Most wrestling documentaries these days follow the plot of The Wrestler. You have the highs of early career work, and you have their downfall in drugs and alcohol. It usually ends with some motivational scene of familial reckoning or them triumphing. Nail In The Coffin: The Fall And Rise Of Vampiro follows some of these trends but leans further into family. More specifically, his daughter and the wrestlers relationship with her. Ian Hodgkinson is a broken man. His body has been abused and battered. But somehow he continues to work in wrestling.
To start off, I had no clue that Vampiro was such a huge star and character in Mexico. My experience with him was strictly his appearances in WCW in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. His feud with Sting is one of my earliest memories and my earliest wrestling memory. While his time in WCW was apparently sabotaged by backstage politicking and jealousy, he was wildly successful outside of that company. This documentary bucks the normal trends of wrestling docs and is a fantastic one for anyone to watch, not just wrestling fans.
Nail In The Coffin: The Rise And Fall Of Vampiro is directed by Michael Paszt. Produced by Pasha Patriki and Paszt, associate producer Maye Ornelas and executive produced by Gregor Habsburg, Jacquelyn Frisco, Ian Hodgkinson, Marisela Peña, Dorain Roldån, James Fler, and Andrew Thomas Hunt. Cinematography by Patriki, and edited by Danny Palmer.
Starting Off For The Non-Fan And A Little Bit Of Drama
The story begins and ends with the wrestling promotion AAA in Mexico. Hodgkinson is a backstage producer and agent for the company. They’re having the equivalent of Wrestlemania, Triplemania. The documentary makes a point to announce that professional wrestling began and continues in Mexico. At Triplemania 25, the co-main event concludes and Johnny Mundo calls out Vampiro. Hodgkinson’s temper and producing style comes out immediately as the whole ordeal takes far too long. We then flashback to the story of how Ian became Vampiro.
His story of before his time in wrestling might be more fascinating than the actual wrestling. Hodgkinson started as a hockey player in the great white North of Canada. His life took a turn for the worst after he was abused by a Priest at his church. He began taking drugs and getting a mean streak. So the story goes, he gets involved with the Canadian Mafia and performing odd nefarious deeds.
If that wasn’t enough, he moves to Los Angeles and becomes a roadie for… Milli Vanilli. The legendary pro wrestler, Vampiro, was a roadie for Milli Vanilli. I wish this portion of the documentary was more fleshed out, because it’s absolutely smashing to hear these stories from his life.
Getting all of that out of the way. The documentary really kicks into gear when it talks about the beginnings of his journey in pro wrestling. He was already broken and went to Mexico and caught the attention of the owners and president of CMLL outside the arena. Hodgkinson had the look of a vampire, and he was dubbed “El Vampiro Canadiense”.
It’s All About Family For Vampiro
The bulk of the documentary is spent on Vampiro’s family, particularly his daughter, Dasha. As he says multiple times in the doc, he’s caught between wanting to see his daughter, and needing to work to provide for her. His schedule is horrendous. He works in Mexico, he works in Los Angeles, and he lives in Canada. So it’s all travel, and no time to see his daughter. While this is happening, his daughter is in high school. In addition to this, later in the documentary, you find out about how he lost millions of dollars due to a neck injury. He also passed on a large nine year contract to be with his family.
Dasha Hodgkinson is a great addition to the documentary. She’s levelheaded on all of the subjects. Ian did a great job keeping her secluded from the pro wrestling world, and their conversation over dinner is fascinating. It also doesn’t do the normal “wrestling doc” cliche of having his whole family hate him. His family speaks glowingly about him. She has pictures of her dad up on her wall. It’s a testament to how Hodgkinson raised her and got his shit together for his daughter.
There isn’t much mention of his ex-wife that he had Dasha with. You see her briefly in pictures and at the end of the doc during Dasha’s high-school graduation. That’s a good thing in my book.
Nail In The Coffin Ends Strong And Tugs At The Heartstrings
Throughout the third act of the documentary, we’re given information about the physical condition of Vampiro. He is physically broken. He can barely walk at times. But he still gets in the ring at times. It’s heartbreaking because he can’t quit. Accounts from current NXT Superstar, Karrion Kross, paint a picture of Hodgkinson that you wouldn’t normally see from a peer. In addition to being incredibly soft-spoken and enlightening on Hodgkinson, Kross shows himself as a performer who cares about his fellow man. I’m more of a fan of Kross after watching this documentary than I was before.
The rivalry between Vampiro and Konnan is somewhat glossed over here. It’s shown as part of the reason Vampiro didn’t succeed in WCW, and it ends the documentary. The two old rivals have one last match, but not much of that is shown. Instead we end on Vampiro’s slow walk back from the commentary booth at a show.
The whole ending section doesn’t have as much action or intrigue as the previous sections, but it does the best job of showing exactly who Ian Hodgkinson is. He’s a family man. He loves his daughter more than anyone else. Finally, he’s a respected man in the back of any wrestling promotion. All of the interviews done for this show glowing reviews for the man. Even from a rival or enemy like Jeff Jarrett.
This Belongs In The Upper Pantheon Of Documentaries
If you go into this documentary not knowing much about Vampiro, you’ll know more than you need to after. It’s informative, it’s emotional, and it’s quite frankly, not preachy. It doesn’t dissuade people from a lifestyle that Hodgkinson had early in his life. You can see the price he paid in real time. But watching the man throughout the doc, he’s not a bad person. He’s far from it. Even in interactions with fans that ask for autographs at bad times, he’s privately annoyed, but not when the fan is there.
If you can tell that I’m glowing about this documentary, it’s because I am. This is one of the best pro wrestling documentaries out there, and just documentaries in general. It takes something that people might not know a lot about, and does the job of informing you while also getting you emotionally invested.
Vampiro is a character that will likely never die in the hearts of Mexican wrestling fans or fans in general. You owe yourself if you’re a fan of wrestling or humanity in general to give this one a watch. It’s an hour and a half long, and it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone.
When And Where To Watch Nail In The Coffin: The Fall And Rise Of Vampiro
The documentary releases on VOD/Digital, Thursday September 8th. You can pick up the blu-ray on pre-order, here.
For more on Vampiro, wrestling, or any other general pop culture, make sure to check back to That Hashtag Show.
All images are courtesy of Epic Pictures.