A select few were influenced to leave a bloody footprint behind each step as they journey the very same broken glass and barb wire-covered road as their leader, deathmatch wrestling icon “Sick” Nick Mondo.
In The Trade, filmmaker Matthew T. Burns — the real name of the person who performed as “Sick” Nick Mondo — dramatically depicts his personal struggle with that.
“You can call me a lot of things, but don’t call me a hero” Burns says in the film. “I’ve never seen a battlefield. I have never saved anybody. My scars were planned. I didn’t earn them.”
Burns takes the audience on a voyage through his early years as both parties attempt to find the root to “Sick” Nick Mondo, which originated well before his first deathmatch. Along the ride, both Burns and his audience find the answer to how “Sick” Nick Mondo came to be, but The Trade is really about Burns’ escape from the squared circle and the influence he left on generations to come.
Burns film is as unique as his story. While in large part it’s a documentary — including interviews with pro wrestling colleagues, childhood friends, and Burns himself — it’s also scripted with dramatic dialogue and visuals that takes the audience deep into Burns’ psyche as he struggles to let go of his demons and find solitude amongst the 13 million citizens of Tokyo, Japan.
Throughout his career, the Combat Zone Wrestling legend received praise from young fans who vowed to one day become the next “Sick” Nick Mondo. The film shows testimony and tributes from those fans, highlighted by his biggest follower, Little Mondo. Burns emotion can be felt when the film travels to scenes of Little Mondo’s physical torment but the closing scenes provide some relief. While Burns is unable to escape the physical scars left from deathmatch wrestling, he finds peace with himself and his persona.
“The only thing that really bothers me is to dismiss somebody and simply say ‘that guy is crazy’ or ‘that girl is insane,;” Burns says. “So if you write somebody off that way, not only are you missing out on empathy and compassion, you’re also going to miss out on some pretty interesting stories.”
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