Step Into The Ring gave the nation a spotlight into the world of British wrestling when it premiered on BBC Three in September 2020, highlighting the struggles faced by individuals looking to break into the industry. A four-part documentary series, it focuses on five young wrestlers battling mental and physical disabilities as they hope to pursue a career in professional wrestling.
What is Step Into The Ring?
Step Into The Ring is a documentary commissioned for BBC Three and released in September 2020, showing the journey and struggles faced by aspiring wrestlers trying to break into the industry. The documentary features five young wrestlers from vastly different backgrounds, all with their own unique stories, all brought together by their love of the squared circle. Coming from a disadvantaged background, living with physical or mental disabilities, or otherwise facing mental health issues, all five wrestlers share the same dream: become a professional wrestler.
Who is Featured in Step Into The Ring?
Step Into The Ring features many wrestlers with a focus on five particular individuals, each with their own unique journey and stories, allowing us to understand their lives inside and outside of the ring. The first two episodes introduce us to Marcus (Marvel Marcus), Pocket (Violet O’Hara), and James Chilvers. Marcus has autism and uses wrestling as a coping mechanism to deal with outbursts of anger.
WAW Academy Head Coach Zak Knight helps Marcus learn to wrestle and develop his independence, allowing Marcus to become more confident in himself. Despite being told he’d never make it as a wrestler, Marcus has worked his way through the WAW Academy and onto the WAW Elite roster, exciting audiences everywhere he goes.
Pocket’s story is different to the others as she got into wrestling by accident, wanting to be a theatrical performer when she was growing up. Despite this, Pocket describes wrestling as her “perfect job” as it draws on her physical and creative skills. Pocket won the Bellatrix British Championship earlier in her career, before suffering from anxiety and depression that almost made her give up wrestling for good. Consequently, Pocket feels she hasn’t been able to progress her career since her mental health issues began.
Due to its physically and mentally demanding nature, Pocket feels her anxiety disappears while wrestling as she isn’t overthinking everything, instead being able to focus herself on what’s happening in the ring.
We are also introduced to James Chilvers, blinded as a child in a car accident. The first person with a disability to seek help from Zak, James only has 20% vision in his right eye, so needs to rely on his memory and other senses when performing in the ring. The cameras follow James competing in a match in Gorleston where his sensitivity to light is shown and, despite getting the win, the match didn’t go as smoothly as planned.
The last two episodes introduce us to Imogen and Slick Sam. Sam’s delightfully positive personality and liveliness endears him to the WAW fans, making him a fan favourite despite his own struggles with Down’s syndrome. Sam’s main aim is to achieve his dream of becoming a professional wrestler, something that the UK Hooligan’s help him achieve, with Sam becoming an honorary member of the Hooligans as he makes his debut.
Despite his setbacks in life, the documentary demonstrates that nothing can prevent you from stepping into the squared circle if you put your mind to it, stressing that his exhibition match may only have been the start of his journey.
Imogen tells of her unique wrestling journey in episodes three and four. Imogen comes from a middle-class family, is well educated, and admits that becoming a wrestler is the last thing people expected from her. Wrestling has played a huge role in Imogen’s life, thinking about it constantly and wanting to pursue it as a career path to “stand out a bit” after a difficult breakup. This setback, and her subsequent decision to enter the world of wrestling, has resulted in Imogen becoming one of the most promising performers in Bellatrix Female Warriors, WAW’s all-female sister company.
As her journey progresses, Step Into The Ring also highlights Imogen’s struggle to connect with the audience, leading to panic attacks before shows. Imogen eventually adopts the villainous persona of Lady Bella Van Der Velt, uniting the crowd in support of her opponents and finally feeling she’s getting a reaction from the crowd.
What role does Zak Knight play in Step Into The Ring?
Zak Knight serves as the head coach at the WAW Academy and acts as a mentor to the five trainee wrestlers featured in Step Into The Ring. The documentary touches on Zak’s own past struggles, showing his depression after unsuccessful tryouts with the WWE. We see Jack Lowden’s portrayal of Zak in the film ‘Fighting With My Family’, which shows a dramatisation of his rejection, something that Zak suggests was “almost it” for him.
Zak describes his experiences of the tryouts and began questioning both himself and his profession. He gets emotional while talking about his mental breakdown following his failure to achieve his goal, speaking openly about his past struggles and how they have defined him.
Zak also discusses how his spiralling depression caused him to neglect his family, only breaking free from his focus on “making it” when he realised that family was more important to him. His past struggles his own mental health make Zak the perfect mentor for Pocket and Imogen, helping them to avoid going down the same route he took.
How does Step Into The Ring represent British Wrestling?
Although the documentary was filmed to broadcast on BBC Three via BBC iPlayer, Step Into The Ring quickly proved popular enough to also air on BBC One. The ‘behind-the-scenes’ nature of Step Into The Ring shows a very different side to wrestling than many are used to. British wrestling has rarely appeared on terrestrial television in the UK since the 1980s, so the portrayal of professional wrestlers as human beings is a positive step towards mainstream recognition of the sport as a popular cultural niche all over the country.
Step Into The Ring also plays a wider cultural role in highlighting the challenging subject of physical and mental health in people from all walks of life. In overcoming their adversities, the wrestlers featured in the documentary hope to inspire others around the world to tackle their issues head-on and chase their own dreams.