful of.

Jason Eisener: That’s a really good point because as dark as that episode is, it’s important to us that there is an aspect of it that you see in the end how these people made it through and, hopefully, people watching the show going through similar things could find inspiration or strength in some of the people on our show.

Particularly the scene where Jake Roberts has gone from where he was back then to where he is now. DDP Yoga. Finding his inner peace. Finding where he is now with AEW.

Jason Eisener: Same with his sister Rockin’ Robin and how she’s pulled her life together and is successful today. We find her extremely inspiring as well.

Are there any episodes that you’ve done that you wish you could’ve expanded into a two-hour episode like Benoit or Pillman?

Evan Husney: Yeah the Grizzly Smith episode! Maybe that one moreso than most of them. There’s so much more to the story. JoLynn, Jake’s sister, and the kidnapping…the trial. There’s little pockets of moments to expand upon there for sure. I think that one, without thinking about it thoroughly, is probably the one that sticks out the most to me that I would love to have expanded. You could make an argument to expand the Owen one, but I think, for us, it was always about those final days, and I know Martha [Hart] has always wanted to create something that was more feature-length about Owen’s whole life, so we definitely want her to have that opportunity. Dynamite Kid too, that’s potentially also another candidate for that as well.

Jason Eisener: The Grizzly Smith one was one of the episodes that’s probably closest to me, being also just a fan of Jake Roberts. He was one of my very first favorite wrestlers. There’s just so much more that you can go into with his life story, with Rockin’ Robin’s life story. That episode could’ve been three or four episodes. There’s a whole journey of their lives that could be told and gone through, but we’re only given the time that we have. You know at one point, I think at the very beginning, this show was thought of as a half-hour show. Can you imagine if we tried to get these stories down to 20-something minutes? It would’ve been impossible!

Evan Husney: Yeah that would’ve been impossible, but with that being said though, I will say that even the Grizzly Smith episode as an hour, shout out to our editor Jason Cook on that episode, I think there’s an artform to taking that story and making it as effective in the amount of time we do have for sure.

Vice recently aired an episode of Vice Versa on the life of Chyna. There was talk about her story being a Dark Side of the Ring episode. Was it ever pitched as a DSOTR episode, or was it something that was immediately given to Vice Versa?

Evan Husney: From the very beginning, Chyna… we always wanted to be a story that we covered. I can’t remember… I think it was during season 2, and then there was news out there that there were two competing documentaries at the time that kinda consolidated into one, but at the time, it was two different documentaries that were being actively produced with interviews already being done. It was a decision that we made, as heartbreaking as it was for us because we’re huge fans, as the idea that if we try to get into this and now, trying to compete with certain family members and maybe what our story will have… We didn’t want to put family members at odds and have conflicting, “Here’s our story and their story”. I didn’t necessarily think it was the right thing to do, and the documentary that was being made that wound up on Vice which we didn’t know at the time. We felt that it would be best for Chyna that this film became the definitive film. I think they did a terrific job.

Are there any stories in wrestling, both contemporary and overall, that you’d like to cover in a particular episode?

Evan Husney: There’s tons. We have a running list of dozens of potential subjects and topics for DSOTR, so I think there’s a lot left to explore. If we do get the opportunity to go into a season 4, I think it’d be cool to take the show into a little more tonal directions as well. One I think that would be really cool is that our first season covered three stories set in World Class Championship Wrestling, our favorite territory of them all. We’d love to explore a story about Gentleman Chris Adams. There’s a wild, crazy profile story you could get there. Maybe the Fabulous Freebirds if we’re given that opportunity. That would be really cool to be able to tell their story. There’re tons out there.

As far as a contemporary story, it’s tough. The Nick Gage episode from this season is probably the most contemporary story that we’ve told, but even at the end of that episode, his story is not even finished. I think it’s tough for us to do stories that are happening actively now because you don’t wanna start filming it, and then, a new chapter emerges. I think, for us, that’s probably as contemporary as we can get.

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