Johnny Kashmere Reviews Nick Mondo’s “The Trade”

Oct 23, 2017 - by Steve Gerweck

Movie Review: “The Trade…Is It Worth It?”

A Film by Matthew T. Burns aka “Sick” Nick Mondo

Review Written By Johnny Kashmere

Now available in over a dozen countries to rent, stream, or download on Amazon Prime Instant Video. [Warning, this review may contain mild spoilers of the film.]

In a world of mindless violence performed for the sake of receiving empty accolades , Mondo is a true lighthouse….that is, a beacon of light to point the most astutely observant journeymen towards a life of meaning and hope. It has been said that at some point in our adulthood we all make the inevitable shift from living a life of ambition to one of meaning. Nick Mondo has established himself as living the latter, and has answered his calling to guide those in need of making the very same shift in their lives. This movie provided him the platform to do just that.

Amazon Prime has this to say when describing the film to potential viewers, “Death-match legend Sick Nick Mondo takes a harrowing look at his life, his legacy, and his impact on a younger generation.” A good description but it seems more like a tweet than a movie preview. This hour long film goes way deeper than its tagline suggests and successfully pulls on the heart strings of all who view it. This film is not a glorification of a man who took nearly-suicidal bumps on a regular basis, rather it is an expose of the psyche of a once confused young man who found his much sought after redemption through introspection. If I was to have to sum this film up in a sentence or two I might say “A visually stunning masterpiece with a deep emotional impact. This film chronicles a pro wrestler who takes amazing risks but finds that his greatest opponent was his own psyche.”

The film starts off immediately by introducing the viewer to “Sick” Nick Mondo and clips are shown of his wrestling style. As expected, any clips from CZW are peppered throughout the film since that was Nick’s adopted home base. After the brief intro, the viewer is treated to a look inside Nick’s childhood and adolescence. Even as a teenager Nick was videotaping segments with his friends on a regular basis. Being an aspiring filmmaker and stuntman, Nick would often set up semi-dangerous stunts for him and his friends to perform for the camera. Nick’s childhood friends appear in the film giving present day analysis of their teenaged antics. They provide an insight into what motivated Nick and also managed to shed some light on his unique personality. The film then profoundly poses that there is a direct correlation between perseverance and stubbornness.

Mondo goes into detail about his influences in pro wrestling, namely CZW’s cornerstone “The Wifebeater”. Wifebeater’s reasons for doing death matches are revealed and then Nick reveals his own reasons for willingly mutilating his body in front of live audiences around the world. Before coming to CZW, Mondo wrestled the indie circuit as a catch-as-catch-can style wrestler who interwove some high spots into his matches where appropriate. Upon coming to CZW, he morphed his style into a more high (super-high) risk style.

Throughout the film there is a certain melancholy that runs underneath the footage and words as the viewer feels the emotions and demons that would drive one to do what Mondo did. The footage shown of his “sick bumps” is nothing short of breathtaking, death-defying, nail-biting, and even nerve racking. I was there to witness first-hand 90% of the bumps shown in the film and I still found my jaw dropping and my mouth agape at certain parts. If you have never seen Mondo’s bumps, the film is worth the 57 minute investment just for that.

A large portion of the film is dedicated to how Nick dealt with those he influenced. This included Rory “Little Mondo” Gulack who was shown as a kid in the audience during many of Mondo’s most memorable matches. Rory went on to train at the CZW School and began wrestling in death matches as “Little Mondo” completely decked out in Nick Mondo’s attire, he even had the SICK written on his forehead like Nick. In Rory’s final match at CZW’s Cage of Death in 2013, Nick Mondo made a special surprise appearance and in an emotional moment congratulated Rory for earning his respect. Rory felt that after earning the respect of his hero, he could contently retire from death match wrestling.

This film also dealt with the seemingly split personality that Matt Burns / Nick Mondo developed over the years. Nick speaks about how towards the end of his career he had trouble distinguishing between the two personas. This scared him and he knew it was time for him to retire. Upon retirement, Nick went through an identity crisis where he began to feel undefined as Matt Burns. Nick went on sabbatical to Tokyo, Japan where he did some much needed soul searching and finally came to terms with reconciling his two personas into one well-rounded person. Having been a friend of Matt’s for nearly twenty years now, I can say that Matt has always been one of the most thoughtful, polite, considerate, loyal, and dependable people I have ever met. His Nick Mondo persona was a complete 180 degree shift from Matt Burns. To reconcile these two polarized personas was a nearly impossible task, yet somehow he managed to do so. This means that as a person he is one of the most well-rounded, experienced, grounded, and enlightened individuals I have ever known. The story of Nick Mondo exemplifies the saying “life’s a journey, not a destination.” His journey was a fearless one indeed, and it’s still ongoing as he matures into an experienced and accomplished filmmaker.

Many independent pro wrestlers were interviewed for this film including The Necro Butcher, Drew Blood, Danny Havok, Matt Tremont, Joey Janella, and Lucky 13. I feel it necessary to say that when I was wrestling in CZW with Mondo, I too dabbled in the death match game, often against Nick Mondo. Many of our most insane bumps are shown in the film. I have to admit that had it not been for Nick Mondo showing me how exhilarating death matches can be, I probably would have never bothered trying to perform them. So, in a sense, I too was influenced by Nick. On the flip side, Nick was influenced by me to add more catch-as-catch-can wrestling into his repertoire. It was this give and take relationship between the wrestlers in the CZW locker room that made it such a success in its earlier years. Today’s CZW is a completely different entity than it was when John Zandig was steering the ship. Memories came flooding back to me while watching this film and emotion swelled within my heart. Everyone takes their youth for granted but not everyone gets to relive their youth via videotape and Youtube. Anyone that watches this film will feel deep emotions as the images run across the screen.

Nick is a very talented filmographer as evidenced by his use of many visual storytelling techniques. In one mesmerizing scene, Nick sits at a Geisha show in Japan as the dancers echo back to him wrestling and the set design shadows images of steel cages. The camerawork, editing, and special effects were top notch. Just having an imagination that can think up scenes such as this baffle the mind. Nick is as multi-talented as they come and has not even one pompous or egotistical bone in his body. The ever-humble Mondo has successfully completed his grandest opus, his most magnificent masterpiece, his final performance through the making of this film. Nick appropriately ends the film with a message to his emulators who attempt use their own wrestling careers to pay homage to their “Sick” hero. He makes it clear that he does not judge nor praise death match wrestlers and he feels that if they are going to emulate him that they also emulate his retiring while his body and mind were still intact. Good advice for any wrestler in my opinion. Who knew Mondo was such an enlightened sage and shepherd at heart? Now, thanks to this deeply impactful film, we all do….and so will generations to come.

Here is a link to the movie on Amazon Prime where you can watch the trailer free:

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