Ringside Reviews: The ‘How Can I’ Comes Out Victorious In Shad Gaspard’s ‘Pinfall’ Pilot

The following TV pilot review was written by Dominic DeAngelo and does not reflect the opinions of WrestleZone as a whole. We encourage you all to discuss Dominic’s thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of this post and follow him on Twitter @DominicDeAngelo and listen to his Get The Tray Tables podcast exclusively on WrestleZone Radio.

Wrestling fans from all walks of life have been there before. That moment of hesitation in which one gets in mixed company as he or she is about to break the news to someone that they are an avid fan of professional wrestling. “Will they get it?” is the question I used to bounce around in my head when reading a room. Could they be of the ilk of “Oh, that stuff’s fake” or “You really watch that?” I don’t share in such apprehension as often as I used to considering it’s something I want to be known for playing a very small part of by writing about it. Instead I challenge that “Will they get it?” pessimism with “How can I show them that there’s much more to it than just trunks and face paint?”

Those who follow the ins-and-outs of wrestling know that there is plenty of drama that goes beyond the curtain and Shad Gaspard makes that “How can I” palpable to a mass audience with his TV pilot for his series, Pinfall. Gaspard isn’t under the letters of WWE anymore and the big man of Cryme Time has since shined his star in Hollywood dating back to 2012. From on-screen roles to stunt work, Gaspard has been in over 20 productions like Black Panther, From Dusk To Dawn, Get Hard and Key & Peele all while staying true to his ring roots, and he’s melded his two worlds together with this most recent script he scribed.

Pinfall takes a look at professional wrestling beyond the Gorilla Position and out into the personal lives of the folks who lace up a pair of boots and hold that booking pencil every week for a worldwide audience. It’s not the WWE, it’s the EWE and the Vince McMahon-like figurehead is dead. It’s his “in-over-her-head” daughter, Solange, pulling the big strings, and some insecurities of her power begin to boil up during the pilot episode.

One of the players in the forefront is veteran wrestler Trevor “Commander” Tipton who finds himself non-existent on the card week in and week out (we later get to know why that may be the case at the end of the episode). Trevor is famously adored by the wrestling masses, but booking hasn’t played into his favor, but with EWE being the only game in town and with troubles at home, Tipton has no choice to go along to get along. Not to be forgotten in all this is Tipton coping with witnessing his sister die in the ring years ago, another burden to bear for the pilot’s protagonist.

We meet several other characters along the way including a young talent named Sean Brown who receives some troubling news after an MRI, Nicole Lee, a dancer who finds herself nefarious means of getting herself into the business and the arrogant Casey Kidd, the young drug-addled champion who may be at the top of the crop in the EWE ranks, but whose world is crumbling around him.

Pinfall isn’t sugar-coated either. Much like the short-lived, yet extremely engaging and critically-acclaimed Playmakers on ESPN back in 2003, the pilot reveals everything and anything that could go on backstage, particularly in the times up until Gaspard’s tenure in the WWE. It’s full of drugs, sex, intimate personal issues and plenty more that will continue to flesh out these vast range of characters introduced if the series happens to come to fruition.

And just like wrestling, the ensemble Gaspard created is really the intriguing highlight of Pinfall. It covers a vast range of wrestling talents from all walks of life at all different positions and statuses in the business. With it being the only the first episode, there are a lot more chances to further develop the gray area of “like and dislike” a viewer can choose to have of a character, but the foundation is there to build upon.

The only question fans might have of Pinfall could be “Is it too close to WWE?” There are certainly some similarities to the wrestling gargantuan and for the most part, Gaspard does a good job at turning those similarities on their heads. An example of this could be relating Solange to Stephanie, being the boss’ daughter and all, but in Solange’s case, she doesn’t have a husband who’s been in the business and she’s kind of a deer lost in the woods. It makes you think less of Stephanie and more of Cameron Diaz’s character in Any Given Sunday. That being said, right now one of the main antagonists appears to be that aforementioned, ever-nasty booking pencil, and is that an element of drama wrestling fans will want to tune into, particularly after Vince has done such an amazing job at torturing his ardent viewers over the years with it? That course of direction isn’t set in stone, but it’s an aspect that could lend itself to the show’s drama or detriment depending how much of a focus it becomes.

Overall, with the way wrestling has been evolving as of recent, Pinfall is another evolution that fans could get excited for. We all know that many facets of pro wrestling lends itself to engaging drama and Gaspard does a great job at covering it clean without putting his feet on the ropes for leverage.

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