wrestling / Columns

Dark Side of the Ring Creators on Their Longer Season 3, Possible Season 4 Episode, Brian Pillman

May 5, 2021 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Dark Side of the Ring Promo Image

Dark Side of the Ring is about to return for its mammoth-sized third season. With Season 2, the show became the highest-rated program in VICE TV history. Not to mention, the franchise has received spinoffs in the form of Dark Side of the Ring: Confidential, along with new expansions with the Dark Side theme, such as Dark Side of the Football and Dark Side of the 90s. Season 3 hits VICE on May 6 with a special two-parter examining the life and career the late WCW and WWE legend, Brian Pillman.

The show’s creators, Evan Husney and Jason Eisener, recently joined the 411 Wrestling Interviews podcast for an exclusive interview, where Husney discussed the successful launch of Season 3 of the hit docuseries, as well as the show’s progression from six episodes in Season 1 to 14 episodes in Season 3. Here’s what Husney and Eisener had to say on the challenges regarding filming the third season of Dark Side of the Ring during a global pandemic, what viewers can expect this season, one of their goals for a possible Season 4 and more:

Jeffrey Harris: Going back to Season 2, it started with the two-part Chris Benoit story, and it ended with the passing of Owen Hart. When I saw the Chris Benoit documentary, I called it the greatest wrestling documentary I had ever seen, and I do not say that lightly. Those were two of the darkest days in wrestling history, and what struck me about the episodes, the way you approached them, they were completely lacking in sensationalism. Those subjects were treated with the utmost gravity. How important were those ideas for you gentlemen when crafting those episodes?

Evan Husney: Well, for Benoit, I remember before Jason and I knew that we were going to have a Season 2, we didn’t really plan for it, but kind of the downtime working in between Season 1 and when it eventually aired, you know, we really wanted to tell that story. We really wanted to revisit that because we were sensing not only fans wanting to know more about it, but as we got to know folks like Chavo Guerrero Jr., someone we got know during the making of the first season, that there was kind of like — because there’s a lot of these — a lot of the wrestlers who were involved in that story had moved on outside of WWE. There was sort of this [notion] like, ‘OK. Now, we can talk about it, and we want to talk about it. We haven’t really processed these emotions because we’ve been told not to for so many years, and it’s kind of that need for catharsis.’ But also, it’s also like when we learned that Nancy’s sister, Sandra [Toffoloni], and Chris’ son, David, were kind of estranged and now trying to come together, I think we sort of learned, now there’s a reason to kind of revisit this story, or there’s more purpose for us. It’s not just talking about, like what you were saying, sensationalizing or exploiting this story just for a television show. We would never want to do that.

So, once we realized that, we started developing it as its own little side project that we would maybe pitch to another network. But as soon as we heard that it was a Season 2, it was like, ‘OK, we’ve done all this research, but it’s too big for one hour of television with commercials. We’re gonna have to make it into two.’ That’s what happened there. And then with Owen, it was just kind of like a similar thing. I don’t want to revisit this story because it is one of the darkest days in wrestling, and I wouldn’t want to exploit it the same way. And then when we did reach out to Martha [Hart, Owen Hart’s widow], and then, honestly, when I did more research on my own learning more about Martha’s side, which I really think has been marginalized, and/or unless you had read her book, you wouldn’t really know all the things that she had gone through. I saw a whole opportunity, we both did, saw an opportunity to really kind of tell another side of that story than what’s been out there. And that gave us the purpose to do that.

Jeffrey Harris: Season 2 of Dark Side of the Ring was 10 episodes. Season 3 is 14 episodes. Did you know when starting Season 3 that it would be 14 episodes, and did you have a story breakdown session to determine the list of subjects for Season 3?

Evan Husney: Yeah, they called us up and said 14 episodes. I was not expecting that. I was like, ‘Huh, Excuse me?’ And [I] was trying to even process — you know, first off, we were in the throes of the pandemic. And that was even how? How? At the time. And then it was like, ’14 episodes?! Oh my gosh!’ And yeah, because Jason and I have had many ideas like Brian Pillman, or stories that we wanted to tell if we had an opportunity to make a third season. But 14 was kind of like bigger than we ever anticipated, but yeah, it was 14 from the get-go. And then it was like, when we learned that the season was going to be split up into two sections in the year, it made it a little bit more achievable. And it’s like, ‘OK. That’s cool.’ And then that gave us a little bit more confidence to be able to think about it, ‘OK. Let’s just focus on the first half for right now, and then as we’re going…’ You know, we have our amazing, hard-working team that we can’t make the show without, researching it along the way. And then we’re like adding to the roster of stories as we’re going. But yeah, 14 [episodes], whew!

Jeffrey Harris: And considering Season 2 of Dark Side of the Ring came out very early into the pandemic, it was great to have this show to have something to watch and focus on for a while.

Jason Eisener: Yeah, for us too. Even when the lock[down] here in Canada, it was like this crazy lockdown right at the top, and we had to stay inside. We were working on post for Season 2.

Evan Husney: Remote! Some of the first *laughs* remote productions. We had to adapt to it very quickly because our — yeah, I think we got the last shots of Season 2, we filmed them two days before the entire province shut down.

Jason Eisener: It was the day before. Literally, the day before the whole — everything, all productions shut down. And then it gave me a giant hard drive of all the footage on it, and it went home here in Nova Scotia.

Evan Husney: You went home with like a —

Jason Eisener: A giant computer.

Evan Husney: And that’s how we finished the last three episodes, yeah.

Jeffrey Harris: Was this a daunting production task, Jason, not just the 14 episodes split up, but also the pandemic restrictions and working around that?

Jason Eisener: Yeah. Even last year when we did 10 episodes, it was so hard without a pandemic to deal with. So yeah, it had its challenges because we have to travel with guys in an RV, and we got to do quarantine back and forth. Like, I’ve already this year have done over 60 days of isolated quarantine just from the travel aspect of that, of the show. So, it is — yeah, I will say because of the success of Season 2, we’ve been able to get more people on board and create a bigger team. There’s no way we would’ve been able to do it the way we did last year without having more support.

Evan Husney: Yeah, totally, and that’s been good too. And also, being really stringent on protocols, and it’s adapted how we do things behind the scenes, but it hasn’t affected anything in the result of the show. The show’s still the same show. Jason and I, that was very important to us. We wanted to be extremely safe and do everything right, at the same time, not try to sacrifice any of the quality of the show, which knock on wood, we’ve been able to do.

Jeffrey Harris: Season 3 will open with the story of Brian Pillman, and now we have his son, Brian Pillman Jr., who is looking to have his own career in wrestling and following in his father’s footsteps to some degree. Do we hear from Brian Pillman Jr. in this documentary?

Evan Husney: Boy, do we ever. Brian Pillman Jr. was the first person I called about this episode, and that was right at the beginning of, literally, when I knew that Season 3 was going to soldier forth. I got Brian’s number, I called him because this was always a story I knew Jason and I wanted to do. And it kind of was like we really wanted Steve Austin to be a part of it, and I figured after the success of Season 2, we were able to make that more of a possibility to get on his radar a little bit more. And then it was like, ‘OK. This will be a great story to kick off Season 3 with.’ It checks all the boxes. It’s an incredible story, and Brian Jr. was down right away and wanted to do this.

He rounded up all his family, and for a majority of all his family members are part of this — his immediate family — are a part of this story. And it’s a huge family story. It’s not just about the rise of Brian Pillman, and the incredible, boundary-pushing loose cannon character. It’s also about the consequences of that, and the consequences of his family that not only just dealt with certain things at that time, but also after the fact, after Brian Pillman Sr.’s passing as well. It is a sweeping, dramatic story, and something that I was surprised to find couldn’t be told in a single hour. It had to be bare-minimum a two-hour special.

Jason Eisener: Yeah, we were like so fascinated by the family aspect. If you grow up a fan of wrestling and watching wrestling documentaries, you really only get it from the wrestler’s point of view. But to hear the ramifications it can have at home, it’s so fascinating and tragic. Like Brian Pillman Jr., to hear him talk about when his dad passed away, he thought it was part of a story angle. He thought it was just wrestling. And he’s watching his family grieve, and he’s like waiting for the cameras to pop out. And so when you hear something like that, you’re like, ‘Wow.’ For a child to process their parent’s death in that way, but to also have that blurred lines of the character and the show involved, where else can you find that in any other form of entertainment or sport where a family has to navigate the wrestling world in that kind of way?

Jeffrey Harris: Another episode this season will cover the Ultimate Warrior. I’m a big Ultimate Warrior fan, but I’m also aware of his past where he’s made a lot of statements that I can’t really defend outside of the business. Behind the scenes, he was not the most well-like individual. So, I’m curious what we can expect for this story about the Ultimate Warrior as a topic, and do you think it will be more fair than The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior?

Evan Husney: Well, honestly speaking, the Ultimate Warrior as a subject for Dark Side of the Ring was not one that I would’ve kind of come to on my own. It was something that we kept seeing fans wanting to see us cover, and I was kind of trying to wrap my head around it. Obviously, the circumstances around his passing are just — it’s unbelievable. Coming back into the fold with WWE, and then passing just a short time after, after reconciling and everything like that. But for me, it was like, I needed to find, for me, some angle on the story or something with that story that would make it worth tackling because again, it’s been a subject that’s been talked about a lot.

And for me, it was just after speaking with his first wife, Shari [Tyree], who’s amazing, and she just wanted to really humanize Jim [Hellwig; Warrior’s real name] because he is such a historically contentious character in wrestling. And there’s a lot that’s been written about him, like you were saying, The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior and other things. And I think what we wanted to do was try and for the best that we could, even though it’s hard to find some positive voices about the Ultimate Warrior, just to create a human portrait of the Ultimate Warrior, what made him tick, and what made him make the decisions he made in his career. And I think that’s also telling the story of the experience — we’re always fascinated by the family point of view in our story, and what it’s like to be married to a major wrestling star and sort of inheriting that lifestyle. She married a guy that was a chiropractor. He was a very physically fit chiropractor, but that’s who she married. And then all of the sudden, she gets swept up in the wrestling world, and it can take a toll on a marriage or a loved one. And that’s something that we explore a lot. So, when that started to emerge out of the story, it became something that we were interested in.

Jeffrey Harris: When I had interviewed you gentlemen for the first season, you informed us about the Dino Bravo episode that you had started working on for that season, but it didn’t make it into the lineup. Eventually, we got to see the finished product for Dark Side of the Ring Season 2. So, why don’t you go ahead and break to us one of the episodes that we’re going to see in Season 4? Perhaps, it’s the WWE flight that was stuck in Saudi Arabia, or the WWE in Saudi Arabia situation?

Evan Husney: For our 57-episode Season 4! No, no, no. Every time we’ve done this, I have to have my semi-stock answer for what the next season episode I want to do because we get asked it a lot. Normally, we like to keep those close to the chest, not for gatekeeper reasons. Mostly because we want the family members to have the opportunity of knowing first, and getting their blessing, and things like that. But the one that I said last time around, Collision in Korea, which we were able to make, which was really super cool and very fun, zany episode to make. But the one that really want to do for Season 4 if that’s in the cards at all is add on to our Texas trilogy. Season 1 we had our Bruiser Brody, Gino Hernandez, Von Erichs run. That’s our Texas trilogy. So, to add on to that, to make the fourth installment of the Texas series, I think we want to do Gentleman Chris Adams, that would be a fantastic story to do. So, that’s my answer.

Jason Eisener: That’s always — that story, when we’re interviewing people through the course of Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, everyone’s got like a crazy Chris Adams story. You know, just like piling up. One of my favorite wrestling documentaries is Gentleman’s Choice about Chris Adams. I feel there’s more to add to him.

Evan Husney: And we can call Steve [Austin] up again, and hopefully Steve will be in because he was trained by Chris Adams. Steve Austin, and that would be amazing.

Thank you to Dark Side of the Ring Producer Evan Husney and Director Jason Eisener for taking the time to speak with us. Dark Side of the Ring Season 3 debuts Thursday, May 6 on VICE TV.

And if you’re enjoying all of our recent interviews with names like Chris Jericho, Gail Kim, Alexander Hammerstone, Mance Warner, Lance Archer, Jim Ross and Rob Van Dam and want to support us getting more interviews with big names in wrestling, please leave us a 5 star review on Apple Podcasts. It only takes a few seconds to do and really helps us out!

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Introduction (0:00​)
On treating the darkest stories like Owen Hart and Chris Benoit with gravity and avoiding sensationalism (1:16​)
On getting 14 episodes for season three and approaching that challenge (4:47​)
On putting the season together and producing it amid the challenges of the pandemic (7:30​)
On the Brian Pillman episode and Brian Pillman Jr.’s involvement (9:06​)
On their approach to the Ultimate Warrior episode and what to expect from it (12:14​)
On if they have any ideas for a possible season four and what topic they want to cover (15:15​)
Outro (18:33​)