I’ve hinted about my love for wrestling in a few articles; I even found some enjoyment from the much maligned, incredibly divisive WWE 2K Battlegrounds, which offered straightforward, arcade-style fun with an art style that was – admittedly – an acquired taste. I’m a big fan of tabletop miniatures game Rumbleslam too, which takes lots of familiar wrestling tropes and satirises plenty of famous wrestlers (as well as other characters from pop culture), dropping them into an addictive, fast-paced fantasy combat experience (I was so impressed that I named it as my tabletop game of the year for 2021).

I’ve also mentioned how impressed I was with wrestling-based comic book Ringside, which came out at the tail end of 2015 and ended its run in 2018 with its fifteenth issue.

It’s far from the fun, glitzy and entertaining experience that wrestling – or any wresling-related media – usually tries to portray though. It’s grim, gritty and feels all too real. It’s a tale of broken, used up, desperate men and their attempts to escape the cycle of violence that’s haunted their lives for so long.

This first issue mostly focuses on ex-pro wrestler Danny Knossos – known back in his heyday as ‘The Minotaur’, an identity that he’s keen to continually distance himself from (and one which is owned by the wrestling organisation he used to work for anyway). Having burned numerous bridges in the industry, Danny is heading back to the US to help out his ex-boyfriend, Teddy – who’s got himself into some serious, unspecified trouble. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take too long before the trouble Teddy’s got himself into comes looking for Danny, with horrific consequences.

Right from the start, Ringside is an engaging, compelling read. The naturalistic dialogue – sometimes peppered with behnid-the-curtain wrestling lingo – is brilliantly written by Joe Keatinge and illustrated in an appropriately gritty, sketchy manner by Nick Barber. The muted colours by Simon Gough further add to the dark, realism-based feel. It’s a genuinely impressive, gripping, character-based crime drama that – in this first issue – manages to also demonstrate how the wrestling industry uses and discards its talent.

It’s only the beginning, but this first issue does a superb job with characterisation and introduces us to a number of different personalities that we’ll get to know a lot better over the course of its run. I’m definitely looking forward to re-reading the entire saga, taking me beyond the glitz and glamour of the ring and into the darkness and tragedy beyond the squared circle.

You can read the first issue of Ringside for free online at Image Comics here.

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