Sweet Daddy Siki is a professional wrestling icon, successful country music singer, and household name. In the documentary Sweet Daddy Siki, his story is told by wrestling icons, celebrities, historians, family, friends, and the legend himself. It is a flawed yet powerful film.
Sweet Daddy Siki – A Harrowing Tale
Chronicling the life of Reginald Sweet Daddy Siki, the incredibly charismatic, introspective, still razor-sharp “Mr. Irresistible” tells the poignant story of being raised dirt poor. His sharecropper dad was “always drunk,” brutally beating his mom in front of the kids. They would eat maggot-ridden meat, and when his mom died, he “didn’t go to her funeral or anything like that.”
It’s quite a harrowing tale, and similarly, his wrestling career was far from a smooth ride.
Troubled Experiences on the Road
Early on in his career, he had to go dumpster diving to sustain himself on the road. Later, as a flamboyant bleached blonde black heel, the heat was often off the charts to the point where enraged fans even attempted to storm the dressing room to get at him.
Wrestling Buddy Rogers in Greensboro, North Carolina, the KKK was none too happy, although he somehow lived to tell of it. Nor were wrestling promoters on the East Coast seemingly pleased with his marriage to a white woman.
In the ’60s, superstar Sammy Davis, Jr. and actress May Britt faced similar struggles, and inter-racial marriages were far less accepted in that era.
Unlike so many filmmakers tackling a noteworthy celebrity, they were blessed to have this living history in Siki still here. He’s lived the life of ten men as a wrestler, country singer, club DJ, child laborer, occasional actor, and so on. His eyes amazingly expressive; you can read their joy and pain in every word he so eloquently speaks.
So, what do the filmmakers choose to do?
They frequently drown him out with blaring, generic music where you struggle to hear what the Jackie Robinson like trailblazer says.
A Flawed Documentary
I must have lost a good 15 to 20% of the movie’s dialogue before stopping it to put on subtitles to follow what was being said. Frankly, you should not need subtitles in an English-speaking film. And you don’t need overpowering music intended to tug at the heartstrings when Siki’s own painful experiences will tear your heart out just fine on their own.
Sometimes a film needs to breathe.
Another very misguided choice was to have 54 — count ’em — 54 “social anthropologists” and “fascinating wrestling historians” (the promo material describes them as such) among others in an already sparse 72 minutes over-analyzing his life. With their access to Sweet Daddy Siki, I couldn’t help but think, “Just let HIM talk!”
The larger than life legend’s a walking parade. He didn’t need a parade-like cast to tell his story.
Now I fully understand a Bruno Sammartino, Bret Hart, Edge, Angelo Mosca, Rocky and Ricky Johnson, and other grappling greats deservedly singing Siki’s praises. These are his peers, his friends, and in Edge, a protégé. They deserved every second herein, and their comments are illuminating.
But to have a series of supposed experts, many too young to have seen him in his prime and who may not have even known or ever met him, for the most part, felt superfluous.
I love the film’s wrestling and country music footage, and legendary Charley Pride even makes a cameo. There’s also a plethora of dramatic photos and heartfelt tales about this amazing wrestler and man.
Bret Hart describes Siki as an influence on his career and the best wrestler he has ever seen. What high praise that is. And when Siki gets in the ring or a chair and looks into that camera, telling of a life well and colorfully spent, Sweet Daddy Siki soars.
My qualms with the movie aside, I am nonetheless pleased this documentary exists in tribute to a pioneer who deserves for the world to know his name.
Sweet Daddy Siki is available for streaming on Amazon Prime and other platforms.
Watch Sweet Daddy Siki and “Sailor” Art Thomas vs. The Sicilians (Lou Albano and Tony Altimore), April 14th, 1961:
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