Reviews: The Path

We review the wrestling doc, The Path.

I’ve been an admitted avid wrestling fan since I was a teenager. My favorite wrestlers of the late 90s era include Mick Foley, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Terry Funk and Al Snow. Having watched and taped as much Monday Night Raw as I did, it was inevitable I would come across wrestling documentaries as I ate the profession up, the best of which included Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows, Beyond the Mat and The Unreal Story of Pro Wrestling. The latest and greatest contribution to wrestling culture as of current involves an online webseries of videos called Botchamania dedicated to bloopers and mistakes caught on camera. When the opportunity came to review a wrestling documentary for The Movie Sleuth arose, I leapt on it off the top rope with a moonsault. As the promotional and mildly faith-based documentary The Path unspooled, mid-jump I realized as a fan I was destined for hard concrete instead of a padded rubber floor

The crowdfunded story of Ring of Honor star Ray Rowe’s rise to success in the wrestling business before his career is abruptly cut short by a near fatal motorcycle accident will tug at the uninitiated viewer’s heartstrings. The bearded heavy’s tale of downfall and eventual redemption before getting back on the horse with an endless montage of talking heads proclaiming the greatness of Ray Rowe for emerging from the physical and emotional trauma intact will come across as a testament of faith and inspiration for some. Unfortunately for someone like myself accustomed to these sort of video resumes hoping to catch a bite from a potential promoter who will land said wrestler in a contract with WWE, The Path played less like a documentary feature than a job application for NXT. If you remember the DVD menu for Shrek, Ray Rowe is basically the donkey leaping up and down imploring ‘please pick me!'
"Motorcycle accident? 
You mean my training regimen?"
With its Gucci inspired intertitles adorned with loose Biblical terms chronicling Rowe’s journey from rise to fall and rise again, The Path stinks of all the nauseating low-budget self-promotion of a Tough Enough audition video pitched like the high stakes human drama of Wrestling with Shadows. All the eulogistic speeches in awe of Ray Rowe, while not disingenuous in expression, have clearly been put to use here as letters of recommendation on Rowe’s behalf, replete with a faint born against Christian angle that just screamed for music by Creed with a Kirk Cameron cameo. Motivations aside, literally every part of the movie that didn’t consist of ringside footage or talking heads was blurry or out of focus, resembling the technical equivalent of a YouTube video (although even that is being generous here). The background score is your average Casio keyboard elevator music, neither adding nor subtracting from the piece. It’s just there and devoid of any dramatic impact whatsoever. For a supposed documentary about wrestling, there’s very little actual visual examples of the profession on display here, mostly mugging Rowe’s face when he isn’t allowing fellow colleagues to speak about how great he is.
Mercifully this thing is only an hour in length, but I’m honestly unsure outside of wrestling promoters who the target audience for The Path is. Certainly not wrestling fans who will be bored to tears when they aren’t put off by smarminess. Yes, I felt bad for Ray Rowe’s predicament and applaud him for getting back on track, but that doesn’t justify having sat through The Path and in all frankness, there are countless stories of wrestling injuries in and out of the ring whose ordeals more than eclipse Rowe’s dilemma. Most viewers at first glance will want to loan Rowe a hand to his shoulder if not a hug, but I couldn’t help but smell a self-serving rat here. There’s nothing wrong with applying for a greater wrestling contract, as many from Ring of Honor are on the precipice of a WWE career and often make the jump from there. What reason was there for me to see it? I’m certainly not in a position to hire Rowe with a lifelong wrestling contract nor am I inclined to recommend The Path to fans, let alone anybody.


- Andrew Kotwicki