Wrestling is theatre. Men and women tell stories through physicality as they play up their characters and dialogue to the roar of the audience. And the story of the wrestling legend of Vampiro feels just as audacious as any of the stories played out in the wrestling ring. But this time, it was all real. Filmmaker, Michael Paszt’s Nail in the Coffin: The Fall and Rise of Vampiro documents the life of Ian Richard Hodgkinson. At one time, a teenager in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, whose path was a troubled one from the start. From being molested by his priest, an arguable future in hockey, to working in organized crime, and security for Milli Vanilli. Hodgkinson’s path would eventually lead him to Mexico in the mid-1980s, and Lucha Libre, Mexican wrestling. Hodgkinson would go on to fall in love with wrestling and adopt the moniker, Vampiro. Becoming an icon in Lucha libre.
Michael Paszt’s narrative begins in 2017. Vampiro has long moved away from being an active wrestler as he sits behind the scenes, directing the Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide’s annual show, Triplemania 25. What follows is a brilliant introduction to Vampiro as much as it is to Lucha libre as Paszt juxtaposes moments from the actual show, massive lights, thousands of screaming fans, wrestlers diving off the top rope, with Vampiro, on his headset in the back starting at his monitors with intensity.
Throughout the run of the show, Paszt peels back the curtain on Vampiro as he manages Triplemania. As he fights to keep his cool while managing the larger than life (and drunk off his ass) personality of another wrestling legend, Jeff Jarrett, a wrestler injuring another in the ring, any number of technical issues with the crew, and teaching the North American wrestlers how to properly speak in Spanish.
Paszt expands our look at who Vampiro is as he juxtaposes Mexico and AAA, with his daughter, Dasha, in Thunder Bay and Nail in the Coffin becomes something more than just another wrestling documentary. We get to see that the reason why he commutes to Mexico from Thunder Bay every week, why he struggles with injuries so severe he can barely stand up, so he can provide for his daughter. Injuries like his broken neck, eye socket, back, every other bone in his body, and his eventual diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Through the use of archived footage and his own footage. Paszt shows a tale of how, despite his fame and his talents, once she was born, Vampiro’s life became about her. It’s unexpected, honest, and heartbreaking as we see what the various injuries that he’s collected over the years have done to Vampiro. As he tries to explain to Dasha why he still wrestles despite sometimes being barely able to move. This is where Paszt builds the tension in his story as he brings together the wrestling in Mexico, the wrestling in LA with the Lucha Underground television show, and Dasha, as Vampiro tries to guide her to the eventual high school graduation.
Nail in the Coffin is an honest look at the life of a wrestler, the highs and the lows. Whether it was when he was a young cornrowed wrestler that would make the women of Mexico crazy, to the caring father, or the wrestling legend trying to settle a decades-old feud with his rival, Konan. You see the injuries, the bone breaks, the double-digit concussions, the health issues developed from that. But, as grim as that is, Paszt leaves us with a remarkable look at someone who truly is inspiring. For everything Vampiro is enduring or has endured, he does this because he loves his daughter. The film is well worth 4.5 stars out of 5.
Nail in the Coffin has created a new standard for wrestling documentaries by showing us that despite all the fame, the thousands of fans screaming his name, despite the wrestling ring, despite his legacy in that ring, Ian Richard Hodgkinson is just a guy trying to do the right thing for his daughter.