I grew up watching pro wrestling in the 1990s, which means I lived through the “Monday Night War” between Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling (WCW). There were plenty of colorful characters in both promotions, and, for a couple of years, Vampiro was one of them. Similar to the face-painted warriors who preceded him, Vampiro had a mystique about him that seemed to resonate with fans. He never became a top guy, perhaps because he was in WCW during its waning years and was never invited to join the WWF (now WWE). However, he was a lucha libre legend in Mexico. Now that he’s semi-retired, Vampiro — real name Ian Hodgkinson — is releasing a documentary through digital VOD services on September 8. Entitled Nail in the Coffin: The Fall & Rise of Vampiro, it’s a wonderful, yet tragic, film that documents the internal struggles and external injuries of a wrestler trying to break away from the business that broke him.
In Nail in the Coffin: The Fall & Rise of Vampiro I learned how Vampiro doesn’t enjoy fame. He clearly didn’t get into wrestling to be famous. Having his celebrity bleed into his personal life and private time with his daughter is something he derides. It’s also made clear how he has disdain for Jeff Jarrett and Konnan for how they negatively affected his career in the U.S. and in Mexico. What I found fascinating about this is that both Jeff and Konnan are prominent in this documentary. Why include two men you hate to tell your story?! I have no idea, but I appreciate the warts-and-all approach the director took with this documentary.My two big takeaways from this movie are that Vampiro has a hate/love relationship with wrestling and that his body has been absolutely destroyed. He clearly doesn’t love it anymore and wants to break away from the business because it’s robbing him of time with his daughter, and it has destroyed his body to the point where he now has Alzheimer’s disease. These moments make the viewer want to yell at the screen, “Just quit already!” There’s a shot in the documentary that shows Vampiro trying to step off of a sidewalk curb onto an asphalt parking lot and he can barely make the miniscule distance. He’s hobbling, unsteady, and noticeably in a massive amount of pain. Seeing this made me feel incredibly sad for him. It also made me want to reach out to Diamond Dallas Page because if anyone needs to be doing DDP Yoga, it’s Vampiro. Nail in the Coffin also reveals that Vampiro was sexually abused and had to overcome drug addiction. Clearly, this man has lived a hard and fast life, and I feel for him.
The movie includes stories of Vampiro touring with Milli Vanilli and wrestling alongside the punk rock band The Misfits. These moments of lightheartedness help lift Nail in the Coffin out of the overwhelming sadness and strife that permeate most of it. This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it. The Resurrection of Jake the Snake, which is the greatest professional wrestling documentary of all time, is filled with tragedy and sadness. Yet, it shows how Jake overcame all of that to become a better man. Unfortunately, this movie doesn’t have that shining moment at the end.
While there is no WWE Hall of Fame moment at the end of this documentary like there was in The Resurrection of Jake the Snake, Nail in the Coffin does have a satisfying conclusion because it’s clear that Vampiro knows he needs to make changes to improve his life. In an interview I conducted with Vampiro, which is forthcoming, he explained to me how the man in this movie is no longer him. He’s lost 130 pounds, left wrestling behind, and he has found happiness. This gave me great comfort because as enthralling as Nail in the Coffin: The Fall & Rise of Vampiro is, it’s also depressing. With all of this in mind, I would absolutely watch this documentary again and I recommend that you check it out. It doesn’t matter if you’re a wrestling fan or not, all of us have internal and external struggles similar to those of Vampiro. I can see a little bit of myself in his story, and I bet you will too.