Heels: The Complete First Season

DVD REVIEW: 

Lionsgate;
Drama;
$34.98 two-DVD set;
Not rated.
Stars Stephen Amell, Alexander Ludwig, Allison Luff, Mary McCormack, Kelli Berglund, Allen Maldonado, James Harrison, Roxton Garcia, Chris Bauer, David James Elliott.

The Starz series “Heels” examines the behind-the-scenes drama of a fictional independent family run wrestling organization in rural Georgia.

Former “Arrow” star Stephen Amell is a natural choice to headline the series, given he’s such a huge fan of professional wrestling he actually participated in storylines and matches for WWE.

Amell plays Jack Spade, who runs the Duffy Wrestling League and also serves as its champion. Jack is the DWL’s primary “heel,” which is wrestling parlance for a bad guy. His brother Ace (Alexander Ludwig) is the DWL’s primary face, aka good guy, and the top contender for the title.

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While the DWL remains a popular attraction among the locals, it is struggling financially, fending off a glitzy, well-funded upstart organization from Florida. By day, Jack works as a salesman for riding lawnmowers, though he remains dedicated to keeping the DWL alive to maintain the legacy of his father (David James Elliott), who committed suicide a year earlier and whose plight is depicted in flashbacks.

Wrestling fans should enjoy some of the nods to the inner workings of professional wrestling, but the show also works simply as a family drama. Non-fans will get a good lesson in the mechanics of the wrestling business, including terms such as “kayfabe,” which refers to the presentation of the fictional storylines and characters as if they were real. This often extends to performers who are friends in real life but enemies in the ring avoiding each other in public just to keep up appearances and help sell their feud to the audience.

While the matches might be staged, the competition behind-the-scenes is very real, with the wrestlers jockeying for position among the company’s roster. Solid performers will get a push, and loyalty is rewarded.

 

When Ace’s ego begins to blur the lines between his character and his real self, the in-ring feud between the brothers boils over into real life, which could have a devastating impact on the future of the DWL.

The flipside of kayfabe, however, sometimes means pretending things that weren’t planned were indeed part of the intended storyline all along, so as not to give the impression the organizers don’t have a handle on what they’re doing.

 

With Ace as a wild card in Jack’s attempts to steer the DWL toward lasting success despite the pressure of a rival organization, the series manages to apply the framework of wrestling storylines to the Spades’ family drama. The potential for betrayal constantly looms, subverting audience expectations over how the DWL’s in-ring storyline is supposed to play out.

The eight episodes of the first season provide a solid foundation for a series that can be enjoyed by both wrestling fans and casual viewers alike.

Season 1 of Wrestling Drama ‘Heels’ Due on DVD Feb. 15

Lionsgate will release the pro-wrestling drama Heels: The Complete First Season on DVD Feb. 15.

Set in a close-knit Georgia community, the Starz series follows a struggling small-town family owned wrestling promotion, the Duffy Wrestling League, as two brothers and rivals, Jack Spade (Stephen Amell) and Ace Space (Alexander Ludwig), war over their late father’s legacy. In the ring, someone must play the good guy, the face (Ace), and someone must play their nemesis, the heel (Jack). But in the real world, those characters can be hard to live up to — or hard to leave behind.

The cast also includes Mary McCormack, Kelli Berglund and Allen Maldonado.

The first season consists of eight episodes.

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‘Impact Wrestling’ Gets Euro Expansion on Pluto TV

WWE competitor Impact Wrestling is getting expanded distribution in Europe through a new AVOD deal with Pluto TV.

A subsidiary of Anthem Sports & Entertainment Inc., Impact aims to expand its brand of professional wrestling content across the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. The move comes as a continuation of Impact’s partnership with Pluto TV, which kicked off in April 2018 with the U.S. launch on the Fox Entertainment ad-supported streaming television service.

Pro wrestling has always had a niche following. The sport upped its profile after NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service became the official SVD/AVOD home for WWE events.

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Pluto TV users throughout Europe will have access to almost two decades of new and classic content, including sport icons such as Ric Flair, Sting, Kurt Angle, Kevin Nash and AJ Styles; as well as Impact’s current roster of grapplers, which includes Rich Swann, The Good Brothers, former NFL player Moose, Deonna Purrazzo, Sami Callihan, Eddie Edwards, Jordynne Grace, Eric Young and Chris Bey.

“The global demand for quality professional wrestling programming has, arguably, never been higher, and we are excited for the opportunity to provide millions of pro wrestling fans both old and new with the ultimate ringside seats to all the epic matchups, original series,” said Jaime Pollack, chief revenue officer, sports media group, which includes Impact Wrestling.

Impact programming is televised globally in 120 countries including AXS TV in the U.S., as well as on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media platforms.

WWE Partners with TikTok

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has partnered with TikTok, marketing select wrestlers to the social networking service owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based company founded in 2012.

WWE is making 30 of its wrestlers available on TikTok, including Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Undertaker, Ultimate Warrior, Becky Lynch, John Cena and Sasha Banks. The branded wrestlers’ onstage themes and music are embedded within TikTok’s library of music artists.

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“We are thrilled to be launching this partnership which offers a new level of engagement with WWE content by enabling the TikTok community to create their own shareable stories tied to WWE‘s world renowned Superstars,” Jayar Donlan, EVP of advanced media, said in a statement.

TikTok’s Mayan Scharf hopes the partnership captures the “passion and thrill” of wrestling on social media.

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“We’re looking forward to bringing the excitement of the WWE experience to TikTok’s global community,” Scharf said.

‘Fighting With My Family’ Director’s Cut on Digital April 30, Disc May 14

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment will release MGM’s Fighting With My Family digitally April 30, and on Blu-ray and DVD May 14.

Written and directed by Stephen Merchant, the comedy set in the world of professional wrestling is based on the true story of WWE Superstar Paige (Florence Pugh). Born into a tight-knit wrestling family, Page and her brother Zak (Jack Lowden) are invited to try out for the WWE. But when only Paige earns a spot in the competitive training program, she must dig deep to prove she can become a star. The cast includes Lena Headey, Nick Frost, Vince Vaughn and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who plays himself and also produced the film.

Fighting With My Family earned $22.5 million at the domestic box office.

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The Blu-ray combo pack will include a director’s cut of the film with new and extended scenes not seen in theaters.

The DVD and Blu-ray will include deleted and extended scenes, a gag reel, a commentary with Merchant, the featurette “A Family’s Passion: A Making Of” and a “Learning the Moves” featurette about depicting the wrestling scenes in the film.