In the seemingly benign state of Delaware lies a brutally violent underworld. It's led by professional wrestlers with a penchant for bloodshed, including their own. Freed from the restrictions imposed by mainstream wrestling, their theatrics aren't confined to their fists and limbs. Armed with metal chairs, prickly coils of barbed wire, razor blades, fluorescent light tubes, baseball bats and nail-riddled planks, they engage in a form of combat usually reserved for the grisliest of battlefields. Produced by the always provocative VICE News, Bloodlust: Tournament of Death captures these savage beasts in action, and attempts to gain insight into what makes them tick.
Delaware is one of the few states in the country that permit the practice of this extreme form of wrestling known as Deathmatch. Produced by Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW), their events lack the pomp and circumstance of sibling organizations such as World Wrestling Entertainment and Mixed Martial Arts. In fact, it isn't uncommon for a CZW event to take place in a competitor's own back yard. This brand of homegrown humility engenders a strong, personal connection with fans.
Perhaps this dynamic helps to explain how Deathmatch wrestling has managed to garner a huge international following in spite of its condemned status in many segments of the United States. The filmmakers follow DJ Hyde, the current owner of CZW, and place us in the center of this fan fervor during a particularly ferocious series of matches. In the throes of broken bones, rampant bruising and sliced faces caked in blood, each competitor relishes their opportunity to bask in the glow of audience adulation.
But there's a darker side to this physical derring-do. A wrestler's wife expresses deep concern for her husband's safety, and holds back tears after one especially punishing showdown. For their part, the wrestlers view themselves as athletes of the highest order who possess an unflappable mental and physical stamina. They're driven by more than just glory, though. For many, Deathmatch wrestling is the only means they have of satisfying growing debts and financial obligations.
A no-holds barred look at a fascinating subculture, Bloodlust: Tournament of Death contains scenes of unrelentingly graphic violence, and it's definitely not intended for younger viewers or the faint of heart.