Tim Disbrow is a writer, director and producer. His 2010 Documentary “Card Subject to Change” covered the world of independent wrestling.
Amongst other things, Disbrow’s film focuses on his local promotion out of New Jersey, NWS. A few wrestlers featured in the film include Kevin Sullivan, Trent Acid, Rhett Titus, Sabu, Kamala and Necro Butcher.
In his interview with “Not About Wrestling,” Tim covers starting out as a referee in wrestling, his motivation for making the film, an insane Ultimate Warrior pilot he filmed, and the story behind the Necro Butcher segment in “Card Subject to Change” that registers on the Nick Gage scale (our version of the Muta scale, but for eye covering cringyness involving blood).
On His Motivation for Making the Film:
Tim has been a wrestling fan for a long time.
Even as he was going to film school, he was training and working as a referee in New Jersey.
For him it made sense to combine his two interests. But a certain section of Barry Blaustein’s “Beyond the Mat” really helped form what would be “Card Subject to Change”:
“The thing that made me want to make [Card Subject to Change] was the scene in Barry Blaustein’s movie “Beyond the Mat” where he shows what is a phenomenally attended independent show and says, “This is as low as it gets without starting over.”
I understand that that’s the lowest Barry saw. That is not the lowest, my friend. So that was an all-star show, that was the highest level independent show.
So I said, “I’ll show you the lowest rungs.” Not in a bad way but just like that wasn’t real.”
On The Section of the Film that Caused Festival Goers to Walk Out:
“Card Subject to Change” has a ton of fantastic interviews with wrestlers in indy locker rooms. One of Tim’s favorite was with hardcore wrestler, Necro Butcher which was literally filmed in a broom closet:
“I mean Necro Butcher’s interview, that’s the whole interview. There’s nothing I cut out of that, I mean that’s really basically it. I asked him–he was wearing a beanie, I asked him to take it off and at the end he says thank you. That’s it.
The whole interview’s in there. That guy talks in sound bites.
That interview to me is incredible, I know he’s had some hard times since then, but to me that was one of the more insightful [interviews] and you want to talk spur of the moment, that was at an indie show. I had the camera in the car, I was not filming that show and someone ran backstage and talked to him for me and he said ‘Yeah you come on [in]. You can go interview him.’
So I grabbed the camera out of the car, ran into the locker room. It was a locker room that I knew some people in so[…]they didn’t sort of stop me at the door, they let me in. He was the main event that night and he was sitting cross-legged and he was barefoot pulling thumbtacks out of his bare foot. I walked up to him and I said, “Hey uh, Dylan my name’s Tim. I think someone talked to you about doing an interview.”
And he real calmly just looked up and went “Yeah man, just give me a minute,” and I was like, “Dude, you take all the time you need because if I had thumbtacks in my bare foot, I would need six weeks before anyone could talk to me. So if you need 10 minutes, like bro, take it.”
We had nowhere to shoot the interview and that [interview location in the film] was a broom closet at a high school and I just said, “This door’s open let’s go in here.” I had no tripod, you know the camera was relatively big and heavy and I was just holding it like this [motions as if the camera is on his shoulder] and to me, it’s one of the best interviews of the whole film.”
While behind the scenes the interview was hardcore, another scene with Necro Butcher registered so high on the Nick Gage scale that people consistently walked out of screening because of it:
“When we screened [Card Subject to Change], we screened it at six or seven film festivals that were like proper film festivals, where real movies were being shown–art.
And then my thing comes on and many people walked out at the Necro Butcher scene when his arm is torn open. That was footage that I didn’t shoot. When I met him it all happened years prior and we licensed that footage.
I remember when the tape came of that footage and it just said like the match and the date, I was terrified to put that in the machine. I was like “Oh god.” I have a weak stomach, [but] I’ve been numbed to it because I had to cut that scene so many [..] but yeah many people walked out of these lovely film festivals in beautiful theaters where my film absolutely had no business being even shown.”
The Insane Ultimate Warrior TV Show Pilot:
In addition to his stories from “Card Subject to Change” Tim told perhaps the most insane Ultimate Warrior story of all time, which is saying something when it comes to the Ultimate Warrior.
Tim: After ‘Card Subject to Change’ came out for there for a split second I kind of became the wrestling video guy. I started getting calls to do a lot of different stuff and one of the calls I got was through the producer of the film.
The Ultimate Warrior had some people that were working with him at the time and they wanted to film a pilot for a reality show […] Ultimate Warrior boot camp was the reality show.
He had done a version a few years prior and he wanted to do another version of it. I don’t think the other one went anywhere.
So I got the call to produce and direct this. It turned into like three hours of him just screaming at people, but it was a very intense, Ultimate Warrior boot camp.
I’m shocked that everyone survived it quite frankly.
The shoot was at a gym, like a CrossFit gym before CrossFit was really a thing. It was just sort of this insane flip tires, pull chains gym at like four in the morning.
So, I crew up. I put together a whole crew: sound guy, three camera guys, myself. We get there [at] four in the morning and no one’s there. I’m like “What is going on?”
I know that Warrior, his people, and all the contestants or participants in this show are staying down the road at this hotel and the idea was that he was gonna wake them up in the morning by banging on their doors and make them like jog to the gym […] but no one’s around.
My crew gets there and I have someone down [at the hotel] and they’re like “We don’t know where anyone is.” I show up to the hotel and the gentleman who was handling Warrior’s affairs at the time is crying, literally in tears. He says he’s from Europe, he says, “I’m getting on a plane. I’m getting out of here.”
I don’t know what’s going on. So, someone calls me from the gym and says Warrior just showed up at the gym.
Okay great, I go to the gym. Anyway [there’s a] huge business falling out between his people. I don’t know what goes on there, but we get to the gym and he basically puts five, six, seven, eight people–guys who had volunteered, who are not in any sort of physical shape, through the toughest workout I’ve ever seen in my life.
People are throwing up and he’s yelling. It was intense […] two of [the contestants] were athletes, the rest were average joes. He didn’t care. Warrior treated them all like they were triathletes.
So it got really interesting, there were people throwing up and almost passing out.
Warrior was intense, man. I’m there trying to make sense of this thing. I’m just telling my [crew], “Just shoot it, I don’t know what’s going on, just shoot. Shoot whatever we can. Follow that guy while he’s puking.”
I’m just directing traffic because it was chaos, there was no organization to this thing whatsoever.
It fell apart right from the beginning.
Chris: “Okay first question, is he in warrior paint?”
Tim: “No, okay but just because he’s not wearing the paint doesn’t mean he’s not the Warrior, Chris. I mean this was the Warrior 24/7.
We shot that day and then I took the footage back and he took us out to a diner afterward. He was very nice to me and the crew. I have no bad things to say about Warrior the person. Warrior the institution, I have other issues with, but Warrior the person I have no problem [with]. He was great to us.”
While Tim was telling this story, Steph realized that the top article on this mess was written by Chris, who had completely forgotten this was a thing:
Chris: So Steph just really quick did a google search and apparently I wrote an article about this. […] I don’t even remember, I must have emailed you and you responded […] you said, “As one 40-something-year-old man was gasping for air and trying to keep from fainting Warrior posed to him this question ‘what are you gonna tell your family when the shit hits the fan and you can’t protect them’
For more on backstage stories about “Card Subject to Change”, Tim’s refereeing career, seeing Joey Janela go from a kid to who went to every show to a wrestler for AEW, and the prerequisite New Jersey talk check out Chris and Steph’s full interview with Tim Disbrow.
“Card Subject To Change” is celebrating a new extended edition and is available on Amazon Prime.
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