If you are not familiarized with lucha libre, chances are you know Vampiro as the guy that is always picking fights with Konnan or throwing tantrums in the announcer desk because no one is playing his music at TripleMania. However—and whether you like it or not—this man is a legend in México. Every fan that grew up watching lucha in the 90s will tell you all about how Vampiro Canadiense was the coolest guy on TV, and it’s easy to understand why: the man looked different from anything you would see in lucha libre around that time and his whole punk rock vibe was something teenagers gravitated toward.
Fast forward to 2019 and Vampiro has become a controversial figure whose attitude in and outside the ring has caused many debates and ironic laughs. Deep down behind that rebellious, attitude, there’s an interesting story veiled by a heavy past. Nail in the Coffin is a documentary directed by Michael Paszt that explores just that: where does this Vampiro persona come from, and more importantly, who Ian Hodkinson is.
Through this 90-minute documentary, you get to learn many things about Vampiro’s life: his start in lucha libre, his involvement with the mafia in Montreal, his career in WCW, his position in Lucha Underground, his work as an agent in AAA, among others. Along the way, you get to hear interviews with people like Dorian Roldán (AAA’s owner), Jeff Jarrett, Killer Kross and of course, Vampiro himself.
Hearing about how Vampiro robbed pimps in his teenage years is damn fun, but the main thread of this film is Vamp’s relationship with his daughter Dasha: this is what makes Nail in the Coffin feel special. It’s not only about pro wrestling… it’s about the sacrifice this business requires and how that can affect the people you love the most. Through Paszt’ lens you get to learn about the toll wrestling has taken on Vampiro’s physical and mental health, and the way that impacts his connection with Dasha. It’s a heartbreaking tale that is also filled with hope, love and passion. By seeing how love fuels his life, you get a glimpse of Vampiro’s human side.
The editing of this film takes a while to get used to. Paszt jumps all over the place, trying to cover many aspects of Vampiro’s life: you get five minutes of Vamp and his daughter at a diner, then we jump to Vamp talking about his job as an agent; when things start to get interesting, the films changes the tune and now we get the history of his rivalry with Konnan. This jumping is annoying at first, and then it becomes apparent that every story is a piece of a bigger puzzle that is trying to shine a light on our subject’s issues: it really doesn’t matter how the Konnan/Vampiro hate started… what is important about that bit in the scope of this documentary, is comprehending the passionate, rampant personality Vampiro has, which in turn helps you figure out why he keeps returning to the wrestling business instead of settling down with his daughter in Canada.
Being honest, I was frustrated on the way some themes were handled because I felt we could’ve learned so much more about Vampiro, and we only scratched the surface on stuff about this past such as sexual abuse and drug use. However, I can understand and respect the decision of the director, who sacrificed some wrestling stories and heavy themes in order to focus on the true purpose of the documentary: highlight the bond between a father and his daughter.
Regardless of your interest in Vampiro, If you are a lucha fan, and specifically a AAA fan, I would argue this is a must-see documentary simply because it has a goldmine of behind-the-scenes Triplemania XXV footage. Vampiro was working as an agent/producer for that show, and fortunately for us, Michael Paszt captured some of the magic that went on backstage during it. Remember Sexy Star shooting on Rosemary? Yeah, there’s some of that. Remember drunk Jeff Jarrett? If you do, you’re in for a treat. A very intoxicated Jarrett insulting everyone and trying to pick up fights with Killer Kross, La Parka and Argenis while a calm Vampiro is trying to contain the situation is the stuff dreams are made of.
There are some parts of the documentary that felt rushed. There’s an explanation of Vampiro’s failed WCW career that is used as a device to show him breaking his neck and how that affected the rest of his life; yes, that is meaningful, but in order to get there, the film poorly tries to explain what WCW was, it’s toxic environment and how Vamp’s gimmick clashed with Sting. I’m pretty sure non-wrestling fans will get confused at this bad summary of facts.
Regardless of the few negatives, Nail in the Coffin: The Fall and Rise of Vampiro is an engaging, sincere film about a professional wrestler that just wants to see his daughter grow old, but whose passion won’t allow him to quit the business. It’s an entertaining, grimy, intimate look at the human side of Ian Hodkinson and a fascinating tale that—despite some flaws—can be appealing to any moviegoer, whether he watches wrestling or not.
Right now, ‘Nail in the Coffin: The Fall and Rise of Vampiro’ is only playing in film festivals. I would advise following Raven Entertainment on Facebook or Twitter for news updates about future screenings.