Review: This is Hannibal DVD Documentary

'Hannibal' Devon Nicholson - Photo Credit: Blair Gable

‘Hannibal’ Devon Nicholson – Photo Credit: Blair Gable

This is Hannibal DVD cover from RFVideo.com

This is Hannibal DVD cover from RFVideo.com

Let me start by saying Devon ‘Hannibal’ Nicholson is the most intense person I have ever met in my entire life.  I’m not sure if he’ll be offended by me saying that (and I fear for my life as a result), but that is the God’s given truth about the man.  I have worked with him on a handful of occasions throughout the Ontario and Quebec independent wrestling circuit, and I have no problem truly believing that Devon Nicholson is Hannibal and Hannibal is Devon Nicholson.  If there was any question about the legitimacy of professional wrestling, Devon is my first choice as to who I would introduce the doubter to, and I can assure you that doubt would disappear instantly.
“This is Hannibal” is an independent documentary about the life and experiences of Devon Nicholson, as he copes with being diagnosed Hepatitis C positive, curtailing what was sure to be a bright and promising professional wrestling career.  This is a second generation release, featuring an original documentary (produced in 2011), as well as a follow-up piece, and multiple DVD extras.  The run-time is approximately 50 minutes (feature documentary), and can be purchased from RFVideo.com.

For an independent documentary, this piece is incredibly well produced.  Throughout the documentary, several big-name wrestling superstars offer their commentary, including ‘The Genius’ Lanny Poffo, ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan, Honky Tonk Man, Pierre Carl Oulette, and Sylvan Grenier, among others.  Each echos a universal sentiment that Devon Nicholson not only should have a WWE contract, but should be one of the company’s top monster heels.

As the documentary begins, it’s impossible to argue how influential professional wrestling was on Nicholson’s childhood, even from a very young age.  Multiple images of Nicholson are shown dressed as Macho Man Randy Savage, The Undertaker and other childhood idols during well-attended wrestling events that Nicholson would stage in his parents’ backyard.  Into his teenage years, Nicholson was shown as a standout amateur wrestler at his high school in Orleans, Ontario, winning the junior nationals, provincal championships, and was on the Canadian national wrestling team.  Given his incredible skills, he was offered multiple university scholarships, although professional wrestling was still his dream.  As he was graduating high school, former World Championship Wrestling president Eric Bischoff was beginning an upstart professional wrestling company geared toward a younger teenage demographic, called MatRats, and based out of Calgary, home of the infamous Hart wrestling family.  After sending his amateur matches to Bischoff, Nicholson was invited to take part in the pilot television taping for MatRats, and, at its conclusion, knew that professional wrestling would be what he would do for the rest of his life.

Hannibal poses for the crowd

Hannibal poses for the crowd

After pouring his entire adult life into professional wrestling, by the end of 2009 Devon had been given 15 different WWE tryouts at various times throughout his budding career.  It was at his last tryout that multiple WWE agents and producers, including WWE Hall of Famer Pat Patterson, told Nicholson that he was the most impressive wrestler in his group of potential auditioners, and to expect a call within 30 days. As 30 days came and went, it was apparent even as Nicholson recounted the story for his documentary that he was frustrated by the fact that he hadn’t heard back.  It wasn’t until an event promoted by Nicholson, multiple weeks later, that he received a fateful call from then-head of WWE Talent Relations John Laurinaitis, offering him a three-year, open-ended WWE Developmental Contract.

In a cruel twist of fate, just as he was about to see his dreams come true, Nicholson’s life would head into a tailspin.

In the weeks following receiving his WWE contract, and undergoing a WWE-mandated physical, it was discovered that Nicholson was Hepatitis C, genome type 2, positive, and his contract was immediately rescinded. It was no secret that Devon had been involved in many wild, bloody brawls all over the wrestling world, and hepatitis is a blood-to-blood contracted disease.  According to Nicholson’s account, it wasn’t until he reviewed a tape of a match he had with WWE Hall of Fame wrestler Abdullah the Butcher, whom Nicholson alleges has the very disease with which he was diagnosed, that he discovered how he contracted the virus.

It is at this part of the documentary that “The Coffee Pot” incident is shown, which is easily one of the more graphic things I have ever witnessed in my entire life.  And when I say witnessed, I mean I happened to be in attendance as it happened.  Not only was I in attendance, but as the medics stitched, and worked on Hannibal in the locker room, I sat two seats away, between legends Koko B. Ware and Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine.  For those of you that don’t know the story, as it goes, Abdullah the Butcher hit Hannibal in the head with a coffee pot during a hardcore match at the Civic Centre in Ottawa.  When the pot shattered over Hannibal’s head, it cut him, almost literally ear to ear, in one of the most bloody and gory scenes professional wrestling has ever seen.  It was so bloody, in fact, that police officers rushed the scene after the match’s completion, believing a legitimate assault had taken place.  It was absolutely the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

WARNING: The below footage is incredibly graphic, and not suitable for everyone.

[embedit snippet=”hannibal-coffee-pot-incident”]

The DVD continues to show another match, in which Abdullah is shown using a blade to slide his own forehead (to draw blood), and then using the same blade to slice Devon’s forehead, allegedly without Hannibal’s knowledge, or permission.  It was during this particular assault, according to Devon, that Nicholson was infected with Hepititis C.  In July of 2011, Hannibal filed a lawsuit against Abdullah the Butcher, alleging he transferred the virus, and asked for Butcher to provide bloodwood proving he didn’t have the virus.  At the time of the first release of the documentary, no such blood work had been produced, despite multiple requests from Nicholson’s legal team.

While much is known about Nicholson’s often wild in-ring antics, it is seldom known that he has promoted multiple events of his own, beginning in 2007.  This is Hannibal gives great detail into how difficult it was for Hannibal to continue promoting, despite great financial losses incurred from promoting these events, especially given the side effect of his Hepatitis C treatments.

Devon holds the medal he won during the Canadian Olympic trials in December 2011

Devon holds the medal he won during the Canadian Olympic trials in December 2011

The documentary goes into great detail of Hannibal’s battle with the side-effects of the drug cocktail first used to treat his Hepatitis C.  Although recommended as a 24-week program, due to the horrific side effects, Hannibal was only able to complete 18 weeks of his first attempt at treatment.  Although, throughout the entire course of treatment, he tested negative for the virus, at the six-month mark, the virus returned, and ravaged his system yet again.  It was then that Hannibal decided that he should hang up the wrestling boots and focus on getting his health back.

Hannibal’s last promoted professional wrestling match was in Renfrew, Ontario, in September 2011.  The documentary features a great, emotional scene after the match has completed, in the locker room, as Hannibal comes to the realization that his dream may be over.  It was at this point the original feature documentary ended.

In the follow-up piece, it is revealed that not only did Abdullah the Butcher provide bloodwork results, but that they tested positive for the same strand of Hepatitis C Nicholson is inflicted with, and that there was enough scar tissue on his liver to show he had been suffering from the disease for an extended period of time.  Hannibal also spends time detailing his new, experimental, Hepatitis C treatment, his enrolment in which was assisted by WWE Hall of Famer ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham.  Details of the side effects of the second treatment, and its incredible expense, are also detailed at length, including graphic images of the skin irritation the medication has caused.

In the final scene of the documentary, Hannibal expresses great optimism for his recovery, and eventual return to professional wrestling should he be cleared of Hepatitis C.  His lawsuit with Abdullah the Butcher, as of the release of the documentary, is ongoing.

In all, I recommend this documentary highly.  The opening image of the DVD is an absolutely perfect picture of what you’re going to see (an image of Hannibal, and Devon, sliced in the middle), as you get a real feeling of the human being that is Devon Nicholson, and the madman that is Hannibal.  The video quality is excellent, as is the audio.  Use of old home video footage, in addition to some of the career highlights of Hannibal’s wrestling career make this a complete package.  You can visit Hannibal’s Facebook page to learn more about this documentary, and his continuing struggle and recovery from Hepatitis C at: https://www.facebook.com/devon.nicholson.351

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